Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pray for What?

Recently I challenged myself to pay careful attention to what I pray. It did not take very long for me to realize that my prayers are very self-centered. Now there is nothing wrong with praying for what is important to me and praying for the situations I will face today or in the near future. But I soon realized that my prayers for others, my prayers for spiritual growth, and my prayers for witnessing were minimal.

I admire Paul. He gave up success and prestige to preach Christ. He was greatly persecuted yet did not turn away from Jesus Christ. To help me get a better understanding of how to pray, I looked at some of the passages written by this remarkable apostle.

Paul prayed for the spiritual growth of his friends and colleagues.

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." Eph 1:18-19a NIV

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Eph 3:16-19 NIV

Paul desired for others to pray for his witness for Jesus Christ.

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Eph 6:19-20 NIV

"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Col 4:3-4 NIV

Various times Paul teaches that the Christian is to be thankful in all situations, but he also talks about being thankful as we pray.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Col 4:2 NIV

Although Paul must have prayed for his current physical and economic needs, they were not the major topic of his prayers. He was more concerned with others learning about the saving grace of believing in Jesus Christ as Savior.

So my prayers should focus more on the salvation of others, the spiritual growth of other Christians, and my witness not only to the unsaved but also to fellow Christians.

Lord forgive me for my selfish, shallow prayers. I want to grow spiritually so that I may pray sincerely for not only my current concerns but also for the spiritual growth of myself and others.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friendly Fire

This is one of the greatest battles women of faith experience according to Grace Hardy, the keynote speaker at Women in the Battle Ladies Retreat. And I whole-heartedly agree. Friendly fire from other Christians can cause immense emotional injury and sometimes result in tragic casualties--friendships forever lost.

David addresses the issue of friendly fire. He was betrayed and wisely instructs us about how to endure betrayal.

"But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God...My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant...Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:13-14, 20, 22 NIV

Biblical wisdom literature addresses this issue also. What are we to do when we are the cause of the hurt?

"If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!" Proverbs 6:2-3 NIV

I am not for sure I like this. It is hard to soothe the hurt feelings of another when I am still hurting. When the other person is not receptive or purposely continues to hurt me, it causes the emotional wound to become a gaping hole. However, I must admit that seldom am I totally innocent. With that in mind I need to make sincere apologies when I have responded to a hurt inappropriately. I also must make amends when my thoughtlessness injures another. Tough, tough, tough.

Either I will handle friendly fire the world's way or God's way. The important thing is that I do what is right in God's sight. If I do that he will bring me through the hurt and give me peace. I know that, but it is still hard to humble myself to respond correctly. It is so much easier to nurse my hurts, rehearse my well-justified response, and build my coalition team. However, gossiping and back-biting are sin.

God's word is very clear about how we are to address wrong.

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

So it is important for the Christian to be an offense preventer by avoiding idle talk, forgiving, not being easily offended, and working to stop friendly fire.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18 NIV

Lord, give me the wisdom to know when my actions or words might cause injury. Keep me from being the cause of friendly fire.

Identity Crisis

If a stranger sees you shopping at Wal-Mart, Kohl's, or the grocery story, would that person identify you as a Christian? Could the stranger tell by your clothing, actions, and words that you proclaim Christianity as your religion and Jesus Christ as your Savior? This was a challenge giving to us by Grace Hardy, the keynote speaker at the Women in the Battle Ladies Retreat. Provocative thought.

We all take note of the people around us when in a public setting. If we don't, we should. It is unsafe to not take note of others in our vicinity. But that is generally all that I do--check them out to see if they appear safe. After hearing Grace Hardy speak, I have started to look, really look, at the people I encounter at Wal-Mart and in other public locations. Now I know it is not right to pass judgment on a person's spirituality based on a quick superficial assessment. However, as I observe them, I have started to wonder about their assessment of me. Do they perceive that I profess Christianity--being not of the world but only in the world?

What should be the observable characteristics of a Christian?

