Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grumble, Grumble, Gripe, Gripe

Doesn’t anyone appreciate what I do? Why doesn’t someone offer to help? It wouldn’t hurt him to do his part. No one ever does me a favor. I’m an educated professional, and they expect me to do that? Why doesn’t she … ? I can’t believe they …

I have caught myself too often making similar comments. Last week was a special challenge. These types of comments were readily flowing out of my mouth. Now I had legitimate reasons. I felt they were justified. But my gripes were not acceptable. We as Christians have no excuse. If we are striving to be “Jesus with skin on,” such comments should be abhorrent to us.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV

Yes it is easy to fall into the self-centered comments when we are exhausted and feel overburdened because of the present set of circumstances. We become frustrated when others do not recognize our efforts to do what is right or acknowledge our selfless servant behaviors. It is humanly understandable. But…

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV

So why are we grumbling? We are listening to Satan guiding us to prideful and sinful ways of thinking and behaving. Grumbling certainly does not originate with God! He abhors our sin. God knows and wants us to recognize that when we are busy complaining, we cannot be serving him. God may be calling us to action, and we will miss the opportunity because of self-pity. How sad. We missed something that might affect someone eternally because we were childishly focusing on a selfish temper fit. Handled rightly, each frustrating situation is a chance to carry out God’s calling—a chance to glorify him.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10 NIV

Let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves by thoughtfully answering these questions.
1. What do I spend time thinking about? Me or God?
2. Do I focus on my problems or God’s promise?
3. Are my thoughts about my current situation or what God has called me to do at this moment?
4. Do I look to self for solutions or do I look to God?
5. Do others recognize I am a committed Christian?

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NIV

Grumbling happens when we are unhappy about the behavior of others. However, I am not in control of anyone except me. I am not responsible for the choices made by others. My responsibility is to follow God’s instruction manual—the Bible. It tells me that I am to be meek, humble, serve, witness, and give thanks.

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

Lord, forgive my selfish grumbling. Make me receptive to opportunities to glorify you in each and every circumstance I experience today.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Serve How?

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13 NIV


Now that is one tall order! Any of us can serve joyfully for a short time doing something we want to do that just happens to be of service. But what about serving in a way we do not want? What about serving when we would rather be doing something else?

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

Do I really serve joyfully? It is easy to say “Of course” when I am sitting comfortably at home relaxing while I sip ice tea. And of course I can answer that I joyfully serve as I do volunteer work at church or in the community—well most of the time I am joyful—as long as things go as I want and as long as I am with my friends.

One solution to not serving joyfully is to just not serve at all. If it is not something I want to do with the people I want to be with, I just will not do it. But is that pleasing to God?

“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

Whoops! That verse does not say anything about serving only when I want to serve. To make matters worse, my Savior served others without complaining even at great distress to himself and without his friends encouraging him.

“...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 NIV

So we are to serve joyfully no matter what we are called to do. We are to gladly serve God doing whatever he lets us know is needed whenever it is needed.

“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” Psalm 68:3 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, make me a joyful servant—no matter the task.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chocolate or Tea or God

What do you do to console yourself when life is tough? When I need comfort I tend to seek food especially if it has chocolate as an ingredient, or I might brew a cup of tea and sit on the deck by myself listening to the birds and the gurgle of the fountain.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:28-29 NIV

So the only source of true comfort is God. Generally while sipping tea on the deck I do pray. Instead of being an “Oh, yah, maybe I should pray” behavior, prayer to my God and Savior should be my first source of comfort.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you'…you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:13, 16b NIV

So God brings renewal and strength to those who seek him. He holds our hands and helps us.

"But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs…so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it." Isaiah 41:17b-18, 20 NIV

So God can do the impossible and does do the impossible so we can understand he is the Creator and Controller of all things.

Lord, draw me to you when I need comfort. Forgive my doubts and unbelief when faced with difficult circumstances. Mold me and make me please you and glorify you in all that I do no matter how difficult I may perceive the situation to be.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am so confused. I do not know what to do, to think, to say. How am I to behave? How am I to respond? All of us at some time or another have expressed these thoughts.

So what does scripture say about confusion? Paul says he struggled with sin and the resulting confusion trying to take control of him. He even says he wanted deliverance from it because it tortured him. Who has not experienced painful struggles with confusion?

“but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:23-24 ESV

My most tumultuous times struggling with confusion have been a result of trying to discern God’s will verses cultural expectations of my community and middle American religious traditions. What is God’s will and what are the human expectations? It is often hard to discern what is right. When I take time to pray through the emotion and to seek God’s will, generally I have been able to proceed with confidence and peace. When I react too fast, often it is a human, culturally trained reaction which does not glorify God.

