Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning to Gaze

As I wrote yesterday, I want to learn what it means to "gaze upon" or "contemplate" the beauty of the Lord. In my curiosity, I began to dig a little deeper this morning. Here is what I have learned so far...

"Beauty" when mentioned in conjunction with the Lord typically refers to spiritual beauty. Multiple verses in Chronicles and Psalms refer to the "beauty" or the "splendor" of His holiness. Examples include:

"...ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him;   worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness." 1 Chronicles 16:29

"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; tremble before and reverently fear Him, all the earth." Psalm 96:9 (AMP)

The qualities of His set-apart-ness make Him beautiful. "It is beautiful that God is God and not man. His holy love, grace, justice and majesty are beautiful" [qualities] says David Guzik in his Study Guide on 1 Chronicles 16.

In Psalms such as 29 and 96, Christ is the object of our worship. According to Matthew Henry's Commentary on Psalms 29, "The object of our worship; the glorious majesty of God is called the beauty of holiness, 2 Chronicles 20:21. In the worship of God we must have an eye to His beauty, and adore Him, not [as One] to be feared...but as [One who is kind, lovely and approachable] and therefore to be loved and delighted in above all... There is a beauty in holiness, and it is that which puts an acceptable beauty on all acts of worship."
So my understanding is this: to contemplate the beauty of the Lord is to gaze upon - or study and meditate on - the qualities that make Him holy, lovely and worthy of my sincere worship.

Father, it seems with each season of life You teach me new qualities of Your character. Each one is lovely in its own way and deepens my desire to worship You. Each one therefore makes You beautiful. As I learn more about Your beauty, I pray it changes me, that I may be a beautiful reflection of You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just Pondering....

Just pondering this passage from The Message today...

I'm asking God for one thing, only one thing:
To live with Him in His house my whole life long.
I'll contemplate His beauty; I'll study at His feet.
That's the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world...
Psalm 27:4-5a (emphasis added)

When I sit at the feet of Jesus, basking in the Word and His presence, if but for a moment my world seems to melt away. Trials and struggles fade to the background as I focus on my God and tell my problems how BIG He is. My heart is quieted as His Word assures me that He loves and tenderly cares for me. What I have been missing out on is the "contemplating His beauty" part. The Amplified version says, "to behold and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord" meaning to ponder His sweet attractiveness and delightful loveliness.

Father God, I want to know Your beauty. I want to really understand what that means. I want to take it in and reflect upon it. I want to soak it in and be changed by it. Hear my prayer O Lord and answer, I pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Worthy of Suffering

"The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering; disgrace for the Name." Acts 5:41

God's Word says that I am blessed when I am persecuted for righteousness. Blessed when I am insulted or falsely accused for His name's sake. And in these things He says I can rejoice because great will be my reward in Heaven, for in the same way the prophets before me were persecuted. (Matthew 5:10-12)

Peter and John were persecuted apostles. In Acts 5, the apostles stood firm in their faith saying, "We must obey God rather than men" (verse 29) after being told not to talk about Jesus. Instead of closing their mouths and heeding the warning of the Sanhedrin, they continued to boldly proclaim the Gospel. Once word of this reached the officials, they were brought in and flogged. And when the Bible refers to a flogging, they were beaten half to death! (A flogging was the infliction of 39 lashes in a public setting.)

Yet in spite of their beating, they went away rejoicing - an expression of joy and gladness. Barnes' Notes on the Bible says, "Nothing to most people would seem more disgraceful than a public whipping." An act not so much about the pain it caused, but the disgrace. After being publicly humiliated, how could they possibly rejoice in the matter? Barnes' Notes go on to imply it was because they were chosen to imitate Christ. "They were glad that they were permitted to be treated as He was." God's Word says, "Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." (1 Peter 4:13-14)

To suffer for Christ's name, by whatever means, should be counted all joy because I was considered by God to be worthy, or fit for, such suffering. And just as Peter and John did, I should go on "proclaiming the Good News that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:42)

Father, whatever my circumstance, I ask You to help me to count it all joy when I suffer for Your name's sake. In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Courage to Speak Up

"For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:20

In this passage, Peter and John have been brought before the Sanhedrin and asked to stop speaking about Jesus.

As a believer, it is my Biblical obligation to testify to the things I have seen God do in my life and the things I have clearly heard Him speak through His Word. If I am walking with Him I should feel compelled to the point I "cannot help" but speak about Christ.

Not only should I speak, I should ask the Lord to help me speak about Him confidently and boldly. Acts 4 goes on to say in verse 29, "enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness."

I do not have to be a highly educated, celebrated woman to speak. I need only be a woman who spends time with Jesus. Verse 13 says, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." These men were just like me, unschooled and ordinary. The difference between them and others was not their status, their level of education or their accomplishments. What was noted about these men was that they had been spending time with Jesus. Being with Jesus is what made them stand out in the crowd - nothing more, nothing less - just devoted time in His presence. And time in His presence gave them the courage to speak up.

