Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shut Up

As a child, I almost never was quiet. I always had something to say. My poor teachers must have been very frustrated trying to get me to be quiet and do my lessons. I remember in sixth grade I made a deal with my teacher to not talk.

In those days the teachers monitored the lunchroom and made sure we ate our lunches. One day we had soup beans with cornbread and spinach. Even though I like all three now, as a child I detested that whole meal. I refused to eat. I was not allowed to go to the playground until I ate at least half the food on my tray. I loved playing tetherball and was missing out on the noon recess competition, but I was not going to eat that meal. Not only was I a talkative child, but I was also very stubborn. I was not going to eat that meal no matter how much I wanted to play tetherball. Finally I made a deal with my teacher. If I would be allowed to go to the playground, I promised I would not speak during study time for one week. The teacher seemed quite pleased with the possibility of not having to remind me to be still.

That was one tough week. I did fairly well, but it was a struggle. I must confess that my friends and I did manage to develop a sign language communication system which I thought was fine since I wasn’t verbalizing.

As a Christian I still have the childhood characteristic of not controlling my speech like I should. This is especially true of my communication with God. Too often I am so busy talking at God that I do not hear what he has to say to me.

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

Too often I just jump into a prayer with my current concerns and list of requests. Then because I have delivered my issues to God, I close the prayer and go about my daily tasks. Nowhere is there any allowance for God to speak to me—to work in my heart. I am too busy verbalizing to sense God’s presence much less to discern his will.

Peter, a rather verbal apostle, often responded in a similar fashion. One such time was during the Transfiguration on the Mount of Olives. He witnessed the glorified Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking. Rather than absorbing what was being said and the magnitude of the situation, Peter started talking. What he said was nonsensical for the situation.

“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’" Matthew 17:4 NIV

Why would Peter offer to build a shelter for two dead guys and Jesus whose “face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2 NIV)? He should have been on his knees worshipping his Savior instead of talking. God took care of the situation.

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’" Matthew 17:5 NIV

In other words God was saying, “Peter, BE QUIET. Recognize the honor of witnessing this event. Humbly worship your Savior. When Jesus speaks, you are to pay very close attention to what he says. More than that, you are to do what Jesus says.”

So during my prayer and Bible study, I must spend some time being quiet before my God and experience his presence.

Lord, create in me the desire to be still before you as I daily seek your will.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fruit Bearing

We Christians hear so much about bearing fruit. But what does that mean? Paul in his letter to the believers at Philippi exhorts them to be filled with the fruit of righteousness.

“so that you may be...filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:10a, 11 NIV

So we are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness as part of our worship of God. But what is the fruit of righteousness?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a NIV

What a wonderful list of traits. I can claim some of them most of the time, but patience and self-control are issues. I’d like to have these traits, but my sin nature defeats me. I will be doing fine when something triggers my sinful tendency and self-control is gone. I wish I would say as Jesus did in Matthew 16:23, “Get behind me, Satan.” But I do not. I just lose it.

I am saved and have the Holy Spirit living in my heart. I do not want to sin. So why do I? The answer lies in the fact that I am still an earthly resident. Yes God saved me for eternity, but I still have my flesh. My flesh nature wants to look good to others and wants to be indulged. When something or someone, through Satan’s nudging, prevents me from getting what I want, I lose control. It is a frustrating battle that seems impossible to win. What can I do?

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1, 4 NIV

So, if I want to bear the fruit of righteousness, I must seek Jesus. Jesus must become my constant companion. I must learn about him in His Word and talk with him often in prayer.

The hymn Take My Life and Let It Be is an effective prayer for seeking Jesus.

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my will, and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Step By Step

Sometimes I feel like I am the slowest learner in God’s creation. I keep making the same mistakes. Not that I want to. It just seems that my flesh takes over, and I lose my common sense. More accurately, I sin.

I’d like to say I only have the problem of sinning when I am tired, sick, stressed, or rushed; however, that is not the case. I suddenly find myself in a behavior I know is not pleasing to God. Lately I’ve been watching for a pattern of when I seem to be most susceptible to sinning. Of course there are different triggers for different types of sin, but the Holy Spirit is giving me insight into my weaknesses.

I do not like to think of myself as a prideful person; nevertheless, pride seems to be the culprit in many of my sinful behaviors. If you give me the impression that you do not like my idea, respect my opinion, or appreciate my efforts, I am likely to respond in a manner that is not pleasing to God. I may stay in control at some level while in your presence (an improvement), but my attitude and thoughts will not be where they should be until I humbly turn this current sin over to God.

It was somewhat encouraging to me to realize that I am not unique in my inability to control my human impulses. There are numerous examples in the Bible. That is one of the things I love about God’s Word. The people are real. They have real problems and real failures.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

The Scriptures truly are an instruction manual for how others have failed, how God wants us to respond, and how God will punish the unrepentant sinner. Even with all our sinfulness, God will forgive, bless, and restore those who earnestly seek him.

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” John 16:12 NIV

God knows we cannot absorb all we need to know and resolve all our sins easily. Our finite minds do not comprehend our level of sin. However, he will teach us what we are able to absorb at any one time. Jesus’ disciples did not get much of what Jesus presented to them until he sent the Holy Spirit.