Throughout the Bible, numerous passages can be found exhorting those who love God to do what is right. Here is a sampling of passages urging us to respond rightly to situations.

“All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:2-3 NIV

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” 1 John 3:7-8 NIV

So what is the secret to doing right? Prayer and knowing Scripture. For how can you know what is right in God’s eyes unless you study what he teaches?

Lord, create in me a thirst for studying Scripture. Make discerning how I am to respond in every situation clear because I know what you have commanded. Show me how my behaviors will be sin while they are still in my mind and I have not yet acted. Through the Holy Spirit give me the strength to resist committing sinful acts even if they would be praised by my peers.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Man Rules vs. Heart Rules

By what rules do you worship God?

Man rules say go to church and be friendly, be courteous most of the time, pray some, and read your Bible a little bit sometime during the week. After all, if you do these things you will be more religious than most people. God should reward your effort.

So what kind of worship does really God want?

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’” Isaiah 29:13 NIV

Sounds like God could care less about if we are more religious than most people. As a matter of fact, he does not even desire our religious activities. He wants us—our hearts.

“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’? Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing’?” Isaiah 29:16 NIV

By following the guidelines set out by society and thinking we have worshipped good enough, we are actually telling God what we will do and how we will do it. HOW DARE WE? God made us! We do not have a right to tell him how we will do anything! Instead we should be on our faces confessing our arrogant sin!

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8, 11b NIV

To be holy means to be set apart. Let’s set apart one day a week to focus on God and not ourselves.

Lord, forgive my arrogance. Show me how you want me to worship you today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Don't Want To

I didn’t want to do my Bible study today.

Workmen had been at the house all day working on the bathroom remodeling project to make our bathroom more handicap friendly. To our chagrin, we discovered we were going to have to paint the ceiling tonight. We had planned on painting the walls before the commode and sink were installed. However, painting the ceiling was not even on our radar. This discovery meant a quick trip to the paint store right after supper. The store closed fifteen minutes before I arrived which necessitated I go to the next closest paint store. Ray stayed home to watch his mother and to paint the bathroom walls since we had already purchased that paint.

We were on a tight time schedule because we had to wait for workmen to leave, and Ray has an early bedtime because he takes the "wee hours of the morning" shift to care for his mother. Besides fixing supper and making the quick run to the paint store, I had to get her ready for bed and meet her other evening needs. Ray finished painting the ceiling and made it to bed only a half hour later than usual. While caring for his mother’s needs, I used a trim brush to do the detail work.

By the time I sat down, all I wanted to do was to pamper myself and read a magazine. I did not want to do my Bible study.

"You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 NIV

So what was wrong with reading the magazine? Nothing except I was putting more importance on a magazine than on God. I cannot believe I even could contemplate such a thing!

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1 NIV

I would have missed the blessing of this verse if I had placed my selfishness above my love for God. I would have missed the joy of praising my Lord and Savior.

Lord, I confess that at the end of a busy day all I want to do is to pamper myself. Create within me a desire to indulge myself by becoming immersed in Scripture and prayer instead of worldly pleasures.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nothing to Say

I have had several topics running through my mind as possible topics for today’s blog. But none of them solidified into anything worth writing. I am taking this as a sign from God that I am not to use my words today. So here are God’s words.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 NIV

So no matter what is happening in my life, God is with me and renewing me spiritually. He gives me encouragement and strength to restore my spirit. All I have to do is to look for those signs of encouragement and to focus on them for they are God's gift to me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NIV

Lord, thank you for the little nuggets of encouragement you send daily even though the troubles of the day may seem overwhelming. You know just what I need to give me strength to praise you in every situation. For I can rest assured that you have called me according to your purpose and are conforming me to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Please continue to make me more mature spiritually.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Fruit/Bad Fruit

He did it again. Just when I was beginning to feel a bit comfortable in my Christain life, God shook it up. I have loved and hated my study of Isaiah this summer. To discover the richness of God’s Word as given in this book has been pure pleasure. However, I dislike the way my study of Isaiah has made me face my sin. I know sanctification is a lifelong process, but I was hoping the most difficult and painful aspects of dealing with my sin were over. It is not to be. Chapter 5 presents six areas of sin for which God will punish even his chosen people.

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” Isaiah 5:8 NIV

We idolize wealth and living an affluent life. Isn’t that the American dream? However, that is not God’s desire for us. Nowhere do I find evidence in the Bible that it is wrong to have wealth. What is wrong is our attitudes towards gaining wealth and using the assets we have. This verse is denouncing accumulation of possessions at the expense of others. It is the attitude of getting mine before someone else gets it. It is the attitude of manipulating the deal so that I get what I want no matter how it affects others or if it is fair to others.

Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine.” Isaiah 5:11 NIV

Drunkenness, partying excessively, and seeking pleasure for the sake of the experience do not honor God. Don’t get the idea that God is a “party pooper.” He is not. God wants us to enjoy life through him.

“… put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NIV

Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes, to those who say, ‘Let God hurry, let him hasten his work so we may see it. Let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so we may know it.’" Isaiah 5:18-19 NIV

Those who taunt God by being defiant and deeply engrossed in their sin can expect retribution from God.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 NIV

Everything is shades of gray for some because they have become confused about what is good and evil. Their moral standards are blurry and confused. They have made excuses for their actions so long that they no longer are able to distinguish right from wrong.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:21 NIV

Conceit is sin.

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent…for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 5:22-23, 224b NIV

It is not enough to know what the Bible says, we must live by what is says. Sin has consequences.

So God expects justice and righteousness from us. He expects us to produce good fruit and will discipline us if we do not. Allowing sin into our lives blinds us to it so we can no longer distinguish good from evil.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV

Lord, make me aware of areas of sin in my life. Show me where I am rationalizing my behavior. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the strength to eradicate those gray areas so they may become white as snow.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Do You Want?

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV

So what is your heart condition? Do you take pride in your possessions, friends, career, or kids? Or do you have a sense of well-being because of your spiritual strength?

What is your heart’s desire? Do you really want to be more than a nominal Christian? Do you look and behave like you belong to God? Be honest with yourself as you answer the following questions.

Is your clothing and jewelry appropriate for a Christian? Are they sexually provocative? Do they draw undue attention? Note, one can dress stylishly and attractively while portraying the values of a Christian.

Are your manners and speech a witness of your patience, love, and concern for others? How do you behave at the grocery store when you are in a hurry and the checkout lines are moving slowly?

What does your tongue say about the condition of your heart? Do you search out and find enjoyment in repeating "information" about friends and aquaintances? Do you rationalize your gossip habit by telling yourself you are only concerned about the person and want others to pray for her?

Do you get upset and belligerent when things do not go your way? Do you gripe when someone does not agree with your ideas or has ideas which mean your plans will not be used?

What place do your husband and family have in your life? Is your career, hobby, friends, or even your church work more important? How are you spending your time? What predominately occupies your mind?

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV

Lord, grant me a gentle and quiet spirit.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Purposely and Defiantly Refused

At some point in my teenage years, I remember purposely and defiantly choosing to not say a prayer before I went to sleep. My parents had taught me to pray at bedtime, but I thought I was too mature to childishly say a bedtime prayer. I would go to bed and catch myself starting to say a prayer. I’d stop and force myself to not think about anything until I fell asleep. My behavior was decisive and insolent. The result was that I started to sin in other areas of my life. God allowed me to suffer the consequences of my rebellion. Many wasted years later, God drew me back to him.

What does God say about our defiant and purposeful sin? In the Old Testament Isaiah predicts the downfall of Jerusalem because of disobedient sin. The Israelites had been having a good time enjoying sinful pleasures.

“…their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” Isaiah 3:8b-9 NIV

Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in a horrifying fashion. Jerusalem and Judah were captured. The people were exiled and forced into slavery.

Sin is always wrong even if it seems glamorous by the standards of society. It is destructive and consequences will be experienced. Sin is punished in two ways. God allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our behavior choices and our defiant arrogance of purposely sinning will be punished by God.

So why do we rebelliously sin—pride, sense of invincibility, desire to have fun, longing to fit in, insistence of “doing it my way," or resistance of being told what to do?

If you read and believe the following verse, using any of these or similar reasons to justify sinful behavior is stupid.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV

So if God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, how am I to behave?

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV

This all sounds good, but I am not sure I want to put forth that much effort.

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” 2 Peter 1:9 NIV

So my lack of willingness to strive for everything mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-8 is nearsighted and blind. It is thumbing my nose at God even though he has forgiven my past sins. It is defiantly parading my sin openly before the world.

Lord, take away my nearsighted, blind attitudes. Make my behaviors such that they glorify you and are a testimony to others about your goodness.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preach It Brother

I do not normally talk about television shows or personalities mainly because I spend very little time sitting in front of the TV. In the past month I have watched more television than in the three preceding years. Since my mother-in-law came to live with us, television is on each evening from 6:30 until she goes to bed. She watches her favorite show “Wheel of Fortune” with Ray then I spend the rest of the evening with her in the living room. Generally we watch Fox News programming. Tonight I was astounded by the Glen Beck show.