Father God, I pray that as I spend time with You my life would be a beautiful reflection of You in me. When people look at me, it is my heart's desire that they would see You instead. I ask Lord that You would give this unschooled, ordinary woman greater confidence and courage to speak boldly and testify about all that You have done for me, and the truths You have revealed to me in Your Word. Thank You for saving my life. Use my life for Your purposes and Your glory. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting Real

I just need to be real and speak from a heart of conviction today...

Words give life to feelings or conditions of the heart, good or bad. God's Word says, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) If my heart is good, my words should be a reflection of it. By the same token, if my heart is unhappy, disgruntled, frustrated, or a host of other things, if I am not careful, my words will get me into trouble. Giving life to those unpleasant feelings through complaining words opens me up for enemy attack. I know because he has taken some of the words I have spoken out of frustration over a situation and turned them back on me in the form of shame.

Just a few days ago, I identified the feelings that had been weighing me down and began asking the Lord to reveal to me where the shame was coming from. While driving the kids to school this morning, He spoke again. He brought clarity and conviction about the door I had opened to let the enemy in, and it grieved me. I was reminded that my "attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5) regardless of my frustrations. The enemy had been so subtle and crafty this time. I began struggling with being in a funk and weighed down not long after starting this blog. Isn't it just like the enemy to strap me down with "shame" after deciding on the name "unashamed" for my blog! But praise God, this morning He gave me eyes to see the spiritual warfare, call the enemy out on it, and courage to seek forgiveness from those spoken to.

As I close, let me clarify my thoughts. I am not saying that we should not confide in our spouse, a family member or a close friend about the things we are struggling with and the things for which we need prayer. I am saying that we should take our complaints (or complaining spirit) to the LORD. He already knows what's in our hearts and He has the answers. David says in Psalm 142:1-3, "I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before Him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me." He clearly does not say take your complaints to the LORD and a friend. Or take your complaints to a friend first, then when you can't figure things out come to Me. No, God says when we don't know what to do, we are to fix our eyes on Him (2 Chronicles 20:12). Pour our troubles out to Him, because He knows our way. I think this understanding should lead me to be more cautious about how I share my struggles. Am I sharing in a way that puts others off and makes me out to be a complainer? Or being real about what's on my heart, but sharing in a way that causes me to exercise caution with my words, especially when referring to others?

Father God, I thank You for enlightening me today. For revealing the source of the load I have been carrying. I pray You would continue to give me eyes to see the enemy's schemes. I ask You Lord to guard my tongue and help me build others up with my words, and bite my tongue when I feel a complaint coming on. In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Easy Button?!

"They said to Moses...'What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?' Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" Exodus 14:11b-12

The Israelites panicked the moment things got difficult. They went up out of Egypt armed for battle, yet at the first sign of enemy attack, they began shaking in their shoes telling Moses they would rather push the "easy" button, so to speak. They would rather stay bound and oppressed in Egypt because it was far less difficult than fighting the enemy. They thought they would be better off keeping with what they knew.

Freedom is not free. Freedom takes fight and fortitude. Leaving the familiar things that are unhealthy in our lives (Egypt), displeasing to the LORD as they maybe, and choosing to follow Christ takes diligence. What's more, it requires a strong desire for deliverance no matter the cost, knowing that what God has promised (the Promised Land) is worth far more than the trouble it takes to get there!

Instead of granting them a push of the "easy" button, letting them give up and go back to Egypt, Moses encouraged them:

"Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance te LORD will bring... The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14: 13-14)

But then the LORD replied to Moses as if to say, "Don't just stand there on the shore of the Red Sea!" (They no doubt thought they were between a rock and a hard place.) The LORD says to him in verse 15, tell them to "move on!" Move on from Egypt and the things and people of this world that so easily entangle. Choose God and move forward trusting Him!

At that, Moses raised his staff, stretched out his hand over the sea and parted the waters so that they could cross over on dry ground. Yes, the enemy followed in hot pursuit, but God took care of the enemy. He confused them to the point they were willing to turn back and flee. And when they did, "the LORD swept them into the sea." (Exodus 14:27)

On that day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. How much more He desires to save you! Seeing such a great display of power by the LORD's hand led the people to fear God and put their trust in Him. Crossing the Red Sea symbolizes separation from the world and all of its entanglements and choosing to go God's way - not the easiest way.

Father God, I thank You that You have so much more than what was in Egypt for my life! Thank You for giving me the courage and desire to leave that land and wholeheartedly follow You. When the enemy tries to come against my walk with You, I ask that You send him into confusion and sweep him far away from me. Thank You for Your might, Your power and Your salvation. I am trusting You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Charting a New Course

"For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." Exodus 13:7b

I seek to be a woman of determination and resolve to live free in Christ because my "Egypt" was a place of great pain and brokenness. Set free from the chains that once bound me, and by the grace of God, I am bent on staying free. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Egypt, on the other hand, was also a place of familiarity. And most of us are a people who resist change, especially if the place we are going is difficult to get to, full of opposition and battles. So the temptation to stay with what you know can be strong. You have to be intentional about choosing the road less traveled. The enemy is counting on God's people to give up and go back to their old ways of doing things when life gets hard - the old ways that bound them up, held them hostage or rendered them far less useful to the Lord.