1. Self-control--Are my behaviors controlled and appropriate for the situation?

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11 NIV
"Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." Proverbs 2:11 NIV

2. Husband lover--Do I speak well of my husband and honor him by not inviting flirtatious conversations?

"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:11-12 NIV

3. Quiet and gentle spirit--Do people notice me for my gentle confidence or my overt attention getting behavior?

"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 3:3a,4 NIV

4. Modest--Does my clothing display good taste without tightly forming to my figure or showing too much flesh?

"I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety." 1 Timothy 2:9a NIV

5. Neat--Who wants to emulate someone with a disheveled appearance?

"For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:33b-11:1 NIV

So do people see my Christianity as an act or as real? Do they see my Christianity at all?

"Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." 2 Corinthians 1:12-13 NIV

Lord, not only on the good days but even on the days when things do not go well, make my Christianity obvious and desirable to those who notice me as I go about my daily tasks in the public arena.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We too often are selfish, spoiled, and ungrateful. We grumble and complain when things do not go our way. We expect immediate reward--instant gratification. We want, want, want. But is this the right way to live--constantly wanting more possessions, achievement, recognition?

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

What is the right attitude to achieve contentment? A powerful example of being contented in even the worst of circumstances is given in Acts. In ancient Philippi, Paul and Silas had been witnessing. The owners of a slave girl became very angry at them after they helped the girl. The slave owners complained to authorities.

"After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them...After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left." Acts 16:23-25, 40 NIV

Now that is contentment. They sang praises to God even in the worst of circumstances. When they were released, they visited friends and encouraged them. Paul and Silas did not gripe about their wounds, about their unfair treatment, or about how ungrateful the slave girl's owners were when they cured her. As a result, the jailer and his household came to a believing faith in Jesus Christ. They were an inspiration to Christian friends. And eventually the church in Philippi became a strong, productive Christian influence. All of this would not have happened had Paul and Silas behaved the way we modern Christians normally do.

"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

We are too busy sinning to receive God's blessing. We covet what others have, turn our desires into obsessions, blame and make demands on others, manipulate, connive, and do not enjoy the blessings we already have.

Happiness only happens through a contented, thankful heart. Being thankful is the cure for discontent. What if God took away everthing you have not thanked him for? Reflecting on this question has greatly impacted my thinking.

So we must cultivate a thankful heart in any and every situation.

Lord, forgive my selfishness. Imprint in my mind a realization that it is not what I want that is important, but it is knowing your ways are always best.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Satan Attack

True, not all sin is caused by Satan. Much sin is caused by our human nature--selfishness, self-direction, self-importance, pride, lust. Satan, because he understands human nature so well, creates situations when he detects a weakness in our character which will result in sin. He is sly and smart. Satan knows that a deceptive attack when we are alert and content will not be effective. It is when we are tired, stressed, or not feeling well that Satan becomes a formidable foe. I can only imagine how he sets sin traps then laughs victoriously when we walk full speed into them becoming hopelessly entangled.

No matter what the deceptive traps are, we can be victorious through Jesus in any and every situation. First of all, we must recall victories in past battles. Focus on past victories and praise the Lord. Instead of dwelling on what it wrong now and what might happen, we should take time to remember how God has protected us in the past. What a wonderful way to build confidence.

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 NIV

When we do this we will realize that those victories were won only because we totally depended on God to bring us through the difficult situations. The hymn "Victory in Jesus" says it well. "And somehow Jesus came and bro't to me the victory. Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!"

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

Next, we should not fret or worry. This is when Satan has a heyday. Fretting and worrying only make the problem bigger than it already is. Too often we succumb to unnecessary worry. Anxiety paralyzes us and makes it impossible to make wise decisions.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 NIV

Peace, even in the midst of a battle, is possible when we trust in Jesus. The song "Under His Wings" says it well. "Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow...Often when earth has no balm for my healing, there I find comfort and there I am blessed."

So whatever the trial, Christians must seek God, not fret, and remember times in the past when God has protected us. Then God will grant us peace and strength to successfully meet any challenge.

"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalms 100:5 NIV

Lord, forgive my worrying and trying to make things right in my strength. You are an amazing God. I know that I can only have victory through your blessing and your power.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Women in the Battle

An army helicopter, military jeep, and camo painted pickup truck decorated the front lawn. Men dressed in camo greeted me and told me where to park and where to go. I walked in the building to see military paraphernalia in the halls, the restrooms, and the auditorium. I could hardly believe that I was walking into a church, but I was. The stage had been well set for the theme of the ladies retreat--Women in the Battle.