“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

So, believers must willingly seek instruction from the Holy Spirit.

Lord, thank you for the Holy Spirit. I humbly beg for recognition of my sin and the ability to resist the temptation to sin.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Memorize What?

I am looking forward to tomorrow. It is good to have a day set aside to worship God.

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:9 NIV

God desires for us to be knowledgeable about him. He wants us to read the Bible. He wants His Word to be taught in our churches both through preaching and small group studies.

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13 NIV

I often mention how important Bible verse memory work has become to me. I only regret that I have grasped this concept so late in my life. There are so many great passages to memorize. Too often we are encouraged to memorize favorite verses, but I am finding it much easier to learn whole passages. It puts the verse in context which helps me memorize. It also helps me understand the meaning of the verse at a deeper level.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Philippians. I have challenged myself to memorize it. Currently I have memorized the first nine verses. Last winter I memorized Chapter 4 and almost all of Chapter 3. However, I discovered tonight that I have forgotten parts of those chapters. This means that I am going to start a program of regular review. I love those chapters and want them to often surface in my memory.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 NIV

So, I challenge you to select a passage and memorize it one verse at a time. It does not have to be a whole chapter to start out. Select a favorite passage which is five or six verses long. God will reward you.

Lord, give me a burning desire to hide more of Your Word in my heart.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking My Advice

Today I had the opportunity to talk with two different ladies about their walks with Christ. God brought specific, appropriate verses to mind to use with them. The first lady and I had talked last night, and I had encouraged her to keep the verses in front of her because of a challenging situation she faced today. The second lady had a very different situation, and I gave her a couple of verses and encouraged her to memorize them so they would be available to her whenever the instructions in the verses were needed. The conversations even though they were very different both ended with the same advice. It will not be easy, nor will you perfectly execute the new appropriate behavior immediately, but just do it. Make the behavioral and attitudinal change.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV

Now this is the rub. When God gives me a mission to accomplish (This time it was to help friends with difficult situations.), God grabs me and tells me to look at myself. Am I REALLY following the advice I give. My immediate response is to say yes. And that is not a fib. Generally God has put me through a training session before he gives me someone to mentor or advise. The training has often been unpleasant or difficult so I can empathize, encourage, and instruct.

Most of the time I am fairly successful at making changes when I clearly understand what is needed. However, I have recently stumbled, progressed, failed, and tried again over a timeframe of months to resolve a set of behavioral issues God was directing me to modify. I knew what I was to do, but my selfish emotions would take control. At times I knew I was doing exactly what God wanted the way he wanted. But too often I did not. I sinned. In the midst of it all, God gave me verses to guide me.

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

This verse sustained me.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 NIV

These verses gave me comfort.

“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, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

But it was these verses which were most helpful to me. I realized that I was not in a struggle with another person. I was in a situation which was being masterfully manipulated by Satan, and he was winning. He is powerful, sneaky, and vicious.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8a NIV

Once I realized that it was the devil I was battling, I dove into scripture and prayer. I worked on Bible memory. I listened to podcasts by my favorite ministers. I read trusted spiritual authors on selected topics. And God changed my heart. Then and only then did I make progress. I recognized Satan’s manipulation. Through the power of the Holy Spirit my behaviors started to change, and I then gained relief from the emotional turmoil.

So, when facing trials of any kind, draw near to God. It is the only way to gain peace—the peace that only God can give during the midst of life’s challenges.

Lord, thank you for drawing near to me. May the two ladies I talked with today recognize and act on the fact that you are the only way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Your Spiritual Act of Worship

What does it mean to worship God? There are so many different styles of worship. Today’s churches offer a multitude of options for types of worship service, music, times of meeting, and social opportunities. Which one is right?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV

So true worship comes from my submission—from my willingness to follow God’s commands. I can do that anytime and anywhere. Do I still need to go to church?

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 NIV

So not only am I to meet with other believers regularly for corporate worship activities, but I am to also encourage others. Worshipping with others can intensify the worship experience as we seek to know God better, but what I like about this verse is that it tells us when we meet together, we are to encourage one another. Who did you encourage last Sunday? Who will you encourage this Sunday? Are you willing to make it a goal to encourage at least one person each time you attend a church worship service or church social activity? Reflect on this question. Is encouraging more rewarding than standing around griping or gossiping? Instead of tearing down, let’s build up.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

So when I worship God, whether during my daily quiet time or in a church worship service, I am not to be concerned about social customs. I am to seek to understand and implement God's commands. As I do this, I will gain a more intimate knowledge of God. But won’t people think I am a bit strange?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him...The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15, 17 NIV

So what is more important to me—what others think or a close relationship with God our Lord and Savior?

Lord, draw me to you. Give me the knowledge to know what your will is in every situation in which you place me. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may I always bring you glory.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Work

Often the hours run out before the tasks for the day are completed. My ability to judge how much I can accomplish in any given day is generally overly optimistic. I love being busy and accomplishing tasks. It is rewarding to check things off my to-do list. The fact that I am not lazy and enjoy working is one area of my life which I believe is pleasing to God. A willingness to work is one of the characteristics given for a woman of noble character.

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” Proverbs 31:17 NIV

So God desires for the godly woman to be industrious. But has God put any conditions on the type of work we are to do?