In order to protect His people from the temptation to go back to what they knew in Egypt, the Lord re-routed them. He changed their direction. He charted a new course. The next verse in Exodus says, "So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle." Exodus 13:18

The map in my Bible indicates that the Lord did not follow the traditional route of the Exodus - the way the Israelites were familiar with. The way they had always known to go before. He chose an alternate route, leading them to cross the Red Sea. To turn away from the things that enslave us, and choose to follow Christ, we must ask the Lord to chart for us a new course. A new direction that avoids roads that lead to temptation, old hang-ups or oppression. 

Because God anticipated resistance (from the enemy), the Israelites moved forward dressed for battle. In trusting God with their future and the anticipated Promised Land, they chose to put on their armor, prepared to fight for their liberty. Freedom doesn't come without a fight. Freedom is not free. There is a battle to be won. And it can only be won by changing course and determining to go God's way. Preparation requires standing firm in the faith, preparing to fight by arming yourself with the truth of God's Word, strength gained from spending time at His feet, and a life bathed in prayer.

What course will you take? Are you headed out of Egypt, circling and tempted to go back, or trusting God with a heart willing to fight for freedom on the way to your Promised Land?

Thank You Father for helping me determine in my heart all those years ago to follow You. Thank You for charting my course and ordering my steps, leading me toward my Promised Land. Thank You for giving me eyes to recognize the enemy and strength to stand in the battle. Thank You Jesus for the freedom granted me. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fill My Mouth, O God

"I am the LORD your God who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Psalm 81:10

The LORD my God delivered me from Egypt (my sinful, hurtful, broken past)... thank You Jesus. As I have sought the LORD and asked Him to grant me wisdom, knowledge and understanding, He has responded with "Open wide your mouth [Pamela] and I will fill it."

I am so thankful to the Lord for this Life Journal method of Bible study that is such an answer to prayer. I believe it is key in teaching me to take time daily to open my mouth wide so that He can fill it with His truths, that I might grow in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your promise to fill my mouth when I open it with hunger for You. Your Word says in Psalm 107:9 that You "satisfy the thirsty and fill the hungry with good things." O Father, fill me up and satisfy me with You, I pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Spacious Place

"The LORD said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out... and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.'" Exodus 3:7-8a

God sees past the Sunday face. Past the facade. Past the smile used to camouflage real feelings and underlying struggles. He looks below the surface and sees into the heart.

God indeed takes notice and considers the things that weigh me down. He knows what is on my mind when I lay my head on the pillow at night. He knows what is going on within when I emotionally shut down. And when I take those things to Jesus' feet and cry out to Him, He silences all of Heaven to hear my prayers. God does not turn a deaf ear to the cries of His burdened children. God's Word says He is concerned about my sorrows, sufferings and trials. Not in a pacing, wringing His hands, worried kind of way, but in an attentive way. A loving, caring, interested way. More than that, He enters into them with a plan...

God has come to rescue the oppressed and deliver them to a spacious land "flowing with milk and honey" - a land of plenty. He has the power to resolve even the most puzzling and impossible circumstances. Matthew Henry's Commentary says that, "when God does something very extraordinary He is said to come down to do it." Isaiah 64:1 says,

"Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before You!"

Just as with my redemption in Christ, He came down from Heaven to deliver me from death to life on the cross. He has also come down and exchanged my bondage for liberty, my poverty for plenty, and delivered me to the spacious place He promised me years ago. A blue sky kind of place!

"He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me." Psalm 18:19

My God sees,
He hears,
He has a plan and
He rescues!

Thank You Jesus! Thank You for Your attentiveness. Thank You for open ears. Thank You for genuine concern for all that concerns me. Thank You for delighting in me so much that You would come down and rescue me from those things that oppressed me, and deliver me into a spacious land of plenty. I am so blessed! In Jesus' name and with a grateful heart, amen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Off the Hook

"...pray continually;" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

To pray without ceasing means I must leave the communication lines between me and God open all day long. Sounds like a tall order! Thankfully, when I was a new believer, a friend gave me a visual that has helped me to do just that, regularly and effectively, for 20-some years now.

Here is what she taught me...

To pray continually, I must make talking to Jesus my first priority each day when I wake, the last thing on my mind when I go to sleep, and talk to Him throughout the day in between. If I start my day with "Dear God" or "Good morning Lord," I open the lines of communication like taking the phone off the hook and dialing His number. Even if I get interrupted or don't have time for a long conversational prayer at that moment, the lines are open. Before long, I do take time for more focused prayer, and then continue talking to Him throughout the day. I share my thoughts, ask questions, voice concerns, comment on creation, thank Him for people and little blessings, and praise His name. Once or more each day it's a lengthy conversation. Other times it's just a quick sentence or two and a smile. Sometimes it's trying to be still and listen for His voice and His response. I try to be intentional about not "hanging up the phone" (saying "Amen") until the end of the day when my head is on the pillow again. Metaphorically speaking, leaving the phone "off the hook" all day leaves the 2-way line of communication open as a reminder to pray continually. Try it and see what you think!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Finding My Way

I've been casting - long and hard - the full weight of my cares upon the Lord since yesterday. I am experiencing a change of season in life and it has been clouding my view. I've been stuck, not knowing what direction to take or which way to turn. It's left me feeling lost and lonely.

