Friday, April 30, 2010

Me Me Me

I prefer to think of myself as a kind, generous person. And I am—most of the time. But I have to admit my good will has its limits. When someone gets in the way of me having what I want, then my compassion is tested. Now I am not just talking about getting things. I am talking about activities, recognition, and the use of time I have reserved for me. Now I do not think I am unusual. As a matter of fact, I think I am as nice or nicer than the average person. I just acknowledge that I am self-centered. Not that I am proud of it. Actually I am ashamed because excessive focus on self and not enough focus on God is sin.

The Bible gives a very good example of what happens when the focus is totally on self. In this example, Mary Magdalene is mourning outside Jesus’ tomb.

“At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. ‘Woman,’ he said, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener,…" John 20:14-15a NIV

Mary was so wrapped up in herself that she did not recognize Jesus when he spoke to her. The person she was mourning for was alive and speaking to her and she did not recognize him! That is self-absorption.

So I suspect we all do the same thing. We get so wrapped up in what we are feeling or doing and fail to recognize the presence of our Lord and Savior. Praise be to God that he has methods to get our attention refocused on him.

“… He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:3b, 4b NIV

So how did Jesus get Mary to take her focus off of herself?

“ Jesus said to her, ’Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).” John 20:16 NIV

So when we get all caught up in ourselves, we must stop and listen for Jesus calling us by name and leading us to have fellowship with him.

Lord, teach me to be sensitive to your voice and presence. Change my heart from having myopic self-absorption to crystal clear focus on you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there were two friends. They loved meeting together, doing hobbies together, and doing activities with others. As happens in life, one or the other would have a major life stressor. They would get through it, but communication of needs and fears was inadequate. Like usually happens, they did not address the small issues which then grew into more serious issues. The friendship continued but each took the other for granted. Effective communication ceased. Then things grew bad. Secretiveness set in. New outside friendships were cultivated without any transparency or openness. The old friend felt rejected because of the lack of communication. Much hurt and brokenness resulted. Finally the friends realized the hurtfulness of their behaviors. They sat down and talked about their troubles. They were reconciled but made some adjustments in their behaviors and communication. And everyone lived happily ever after.

If only life was that easy. The fluidity of friendships is somewhat natural. We form friendships based on locale, activities of our families, and on common interests. One or all of these reasons can change with time. That is natural. But why do we go about changing friends in a hurtful manner? Christians claim to follow God’s Word.

So why don’t we do what the Bible says to do?

“…'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:39 NIV

“…but let us encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:25 NIV

Could the problem be that we are so entrenched in the ways of the world and in our own sin nature that we do not even stop to think about our own sin as it relates to the way we treat others?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2a NIV

Lord, show me how to treat others as you want me to treat them. Then through the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life, give me the strength and the ability to do the hard things.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Too Busy

Time—there is never enough of it. I am always running out of time to finish a project, to visit a friend, or to clean the house. Too often my projects are either uncompleted or are completed much later than I had planned. Friend visits are too often sandwiched between other appointments or done as we work on a church project. The house—well a “lick and a swipe” cleaning has become the norm. Life is definitely not dull, slow, or boring.

God has given us tasks, and we are to be productive. But is this busyness His way? He instructs us to work.

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28 NIV

However, this does not mean that time is not going to be an issue. The question is if we use the time rightly. During Christ’s crucifixion, time was an obstacle for the Jewish leaders. They succumbed to time pressures and continued in their sinful ways rather than recognize their errors.

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.” John 19:31 NIV

The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead and off the cross so they could celebrate the Passover feast. How blind they were to the prophecies in Scripture! They were too busy with earthly things—feasts, preparations, rituals, social pressures—to see that Jesus was the Son of God and was freely giving His life so they could live eternally. They were too busy and missed salvation.

So, we are to balance our time commitments between work and seeking God. The Jewish leaders were activity driven and missed God. Are our work and activities encroaching on the time we should be praying and seeking God’s will?

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the wisdom to know what to do, when to do it, and when to say “no.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The One That Got Away

I love to soak in the beauty of God’s creation on the bank of a mountain stream or floating on a lake which supports trout. What an amazing experience it is to look into the crystal clear water, spot a trout, and cast my fly so it will drift just to the side of the rainbow. What a thrill--the flash of the fish taking the fly and feeling the fish fight the hook as I exert just the right amount of pressure to tire the fish and guide it to the net where it will be carefully handled and returned gently to the water.