Glen Beck generally leads me to examine my thinking about government and contemporary issues. This is good. However, tonight it was all I could do to not jump up and yell “Preach it, brother and sister.” Rev Stephen Broden and Dr. Alveda King were the featured guests. They presented the Christian position articulately, truthfully, biblically, and with dignified sensitivity.

These two very coherent people stated that the radical extremists are sowing discontent and promoting moral confusion. The tactic of the extremist is to divide—not to promote anything good or unifying. Dr. King and Rev. Broden repeatedly promoted individual responsibility. Individuals must act on sound principles of love as taught in the Bible. Care for those who are suffering was encouraged but forced redistribution of wealth was stated as not being an acceptable practice.

“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain — first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Mark 4:26-29 NIV

The Glen Beck Show this evening sowed seed. God will provide all that the seed needs to produce a boutiful harvest.

So, are you willing to bravely witness to those you encounter in your daily life for that is the field where God has placed you.

Lord, thank you for encouraging me through the brave and truthful witness of these two persons you have placed in leadership roles on the national level. Show me who you want me to witness to each day. Give me the words, timing, and attitude that will bring you glory.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You Have to Be Kidding!

Do you say this to God? Do you doubt his ability to do what he says? Remember, God is not bound by the limitations of the human mind to comprehend. In Luke we are told Zechariah suffers because he did not believe the messenger sent to him from God. The message should have been one to bring him great joy. Instead, Zechariah doubted. He did not believe what God’s messenger said and he suffered.

“The angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.’" Luke 1:19-20 NIV

True, the message Gabriel brought to Zechariah was a physical impossibility, but Zechariah was a priest in high standing who knew Scriptures. He would have been familiar with the fact that the angel Gabriel had visited Daniel two times approximately five hundred years earlier. (Daniel 8:15-17, 9:21) Besides, Zechariah was in the temple of the Lord burning incense to God. Gabriel appeared at the right side of the altar and identified himself. Shouldn’t Zechariah have been more receptive to God’s messenger since he was in the middle of a very special ceremony for worshipping God?

So what would you have done if you had been in Zechariah’s place? In all honesty, I probably would have responded in disbelief too. Even in the presence of an angel, Zechariah was relying on his wisdom even though he was an upright, godly man. I like to think of myself as an upright, godly woman; however, like Zechariah, I struggle with placing my earthly wisdom above the Word of God. I want to rationalize and manipulate directions I know are coming from God.

How in tune with God are you? Do you recognize his directions to you? Do you respond to his instructions in faith? What have you read in the Bible that you do not accept because it is not logical? How would you respond to an angel in your presence?

Lord, take away the doubt that plagues my faith. Make me less dependent on my wisdom and more dependent on you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In That Day

Somewhere in my early training in the knowledge of the Scriptures, I formed some very wrong ideas about the second coming of Christ. Foremost among those wrong assumptions was that Revelation is the only book in the Bible which tells about what God has in store for the future. To my surprise I learned that information about the coming Day of the Lord is also located in the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesies about times that are still future to us. Isaiah 2:2 starts with the words “In the last days.” The phrase “in that day” is used forty-three times in the NIV translation of the book of Isaiah. Many of those phrases are in prophesies which are still future to us. I have chosen to reference today’s verses from translations other than NIV to emphasize the points recorded in Isaiah 2.

“Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only the Lord will be exalted on that day of judgment.” Isaiah 2:11 New Living Translation

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. Isaiah 2:12 NASU

“The swelled big heads will be punctured bladders, the pretentious egos brought down to earth, Leaving God alone at front-and-center on the Day we're talking about.” Isaiah 2:17 THE MESSAGE

So pride, arrogance, self-direction, and self-reliance will be definitively punished by God. Therefore, I must ask myself how pride is prevalent in my life. Because I am good at rationalizing my behaviors and attitudes, this is no easy or quick task. Pride is sneaky and difficult to recognize in myself. It often presents itself in my treatment of others. Do I treat all people with dignity and respect? Am I willing to help those who are ignored or abused by others? Do I think my ideas are better than the plans of others?

Self-reliance is another area which I must carefully search out in my life. Yes, I too often just proceed with my plans because I know they are “right and workable.” Of course this is a wrong attitude. But self-reliance is very insidious. It permeates my ideas of success and material possessions. It is tied closely to my attitude of happiness being related to what I own and what I have achieved. This is wrong thinking. True happiness and joy come only from reliance on God and unselfishly serving him.

So we will be judged for our sins of pride and idolatrous materialism.

Lord, show me the pride in my life and give me the strength to remove it. Remove my idolatrous attitudes about material possessions and achievement.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who Am I?