This was the start of my prayer this morning as I emptied myself again before the Lord...

Father God,

Please lift this cloud of sadness,
   this fog of confusion,
   and clear the skies, O Lord.

Make straight the way my feet should take.
Reveal to me the path, I pray...

When I finished releasing my burdens and cares to the Lord, I began my daily Bible reading. I found myself pouring over verses in Exodus 3 and 4... familiar pages where God has revealed Himself and spoken many times before. Each time I return to visit with He and Moses, He shows me promises kept and how far He has brought me in fulfilling His purposes for my life. Because I write things of significance in my Bible, and usually add the date, I am able to see God working out His plans for me. Today as I recounted the things He has spoken and the things that have come to pass, it gave me renewed hope and put a spark in my spirit once again.

With this change of season comes a change of focus. God doesn't want excuses. He wants to use my life for His glory, however He sees fit. As with Moses, all He wants from me in return is trust, faith and obedience. God heard my cries, my questions, my concerns... and He answered. He gave me clear direction and a renewed sense of purpose. He, without doubt, impressed that my life is to become more "ministry" focused than "me" focused, now that He has redeemed and restored this broken life.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Thank You Lord for listening. Thank You Lord for answering. Thank You Lord for perfect timing and not letting me wallow too long. Keep opening doors to minister in ways that please You, and giving me courage to be obedient. Thank You, thank You, in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Close the Door

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

As I was chauffering kids to school this morning, my thoughts preoccupied with the Lord, I felt Him heavily impress this thought on my spirit:

Cast the full weight of your cares on Me.

I was quickly reminded of the verse in 1 Peter above, to give all my worries and cares to God because He cares about me. More than anyone else could ever possibly, He cares for me.

Reflecting on how painful it's been, how much it has grieved my heart to have dear friends move away, I realize it hurts because I grew to love and care about them so much. Such is the same with death. We grieve deeply when we have loved deeply. So when I compare my own level of regard for my friends to God saying that He cares about me, I can be assured He cares far and beyond what I am capable of in the flesh. I can't imagine loving someone more than my husband, my children or a dear friend, but He does me! 

Just as I, as a wife, mother and friend, exhibit concern over the burdens and cares of others, God cares about mine even more. He doesn't want me to toss Him a care or two every now and again, when I get desperate, or because someone told me to. He wants me to bring them all to His feet on a regular basis. Not in the absence of friends or answers, resources, or when all other options are exhausted. He wants me to bring every care to Him because He loves me deeply and He is the only One who can sustain me. Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you..."

The Amplified version of the Bible expounds upon 1 Peter 5:7 in this way: "Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully."

God wants it all. He wants to hear about everything on my mind and in my heart... the good, the bad, the uncertainties, the failures, the questions, my thoughts and my fears. He's asking me to pour out the full weight of the load I am carrying, taking it off my shoulders and putting it on His. He is willing, and even desires, to bear the full weight of my load so that I can travel lightly.

I am inclined to believe this means serious, get down on my knees - my face, even - in my prayer closet, shut off from the world, serious praying. Emptying myself, kind of prayer. Matthew 6:6 says, "...when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen." Close the door and go pray!

And when I pray, I need to  remember Who I am praying to. He is both the God of the Universe, sovereignly in control of all things - and at the same time, Abba Father, my "Daddy" who cares for me affectionately and with a watchful eye. As an affectionate Father He admires, adores, is attentive to, devoted to, thinks fondly of, is generous towards, passionate over, loyal to, thoughtful of, zealous about and yearns to be with me as His daughter. And He keeps a "watchful eye" on me. He is always on the lookout for my best interest, alert, all ears, careful, guarded in a jealous way for me, wide eyed and never closes an eye to sleep, observant, never missing a beat, because He cares that much for me!

Father God, thank You for being a weight-bearing God. One who loved me enough to not only die and bear the full weight of my sin on the cross, but One who loves me enough still today to bear the full weight of my burdens too. By giving my cares to You I can travel lightly. With my own burdens laid down, I can pray more effectively for others, serve others with a joyful heart vs. drowning in my own pity party, minister to the needs of others more attentively, and have a clear mind to hear You. 

Help me Lord to better understand and comprehend this affectionate love You have for me. Allow me to experience more of it I pray. Thank You for doting over me and keeping a watchful eye out for me. That to me is the true meaning of "Daddy" love. In Your loving name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seeing Jesus

Speaking of Zacchaeus God's Word says, "He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way." Luke 19:3-4

Zacchaeus was vertically challenged and knew it would hinder his ability to see Jesus, so he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree to get a good look at Him. He put forth great effort and was intentional about seeing the Lord. In doing so, Jesus saw him, spoke to him and went to his home to stay that day.