Today as I was on a float trip at Taneycomo Lake, I realized that living the Christian life has much in common with fishing for trout. Both are exciting adventures. One must prepare for the time on the water by assembling and learning how to use the right equipment. Waders, boots, a rod, reel, fly line, flies, and various gadgets are necessary for a successful fishing trip. Likewise the Christian must learn what is required to live a victorious life which is pleasing to God. Bible study, prayer, and gathering with fellow Christians are key pieces of equipment.

While on the water, the fisherman must select the fly which is most likely to look tasty and then must present it skillfully so the fish will accept it as something which will be good. When we present the gospel to unbelievers, we must be genuine in our presentation. Luckily, sometimes the fisherman will catch a fish on a very poor cast. Likewise, the witnessing Christian does not have to always be skilled in presentation to bring others to knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

Sometimes when the fly is taken and the hook is set the fish can be landed without much of a battle, but that is rare. In real life the chances are slim for our witnessing to result in a smooth easy conversion of our friend. Generally there is resistance. Like with the battle for landing the fish, just the right amount of pressure must be used and at times the fish must be allowed to run with some line. The heartbreaker is when the battle for the trout has been going on for some time and you think you will land the fish soon but the trout jumps and throws the hook out of its mouth. It is a sad moment when a person you have been praying for and witnessing to will spit it back at you and reject Jesus. That is when we must remember that we are only responsible for presenting the gospel.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—“ Ephesians 2:8 NIV

So tomorrow as you go about your day, look for ways to draw others toward a saving faith through thoughtfully presenting the gospel message and in living an exemplary Christian life.

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19 NIV

Lord, make me a master fisher for the salvation of individuals you place in my stream of life.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Knowing I AM

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” Psalm 37:7a NIV

Such a simple command but so hard to do. I have things that need done. I have responsibilities. I like to have noise so I listen to my iPod. You may turn on the radio or TV. But how can we know God if we constantly have noise in our ears and commotion around us.

So when was the last time you quietly and patiently went before the Lord?

"Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10a NIV

Lord, forgive my impatience. Draw me close to you today as I quietly and calmly seek your will.

Stealing Second

Life involves risks. You cannot steal second base and keep your foot on first.

Daddy collected sayings that he found insightful. Recently Mom ran across a notebook of the sayings he collected and shared them with me as we made a trip to Oklahoma to visit my niece and her family. The part about taking risks struck me as very relevant to my current situation. Pastor mentioned something very similar in a recent sermon. I have learned that when God keeps drawing my attention to something I had better pay attention. What does this saying mean for my spiritual life?

It is so easy to become comfortable and listless in our spiritual practices. The familiarity is reassuring but can also eventually result in apathy. This fall and winter God has been teaching me some spiritual lessons, but lately I have felt like I have reached a plateau. So this weekend I took a risk with the blessing of my husband. I have sought the spiritual discipline of solitude.

God has made us to be relational, but sometimes we need to get away from the pressures of everyday life. I needed to get away to a beautiful place to pray, meditate, write, and read Scripture, and pray some more. I needed to focus on God.

So here I am sitting on the balcony of a room in the Missouri Ozarks. As I drove here, I listened to podcast sermons which miraculously prepared me well for this time of reflection. God has provided a gentle, soothing rain and the birds are singing. It is the perfect setting to focus on the beauty of his creation. It is the perfect atmosphere to reflect on God and the wonder of his generous provision. I serve an amazing God.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NIV

Lord, thank you for the perfect timing and perfect setting to meditate on Your Word and to communicate with you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

Who among us can pass a mirror and not look at it? Who of us can go past store windows and not sneak a peek at our reflections as we pretend to be looking at the merchandise display? Oh but we are such a narcissistic people!

Based on my observations of people and their behaviors, I imagine you are much like me. I do not like to think of myself as being self-centered and overly concerned about making a good impression. Then why do I spend so much time and effort on looking good when I am on vacation and will be exposed to people I will never see again in my life? On the other hand, why am I not very concerned about my appearance when encountering good friends or family members?

It seems to me that part of the reason is because we take for granted those who mean the most to us and try to impress those who we do not know at all. Backwards, isn’t it?

So what do you look like before the very most important person in your life—God? Do you take Him for granted? Do you not worry about your appearance before Him?

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25 ESV

So let’s not be just hearers of God’s Word. Let’s do what the Bible says by being living reflections of God.

Lord, give me an intense desire and the ability to do what Your Word says.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Brain Stuff

Pastor said Sunday that we stuff our brains with too much fat. What a provocative thought for the modern day person to contemplate. With what am I stuffing my brain?

We like to eat fat--not in its pure form--but in our consumption of meat, French fries, mayonnaise, and the buttery spread we slather on our toast. We like it camouflaged so we do not see how much we are eating and will not feel guilty about sabotaging our diets and our health. Pleasure and enjoyment are our motivation.