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him...” Ps 8:1, 3, 4a NIV

Who am I that the God of the universe should pay attention to me? I am a nobody. Nevertheless the Bible clearly states God does care about me.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 15:13, 16 NIV

So, not only did God create everything, Jesus laid down his life for me, he CHOSE me, and he has a purpose for my life. I am to bear fruit for him. I am to be his witness and perform good deeds. And he will answer my prayers.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 NIV

My God wants a relationship with me! Amazing! For who am I?

Lord, thank you for choosing me. Thank you for giving me purpose in this life. You truly are majestic.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An African Proverb

Why has God allowed the recent hurts and irrational relationship issues in my life? Don’t I study my Bible daily? Don’t I volunteer at church? Don’t I pray fairly frequently? Don’t I occasionally witness about my faith? Aren’t I generally a good person? Shouldn’t God make my life go smoothly?

An African proverb: Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
Could this proverb actually be teaching a biblical truth?

The Bible does not teach that the Christian will have a perfect life. Quite the opposite. God has told us that he will purposely allow trials in our lives.

“… you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith...may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6b-7 ESV

So what will be the condition of my heart if my faith is genuine? Will I complain if God sees fit to allow someone to treat me in an unpleasant and unfair manner? Unfortunately, grumbling in my heart and occassionally verbally is what I have been doing. But I have been wrong. God clearly instructs us to not grumble. No exceptions. Just don’t do it.

"’Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered.” John 6:43 NIV

“ Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9 NIV

I bring up the sin of grumbling because it is one which I battle. It is one I detest because I recognize that critical, self-centered words demonstrate a critical, self-centered heart. My words display my heart condition. God is convicting me. He is not going to take sides in my relationship difficulties. Instead he wants to mold my heart and to be glorified in all situations. If I choose to praise God in the midst of my troubles, that is my demonstration of surrender to God. He will then mold me and use me to his glory. Praise is our invitation for God to take over in our lives.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV

Lord, create in me a sense of joy when you allow a trial in my life. Show me your will in the midst of the trial so that my faith will grow and you will be glorified.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Do Right

Parents and adults who work with children will often hear a child who has been hurtful to another child claim innocence. After all she said she was sorry. That of course makes everything right in the child’s eyes. However, too often the apology means the child merely is sorry that she was caught and is willing to do whatever is necessary to avoid punishment. We adults are not any better when it comes to repentance. We will pray for God to forgive our overt sin but have only a fleeting intention of not repeating that sin.

“Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:16b-17 NIV

God instructed Isaiah to tell Israel that their hypocritical performance of religious rituals was repulsive to him. God did not want rituals. He wanted heart-felt worship. He wanted his people to repent of their meaningless worship. God wanted more than hollow words. And he wants no less from us today.

What does it mean to repent? It means that deep down in your innermost being you do not intend to ever repeat the offense again.

So are you willing to give up your lackluster worship of God which you cover up through performing religious rituals?

But note that God is not satisfied with repentance only. He expects his children to learn to do right. God gives clarification for what it means to do right. It means to seek justice, encourage those who are suffering, defend the helpless, and to aid the poor. In our society frequently we claim we lack the time to do these things.

So I wonder what God will say on judgment day when we use the excuse that we were too busy to do what is right?

Lord, create in me a desire to seek opportunities to do good for your glory.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Religious Activity--Why it is not good enough

In the first chapter of Isaiah, God recognizes the religious practices of his chosen people as devoid of love for him.

"The multitude of your sacrifices — what are they to me?" says the Lord… Stop bringing meaningless offerings!...” Isaiah 1:11a, 13a NIV

I have gradually realized that much of what we accept as religion must be offensive to God. Not that what we do during our Sunday church services is wrong. It is not. But our heart attitudes are wrong. I am beginning to recognize that during Sunday religious activities is when Satan does his most successful and destructive work in the Christian community. Satan is sly, deceitful, and skillful at influencing our minds and emotions.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,…” 1 Peter 5:8-9a NIV

Christians must learn to recognize Satan’s manipulation. I am convinced that much of the frustration, anger, grumbling, and gossip in churches makes Satan laugh and jump with joy. He is manipulating our minds and emotions so our religious practices are just perfunctory. They are not sincere worship. They are the motions of worship we perform to deceive ourselves and others. Devotion to God is absent while devotion to self is rampant. God is not pleased with our sin. He has made it very clear that he will not listen to our prayers when we willfully sin against him.

“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;” Isaiah 1:15 NIV

“For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.” Isaiah 59:3 NIV

“ If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” Psalm 66:18 NIV

Hundreds of years after Isaiah prophesied, Jesus pointed out that Israel’s religious practices had not changed.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" Matthew 15:7-9 NIV

So, we must examine our hearts. Are we worshipping God or performing religious activities to be noticed by others and to make ourselves feel good? Are we refusing to address sin issues in our lives and still expecting God to hear our prayers? Do we truly want to worship God or do we only want the social aspects of religion?