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." John 6:27 NIV

How is that possible for me to work “for food that endures to eternal life?” So much of my current work as a housewife involves mundane cleaning, cooking, and shopping for groceries.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

So I am to be humble as I go about my daily tasks. I am not to purposely draw attention to myself. Any attention my work activities receive are to bring glory on my Savior who will reward me for eternity. Therefore I must joyfully perform my daily tasks well.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

Lord, show me the tasks you want me to accomplish today. May I humbly and willingly perform them well.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17 NIV

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lord, Who Am I?

I do not get it. Why is God leading me in the direction I think he is leading? I feel unsure of myself. He has taken me out of the arena where I felt competent. I have to be misunderstanding. Surely I am somehow putting my own thoughts and subconscious desires into the direction God seems to be leading. But no. That cannot be. What is happening now—my current life situation—is not conducive to the thoughts I have been having. What is going on here?

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" Exodus 3:11 NIV

So Moses thought the same thing when he was called by God from the burning bush. If God used Moses to do the impossible, maybe what seems impossible from my vantage point is what I am to do.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

So God planned for Jeremiah to be his prophet before he was conceived. Just maybe God already knows what I am capable of doing if I willingly yield to him and follow his commands.

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 even though I feel incompetent, God will provide any and everything I need. He has provided me with talents and abilities which I am to cultivate. He has provided me with opportunities to develop and perfect skills. He has provided me with resources. What can I use as an argument to not do as he is directing?

Lord, show me clearly what you want me to do next. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, make me an effective witness for you in the small things so that I will be prepared in all situations to glorify you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pride = Evil

Pride. Have you ever thought about how insidious it is? If you are like me, you dislike pride in others but excuse it or do not recognize it in yourself. I tend to think of pride as a sin but a somewhat harmless sin. It is not one of the big sins. The word “pride” is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

Over the past year, I have been encountering chapters in books and passages in other Christian literature addressing the sin of pride. Preachers on the radio and the pod casts to which I subscribe have been touching on the topic of pride. I have recognized areas of pride in my attitudes and behaviors. Through prayer and Scripture memory I have tried to weaken the cords of pride wrapped around my personality. This evening I was reading a Bible passage as part of my daily devotion time. Once again I encountered the topic of pride. Just maybe God is trying to get me to understand the seriousness of this sin.

“To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Proverbs 8:13 NIV

After saying the Lord hates evil, the first example of evil given is pride! Yes, pride causes people to be insensitive to the needs of others. Yes, pride keeps us from being servants to all. Yes, pride is the reason we do not associate with those we consider to be socially or financially below us. But according to Psalm 10:4, it is a serious sin for another reason.

“In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Psalm 10:4 NIV

So pride is a barrier to God. Pride keeps us from God because through our pride we are making ourselves more important than God. We are setting ourselves up as our own personal god—doing as we please, when we please and expecting everyone else to show us respect. We are looking out for "Numero Uno."

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10 NIV

So pride is a cause of relationship problems. Could pride be a cause of “issues” you are having with a friend or a family member? Are you humble enough to make the necessary adjustments to restore the relationship? Are you humble enough to take yourself off the pedestal and put God back in his rightful place in your life?

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit make me humble.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grow Up

Do you like to be told to grow up? Neither do I. Generally when told to grow up it means that the speaker thinks I am being childish—irresponsible. That person is often judgmental and is stuffy and does not know how to relax and enjoy life in my view at the time. But today I am looking at those two words in a completely different context. I am looking at them as a Christian. Those who love God will grow.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;” Psalm 92:12 NIV

What are we to do to become strong and majestic like a cedar of Lebanon?

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

So we are to crave spiritual milk. What is that? It is the Bible—God’s Word. The only way to grow in your faith is to draw close to him—to develop a relationship with God. To so this, you have to know what God says. The only way to know what he says is to read, meditate on, study, and memorize Scripture. How much time do you spend reading the Bible each day? Do you read it as much as you do the newspaper, a magazine, or Facebook? Do you attend a Bible study or meet regularly with a mature Christian to discuss Scripture? How many Bible verses do you have memorized? How much do you crave spiritual milk?

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV

So grow up in Christ. Become a mature Christian who is a powerful witness for our Lord and Savior.

Lord, make me grow up in you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Retreat

Unless the temperature is in the triple digits or is freezing, I try to find a few minutes each day to spend in my retreat. My special place is the deck just outside my patio doors. I love to put on my sunglasses, pour a cup of coffee, and sometimes gather up some reading material then head to the deck. First, I plug in the water fountain because I love the sound of falling water. Then I will prop my feet up and sit back and relax. For a few minutes I do nothing—just soak in the atmosphere. The birds visit the feeders, the squirrels jump from branch to branch, plants move in the breeze, and the skies display their magnificent beauty.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3 NIV

How can anyone consider nature and not believe in my God? I experience God while I quietly take in nature. It is a time of reflection and prayer.

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” Psalm 97:6 NIV

Truly God makes himself known to us in two ways: Scripture and nature.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NIV

Some of the most rewarding times of Bible study I have had this summer have been on the deck. While reflecting on a Bible passage, I will see a hummingbird approach the feeder. How amazing! My God created that fascinating creature. He created it so it can hover and drink the nectar at the same time! God perfectly created all things, and God is perfectly in control of all things.

