Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Needs to Change?

"Jesus, knowing their thoughts..." Luke 9:47a

My focus in this passage about the disciples battling prideful thoughts is honed in on half a sentence. "Jesus, knowing their thoughts..." The disciples may not have been saying prideful things out loud, but they were thinking them in their hearts. They were wondering who would be the greatest among them. Jesus, knowing what they were thinking, drew a child to His side and said, "Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. For he who is least among you all - he is the greatest." (v. 48)

"Jesus Christ is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of our hearts." (Henry)  His Word says that He perceived their thoughts. He perceives mine as well. My thoughts are words to His ears, therefore I must strictly govern my thought life. I must consider whether my thoughts are truthful and in line with God's Word and what He says about me and how I should act, or if they are destructive, prideful, negative, or the like. I can build myself up according to His Word, or I can tear myself down. Thoughts in the latter category need to be taken captive and replaced with truth. "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5. The mindset with which I truly live my life - be it victorious or defeated, humble or prideful - is a reflection of my thoughts. So what does it say about the private dialogue I carry on in my head and my heart? What needs to change?

Father God, You care about every detail of my life, including my thoughts. You want everything I do - including what I think - to bring glory to Your name. I have some cleaning up to do in my thought closet. God, will You please show me what needs to change? Help me to tell myself the truth! Thank You for loving me enough to want me to have kind, humble, truthful thoughts toward myself. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dying of Thirst

"Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water..." Genesis 21:19a

Abraham and Sarah's maidservant Hagar bore them a son who was named Ishmael. As he grew, Sarah took note that the boy was "mocking" (his brother Isaac, no doubt, according to Galatians 4:29 where it says, "But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now."). She instructed Abraham to get rid of the boy and his mother even though Ishmael was Abraham's son. She did not want Ishmael sharing in her son Isaac's inheritance. So Abraham gave Hagar some food and a skin of water and sent them on their way into the desert. 

This mother and son traveled into the the desert of Beersheba alone. When their water ran out and Hagar saw that her son was dying of thirst, she put him under a bush crying and then went about a bowshot away and sobbed herself. As she wept an angel of God called to her asking what was wrong. The angel instructed her not to be afraid and assured that God heard her sons cries. The angel told Hagar to lift her boy up by the hand, for he would be made into a great nation. Then God opened [Hagar's] eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water and gave her son a drink. God heard their cries. God met their need. 

What do I do when I have an urgent need? Do I really trust God to meet it? Do I cry out to Him with hope and make my need known? Or do I wallow with a spirit of despair? Do I let fear creep in, or do I trust that God will meet my needs? As I have marinated in this passage I have also pondered for myself the question Jon Bloom poses in this quote: "Can we bear not knowing how God is going to provide for our most urgent needs and still trust that He will?" And I add to that my own reminder:  When He does meet my needs, do I remember to be grateful and intentionally thank Him for His abundant provision?

God in Heaven, Provider of my needs, I trust You. Oh God, please help any lack of trust! I know You know my needs before I am even aware that I have any. You hear me when my heart cries out to You in prayer. Thank You for Your faithfulness to answer in Your time, in Your way. You hear my cries. You meet my needs. Open my eyes to see the well of water You put before me. In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Losing My Life

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it."
Luke 9:24

We tend to toil doing so much to make our lives easier, more comfortable, yet these things have no lasting eternal value. How is that denying self? Not to say God doesn't bless with good circumstances and nice things. But if I become more concerned with preserving my own life, rights, freedom, interests or belongings - if I try to make things happen in my own strength rather than serve Christ, disregarding the things He has instructed me to do - then I am not living according to His Word and His will. If I get more concerned about me than living the life Christ has called me to, am I effectively denying myself and losing my life for Him? His Word says my life is saved when I lose it for His cause, and lost when I try to control and save it on my own terms.