What hinders my ability to see Jesus in the day to day busyness of life? What hinders yours? Some thoughts that come to my mind include:

  • Not making God my priority for the day.
  • Lack of time in prayer and His Word - or being too rushed and not waiting to hear from Him.
  • Being distracted by my "to do" list or other busyness.
  • Choosing sleep or other things over time with God.
  • Unconfessed sin in my life.
  • Hearing God's Word and not doing what it says.
  • Refusing to give God control.
  • Harboring bitterness toward God over unaswered prayer, an answer I didn't like, or difficult life circumstances.
  • Forgetting to praise God in the little things, therefore overlooking His hand at work in my life.
  • A complaining attitude vs. an attitude of gratitude.

In response, what could I do differently in order to be intentional about seeing Jesus?

  • Give God first place on my agenda each day.
  • Carve out time in my day/week to spend extended, uninterrupted time at His feet.
  • Say "no" to keep busyness to a minimum.
  • Choose to put God first above all the things that try to lure me away.
  • Repent of sin immediately - as soon as the Holy Spirit convicts me of it.
  • Walk in obedience to the things God asks of me.
  • Put God in the driver's seat of my life and live surrendered to Him.
  • Renounce all bitterness towards the Lord, believing that He is Sovereign, He knows what's best for me, and He is in control.
  • Be intentional about looking for God in the small stuff - in the mundane - and praise him!
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord and others.

God, I praise You. You are the Lover of my Soul. You are working out a good plan, writing a beautiful story with my life, and I thank You. I ask today that You would reveal to me, or convict me of, anything hindering my view of You.  Show me Lord how I can make greater effort and be more intentional about seeing You. I ask for eyes to see Your hand at work in my life and ears to hear Your still, small voice. Lord, I don't want to miss a thing! In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus Asked...

Speaking to a blind man who was pleading with the Lord to have mercy on him, "Jesus asked him, 'What do you want Me to do for you?'" Luke 18:41

When I pray, it should be from a heart that accepts in advance the will of God. Whether I know what His will is or not, and whether or not He grants or withholds my request, my prayer should be petitioned with a desire for what God deems best for me.

There is nothing wrong with my telling God in a prayerful way what I want Him to do for me, as long as I consider a few things in the asking:

  • Are my hands clean and my heart pure before God as I pray, ensuring the lines of communication are open both ways?
  • Do I really believe God can do what I am asking Him to do?
  • Does my request scripturally line up with His Word?
  • Am I praying with an attitude of reverence and worship vs. haughtiness?
  • Is there a kingdom purpose to my prayer, or am I seeking selfish gain?
Father in Heaven, Holy is Your name. You alone are worthy of all praise. You, O Lord, are Sovereign, You are Good and You are Able to do even the impossible if it is pleasing in Your sight. As I bring my personal petitions before You Lord, help me to examine my heart and consider the purpose and motive in each prayer. Lord, I want my will to be aligned with Yours so that my requests line up with Your plans for me. May my motives always be pure in prayer, and be for my good or the good of others, or have kingdom purpose. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Hiding Place

"But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. For surely, O LORD, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as a shield." Psalm 5:11-12

To "take refuge" in the LORD means to trust in, and wait for, God in a place of safety. As a verb, it means to throw oneself into the arms of [the LORD]. In the sanctuary or shelter of His presence His Word says I should be glad and sing for joy.

The one seeking shelter in this Psalm asks the LORD to spread His protection over them. As I read this verse I envision a soft quilt, somewhat worn, mid-air being "spread" over as a covering. What a comforting thought to be under the protective blanket of God's quilt-like covering.

The LORD blesses the righteous - those who seek Him, rejoice in His name and take refuge in Him. He surrounds them with His favor as a shield. Genesis 15:1 says, "Do not be afraid... I am your Shield." Not only is God my Shield, He is my Hiding Place. Psalm 32:7 and 10 say of the Lord: "You are my Hiding Place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance... the LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him."

I am not so good at poetry but as I pondered this Psalm these thoughts came to mind a sing-song kind of way, so here goes...

The LORD considers my sighs,
He hears my cries,
And in Him lets me hide.

I pray and I wait,
LORD make my path straight,
While You are my Hiding Place.

Thank You Lord that I can take comfort and find refuge in You. My God, You are my Hiding Place. In the safety of Your presence I can lay my cares and woes and requests before You, knowing that You hear every one and will answer according to Your will. On You I wait expectantly, in safety. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Absorbed in His Presence

There's a phrase from an old hymn that says:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

This chorus has been resonating in my heart because I know in every situation, more of Jesus is always the answer. When I allow myself to get lost in Him, absorbed in His presence, the "things of earth grow strangely dim." At His feet, the weight of my problems and concerns become less as I realize I need more of Him and less of me. When life weighs me down I must turn my eyes upon Him. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hindered Prayer

"'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I did not listen,' says the LORD Almighty." Zechariah 7:13

God listens to His people when they listen to Him.

When my prayers seem to be going unanswered it would be wise to examine my heart to see if there is any area in my life where God is speaking, and I am not listening. This is not the only reason for unanswered prayer, but it is one to be prayerfully considered.