A nutritionist will tell you that fat is an important part of our diets. What matters is the amount of fat consumed and the type of fat consumed. To be healthy we must be mindful of the fats we eat.

Like we should monitor the fat in our diets, we need to take a second look at what we put into our brains. With what do we saturate our brains? Is it healthy emotionally and spiritually? Or do we allow or minds to devour that which is unhealthy like we saturate our physical bodies with unhealthy fat?

I am not talking about just what we read or what we watch on television. We saturate our brains with thoughts of wanting things, irritation when things do not go our way, with anger at a family member or friend, with desires to get even, with envy, with schemes to gain the upper hand, with lust, with … The list is long and ugly.

“He went on: ‘It's what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness —all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.’" Mark 7:20-22 THE MESSAGE

So with what should we saturate your minds?

“…let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 1 Thessalonians 5:8b NIV

So I have to admit, I am guilty of allowing unhealthy “fat” into my mind. What am I to do?

“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:18 THE MESSAGE

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the wisdom to recognize the “brain fat” I consume. Give me the power to live a healthy spiritual and emotional life glorifying you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

100% Connection

How did we ever manage without cell phones? How did we ever go to the grocery store without pulling out the cell phone to get instructions about which breakfast cereal to buy? How did we know when our spouses would be arriving at home? How did we know where our kids were or when they needed to be picked up? How did we know…?

It seems we cannot do anything today without a cell phone to our ear or without our fingers creating a text message. Why?

God created us to be a relational creatures. We love to discuss our feelings, thoughts, and plans. We love to share experiences. Everything is more meaningful to us when shared.

So why do we not stay in constant, relational contact with God? He was the original instant communicator. We have always had the ability to talk with God anytime and at any location. Connectivity is always five towers—100%. He tells us this in Scripture.

But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. John 15:7 THE MESSAGE

Lord, thank you for being 100% available to me anytime day or night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prayer--A Verb?

Pastor started a sermon series today on prayer. The gist of today’s sermon was we do not pray very much. We look at prayer as a noun and not as a verb. The concept of prayer as a verb is not new to me but it impacted me as I started reflecting on prayer as a verb. This is probably because I have been struggling with making prayer a more integral part of my life. It has been a slow process. Why? I love my Lord.

I start most days with Bible study but occasionally neglect to spend a dedicated time in prayer. Yes, I will pray quickly as I rush off to “beat the clock.” I know that prayer should take place as an unrushed, dedicated event in each day because devoting time to communicating sincerely with God is essential to living a meaningful and victorious Christian life.

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:22-24 NIV

In addition, I know that I am to pray continuously throughout the day.

“pray continually;” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV

Sometimes I think I do pretty well with my prayer life. Most days I pray using my prayer journal for my dedicated time in prayer. Using a prayer journal is not necessary but it helps me keep focused and helps me to remember what I have already prayed. At random times during the day I will pray a short prayer. Today I even prayed while I peeled potatoes!

So why do I feel dissatisfied with my prayer life? The reason may be I pray because it is something I am supposed to do, I pray out of selfish motivations, or I do not give my full attention to God. Prayer too often is another thing to check off my “to do” list.

Lord, draw me close to you. Make me yearn to sincerely and effectively communicate with you before, during, and after each daily activity or event.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday. Because it is a very busy Sunday and it will be difficult to make the day special for him, we decided to devote today to our celebration of his birthday.

Ray is not hard to please. He wanted to go to the Sedgwick County Zoo. This time of year, the zoo is great fun. We arrived shortly after opening and moseyed about for almost two hours. The animals were out and playful. The zoo keeper was feeding the penguins, the otters were cavorting in the water, the lions were majestically sunning themselves on an outcropping of rock, and the gorillas actually did some running about in the outdoor pen. The zoo is an amazing place to take a morning stroll and observe how magnificently God made his creatures.

Ray then wanted to spend a gift card so we went shopping. That is unusual for us because he hates shopping and I rarely have time to do anything except errand shopping. But we had fun in the relaxed atmosphere of his special day.

Then we had lunch at a nice little Mediterranean restaurant where we tried a hummus-like dish which included roasted eggplant. It sounds awful but is fabulous.

The rest of the day was basically spent at home and performing normal domestic activities plus taking an evening walk down 20th Street. Today was good. It was fun.

For just this one day I think I succeeded in being a Proverbs 31 wife.

“She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12 NIV

So why do I not have the attitude I had today more often? Now I know that today was special, but isn’t every day God gives me special? Generally when my attitude is good and I am focused on being a godly woman, the day goes more smoothly.