Lord, show me my sin. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, make my time of worship sincere and pleasing to you.

Superficial Religion

I have been reading Isaiah this summer. It is my goal to get through it two times. Isaiah is a book I have read through several times but did not understand. Because we will be studying it in BSF this winter, I wanted to get over my fear of the book. So with two commentaries in hand, I started the process of gaining some insight into this prophet’s teachings. My practice is to read a chapter, think about it, and then to read the commentary. Generally then I will read the whole chapter again and study specific passages. I have completed the first reading and the first commentary. It was my expectation that the second time through with the second commentary would go more quickly. WRONG. I am stuck on the first chapter.

God identified Israel as a rebellious nation and they were. What has caused me pause is the parallels to our society here in mid-USA. Phrases used to describe God’s chosen people are things like the following: rebelled against me, loaded with guilt, spurned the Holy One, persist in rebellion, meaningless offerings, evil assemblies, evil deeds, doing wrong, love bribes, and chase after gifts.

What is startling is that Israel considered itself religious just as most of us consider ourselves religious. Chapter 1 mentions a multitude of sacrifices, offerings, assemblies, meeting with God, and prayer. However this chapter very clearly states that the offerings and sacrifices mean nothing to God. It was their hearts he wanted—not their rituals. God did ordain the rituals but only as aids in their worship of him. They were never meant as an end in themselves. However, the rituals had replaced true worship. One thing is certain, not worshipping God wholeheartedly is sin. God detests sin and will justly punish the sinner.

“I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” Isaiah 13:11 NIV

So how much of God’s discipline is necessary for us as a society to understand that even we Christians often are rebelling against God Almighty? Most of the time our worship is in form only, and this is rebelling against God. He has instructed us in the first of the Ten Commandment to place him first in our lives.

So what barren religious rituals do we perform in our society, in our churches, and in our lives? Religious rituals are good if they are done from a heart-felt need to worship God. They are bad if done to impress people or to make ourselves feel moral or better than others.

What part of your religious practices are superficial actions and repulsive to God? Don’t waste your time and energy! Focus on sincerely pleasing God by placing him first in your heart, thoughts, and actions.

Lord, make me willing to worship you with my whole heart every minute of every day.

Friday, July 9, 2010


We took my mother-in-law to physical therapy today. While watching the therapists work with people of all ages who have widely ranging mobility problems, I started reflecting on how blessed I am.

I AM BLESSED because I have good mobility. I have good balance. My feet and legs work well enough to easily take a walk unassisted and to climb stairs. My hands and arms work normally and have enough strength and dexterity to garden or crochet a delicate doily.

I AM BLESSED because I have ears that perform well. I can hear conversation, enjoy beautiful music, and recognize noises signaling danger.

I AM BLESSED because my body systems function normally. I can easily eat with my natural teeth. My digestive tract and circulatory systems function as God intends.

I AM BLESSED because I live in a relatively safe environment. My modest home is well maintained and has a quality A/C system. The electricity, water, and sewer systems which make my life comfortable and safe are dependable. I live on a quiet street in a quiet town. It is safe to walk in the park or down to the post office day or night.

I AM BLESSED because my car is mechanically dependable. I have money to keep it maintained and to buy gas. I am within a few miles of shopping, health services, and entertainment.

I AM BLESSED because I have Christian friends.

I AM BLESSED because my parents loved me and my brothers are great guys. Our families love each other. What a gift that we all get along.

I AM BLESSED because I have a loving husband who is not only concerned about my physical safety but also concerned about my mental health and spiritual growth.

I was feeling hurt, frustrated—held down--until I started this list. Where do I stop with this list of blessings? When I think I am about to write down the last item, four more pop into my mind. God has been exceedingly merciful to me.

So how can I not follow this command given in 1 Thessalonians?

“Be joyful always…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 NIV

Lord, I cannot list or even remember all the ways and times you have blessed me. Thank you. Make me your willing and humble servant.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Way Out

"’My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ … but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5b-6, 10b-11 NIV

God has had his heavy, but loving hand of discipline on me the past year or so. At various times God has dealt with me--and in most instances is still dealing with me--about my pride, self-direction, rebellion, anxiety, worry, material possessions, organization (lack of), priorities, career/life purpose issues, and the way I use time. To say the least, it has been a tough year of self-examination, Scripture study, meditation, and prayer. As God leads me, I will be relaying what he has and is still revealing to me in these areas of sin. Hopefully, my reflections will encourage you to examine your spiritual life. I do not mean examine your religious rituals. We all have those whether we recognize it or not—church attendance, prayer at bedtime, quiet time first thing in the morning, and so forth. But we need to regularly take inventory of the condition of our hearts.