So slow down, look around at nature, and thank God for all he has created.

Lord, thank you for making yourself known to me through nature. It amazes, entertains, and sustains me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not an Accident

It is not an accident that I am here at this time experiencing this set of circumstances. It is God ordained. God knows I need to experience the events that I am experiencing so that I will draw closer to him—so that he can use me for his glory. I understand this. It is one of the things I love about serving my God. However, I do not like what is happening right now. I am frustrated and angry with myself because I know I should rise above the petty things which are making me mad.

A person in my life is saying some hurtful and thoughtless things to me. I do not believe these things are being said to be mean. The comments are either ego protecting or said supposedly out of thoughtfulness. Why do I let them get to me? It is because I am trying so hard to do what is right and my pride wants my efforts recognized. That realization is part of why I am angry with myself. I know I am sinning.

“For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:11 NIV

For Christians, God will forgive our sins if we ask, but there is a condition.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 NIV

So we cannot nurse our hurts and refuse to forgive if we want God to forgive our sins.

This is a tough one for me. I tend to hang onto hurts longer than I should. I examine them and rationalize my behaviors. Sometimes I am utterly innocent. In my eyes the offending person is totally at fault. Usually though I eventually recognize my culpability in the hurtful incident—either in the initiation or non-resolution. It often takes me a long time to work through my hurt. Forgiveness normally comes in stages or only partially. However, Scripture clearly says we are to forgive completely.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV

The Lord forgives wholly and immediately when we ask him. Okay, I can understand this concept. I am to forgive. It will be hard to perfect, but I can work on it. My issue is with someone who repeatedly hurts me. Once or twice, I can handle because we all are thoughtless or insensitive at times. But after that….

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:21-22 ESV

Let’s see here. I have forgiven the person who is currently frustrating me four times for the same thing. After that I started getting angry. According to Jesus, I have to forgive 486 more times. In other words, I must forgive over and over again. Jesus has to continually forgive me for my repeated sins. If I am to be “Jesus with skin on” I must not restrict my forgiveness.

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me a forgiving heart.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Give Me Joy

If pleasure could make us happy, Americans would be the happiest people in the world. We are bombarded with advertisements and opportunities to make our lives enjoyable. But are we really happy? I think not. How many people do you know who tell you they are happy? Generally people talk about their problems and disappointments. They are “going with the flow”—just trying to get through life. But as Sarah Palin said on Fox News the other evening, “Only dead fish go with the flow.” If all you are doing is going with the flow, you stink. You are living a rotten, cheerless life. You cannot express happiness except as a temporary, short-lived occurrence. Give me joy any day. Happiness is temporary, but Jesus said joy is eternal.

“… I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22b NIV

True joy comes from the God.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 NIV

True joy is given to us when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.

“… you love him; … you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy...” 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV

So we can participate in and have a permanent joy.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 NIV

So instead of seeking happiness on earth, we should be seeking the permanent joy and peace only God can give.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, grant me your joy and peace today and every day I am on earth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Whatever your sin is, is your tyrant. It controls you.

Says who? I chose to do what I want to do. Nothing rules me. I live a good life, and what I do does not hurt anyone. I am much better than most people. I don’t break any laws except I do speed some. Nothing controls me but me. How dare you even suggest that I am not in total command of me!

Not too long ago I would have responded like this to the original comment. It was not that I did not sin. I did. I just did not recognize the seriousness of the sin in my life. I was like the rich man that sought out Jesus.

“A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Luke 18:18 NIV

In the conversation between Jesus and this man, the rich man asserts that he has followed all of the commandments since he was a boy. In other words, he was saying that he was a very good person. He was expecting Jesus to recognize his goodness and to affirm that he would be given eternal life based on that goodness. Jesus did not give the rich man the answer he wanted because Jesus knew the man’s heart.

“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’"
Luke 18:22 NIV

Jesus recognized the man’s tyrant. His sin was the love of his money and all that it would buy. The Bible does not say there is anything wrong with being rich. Abraham, Joseph, David, and Solomon were all very wealthy. God loved and blessed them. It was not the money which was the problem. It was the rich man’s attitude about money.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NIV

So what sin is controlling you? My most troubling tyrants are submission and self-direction. I recognize my sins, but they will not relinquish control of me. I am in a constant battle with these powerful tyrants. But I know that through the power of the Holy Spirit they can be conquered.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

Lord, take control of all areas of my life. Make me submissive to you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Center

I was feeling sorry for myself this afternoon. My life has taking a dramatically different path from the one I had planned. Three years ago God made it very clear that I was to make some changes. I left a career that I loved. It was my idol. It took me almost two years after I resigned to give it up in my heart. The past year had another unexpected turn of events. God allowed me to experience some relationship difficulties in two areas of my life along with some other unexpected trials. I wish I could say I am a quick learner and God just needed to nudge me this time. Unfortunately, God knew I would need to suffer some excruciating pain to get me to pay attention and make me desire to be submissive so he could mold me as my Master Potter.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7, 10, 12b, 14 NIV

So I must cultivate a desire to know God more than any desire I might have for things in this world. Paul did and God used him powerfully. Maybe if I truly place God before anything else, including myself, then God will use me in some small way to bring glory to my Lord Jesus Christ.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36 NIV

I want to be like the lady who made this request on her ninety-eighth birthday, “Please pray for me to know God’s plan for my life and what He’s left me on earth to do.”