Lord Jesus, if there is any area in my life where You have spoken and I have turned a deaf ear, would You bring it to mind quickly? Please prick my heart every time I stray away from doing Your will, so that I stay in right relationship with You, and keep the lines of communication open in both directions. Thank You Jesus for Your faithfulness, amen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

To Love God More

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:26

Hate is such a strong word - one I choose to use with great caution. In my own conviction, I feel it should be used with as much discretion as the word "love", which is the strongest word I know of at the other end of the spectrum. Neither should be used casually or flippantly. So, why would God command us to "hate" others and even ourselves if we want to be His disciple?

As I did some research on the use of the word in this verse, I found this phrase in place of the word "hate" in the Good News translation: " to love God more than." Considering this phrase brought so much clarity to this passage for me. In fact, it reminded me that I am to idolize no one and no thing. Those that put God first are His disciples. According to Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary, a "disciple" is one who believes God's doctrine (or believes all of God's Word), rests on His sacrifice (Jesus' death on the cross), receives His Spirit (salvation), and imitates His example (follows Christ) - parenthesis mine. If I want to truly be God's disciple, I must epitomize Christ by loving God more than every single person and every single thing in my life.

Father, fill my heart with a love and passion for You that supercedes everyone and everything else in my life, so that I can love the people You place in my life well. Consume with Your love, oh God. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unfailing Love

"...O God, [I] meditate on Your unfailing love." Psalm 48:9 

God's love is unfailing. It does not falter, it does not fall short of expectation, it is completely dependable, inexhaustible and endless.

Unfailing love is absolute, boundless (without boundaries), consistent, continual, eternal, faithful; it comes through and can be counted on; it is persistent, loyal, reliable, solid, steadfast, trusworthy and unlimited in supply.

How can I question a love like that? Nothing on earth, no one on earth, can begin to compare!

Father God, would You cause this knowledge about Your love to continuously travel from my head to my heart and saturate it. Keep convincing me through and through that You love me with that kind of love I pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Than Sparrows

"Indeed the very hairs on your head are numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

In Christ's day five sparrows were sold for two pennies. Their lack of worth or dollar value at the market would make them seem insignificant in human eyes, but not so in the sight of the Lord. God's Word says in reference to the sparrows in the preceeding verse (v. 6), that "not one of them was forgotten by God." He cares for them and provides for their every need.

It appears to be Jesus' purpose in this passage to contrast a bird with seemingly little value in our minds, yet He cares so much about, with the unfathomable value He places on my life as a believer. It is almost beyond comprehension that according to His Word in this passage at any given time, God knows the exact number of hairs on my head...

Last night when I showered and lost a few, He knew how many. This morning as I did my hair, He knew how many strands came out. If I shed some as I go about my day today, He'll know that too! He cares to know so much about me that He keeps a running tally of the number of hairs in this curly do! And not only mine, yours too!

Though I may at times feel forgotton, banished, abandoned, persecuted, or worse... my God says here, "Do not be afraid." If my God cares so much about me that I'm worth counting hairs over, whom shall I fear? More than that, my God records my sighs and tears collecting them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8), He gathers my prayers in bowls of gold because they produce a sweet aroma like incense to His senses (Revelation 5:8), and He counts my losses (Joel 2:25) so that they will in some way be compensated for to my advantage. 

As if that were not enough to convince me of my worth and value, I must also consider the cross. My Jesus loved me so much that He was willing to bear the full weight of God's wrath on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, so that I could be presented as clean and righteous before Holy God when I entered into a relationship with Him. When I placed my trust in Him some 22 years ago and gave Him the reigns of my life, the blood He shed on that cruel cross washed away my sin and filth and made me clean - white as snow - in God's eyes. I am worth far more than sparrows!

Thank You Jesus for the gift of eternal life and my salvation (John 3:16). Thank You Jesus for rescusing me and delighting in me (Psalm 18:19). Thank You Jesus for clothing me in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Thank You that my faith is worth more than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Thank You for giving my life purpose (Jeremiah 29:11). Help me to live daily as one who sees her value and worth in God's eyes as precious, and is not pursuaded otherwise by the enemy's lies or life's circumstances. Convince me through and through I pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Be Careful Little Eyes...

"Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness." Luke 11:34 (NLT)

This children's song comes to mind immediately: "Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little eyes what you see." It goes on to talk about your ears and what they hear, and so on.

What I take in with my eyes (and ears) gets stuck in my head, for the good or the bad, and affects my heart. My heart influences my actions and eventually determines my steps. When my eyes and ears are fixed on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), my body will be full of light. The kind of light that only comes from intentionally choosing things that are good and pleasing in God's sight.

But when the eyes and ears take in that which is bad or things in opposition to God's Word above, the body will be full of darkness - dark things that displease the Father. A list of things in opposition would include: lies, deception, things undignified; following the world's ways vs. God's ways; exposure to things immodest, indecent, vulgar or obscene; dabbling in the demonic; taking in media or lyrics, or participating in bahaviors, that are offensive, repulsive or shameful; settling for second-rate vs. God's best. Anything dishonorable in God's eyes that would embarass the Holy Spirit within me should be avoided like the plague because it brings darkness.

Every dark or displeasing thing I compromise on and take in either in an active and participating way, or passively as a bystander, gives the enemy a foot in the door to my life. Given enough, he will wreak havoc on my mind, my heart, my emotions, my relationships... he'll do whatever he can to extinguish the Light. I must be on guard and choose the narrow path that leads to light and life vs. the wide path that leads to destruction.