When I get bogged down with the cares of my own little world vs. the cares of the world that matter to Christ, my spirit gets grumpy, dissatisfied or unsettled. It struggles to find peace. On the other hand, when I am focused on doing "all [things in word or deed] in the name of  the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God" (Colossians 3:17), my soul finds rest. Whether serving my family or doing mundane tasks in day-to-day life, doing my job or doing ministry, I can do all for the glory of the Lord. In fixing my thoughts on Him, I can pray for my family when I'm folding their clothes, work with excellence at the job God has provided, and be a reflection of Christ to those He puts in my path to minster to, and give Him glory. And in fixing my thoughts on Him, I can endure what comes my way. When I am living for Him and my soul is at peace, I can endure much. Matthew Henry says of this, "The body cannot be happy if the soul be miserable...but the soul may be happy though the body be greatly afflicted and oppressed in this world."

Thank You Jesus for the reminder to always fix my eyes and heart and thoughts on You. You are the source of my joy and my peace. In You and You alone my soul finds rest. Praise You! In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Desolate Places

"Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolation He has brought on the earth."
Psalm 46:8

God is sovereign over all things. His Word says that even desolation is a work of the LORD. Desolation serves a purpose. He uses both the good and the bad to push His kingdom forward; to get the attention of people and turn their hearts toward Him. Destruction that seems senseless to the world on the surface, serves God's divine purposes at the root. He orchestrates every detail, sparing those whom He would spare, according to His master plan. For it is in the midst of destruction and despair that hearts are often most open to the word of the LORD. Desolation leads to desperation, which can lead to doors being open to the gospel.

God's hand can always be traced in desolation, for He is present everywhere. I reflect on the stories that we heard around 9-11. How in His divine providence, some had unexpected illness, delays or appointments elsewhere that dreadful day which prevented them from being in the buildings that morning. He spared whom He would spare. He called home whom He would call home. He allowed to be destroyed what He would destroy. He uses all things for His glory and I trust, though we may never know the details, that He called many into the fold as a result of that day.

I reflect this morning on the recent tragedy and destruction in the Philippines. Once again, God's hand can no doubt be traced. In reading reports from some key Christian organizations that have a presence there, I see God sparing. The IMB (International Mission Board) has a missionary family there that was sent from one of our sister churches here in the Brandon, Florida area. Their story of following the prompting of the Holy Spirit to endure the typhoon with their neighbors - sharing a Dr. Pepper as they floated on a mattress and rode it out - blessed me to tears! God has them strategically placed now for the ministry that will happen in the aftermath. God spares whom He will spare. Read their story here:

IJM (International Justice Mission) who works to rescue and serve victims of human trafficking has three offices in the Philippines because the problem is so great there. All three offices were protected through the storm and, at the time the article was written, the clients they serve that they had been able to reach with supplies had all survived as well. Some had lost everything, but their lives were spared. God spares whom He will spare. Read that story here:

According to Twitter, the Love 146 round home, a restoration home for child victims of trafficking and exploitation in the Philippines, also came through the storm unscathed. God spares whom He will spare. Each one of these has been spared by God's hand for a reason. May all three be a beacon of hope in a desperate and desolate place in these difficult days, drawing many to Christ.

Sometimes life takes us to desolate places. Maybe not to the magnitude of destruction that we saw in New York City or the Philippines, but a place that feels barren, abandoned or lonely nonetheless. I'm finding myself in such a place right now. Yet I know that I know God is working. He is changing seasons in my life. Orchestrating significant changes. On the surface it doesn't seem to make much sense, but I have to trust the Master's hand. Trust that at the root He is orchestrating His master plan and the pieces will eventually fit together and lead to a place of greater faith, greater peace, and greater use by Him.  

Father God, Your Word says in all things we should rejoice. So today, even though I'm in a desolate-feeling place on many fronts, I rejoice and trust that I am right where You want me. Thank You for the ways You do use me. Thank You for the things You are showing and teaching me in this place. Thank You for the ways You are working around the world. Thank You for sparing whom You would spare. Use all these things, including me, to push Your kingdom forward. In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Eyes Wide Open

'"But what about you?" He asked. "Who do you say I am?"' Luke 9:20

After drawing away to pray privately with His disciples, Jesus asked them who they would say He was. Peter answered correctly in saying He was "the God of Christ." Jesus just didn't want this made public yet because it was not the proper time. Word was not to get out until after His death, burial and resurrection.