Lord, be the center of my life on earth. Make me your obedient, humble servant

Monday, August 16, 2010


If anyone tells you that living the Christian life is easy and if you are a good Christian you will be prosperous, run the other direction for the truth is not being spoken. The truth is that there will be tough times in our lives. Why should we expect otherwise? Jesus mentions his trials during the last meal he ate with his disciples.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Luke 22:28 NIV

As a matter of fact, Paul warns his followers that trials will happen and to be prepared for them.

“so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV

Life on earth will include difficult times because Satan loves to attack those who love Jesus. What is ironic is that Satan means to hurt us, but God will allow unpleasant situations in our lives to draw us closer to him. Isn’t it sad that we seem to be willing to rely on God most when life is challenging?

If we are promised that we will face difficulties even if we live good Christian lives, why should we bother? Why not just do as we please?

“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 4:17-18 NIV

First, our troubles are temporary. Our salvation is eternal.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV

So God is allowing our temporary challenges to refine us—to shape us—to grow our faith.

“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, shape my attitude. May I see each difficulty as a chance to grow closer to you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Live How?

“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph 5:15-16 NIV

How to I make the most of every opportunity?

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:17-18 NIV

So I have to read and meditate on God’s Word and not get drunk. But what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5 NIV

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:16 NIV

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

So if I am making the most of every opportunity, I will not live my life engaged in satisfying my sinful nature but instead I will cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Of these the hardest for me is self-control. Satan knows this and sets traps for my sin nature to be drawn out. If I am tired or stressed or just not vigilant, the lack of self-control will take over to wreck havoc in my life and in the lives of those around me. How I long for the ability to direct my energies in a way that always will be pleasing to God.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5 NIV

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit grant me self-control.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Promoting Self

If I want to live my dream, I have to promote myself. I want to be the center of attention—the topic of conversation. Everyone needs to know who I am.

These attitudes are prevalent in our society. Everyone wants to have their moment of fame. How else can you explain the reality programming? How else can you explain the videos people stage and share? How else can you explain much of the degrading activities people engage in to get on TV? For what other reason would people post some of the stuff they put on Facebook and other internet venues?

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James 3:14, 16 NIV

As I researched what the Bible says about selfish ambition, I was astounded to find it listed with some rather serious sinful behaviors.

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21 NIV

Apparently God considers selfish ambition to be a very serious sin. But aren’t we to watch out for ourselves?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Phil 2:3-4 NIV

So, we are to look after our own interests but not have selfish ambition. This lack of selfishness will be evidenced by how we demonstrate our concern for others.

Lord, I pray for you to “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:35-36 NIV)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inside Out

I am always trying to improve things I have control over. I look for a better way to do my jobs, less expensive options, methods requiring less energy, and even new techniques. Researching ideas through reading, asking questions, and experimentation are a natural part of my life. Learning keeps life from being boring, and it gives me a sense of purpose. I set goals using the knowledge I gain. Sometimes I am successful at meeting my goals. Sometimes I am not. Generally the level of success is directly related to what I have gained internally--knowledge.

My Christian walk follows somewhat the same pattern. I love researching what God has to tell me in His Word. I read, meditate, and ask questions. I set spiritual goals. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. My success is directly related to my internal condition. Is my heart right?

For my heart to be right I have to have knowledge which I get through reading, meditating, and memorizing Scripture. But that is not enough. I must be willing to change. I don’t mean the superficial “I know I need to” willing to change. It has to be a heartfelt desire to please God in all I do.

“So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” Jeremiah 18:3-4 NIV

My Christian life is marred--the pot is not perfect. The good news is that God can mold my heart because he is the master potter. He can make me a perfect vessel for serving Him. This reformation must happen at the heart level before it can happen in actions and words.

"…’Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand,’…” Jeremiah 18:6 NIV

So, if I want the abundant Christian life, I must be willing to give up status quo and embrace changes God is calling me to make.

Lord, mold me into a useful vessel for your service. Thank you for the assurance and promise in 2 Peter.

“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. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I recently heard a commentator say that most Americans live better than the aristocrats and kings of the past. We have many modern conveniences, technology, utilities, comfortable transportation, and excellent health care. We are truly a wealthy people. Being wealthy is not good or bad. What is important is how we view our wealth.

“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIV

So if we have possessions and financial resources, we are to enjoy them. It is God’s gift to us. Wealth is only a problem if we have the wrong attitude towards it. Actually, whether we are wealthy or poor does not matter if our attitude about our possessions is wrong.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NIV

The temptation to have a wrong attitude about our prosperity is strong. It is so easy to think we deserve our belongings. We think our money will always be readily available. Not true. Our resources are a gift from God that we are to enjoy and use as he directs.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’" Luke 12:15 NIV

What does God say to the greedy person who hoards his possessions?