“But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish.” Isaiah 1:28 NIV

So, we need to recognize God’s discipline for he will break our rebellious sinfulness. For those who love the Lord, his chastisement will draw us closer to him. I praise God that he loves me and gives me discipline for the purpose of eradicating my proclivity toward defiant sinfulness.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

For over six months I have known "the way out" from my current temptations to behave in a manner unattractive to God. I have recognized the manipulation and attacks orchestrated by Satan. He is a master fiddler on the strings of my emotions. Temptation to behave poorly and to say things better left unsaid have been immense. At times I have behaved rightly. At times I have been extremely ashamed of my behavior.

I have known but resisted taking “the way out” that God has revealed to me for a variety of personal and selfish reasons. At some level I knew that taking the path revealed to me was not in God’s timing yet. Monday God placed something on my husband’s heart. It was “the way out” which God had earlier revealed to me. However, I still wasn’t ready to “give in.” But after fervent prayer and reflection, I know the time is now. I have suffered long enough under this trial. God is ready to steer me in a different direction. Lessons have been learned. God has drawn me closer to him.

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Revelation 3:19 NIV

Lord, thank you for being with me every step of the way through these past months of severe trial. Thank you for the suffering for it has drawn me closer to you. Thank you for clearly showing both me and my husband the door to "the way out" from my present temptations. May all my words and actions bring you glory.

Monday, July 5, 2010


God is concerned about how we live the normal days of our lives.

“Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” Isaiah 1:16b-17a NIV

“’If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 1:19-20 NIV

“But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish.” Isaiah 1:28 NIV

In Isaiah 1, God is asking why his rebellious people do not turn to him after they have experienced his discipline for their rebellion.

So, why don’t we?

I have stopped to examine what has been happening in my life. A difficult situation in my life just will not go away or get better. It gets some better just to become devastating again. By now I recognize the pattern. I become comfortable in my behavior, I become confident in my ability to handle a situation, and I proceed in my own power. Sometimes I may pray about it after I have decided what I am going to do for the purpose of convincing myself that my self-direction will have God’s blessing. But God will not be manipulated. He punishes my lack of reliance on him. I have experienced God’s loving but painful discipline. God has been right in his discipline of me.

Lord, teach me your way of doing right.

I Do Not Like This

June 23 was a difficult day. June had been going okay until then. On that day, it seemed I was being attacked from all sides. Two family members at various points were more difficult than usual. Nothing big happened, but some differences of viewpoints were a bit challenging. A minor financial issue had to be settled. A friend started a friendly visit then before the evening was over had inflicted emotional pain because of thoughtless and selfish behavior. The next few days went by normally, well with the exception of a couple of minor painfully insensitive shots from the same friend. Then came the major painful thrust, and I realized that I could not fix the relationship issue with the friend even though humanly I wanted to work a miracle.

I came to realize the friend issue was a powerful distraction put into my path by Satan. I had to get some emotional distance so I will not have the negative distraction of irrational friendship problems which emotionally drain me. I am too vulnerable and weak to be able to be of service to anyone when I am focusing on the negative elements of a relationship.

Does giving up on a relationship demonstrate lack of faith? Can’t God fix everything? Aren't I to treat others as I want them to treat me? If separating myself from a difficult person does not demonstrate a lack of faith, then God must be refocusing my priorities. If my actions are a lack of faith, then why does God use such emotionally painful means? Is my need to distance myself from a person wrong?

So what can I glean from Scripture to aide me in knowing how to handle the current set of circumstances?

“… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Philippians 4:11b, 12b NIV

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

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Might it be that I haven’t been paying attention to the signs God has been placing in my path? I have recognized no signs. Right now I have no answers. I pray God will reveal his will to me.

I need to get emotionally level quickly so my husband will be willing to take the trip to Branson this week. He needs this rest and relaxation trip to recoup from the intensely stressful past six weeks of dealing with his mother’s health issues. He has been so caring, emotionally strong, and gentle. He needs time to recuperate emotionally.

God has given me my mother-in-law, mother, nieces and great-niece on which to focus my attention. He has given me this blog to write. And he has given me an amazing husband to nurture and cherish. I do not have time or energy to focus on a negative relationship.

Lord, keep me focused on you. Make me readily aware of Satan’s manipulation and attacks. Give me strength and wisdom to withstand being sucked into his traps.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thank You to Our Armed Forces

The men and ladies serving in our armed forces in the United States and in the far corners of the world have my respect and gratitude. Thank you for serving—for standing for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, right to bear arms, and the freedom to be able to worship our God openly. Thank you for protecting us from terrorists and the evils of dictators and totalitarian governments. Your service for our benefit is extremely valuable. I appreciate you. Thank you.