I want my body to be clean and pure and presentable in God's sight. The Holy Spirit within me is exposed to everything I take in with my eyes and my ears, and to every word that comes out of my mouth. I must take inventory of my life often and consider, are my choices pleasing Him? Are yours?

Father God, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and my ears attuned to Your voice. Continue to give me discernment - and help me to keep impressing it on my children - in making movie, TV, music, book, media and relationship choices that are pleasing in Your sight, that we might be full of light, reflecting your Light to those around us. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Boldly & Persistently

In reading Luke 11:5-10, a parable about a persistent friend, prayer seems to be paralleled with persistence and boldness. In cross-referencing the verse about boldness (v.8), I read Luke 18:1-8, a parable on prayer whereby a widow's persistence is rewarded.

God's Word says in Luke 11, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

The verse preceeding this passage implies boldness or persistence in the asking. The gentleman in the parable was asking his neighbor for bread to feed unexpected guests. The hour was about midnight so the neighbor was already tucked in bed. Only when the man knocking and asking reached the point of being relentless did he get up and give him not just some bread, but all the bread he needed.

So it was with the story of the widow in Luke 18. She kept pleading her case before the judge. The passage says she kept coming to him and bothering him. She was just about to wear him out with her determination, so he gave in and granted her the justice she sought.

The Lord says in verses 6-8 that He grants justice to His chosen ones. The ones who cry out to Him day and night. Those who come boldly and persistently with faith will see God's hand move in their favor if  it pleases Him; if what is being asked is aligned with His will. Personally, I don't want it if it's not, because God knows better than I what is best for me! So...

Keep asking.
Keep seeking.
Keep knocking.

Lord Jesus, I come to You again with persistence and boldness, pleading my case before You, asking You to plead it before the Father. I ask only for Your best for me with the situations and requests that are on my heart. Align my will with Yours, Lord. I ask You to grant justice and favor where it pleases You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tough Times

It's been a tough weekend. The forecast for the week ahead looks like more of the same... overcast with heavy rain, possibly reaching flood stages (via tears). The thought I keep coming back to is this...

When life hurts, run to God and worship Him.

In the end, I know that I know from experience, that my God will get me through. And I know this to be true...

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My God, You Are...

"But I am the LORD Your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but Me, no Savior except Me." Hosea 13:4

After praying and worshiping You this morning God, and reading this scripture passage, I feel led to praise and worship You again through my words, recounting Your character. (Note: Many of the traits below are taken from a tattered index card I carry in my Bible where I list names of God as I encounter Him in new ways. I titled it "I AM Your..." and have added to the list for more than 6 years.)

My God, You Are...

All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, All-Knowing and You are Able
Beautiful, Bridegroom
Compassionate, Counselor, my Confidence, my Creator
Delighted in me, my "Daddy", my Deliverer and my Daily Bread
Eternal, Everlasting, Ever-Present, Everywhere and my Everything
Faithful, Father God and my Fortress
Gentle and God Most High
Healer, Hope, my Hiding Place
Indescribable, Inconceivable, Incomparable and the great I AM
Joy, Jehova
King of Kings and...
Lord of Lords, Lover of my Soul, Light in the Darkness and the Lifter of my Head
Majestic, Merciful, Mighty Warrior
Name Above All Names, the Narrow Gate
Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent
Powerful, Provider, Prince of Peace, my Protector and my Portion
Quiet Place
Rescuer, Redeemer, Refiner, Restorer, my Rock and my Refuge
Savior, Strength, Sustainer, Salvation, my Shepherd, my Shield and my Spacious Place
Trustworthy, Teacher, Thirst Quencher and my Treasure
Unfathomable, Understanding, my Unseen Companion and Guest in every room
Victorious, the Vine and the Voice that guides me
Worthy of all my praise, the only Wise God
Yahweh (the unspeakable name)
Z the beginning and the end

                                                                             ...and so much more!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Thing

I've been pondering this verse for a few days...

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:18-19a

Sometimes, things in life don't make complete sense in my eyes. Sometimes it's hard to see Your plan. But this I know, I can always trust Your heart. I know You have good plans for me. I know You have kingdom purposes to carry out. And I know that You know best how to do it... even when it's not clear to me. My God, You are faithful. My God, You are sovereign. My God, You are trustworthy. I choose to keep pressing on in You.

Father, change seems to be the only thing staying the same right now. And change can be hard. I ask You Lord to give me the grace to adjust to, adapt to, and embrace the changes in my life. Show me what You want to do in me and through me in light of them I pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

When You Hear His Voice

"So, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.'" Hebrews 3:7-8

I believe God expects me to hear His voice daily because a heart that truly wants to be more like Jesus would be seeking Him daily. This passage says, "Today, if you hear His voice," - other versions say "when" - implying I have or will spend time seeking It goes on to give instruction: "do not harden your hearts" as Israel did in the rebellion, when they tested the Lord in the wilderness. The writer cautions believers (including me) to not turn a deaf ear to the things God impresses, but rather to walk in obedience. Remember from yesterday's entry, "Hearing God's Word but not doing what it says is sin."