So my goal is to strive to conform to the Bible’s directions for how to be a godly wife. Even if it does not result in a warm fuzzy feeling at the end of the day, I will know that God sees and will reward me in ways beyond my imagination for all eternity.

Lord, give me the understanding of how to behave in every situation in my life as a wife and the spiritual strength to put aside my selfishness so I can behave as you desire.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Growing

I love to make homemade bread. The dough responding to my hands as I knead it reinforces the fact that it is a growing entity. In time, given the right conditions, the small ball becomes a large, inflated ball of dough. One of the things I always think about when making bread is the symbolic significance of yeast in the Bible.

Yeast represented something evil, something sinful. Each Passover, a spring religious celebration, was time to rid the house of all yeast. Symbolically the Jews were removing sin from their homes. Symbols only are worthwhile if we actually use them to make changes in our lives.

So what sin do I need to remove from my life? What sin is laying dormant ready to multiply as soon as the conditions are right? What sin am I feeding just as I moisten the yeast and feed it with sugar? What sin am I watching come to life like the yeast starts growing and foaming? What sin am I nurturing in a warm part of my heart just as I place the yeast bread in a warm place to raise and grow?

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: … hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;… and the like…” Galatians 5:19-21 NIV

Lord, give me the strength to clean the yeast of sin from my heart.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Good Friend?

How do we treat our friends? Generally we are kind and thoughtful toward friends we value.
• We compliment them.
• We spend time with them.
• We engage in similar activities.
• We talk with them.
• We listen to their concerns and gripes.
• We just “hang” with them

Since early childhood we have been learning how to be a valued friend.

“…I have called you friends…” John 15:15 NIV

So Jesus called his disciples friends. Is Jesus your Savior and friend? He is my most valued friend. But sometimes I take this most valued relationship for granted. Oh that I may never be caught taking Jesus for granted again!

what do I need to do to correct my rude and inconsiderate behavior toward Jesus, my special friend?
• Be kind and thoughtful. Tell him thank you for the many ways he blesses me.
• Notice special things he does for me and give him credit when speaking with others.
• Look for ways to bring him glory as I go about my daily activities.
• Compliment him through praising and glorifying him in prayer and song.
• Spend time listening to him as he speaks to me through his word. Listen for his voice as I pause in prayer at various times in the day.
• Pray to him, not just at meals or bedtime, but randomly throughout the day.
• Listen to his concerns and respond to what he wants me to do.
• Quite giving him a “laundry list” of demands and instead bring my concerns to him and ask for his input in discerning how I am to respond.

Lord, forgive me for not treating you with the kindness, devotion, and love that you deserve. Mold me into a person who is totally devoted to you and worships you with my total self.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Doesn't Anyone Care?

I feel used. What woman hasn’t felt used? We are always doing things for others but seldom receive a thank you. Too often there is a thoughtless demand that we do more or do something better. Doesn’t anyone realize what we do? Doesn’t anyone see that we go well above and beyond what is necessary? Does anyone care that we are pouring out our hearts serving them?

That is the way we feel too often. This sense of lack of appreciation happens to good employees in the work place. This happens among both extended family members and with family members who live in our homes. And it happens in friendships—even Christian friendships.

So, why are we gripping about being used? Aren’t we called to be servants?

The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12 NIV

So if I feel used, how do my family, acquaintances, and friends feel? Do they feel used by me? Am I projecting an attitude of expectation of their service to me? That should not be.

What does the Bible say I should do?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24 and 25b NIV

Lord, create in me an acute awareness of those who feel used by me. Show me ways to affirm them. More than that, Lord, show me those to whom I am in contact that need to feel appreciated. Make me aware of how I can most effectively encourage them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First Things First

I am a “To Do” list person. Lists of activities for each day of the week are set up. Categorized lists of things I need to do are regularly made. Post-it notes for me were a wonderful invention because at least the little pieces of paper with my precious lists were no longer scattered everywhere. They are just stuck to everything. My latest discovery for my home lists is the half-sized legal pad. Those relatively small yellow pads are the perfect size for several related lists on one page! Ingenious.

It sounds like I am a list maniac. Maybe I am, but it is the only way I can remember the various things I intend to do. “Things I intend to do” is the key phrase. Most of the things on my lists do not get done. You see, I have many good intentions but so little time and energy. After looking at an item on my list for several days, I either gain perspective and eliminate it or I realize it is something that will have to wait for some time in the far future.

My lists do help me prioritize my activities so the most pressing items are completed. Admittedly on some days the pressing items get set aside just because I need some relaxation and fun. You see, I am human.