The military theme was creatively carried out through a huge mural of a bunker on the wall behind the pulpit, eating in the mess hall for lunch, and camo back packs for our supplies. But I did not go to this event because of the theme. I only attended because my mother wanted me to take her. The theme did not peak my interest until I experienced the details of the extensive makeover of the building decor and the opening ceremony.

The patriotic atmosphere made me proud of our military. Bulletin boards were filled with pictures of members of the church who had served or were currently serving in the military. A retired commander and two active military personnel presented the colors and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem was awe inspiring as the packed auditorium sang with pride in our country.

I expected the speakers to talk about the armor of God as it is presented in Ephesians 6. Boy was I wrong. The first speaker, Amy Paget, talked about the battle for joy. Now that was a new concept for me--battling for joy. But it really is a battle. When something doesn't go exactly as I have planned, I tend to be anything but joyful.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12 NIV

This verse summarizes Amy's testimony. She asked, "If you are not joyful, why would anyone want to be a Christian?" Now that is a pretty good question. Later the keynote speaker,Grace Hardy, challenged us to look like Christians. She asked in words similar to these, "If someone saw you in Wal-Mart, would they know you are a Christian by the way you act, by the way you dress, and by the expression on your face?"

As Amy was closing her presentation, she quoted these verses.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

So how are you doing in the battle of being a joyful Christian in all circumstances?

Lord, show me when I am not letting your joy show through my actions and attitudes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit change me into a continuously joyful Christian.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Do I have it? Let's examine the evidence.

If we are talking about money, I do tithe. I help support missions. I give sproadically to ministries which have helped me in my spiritual life. I helped a niece out of a tight spot. Some money has been given to encourage various young people in their productive endeavors. So I think I am doing as well or better than the average person.

If we are talking about time, I do a lot of volunteer work in my church. Let me correct that. I have done volunteer work in the past. Right now I am very restricted with trying to meet my mother's needs and caring for my mother-in-law who is living with us. But I do try to be generous with my time as much as possible.

If we are talking about friendship, I try to be friendly and encouraging. I am afraid this is an area where I am not as generous as I think I am. Self-deception and self-protection make this hard for me to evaluate. I do want to be friendly and encouraging to others. Does my desire count?

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV

Sounds like God actually expects me to act on my good intentions.

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Luke 16:13 NIV

That is very clear. My intentions are not good enough. Through my intentions I deceive myself. I think I am good, thoughtful, and generous when really I am selfish and unwilling to put out the extra effort required to actually be generous.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10 NIV

So how dare I not be generous? My God is generous beyond all I can ask or imagine.

Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, make it clear to me when I am being selfish. Show me how to be generous as you would have me be generous in all areas of my life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happiness Is...

At BSF last night, Cindy answered one of the discussion questions with a comment about what brings true contentment. That comment triggered a string of thoughts about what makes me happy.

Happiness is...
...a new car
...moving into my dream home
...getting hired for the once-in-a-lifetime job
...a Caribbean cruise
...buying beautiful new clothes
...going out to eat

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This list is superficial. It makes me sound very self-centered.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:19-20 NIV

Okay. Let's try this again without the materialism.

Happiness is...
...spending the day with one of my nieces
...enjoying time with friends
...receiving a thoughtful gift from my husband
...hearing Mom say she loves me
...sitting on the deck marveling at a beautiful sunrise while the birds sing
...singing hymns and praise songs at church

This list is surely what should bring me happiness. It has more depth because it involves relationships and beauty. But I sense this list still is a bit off. The source of true happiness is missing.

"To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness," Ecclesiastes 2:26a NIV

So true happiness is...
...an intimate relationship with God.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,'says the Lord, who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10 NIV

A close relationship with God is the only lasting source of true contentment and happiness for his love is stronger than anything we can imagine. God is the only source of true peace.

So have you thought recently about what makes you happy? Is your happiness based on worldly things or on what will last forever. Do you praise, serve, love, and commit every moment of every day to God?

Lord, forgive my shallowness. Draw me closer to you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, make me recognize when I am putting too much importance on the temporary and not enough on things everlasting.

Monday, April 4, 2011


"Storms come and go where they will. Some bring damage but rebuilding rises up. Sometimes scars remain but there is always a chance for new life. We have shelter but we keep going out and looking around. He's saying why won't you stay in My house where I will protect you. Sometimes I feel like I am drawn to the lightening . . . . and yet He calls me to the calm and the quiet where He can speak to me."