This passage prompts me to ask myself, "Who do I say Christ is today?" What characteristics of Christ am I learning right now in this season of life? Over my twenty-five years of being a believer I have come to see so many facets of my Savior's character. Many, many times I've learned the most about Him in the throws of life's difficult trials. Because He walked with me, I could persevere through them with hope.

In one of the most trying times, the Lord taught me to look for Him and discover the blessings that lined each difficult day. He taught me to express gratitude for them as I saw His hand at work. It was in that period of time that I learned to praise Him for who He is and how He was working and providing, even when I didn't feel like it. I learned how important it was to praise Him out of obedience to His Word, even if it meant doing it without emotion in a monotone voice. And in so doing, I found it enabled me to fix my eyes more on my Savior and less on my situation.

In that season I saw God as: Sustainer, Provider, Daily Bread, Able and my Hiding Place.

So today, on this Saturday morning as I sit in the quiet of the woods by a smoldering camp fire, who do I say that He is? In this particular season, I am trying to wrap my mind around God's sovereignty when it comes to a tough social justice issue. I am asking Him as God who is Just to bring justice and salvation to human traffickers who are oppressing the innocent. That He would restrain their hands and prevent further abuse. As Rescuer, to rescue victims in bondage. As God who orchestrates my life and directs my steps, to show me how to make a difference. 

In this season I see God as: Sovereign, Just, Protector, Rescuer and the One who orders my steps.

Father God, it is good to ask myself regularly who I think You are. To examine my life and be intentional about finding You. To think on what You've been teaching me about Yourself, and to acknowledge what I'm learning. You are my Savior and so much more. You constantly teach me about Yourself. I must be willing to take time to reflect and take it in. I will never know You fully this side of heaven, but I always want to know You more. Help me to keep my eyes wide open that I might see Your hand each day and reflect on who You are. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Make Me Beautiful

"Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear;
Forget your people and your father's house.
The king is enthralled by your beauty;
 honor him, for he is your lord."
Psalm 45:10-11

In this Psalm about the King and His beauty, I have camped on some rich truths in verses 10-11. Verse 10 is calling daughters to pay attention to what is about to be said. The word "daughter" refers to the royal bride here, meaning the church. This refers to those who trust in Jesus. They should give ear to this instruction and then comply. By this method she profits from the Word of God.

The instruction given is this: "Forget your people and your father's house." This means as a believer I should renounce anyone or anything that I have more love and affection for than Christ. I should examine where I spend my time, talent and treasure. If it is not on the things of the Lord, then I need to reevaluate. If I am fully committed to Christ, then I will love Him so much that my affection for others and earthly things (my "people and my father's house") will pale in comparison.

"The king is enthralled with your beauty." This beauty comes from conforming entirely to God's will, seeking holiness; not mixing old (or past) affections with my religion because that would cause blemish. True beauty that captivates King Jesus comes from pure devotion to the Lord. This beauty comes at a great price on my part. When I sacrifice all else and put Jesus on the throne of my life, making Him the object of my affection and attention -- my devotion not tarnished by idols (things or people of this world that would wish to draw me away) -- this is very amiable to the Lord. This makes me beautiful. 

As a believer, the royal bride, I am subject to Christ as the wife is to her husband. In my devotion to Christ I am called to "honor him, for He is [my] lord." That is, love Him, reverence Him, and obey Him. He's convicted me deeply this week after a big failure to do what He says, when He says, and how He says to do it. When I do things my way or alter His plan, I get an altered result and sometimes, it's just the opposite of what He intended to happen if I had been completely obedient. 

I will close by sharing a quote a friend posted yesterday from what I assume to be a seminary professor. "If it's not all about me, but it's all about God, then we ask humbly how we fit into His wise and glorious plan rather than refashioning God to better fit into the kind of life we might wish to design for ourselves." - Dr. Ware. 

Lord Jesus, I love and honor You. I want my heart to always be fully devoted to You and not distracted by the people and things of this world. Help me to keep them in their proper place in my life and to seek holiness. Call my heart back when I wander away I pray. Help me to walk in tune with You; make my heart to beat with Yours so my time, talent and treasure are rightfully devoted to the things that matter most to You. In these things Jesus, make me beautiful. I pray this in Your name, amen.