Lord, guide our military leaders and the civilian leaders who oversee military activities. Thank you for providing our country with a strong military presence in the world--not to control the world but to guarantee that we can continue to experience our freedom to openly worship you in a safe environment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Need You

Since tomorrow is July 4, I should write about my nation and how great it is. I should write about how the United States is drifting into real danger. I should write about how we are to show respect for those in authority in our government. I should write about my hopes for the upcoming elections. But none of this is what God has laid on my heart. Today I am experiencing a strong yearning for my God.

I NEED God because…

“ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 NIV

He is my CREATOR.
“So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19 NIV

He is my GUIDE.
"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13 NIV

He is my source of PEACE.
”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV

He is my source of LOVE.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 NIV

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a NIV

He is my SAVIOR.
”And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:14 NIV

So why do I try to find satisfaction in worldly things and physical pleasures? SIN.

Lord, I NEED you.

Friday, July 2, 2010


If I had control of the behavior of other people, I’d have everyone straightened out. Their lives would be productive, fun, and enriching to those around them. They would do what is right at the right time to make me, my family, and my friends feel useful and affirmed. The people around me would always be positive and would always agree with me. All would be peaceful and loving. My life would be perfect.

This is what ran through my head at one point today. I was frustrated with some of the people in my life. Do I really want control of them? NO!!! But for a few minutes I about convinced myself that I did. I’d make a mess of their lives if I had control. I have a hard enough time keeping myself in line and keeping track of my responsibilities and schedule. However, take note. God has commanded us to treat others as we want to be treated.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 NIV

This verse does not say I am to control others. It says I am to treat others as I want them to treat me. Big difference. My temporary desire to control others shows how full of sin I am. I am self-directed, self-glorifying, and self-oriented when I should be God-directed, God-glorifying, and God oriented.

So how can I keep my attitude on the “God track?” Simple answer—study the Bible, meditate on and memorize scripture, and pray. Tonight I am not just praying the normal stuff, but I am praying that God will mold me into a person who will influence others because I am doing what God desires and not trying to control them to meet my wants.

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” 2 Corinthians 8:21 NIV

God has created me and you. He creates each of us to be unique. Who am I to try to remake one of God’s creatures into my creation? God will do the work of molding the lives of others through the work of the Holy Spirit. My only responsibility is to follow his directions.

"...Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or 'Your work has no handles'?" Isaiah 45:9b ESV

God will use my "right" actions to serve his purposes.

“ Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NIV

Lord, make me clearly understand that you create and shape each one of us. I am only responsible to follow your commands. You will do the work of convicting and molding others. Thank you, Lord, for being in control so I do not have to concern myself with it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Majoring on the Minor

Too much of my time and energy today was majoring on the minor. It seemed that each and every person I came in contact with today was an irritant for some reason.

A person didn’t do what I wanted him to do at the time I wanted him to do it. Most generally when this scenario happens the person involved is a family member. Today it was my husband. But how unfair and selfish can I be? I have a great husband who is very kind and believes God created me just for him. He adores, loves, and protects me. How selfish of me to become upset when he fails to meet my expectations precisely to my specific specifications? Do I really want a puppet husband? No! I want a loving, supportive husband who has strength and character of his own. I want a husband who loves the Lord and is the spiritual leader of our home.

"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands… Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” 1 Peter 3:1a, 3a, 4 NIV

I drove my mother to a doctor appointment and helped her with some shopping this morning. She told me I was stressed and needed more patience. Now there is nothing that will make me less patient than to be told I am not patient. The truth is I was a bit stressed this morning. I was running late because of some minor inconveniences involved with the care of my mother-in-law. When I become stressed, I also become edgy and less patient than normal. Mom was right. I was stressed. I ended up apologizing to the receptionist at the doctor’s office. My words were a bit snippy during our first encounter. I was clearly wrong and impatient. An apology was the right thing to do.

“ Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 NIV

Then my father-in-law told me he would just have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. He has been eating with us fairly frequently recently so I took it as an affront to my cooking and careful planning to provide nutrition dense meals. I realize now that he was attempting to be kind. He was trying to save me from the effort of cooking and doing dishes; however, I had planned a nutritious meal and had already started the preparation. Before becoming offended, I should have put myself in his shoes. I should have looked at the situation from his vantage point.

“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 NIV

So it is far too easy to selfishly major on the minors. Clearly God intends for us to focus on him and his commands--not gratification of our immediate needs and desires. Such self-centered behavior is not pleasing to God.

Lord, show me when I am being narrow-minded and self-centered in my behaviors. Make me keep my focus on glorifying you in any and all situations.