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?… Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” Luke 12:20, 23

What is the spiritual person to do if he is seeking to please God instead of being greedy?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 NIV

So is your treasure with your possessions or with God?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34 NIV

Lord, you are more precious to me than anything I own in this life. Forgive my digressions into selfishness and greed. Guide me in using all the possessions you have blessed me with controlling in such a manner as to please you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Rights

I know what I want and I am going to get it. No one is going to tell me what to do. No one is going to control me. I am going to live my life the way I want. It is my right to do so.

Oh really? Have you read God’s Word lately? God had to get my attention today as I was feeling independent and behaving as if I could do as I please, but John 14 makes it clear that is not true.

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.’” John 14:23-24 NIV

So as a Christian I cannot do as I please. I must obey the teaching of Jesus.

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

What a tough one to obey! I cannot do it through my strength. I need the power of the Holy Spirit in me. Jesus did give many examples of how we are to love others. One way he said we can love others is to teach them about living for him.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19 NIV

How am I to go about making disciples? I do not have to figure it out on my own. God will confirm what I am to do just as he showed Abraham what he was to do. I am to trust God and, like Abraham, do as he commands even if it makes no earthly sense.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NIV

So Abraham was sent and later blessed because he acted on faith. He did not demand his right to undersand all God was going to do and how he was going to do it. Abraham just did as God was leading him. Oh, that I will do the same. I like to understand a whole plan before I start implementing it.

Lord, forgive me when I insist on my rights to do what I please and when I demand to know what you have planned for me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Simple Pleasures

My summer plans have been obliterated. Ray and I have only had the opportunity to have one afternoon by ourselves away from home—one time dining out to celebrate my birthday. Today we had another very special time away from home. We spent a glorious day with our great-niece in honor of her upcoming tenth birthday.

It wasn’t what we did. It was the unrushed, relaxed time together. We moseyed through the zoo watching the animals acting like animals. We laughed at the orangutan on the other side of the glass eyeing my camera as I changed the battery. We snacked as we watched two gorillas play shoving games, turn somersaults, and play tag around a tree. Because we were tired of walking, we took the boat tour of the waterway which we pretended was the Nile.

Conversing and laughing as we worked the children’s sheet with a blue crayon at the restaurant was more fun than eating the food we ordered for lunch. After consuming a Braum's ice cream cone, a trip through the grocery store became an interactive adventure.

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” Psalm 66:1-2 NIV

God created us to enjoy relationships. He provided us the ability to take delight in the simple pleasure of spending time with someone we love.

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf.” Psalm 66:5 NIV

Today I needed to relax, have fun, and to feel loved. God graciously granted me all these and more.

“Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” Psalm 66:16

So we are not only to praise God for everything including the simple pleasures in life, but we are to also tell others about God’s goodness to us. We are not to brag for that is prideful and self-seeking. But we are to give God credit for what he does. Today, God was exceedingly good to me. He made sure my emotional bucket was full of love and joy.

Lord, thank you for the pleasure you allowed me to experience today. Forgive me when I do not give you credit for my blessings.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pity Party

“My tears have been my food day and night,…” Psalm 42:3a NIV

Sometimes nothing goes right (as I want). Everyone else seems to have all the luck (get what I want). Life isn’t fair (true). I never get a break (not true).

I had a pity party tonight. I had two wonderful vacations planned for this summer and did not get to take either one. Instead, my summer has been one of hard work and major lifestyle adjustments.

“I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’...” Psalm 42:9a NIV

I am doing what God has commanded for me to do. I am honoring my husband and his mother. That is more than most modern women do (slight exaggeration). Shouldn’t I be rewarded for doing what is right?

My pity party was all about me. It was selfish and prideful. But it was very real. The emotions were strong and the frustrations intense. I am most vulnerable when I am tired and things have not gone as smoothly as normal. The trigger for the pity party this time was not having enough time to complete what I had hoped to do today. I need a break and a good night’s sleep. However, often these periods of feeling sorry for myself may be triggered by witnessing the “perfect life” of another or by hearing someone talking about a wonderful experience. Is that jealousy? What an ugly sin jealousy is! Jealousy, pride, selfishness--the causes of a pity party are totally negative.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:11 NIV

So I am to praise God when I am downcast. This verse reminds me of one of the hymns we sang when I was a child.

Count Your Blessings
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

So when I am having a pity party, count my blessings.

Lord, thank you for all you have done for me and those I love. Make me a encouragement to all with whom I come in contact today.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fixer Upper

When my husband and I bought our first house, we bought a fixer-upper. In other words, we had no money and only a few dollars in savings for a down payment. But we were young and positive we could make that little two bedroom house with a floor furnace into a mansion. We worked hard to make improvements. It is a good thing that we had very little extra cash for we used what we had to make that house ours. It took a while, but we eventually realized that putting any more money into the house was financially irresponsible. We sold that little house and with the profits made a nice down payment for an upgrade in housing.

I challenge you to take inventory of your spiritual condition. Are you a fixer-upper? Are there some areas of your life that need fixing? Are you reading the Bible? Praying? Controlling your tongue? Being a Christian servant? What needs fixed in your walk with Jesus?

“He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” Proverbs 27:7 NIV

Are you full of yourself? Or are you hungry for the truth about your sin?

"I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:104-105 NIV

Do you hate your sin? Is God’s Word what you turn to when you need to know what is right and what is wrong? Does Biblical truth guide your life?