One thing is never on my “To Do” list. It has become so ingrained that it no longer needs to be listed. That is my morning time with my Lord. Granted sometimes it is a short time but on a “nonscheduled” day it may last until the middle of the morning. What a blessing!

It took some time—a length of time making myself set aside a specific amount of time—to develop the habit of seeking God first every day. Now it is no longer a habit. It is a need. I feel unclean—disconcerted--off balance--if I do not spend at least several minutes and preferably and hour with my God and Savior before rushing into the flurry of daily activity.

So, first thing in the morning, I read something from God’s word, meditate on it, maybe do a bit of memory work, and I pray.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 NIV

Lord, thank you for preparing me for each day. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, show me how to glorify you to others today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Phew! I Needed That!

Things have been a bit unsettling lately. That happens when I do not feel good and cannot keep up with the busy schedule I set for myself. I get grumpy not only because of physical illness but also because tasks are piling up and I start feeling buried in duties. The “have to do” activities take over my mind. Pressure builds. My wants just are not happening. The result=NEGATIVITY

Now I know that attitude does not mesh with Scripture. In numerous places Scripture instructs us to give thanks no matter the situation in which we find ourselves.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1 NIV

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

So what is my problem? If I say I love the Lord and I call myself a Christian, why don’t I give thanks always? Why does this negativity take over when things get just slightly difficult? Even Paul, a saint by any standard, struggled with the same issue.

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 NIV

So it is my sinful nature at work. It is also the deceitful, secretive, deceptive work of Satan to sabotage my witness for Christ. But I know that by living a life yielded to Jesus Christ there is success.

So this morning I sat on my deck listening to the songs of the morning birds. They set the tone for an extended time in prayer. I communicated with God and refocused on him. Phew, I needed that! God is so good!

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV

Lord, keep me focused on you giving thanks in all things so my sinful nature and Satan’s efforts to nullify my witness are ineffective.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Culprit

This week has been miserable because of my runny nose, sore throat, and scratchy eyes. Weather forecasters say the pollen count is extremely high. Last Monday I watched a softball game in the gale force winds with field dust frequently engulfing the spectators. Naturally I thought my misery was a result of these natural, unavoidable irritants. Yesterday, I was reflecting on how to protect myself so my sinuses would quit emitting rivers of fluid. My nose and upper lip were tender. The antihistamines made me groggy. I was miserable. But my condition did not make sense because I do not normally suffer this much from allergies. Then it dawned on me that I had brought four Easter lilies home from church Monday, the day it all began. Those lilies were transferred to the deck and things have begun to improve.

Sins we choose to not recognize or not address are like the Easter lilies. They can cause much misery in our lives until we remove them from our presence. God allows us to suffer the consequences for our misguided or rationalized behaviors. David committed adultery and murder. As a result, David’s young son died. (2 Samuel 12:20-23) Adultery and murder seem like obvious sins to us but David had rationalized them at the time he committed them. He believed what he was doing was okay. After all, he was the king.

So, what sin do I have in my life that is causing an unpleasant consequence? Am I pursuing my personal pleasure instead of building a relationship with those God has put in my life? Am I too proud to serve those who do not have the correct appearance? Am I just too self-absorbed to see that my behaviors may be offensive or hurtful to those God has placed in my life? Is my sin like the Easter lily and beautiful to my human eye but it truly is an unseen irritant working to make my life miserable?

Lord, show me the sin in my life that I do not want to see because it means I will have to change my behavior.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Utterly Miserable!

I love the spring. The pear trees are in full bloom. The redbud trees are at their peak. And the non-flowering trees are taking on a green hue as new leaf growth emerges. Jonquils, tulips, and hyacinths are brightening the landscape as are the dandelions. The spring winds bring in the storms which water the new growth. Robins are cavorting on the lawn. Amazingly beautiful.

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 NIV

So why am I miserable? God has seen fit to allow me to suffer with allergies. The spring tree pollen has caused me to retreat to the confines of my house. I cannot go out and inhale the spring scents. I cannot go out and let the warm breezes blow through my hair. I cannot. Ugh.

So why did God create the wonders of spring when he allows so many of us to be miserable among the beauty?

"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." Job 36:15 NIV

So God might be speaking to me while I am suffering with allergies? Seems a bit of a stretch based on normal human thinking. But then, what would I be doing right now if I felt good? I’d be out proudly pursuing pleasure in the out-of-doors. Now there is nothing wrong with that. After all God did create the trees and the flowers to bring pleasure. The problem is that if I behave as I normally do, I’d be engaged in enjoying nature in a proud, self-directed manner instead of in a God-directed way. The sin of self-direction is so pervasive in me!