This is a quote sent by a friend last evening. This friend occassionally will text short uplifing messages to several of her friends and probably family members too. I have no idea where she finds these gems or who penned the inspirational message above. Nevertheless, I love the thoughtfullness and love these messages imply.

The first two sentences of this quote reminded me of how human relationships work. Storms come and go. I do not know of any deep friendship which has not had its ups and downs. The storms may take us by surprise but often we can see them coming. Sometimes the damage from unkind words and thoughtless actions is devasting and sometimes minimal. Often the minimal damage continues over a period of time, an irritation just under the surface. But when thunderstorms erupt, they inflict huge wounds. Hopefully healing occurs, but often ugly scars remain. New growth in a friendship can take place if both persons forgive perceived offenses. Even if the other person refuses to reconcile, it is healing to forgive. Scars from past battles should not be used as reminders of hurts but as reminders of mistakes we made. Relationship storms are never totally one-sided. They are lessons learned about our own failures, pride, self-direction, and need to rely on our Lord and Savior--not people--for significance.

"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." Psalm 118:8 NIV

God always provides protection and calm for his repentant children.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you.'" Isaiah 54:10 NIV

"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

So I am to seek God as my source of value for he will give me peace that no human can.

Lord, thank you for your unfailing love and the calming peace that only you can give. Please heal past hurts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit make me sensitive to both the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of those whom I encounter today and in the future.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


We take our most precious possession for granted. We assume we will always have it, but we will not. We abuse it until it is too late to regain it. Sometimes it vanishes when we are working hard to keep it. We lose it because of something unforeseen or for no readily discernable reason. It is our health.

This past week, three ladies I know died. Two of them were ladies in their fifties and one was a bit older. One lived a good vital life. Another did many things right blessing numerous people but over the years engaged in a couple of risky behaviors. The older lady had health issues but was raising two young grandsons. All were deeply loved and will be greatly missed.

Today, we dealt with the declining health of my mother-in-law. This afternoon she became increasingly lethargic. Her blood pressure dropped to a level which was startling. We laid her down and called the home health nurse. Her blood pressure has stabilized at an acceptable level, but her temperature started to climb. We are treating that and monitoring her several times throughout the night.

During times like these when good people die too young and an elderly lady who I love dearly is in declining health, I must remind myself of what God through the pen of Solomon has to say about our lives.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NIV

Yes, we are to be good stewards of our health and make wise healthcare decisions when our health is precarious. However, life is temporary—that is unless one has accepted Jesus as Savior. Then when life on this earth is over, a glorious eternal life with Jesus begins.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

So we should not be surprised when health issues become serious--life-threatening. We must realize there is a time for everything and place trust in our Lord and Savior.

Lord, thank you for health, life, and salvation. May I never take them for granted. Show me how you want me to live each moment of each day of my earthly life.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Worry? Who, Me?

So why am I up at 2:15 tonight? It is an entirely different reason that last night. Last night I was self-focused. Tonight I am concerned about another—my mother-in-law. I am trying to find the balance between realistic problem solving and unnecessary worry.

The past eight months of attending to the needs of my elderly, unhealthy mother-in-law have been a primer in elder care. One of the things I have found surprising is how quickly she can go from being okay to being dangerously ill. Knowing how to best care for her quickly changing condition has at times been somewhat frightening. My husband has been a solid rock in those situations even though he was as distraught as me. We have discussed options, re-evaluated the situation, and prayed.

But each time something new happens, I worry. I evaluate all obvious symptoms and wonder if I have missed something important.

Tonight when I checked on her at 12:30 AM as I do every night, there was a problem. I woke Ray up. We took care of his mother’s current needs and had a short problem-solving discussion before heading back to bed. But my mind would not quit working on the problem so I went to the living room. I looked up some information on the internet and found some facts which might be a clue to the cause of the issue tonight. I will talk with the home health nurse tomorrow during her scheduled visit.

Right now I need to get some sleep. This verse has often comforted me.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:25-27 NIV

So I will tell Jesus my concerns because he values his children and will provide what we need.

Lord, thank you for the assurance that you care for me. Please take the worried thoughts from my head and replace them with logical thinking which will find the best solutions to the life-issues concerning me.