So how much time and effort are you willing to put into fixing your sins? Are you willing to put all your resources and efforts into following God’s commands? Are you putting any effort into preparing for your eternal life housing upgrade when God calls you to Heaven.

“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

Lord, show me my sin. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the wisdom and ability to fix it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scratching at Scabs

Dry, itchy, flaky skin is one of the hazards of growing old. My mother-in-law is constantly and unconsciously scratching. Hand lotion helps but does not cure the problem. Special itch lotions help but don’t stop the scratching. Anti-itch creams on the irritated areas do not stop the scratching. Is the scratching habit or truly an itch? It is probably both.

How do we stop the incessant scratching? Verbal reminders work for the moment if she is awake; however, the worst scratching is done at night in her sleep. Creams are applied before going to bed and even during the night as appropriate.

What is the big deal? Scratching on fragile elderly skin leads to skin tears. Skin tears lead to bleeding. Bleeding leads to scabs. Scabs lead to more irritation and scratching. The cycle goes on.

My irritations and scabs are not of the skin type, but I have them anyway. A thoughtless comment or action hurts my feelings. I am irritated. I pick at the irritation by not forgiving and choosing to nurse my hurt feelings. The wound will eventually stop bleeding because I get busy and forget to be hurt. Then we have a chance encounter and my mind starts picking at the scab. Before long it is bleeding again. The cycle of a broken relationship is born. I rationalize my behavior and choose to not forgive.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6 NIV

So even my good actions do not meet up to God's standards. My sin of unforgiveness and the resulting break in relationship must really be like extremely, unmentionably filthy rags. As long as I choose to pick at the scab of someone else’s thoughtlessness, my witness for Jesus is compromised for he commanded us to love others.

“ Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

So by selfishly choosing to put myself before God and others by not forgiving, I sin.

Lord, teach me to forgive. Convict me when I start to fall into the selfishness of picking at the irritating scab caused by another’s actions.

Friday, August 6, 2010


“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” Isaiah 61:10-11 NIV

Sometimes a passage of Scripture will take my breath away. This is one of those passages. These verses are an inspiring hymn of praise. God has beautifully clothed me in salvation as his bride. In other words, God loves ME. He sees me as sinless because Jesus cleansed me through the shedding of his blood. Me sinless!?! Why I cannot go through an hour of life without having a sinful thought, saying a sinful word, or making a sinful action. Amazing grace!

But we would be remiss to stop there. This passage goes on to say that “the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up.” Of course if God wants to do so, he can. However, we are to always read verses in context. Just a few verses earlier, God gives us a hint about how he is going to accomplish this task.

“And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.” Isaiah 61:6a NIV

So God expects his people to be priests. We are to not keep our faith a secret. We are to proclaim God’s truth to the unsaved. Do I correctly understand this passage? Let’s look just a few verses previous to this one.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” Isaiah 61:1 NIV

We have our instructions. God’s call is not one of coaching from the stands where there is little risk and much bravado. We are to be in the game witnessing to whatever team God has placed on the field-- the poor, brokenhearted, captives and prisoners. God has given us a job to do. How can we refuse our loving Lord?

Lord, show me to whom you want me to witness today. Give me the right words and right actions to be a powerful witness in any and every encounter.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who Me? Sin?

How is your sin life? What sin may I pray that you will be able to overcome? Are you struggling with a particular sin?

I distinctly remember about ten years ago when a Christian friend asked me about my sin life using a question similar to the ones above. After a moment’s thought as I mentally ran through the Ten Commandments, I told her that I thought I did not have any serious sin issues. She politely said if I ever needed her to pray for me that she would be glad to do so. Over the past twelve months, that incident has popped into my consciousness many times. God is using it to convict me of my tendency to rationalize my sinful behaviors.

At that time I thought if I was not worshipping some graven image, I went to church on Sunday, I was not committing adultery, and I had not stolen anything that I was doing very well in the area of not sinning. After all, I am a good person.

Poppycock. Pure hogwash. I cannot believe I thought that way. I have been a Christian most of my life. But just because I had saving faith and had been saved for years did not mean I was a mature believer. I was not. I had not been studying the Bible. I had been only spending minimal time in prayer. I had been attending church somewhat regularly—well at least for a few months. Let’s face it, I was a sorry excuse for a Christian. Sadly I did not recognize my rebellion against God. For that is what sin is. It is a willful and rebellious desire to place wants, ideas, and activities ahead of anything done with or for God. I was a rebellious Christian.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 NIV

Even though I was living a good life which was marginally devoted to God, I expected God to answer any prayer I did make, and I expected the answer to be what I wanted it to be. How arrogant! Did I really think I knew better than God what was best for me and what would bring him the most glory?

I am beginning to truly understand how enslaved to sin I was and am. I challenge you to write down your sins for just one day-- every time you think a selfish thought, say an inappropriate word (e.g. curse, unkind, bragging), don’t do a kind act because it is inconvenient, refuse to forgive someone, fail to seek God’s will before you delve into an activity, etc. I tried writing down my sins once. It didn’t take me long to stop because the list became lengthy. The realization that even a good person like me can be extremely sinful became a reality in my mind.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7 NIV

So if I want God to honor my prayers, I must remain in him—pray, study Scriptures, place God before myself, serve others. If I remain close to God, my desires will become more closely matched to his desires and he will grant them. In other words, my proclivity to sin will be diminished when I place God first in my life.