My life will profit from what the Lord speaks to me only if I believe in faith what He says, persevere, and do what He prompts me to. It is not up to me to pick and choose what I want to believe or what I feel like doing. If I am going to have faith and my life impact the kingdom, I must believe all of God's Word and do what it says - not just today, but every day, to the best of my ability. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible says, "Perseverance in faith is the best evidence of the sincerity of our faith."

Lord Jesus, help me to live with a sincere and persevering faith. Keep my ears attuned to Your voice, my heart tender to Your Word, and my spirit willing to obey. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Be Intentional

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to do what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Hebrews 2:1

As we draw closer to the end times this verse seems to weigh heavier and heavier on my heart. With rapidly advancing technology, among other day to day distractions, it seems easier and easier to get sidetracked from spending devoted time with the Lord. God's Word warns however that we must be diligent, intentional, about paying close attention to "what we have heard" so that we do not drift away.

One might think "what we heard" applies only to Sunday morning sermons, but not so. I believe it includes "what we have heard" God speak to us personally through His Word, in response to our prayers, and in being still before the Lord... every day. That kind of hearing takes intentionality. What's more is that we are not only to take in God's instruction, but do what it says. Hearing God's Word and not doing what it says is sin. James 1:22 and 25 speak about such obedience. "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says... the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does" (emphasis added).

Be intentional.
Listen to the Word.
Do what it says.
Don't forget.
Do not drift away.
Keep doing it.
God will bless it!

Father God, I know that being intentional means making Your Word a priority in my life every day. Help me to keep my time with You protected and sacred. Help me to keep Your Word in the forefront of my mind, at the beginning of the day, so that I can meditate on it all day long. Your Word gives life. Your Word grants freedom. Fill me up with You I pray. In Jesus' name I ask this, amen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Trash to Treasure

"He raises the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes..." Psalm 113:7-8a (NLT)

My God is in the rescue business! He delights in redeeming His children from the pit - even the garbage dump - and giving them a place of honor.  Psalm 72:12 says He delivers the needy who cry out to Him. And verse 14 of the same Psalm says He rescues His own from violence and oppression because they are precious in His sight.

I was once needy - desperately needy - surrounded by the garbage in my life, but God... God came to the rescue. One of the passages that sums His redemption up best for me is now the verse Michael and I claim as our marriage life verse, Psalm 40:1-3. It says, "I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the muck and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."

Are you standing in a pit of dispair, or on a heap of trash - or are your feet firmly planted on the Rock? If not the latter, take courage and put your hope in the Lord. God is in the rescue business! He has a place of honor reserved for each one of His precious children. For each one willing to cry out to Him in their neediness. Cry out and take His hand! Ask Him to set your feet on solid ground, deliver you from the pit and point you toward the path of deliverance. God is faithful and He will do it! In His time and in His way, He will do it.

Thank You Father for rescuing me. Thank You for hauling away the trash in my life and giving me a place of honor and purpose. Thank You for turning my trash into treasure. Help me God to serve You well. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shine On!

"Rejoice and be glad... for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden... let your light shine before men, that they may see your goodness and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:12-16

When I am persecuted, I am called to rejoice and be glad.
When I am persecuted, I am called to be salt and speak truth.
When I am persecuted, I am called to be light in the darkness.

When things are difficult - at home, at work, at church, among friends - God calls me to remain faithful to His call. Be salt anyway. When someone, some situation or the enemy tries to steal my joy or my hope, I choose not to let my light go out. Some days it feels like just a flicker, but I am called to shine on anyway... and rejoice! For great is my reward in heaven, says the Lord.

Father God, help me to keep shining even on difficult days. In Your precious name, amen.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Bittersweet Day...

No post today.

Spent the wee hours of the morning pleading and waiting for the Lord to usher a dear friend's mother into Heaven's Arms, knowing that she would be gloriously healed once He released her from the grip of cancer. This sweet woman of God knew through and through, even in the last days, that Jesus was her everything and heaven was her home. It has been such a bittersweet day, but she is no doubt able to dance and do cartwheels in His presence now! Please lift this precious family in prayer as they continue their journey of grief. Ask the Lord to envelop them with His love, grant peace and comfort their aching hearts.

                                                                                  Thank you, Pamela

Saturday, January 1, 2011

With Gratitude & Anticipation

Happy New Year from the Mattox Family!

Looking back on 2010 swells my heart with so much gratitude. Looking forward to this new year stirs great anticipation!

Lord Jesus, I have learned so much through the pain and the joy of these past few years. You have shown Yourself to me in so many ways...

You sustained.
You sheltered.
You cleansed.
You pruned.
You answered.
You guided.
You lavished.
You provided.
You taught.
You blessed.
You healed.
You restored.
You strengthened.
You matured.
You sent help.
You opened doors.
You made a way.
You conquered.
You gave courage.
You granted peace.

Thank You doesn't begin to express all that I feel in my heart toward You God. Lord Jesus, You are good! In Jesus' name, You are good!

How has our Lord shown Himself to you?