"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!... But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." Luke 12:28, 31 NIV

So today I am sitting in the confines of my home viewing God’s magnificent creation through a window and praising him that it is temporary. Someday I will be with him in an eternal beauty to which earthly splendor cannot compare.

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, keep me focused on you continuously throughout each moment of each day even if you use a bit of misery to get my attention.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. When it works like it is supposed to work (quickly doing what I want), I love it. When I cannot get it to do as I please, I hate it. Generally I dislike my laptop friend as I bumble along in frustration when I am learning a new program or trying to do something I have not tried before.

Yesterday, I was frustrated for another reason. My computer has had some “issues” lately so I had the local computer guy work on it. He did a great job, but things look different. Not a big deal. It didn’t take long to adjust to the new look. My frustration came with trying to get onto the internet. I couldn’t. It asked for my service key. I gave it my password. Not accepted. I gave it another password thinking I might have copied the password down wrong. Not accepted. I manually installed the software that came with my modem. No difference. I uninstalled the software and installed it again. No internet. Let’s just say that I spent over an hour trying everything I could think of. I called the nice computer guy, and his voice said to leave a message. I hung up. As a last ditch effort, I called tech service. Voila! They knew my problem and told me how to fix the issue. It wasn’t asking for my password. It was asking for the service key which was clearly printed on my modem. So simple a solution.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

So how often do I treat Jesus the same way I did this internet issue? How often do I try to fix things on my own? How much more effective could I be and how much less frustration would I experience if I consulted Jesus, life’s expert, first?

Lord, bring me closer to you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, remind me to consult Jesus beforeI start to take off in my own power.


Yesterday did not go at all as planned. My day was going to be busy but productive doing good things—spending time with my mother, spending time with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, and spending time with my great-niece.

The first big frustration came with my mom. Now it wasn’t Mom that caused the problem. It is her supplemental health insurance company. This company periodically refuses to cover a specific drug because a generic is available and cheaper. It is a bother but generally a cost-effective bother. This time it was the opposite. The insurance company wrote saying the generic was no longer covered and she would have to switch to a non-generic. Mom’s doctor thought it a bit strange so he made a phone call. After consulting with some expert, he wrote the script based on the information given to him.

We turned the script into the pharmacy, did some shopping, and about thirty minutes later returned to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription. It had not been filled because they needed to consult with us before filling it. After about fifteen minutes of working with the pharmacist, we left still without the prescription and frustrated with the health insurance company. The whole incident has something to do with the way drugs are regulated. The insurance company would no longer cover the generic which cost $91 for 180 pills but wanted us to switch to a “comparable” drug which cost $1024 for 180 pills. Tell me that makes any sense!

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20 NIV

It would have been so easy to have become angry. It would have been so easy to let that pharmacist have “a piece of my mind.” But what eternal good would have come from that? We smiled and thanked the pharmacist for spending the time with us and explaining our options thoroughly. I do not know that any eternal good came from the encounter, but at least no eternal harm transpired.

So when things do not go smoothly—do not go as planned—become irritating—I am NOT to become angry and disagreeable. I am to boldly and politely state the facts and remember my anger can cause much harm when used for anything but offenses against my God.

Lord, thank you for instructing us on how to live. Your perfect guide book for our lives is flawless for every situation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Little decision? Big decision?

Little decisions make big decisions for us. Stop and think about it. We make a multitude of little decisions every day. Those little decisions are what form our character, our actions, and our lives. Judas and Peter both made many little daily decisions. One set of decisions lead to betrayal while the other lead to a life dedicated to Christ.

Judas’s betrayal was premeditated over a period of time. He dwelt on small disappointments. He became disillusioned because Jesus was not going to become the powerful government leader Judas wanted. The negative thoughts lead to discontent. Discontent lead to plans for rebellion. Once Judas committed to betraying Jesus, he still could have repented. But he did not. Later, Judas became remorseful because he saw how Jesus and his friends were treated. Judas was sorry he betrayed Jesus because he didn’t like the way it turned out. But Judas was unwilling to admit his sin and humble himself to God by asking forgiveness.

So how am I like Judas? Am I sorry I sinned, or am I sorry when I get caught? When I don’t like consequences, do I say too bad and go on with my life? Do I try to make things better in my own power?

“The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be.” My Utmost for His Highest March 14

Peter is an excellent example of what happens when we temporarily take our eyes off Jesus. Unlike Judas, Peter became victorious in Jesus because he realized he was wrong-- realized he had made a bad choice--realized he must ask for forgiveness. Peter realized he had to change his attitude and his behavior. He realized he had to obey Jesus instead of taking things into his own hands.