Lord, show me my sins then through the power of the Holy Spirit make me victorious over them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I’m beat—emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Yes, maybe there’s a bit of physical exhaustion also. I was going to bake some banana bread this evening and plan tomorrow’s lunch. I had a couple of other easy projects for the early evening hours. But instead I sat—just sat. I’m dull, listless, and lackadaisical. But that is no excuse for ignoring my God.

“Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

So there is nothing in that verse that says we only have to love God when we feel like it. Love is expressed through actions and communication. If I love God more than anything else, I will pray, read his word, meditate on scripture, and/or sing praises to him even when I am tired. It is not an option. Either God is first in my life or I am first in my life. And who am I compared to God my creator?

For me tonight, I found comfort in praying for Christian friends and in meditating on a passage of scripture which my parents loved.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:1-5 NIV

Lord, thank you for your word. Even though I am tired, reading your word and praying with you has given me a new hope. I am joyfully looking forward to serving you when I wake up in the morning.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Promise of Significance

One of the things I have finally understood about myself is that much of what I have done is to seek significance. It seems to be a driving force. I want to know that I am important and what I have done has had a lasting value.

The ways I have gone about seeking significance have been counterproductive at times and at times they have produced the desired results. But even when my efforts for importance were successful, I was too quickly left with an empty hollowness. Success by this world’s standards is not permanent and so much can happen to mar the warm feelings. Why do I spend so much time and effort on the world’s idea of success?

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NIV

So all my efforts to make a mark for myself in my community were a waste of time. My focus should have been remaining in Jesus. But what does that mean?

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:9-11 NIV

So I must obey Jesus’ commands. That sounds easy. After all, I am a good person.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV

Whoa! That is asking a lot. It will take much time and energy to love as Jesus loves. I'll have to give up some of my personal desires, wants, and resources. As a matter of fact, I am unwilling to do it and cannot do it without the power of the Holy Spirit working in me. Is it worth the effort?

“This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8 NIV

So if I love others as Jesus loves I can have an eternal significance. Isn’t that much better than the fleeting, hollow recognition this world gives?

Lord, keep me focused on you. Show me how to love even the unlovable. Make me a selfless servant for your glory.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's on Your Mind?

What’s on your mind? Is it the normal worldly things or is it things which would please God? Honestly now. What is on your mind?

I could sanctimoniously answer that question by saying “Things pleasing to God” without feeling a twinge of guilt. Oh, but my emotions tell me a different story. My emotions are a barometer of what is happening in my head. I justify and rationalize my behaviors to the point I can say my mind is thinking about good and godly things when in fact I am not. Well, I am once in a while, but the predominate thoughts in my brain are about me—what I want, how someone else should treat me, how good or bad a particular outfit will make me look to others, how much weight I need to loose, how well I treated an acquaintance last week, how generous I was when…

I have no control over others. Their thoughts and behaviors may be influenced by my actions or words. But I dominate no one’s thoughts and actions. They make their own choices. Likewise I make my choices.

I choose on what my mind will concentrate. My emotions, actions, and words reflect those choices. Candidly my mind is too often focused on me and not God. Because my basic human nature is sinful, my mind can entertain unpleasant and evil thoughts especially when I perceive that I have been treated unfairly or been slighted.

“But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Romans 2:8 NIV

So I must monitor my thought life and eradicate the self-seeking thoughts. Who said living a life pleasing to God would be easy? They were wrong. I struggled today as I wanted desperately to wallow in self-pity but knew that my thoughts were ones I should eradicate by asking for forgiveness and praising my merciful Lord. Many examples in scripture exhort us to take our minds off of self and to focus on others.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV

Like most women I want to look attractive, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the motivation is right. Is the real reason that I want to be thought of as sexy? Be thought of as wealthy? Be thought of as socially elite? What is the real reason for my attire?

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” 1 Timothy 2:9a

For out of my mouth and through my actions, I display what I allow my mind to mull over throughout the day.

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give me control over my thought life. Make every thought, every reflection, every deliberation, and every plan pleasing to you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Doing It My Way

“Doing it my way” is as American as apple pie and baseball. The spirit of individual initiative is part of the reason our country is so great. But is “doing it my way” pleasing to God?

“Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Isaiah 55:7 NIV

In this verse, God’s people are the ones being referred to as wicked and evil because they had turned from God. They were proceeding with their plans. In this passage they are commanded to return to the Lord and his plan for them.

So it is safe to assume this means do as God says and not as I want. Let’s look at the very next verse.

"’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV

So there is no way I can please God and “do it my way.” I must do as God directs. That is the hard part. If my ways are so very different from God’s ways, how am I to know what to do? In the first six verses of Isaiah 55, we are told to “Come…Listen…Seek the Lord.”

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 NIV

The Bible is God’s Word. It is how God speaks to us. If we come to Scripture, listen to what it is saying, and seek the Lord through meditation and prayer, God will reveal himself to us.

“… my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 NIV

Lord, show me how to do it your way. Through the power of the Holy Spirit make me acutely aware when I veer from your action plan for me.