So self must be removed as a right, as a top priority. When Jesus convicts or instructs me, I must pay attention. If he his pointing out my sin, I must repent immediately. If he is giving me instructions, I must follow every detail in the timing he gives. In either case, whether receiving instruction or receiving correction, I must spend some time alone as I listen to and communicate with my Savior. It is in those times that I hear his voice most clearly and am closest to Him.

When we blow it, remember Jesus prayed for us.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one…Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:15, 17

So am I a Judas or a Peter?

Lord, show your will to me. Keep me focused on you as I make each small decision today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit use me—make my life glorify you.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grumble. Grumble. Gripe. Gripe.

My poor husband. He bears the brunt of my complaining. Just yesterday I had two gripe sessions. Once when he came home and once when I later returned home from a softball game. Yes I had legitimate concerns. By today’s behavior standards, I had a right to gripe. But what about God’s standards?

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’ ” John 6:43 NASU

Oops! I guess I didn’t follow that command. But can’t I let off steam? I was right in both situations. Isn’t it okay to grumble about something with my husband who thinks as I do about both of my complaints yesterday?

“It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 25:24 NASU

Another oops!

”You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” James 5:8-9 NIV

Okay. Okay. I get it. I am to not grumble or complain.

So how am I to behave? How am I to handle those frustrating situations?

“in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASU

So whoever said living the Christian life is easy? Maybe he should consult God’s Word and just try following his commands on his own power. It just cannot be done. The power of the Holy Spirit living in anyone who has asked Jesus to rule in his life is the only possible path to living for God’s glory even in the simple daily routines.

So how am I to behave now that I understand I misbehaved? This is how the Lord says his people will behave after receiving discipline.

“Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction." Isaiah 29:24 NIV

Lord, take away my griping and complaining. Give me a spirit of thanksgiving. Make me receptive to your instruction.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How Dare She?

I cannot believe (whoever) did (whatever)!
Who does (whoever) think she is anyway?
How dare she (whatever)!

These and similar statements of anger and hurt are readily expressed when we are deceived or treated unfairly. We get huffy and emotional. Much time and energy are invested in the unpleasantness of our emotions.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NIV

“And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV

So how does that work out in real life? If negative emotions cause us to not do what is right, how are we to handle unpleasant behaviors of others? First, we have to realize who the actual enemy is. It is Satan. Our battle is not with other people. It is with Satan and his suggestions to do evil. He is subtle, clever, and sneaky. Satan’s suggestions may come to us through his work in others, in situations, or even from our own thought life.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:17-18 NIV

That is one difficult task! It means that I must swallow my pride, stop being self-protective, and not harbor negative emotions. Don’t we all at times relish wallowing in our hurts and frustrations? Otherwise negatives would not have so much power over us. But that is letting Satan have his way. Actually, living in peace seems to be contrary to human nature. We are more concerned with self than with others.

So how do I stop all the negative emotion? Satan is too powerful and deceptive for me, a mere human being, to battle. He has been victorious too many times in my life. I like to think I am in control, but that is when Satan and his demons seem to have me entrenched in their grasp.

Our solitary hope is through the supernatural power of God. The only way we can be victorious over Satan is by studying God’s Word, praying to God, and following his commands through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us,

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

Lord, give me your strength in my battle against Satan. Keep my mind focused on what is right in your eyes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Can I Know?

Where are we to get our spiritual information? Jesus often preached in the synagogues or in the temple but he was not predominately in a place of organized worship when he taught spiritual truths. He taught truth wherever he found people to listen. If we expect to get all of our knowledge about what the Bible says by sitting in a church, or listening to a preacher, or by paying attention to what a Christian friend says, you will remain ignorant of what the Bible says. You must study God's words for yourself.

So have you read the account of Jesus' death and resurrection in the Bible? I encourage you to read Luke chapters 22, 23, and 24 for yourself. Even though I have read them several times before, I found something which impacted me in a new way.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34a NIV

Now this utterance of Jesus was made after he had been betrayed, falsely accused, deserted by friends, tried in an illegal court, endured a flogging, and then was nailed to a cross. He had every human reason to be angry and to curse all who were treating him wrongly. But he did not. He asked God to forgive them. Unbelievable. Can you imagine any of us doing that?!

So who do I need to forgive for an unkind act, a false accusation, a word of gossip, a secret they shared, or a lie they told? Am I willing to forgive? Am I willing to deal with anyone who hurts or offends me as Jesus treated his executioners?

Lord, you died in my place to pay for my sins. My sins against you are forgiven. Thank you. Now through the power of the Holy Spirit, create in me a loving and forgiving heart towards those who have wronged me.

Love God How?

“… our faith must be exercised in the realities of everyday life… no matter where God may place us or what inner emptiness we experience, we can praise God that all is well. That is what is meant by faith being exercised in the realities of life…Do we not see God at work in our circumstances?...Are we prepared to let God do what He wants with us?" My Utmost for His Highest April 4

So I serve an amazing God. His demands are simple. Love God above all else. Praise him in all circumstances. It does not matter if events are challenging or wonderful. I am to thank God for both situations. I am to look for God in every situation. I am to follow his directions. If I do these things God has promised to give me joy and peace which may not be logical according to human thought. Nevertheless it is real. The Holy Spirit lives in me now and I will live with God forever. I serve an amazing God.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NIV

Lord, create in me a yearning which I cannot resist to praise you and to give thanks in all circumstances.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let Jesus Lead

Our role is to serve one another. We are to develop the hearts of servants. We are even to be servants to those who will betray us or leave us when the going gets rough. It is one thing to have the rejection or betrayal after the act of service, but it is quite another thing to perform the act of service knowing that a person will not recognize or respect our work. Jesus did just that. He lovingly washed Judas’ feet. He lovingly washed the feet of his disciples who ran, hid, and denied knowing him.

So how many times have we said we would not help this person or would not even consider performing a kind act because a person would not appreciate it? How often have we gone into the self-protection mode instead of following the lead of Jesus? We are called only to do as God desires. We do not have to worry about the consequences. Nor should we worry about the consequences. That is God’s territory. He is the one who will work in the hearts of those we serve. To serve with love is our only job. The rest is up to God.

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21 NIV

This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17 NIV

Lord, create in me a heart filled with love for others. Make me a willing servant to all you call me to serve.

Know What?

Know what? It is not about you or me. Jesus did not come to make us happy in this life. He came to give us salvation so we can experience joy now and forever as we live in his grace.

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,"Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Matthew 21:8-9 NIV

The “Hallelujah Crowds” degraded into “Murderous Grumblers” because Jesus was not what they wanted him to be.

"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor."Barabbas," they answered. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!" Matthew 27:21-22 NIV

Their unmet expectations led to rebellion. Jesus was not on earth to become a temporary earthly king. He was here to provide a way that we can have eternal life and that he can be our eternal Lord. That path requires us to accept and follow him as our leader—our Good Shepherd. So simple an act to accept--but so hard because we want everything our way. We cannot be smug sitting in our comfortable homes or churches. Many of us would have been in that crowd. We want what we want when we want it. Jesus came not to give us our wants but to give us what is best—eternal life experiencing his love and generous care.

So will I accept Jesus’ best for me? Am I willing to rejoice in any suffering he allows in my life with the enthusiasm I am willing to celebrate gifts and joyful experiences? Am I willing to look for God’s work and to recognize his purposes in any and every situation?

Lord, give me eyes to see your work all around me. Give me exuberant enthusiasm to serve you no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it may be for me because I know serving you brings true joy which surpasses the temporary happiness of this world.

Hindering? Who me?

“Do you have a strange god-not a disgusting monster but perhaps an unholy nature that controls your life? …God holds us accountable for what we refuse to see or are unable to see because of our sin.” My Utmost for His Highest April 3

"If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:42 NIV

So what sin in my life is hindering me from experiencing peace in God? What sin is blinding me to God’s will? What sin is keeping me from following God’s will for my life? What sin have I rationalized so often that now my conscious no longer warns me that it is sin?

Lord, awaken in me an awareness of sins I rationalize and accept as understandable and forgivable. Give me the strength to resist them and to eradicate them from my life. Draw me closer to you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Fascinates

…The lasting characteristic of a spiritual man is the ability to understand correctly the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life…Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you…My Utmost for His Highest April 2

So what has a growing fascination in my life? God made us curious. He made me with a desire to learn—to know more. But is something which fascinates me becoming a hindrance to my walk with God? Is it keeping me from prayer? Is it keeping me from spending a meaningful amount of time in His Word daily? Is it keeping me from following His direction? Or is it a fascination that God has given me because I am to develop a new skill or gain knowledge for the next task He gives me?

Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard. Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly. Proverbs 13:15-16 NIV

Lord, thank you for making my life interesting and full of opportunities to enjoy and learn. Create in me areas of curiosity toward an experience or area of knowledge that you desire for me to take up in more depth. And clearly show me those areas of interest that are to be only tasted and not pursued.