Sunday, November 30, 2008

No Matter How Small

I’m a big baby.
I caught my finger on the edge of a metal can and tore off a tiny piece of skin, so I had to stop what I was doing and find a band-aid.

Did it really need the care and protection of a band-aid?
I thought so.
I’m sure almost anyone else would have just shaken it off and gone on without having to stop and take care of it but it hurt and it was bleeding and mattered to me that it was taken care of.

One of the things I love about God is that what matters to me, matters to Him.
The tiniest things that hurt me I can bring to His attention.
I don’t have to be “strong” or “brave” or just “suck it up and deal with it”.
I am welcome in His presence. Throughout each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me…give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. (Psalms 42:8, Psalms 55:22)

The Lord nurses them when they are sick and eases their pain and discomfort.(Psalms 41:3)

In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears. (Psalms 18: 6)

I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me, freeing me from all my fears. (Psalms 34:4)

Notice that there is no qualification of fears here. What greatly troubles me may not give you cause for concern; but justifiable or not, when I cry to the Lord in my distress He delivers me from my fears; when I come to Him with a wound, no matter how small, He pulls out the band-aids.

My hurts and my fears matter to the Creator of the Universe!
He is attentive to my needs!
So it is no wonder that…those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. (Psalms 34:5)
And all that is left then to say is; how great is the Lord, and how much we should praise Him! (Psalms 48:1)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Safe

My daughter came stumbling into our room at 4 a.m.
“I had a bad dream”, she said as she crawled into bed.
Did she want to talk about it?
An immediate, adamant “No!”
Ten minutes she was sound asleep safe in her dad’s arms.

Safe
When she experienced this bad thing she went to where she would feel safe.

Later in the morning she told me about her bad dream and it wasn’t as scary to her in the 7 am brightness as it had been in the dark. Could we have explained that it wasn’t that bad and just a dream to her in the middle of the night? Not a chance, at that point she just needed to feel surrounded and protected.

When trouble comes, overwhelming troubles like the constant crashing of waves on the seashore, where do you go to be safe?

I wrap myself in scripture and claim the promises that God is…
a refuge and help in time of need (Psalms 46)
the Shepherd who supplies my needs and walks with me through the valleys (Psalms 23)
the God who knows the way that I am taking (Job 23)
who delights in every detail of my life (Psalm 37)
who is acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139)
who will work all things together for my good, (Romans 8)
who will bring to completion the work He has started in my life (Philippians 1)
and that nothing shall separate me from God’s love (Romans 8)
I stay here for a while, resting in this surrounding assurance that God is in control and that I am in his strong and capable hands.

And after a while, when it’s not as dark, I can look more clearly at the situation, and talk about it and see what can be done just as Katie could this morning but in the meantime there is much to be said for having a place to go to get through the night.

I talked to a man this week who explained to me what he believed about the Bible; that the Gospels are the core of the Bible and contain truth and the rest of the Bible, the further you get from the life of Christ, is more and more subject to question; therefore by the time you get to the Creation story and Noah’s Ark it couldn’t possibly have happened.
Science, history, his own observations and experiences seem to be the filters he puts God’s Word through to determine if what this verse is saying is valid or not. Those that gel with his own base of knowledge, these are the Word of God. Those that don’t, well, not so much.

As I have thought about this conversation I come to one conclusion: how very very sad.

If the Bible says that “God will provide all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4) and you see suffering in Africa and therefore conclude that this is not a valid promise, where will you go when you are needy?

Perhaps this is why Jesus said we are to come with a childlike faith – trusting – Remember Nicodemus? He was a learned man but he came to Jesus because there were things He’d said that he did not understand – How can a man be born again when he is old? (John 3) This was impossible! Yet, when Christ explained that he was speaking about it from an entirely different perspective, the validity became apparent

In another conversation I had with some Jehovah Witnesses they said that God is capable of knowing about everything that’s going on in the world but He chooses what he wants to be aware of.

So when my life is crashing down around me, do I have to hope that God is tuned in to me today?
If I’m not on his list of “People to check in on today” than He won’t know that my world has just imploded?

I told these women that my God is bigger than that.
God is big enough to know what’s going on everywhere and in all lives at the same time.
Can I explain or even fathom that? Of course not!
Does that mean that God cannot do that since I can’t imagine it? Not at all.

Do we want a God or a Bible that we can explain and fully understand?

Do I want God to be so small that I can understand Him?

If I could understand Him and His ways than wouldn’t I be just like Him and God would then be no more capable or powerful than myself?

Now that is something to be scared about.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rescue

Mid November, 40 degrees
Saturday, 4:30 pm
The last errand after a day full of errands
Milk, toilet paper, movie rental and we’re homeward bound.
Walking out of the grocery store bags in hand, keys? Where are the car keys?

Oh no, they’re still in the ignition…

All day long I’d been sending my daughter back to the car to lock the door when we’d stopped. I wish I hadn't sent her back this time...

She sang Christmas carols as we walked home, skipping and swinging the plastic bag. I was too busy being angry at being so stupid. Seriously I left the keys in the ignition!?! It doesn’t get much more stupid than something like that and now I had to walk home, get the spare key, ride the bike back to the car, shove the bike into the car and then I could drive home. The afternoon had been overcast and it would be dark in less than an hour so now I’ll be riding a bike in the cold and the dark. So stupid…! There was no doubt that this was all my doing, all my fault, my bed to lie in, my really not comfortable shoes to walk home in…

A mile later a familiar voice interrupted both the singing and the stewing, “Hey, you need a ride?”

We’d been rescued!
Our very own knight (well family of knights) in their shinning blue van had come to our aid!

A ride home, a ride back to the car and it didn’t matter how dark or cold it was because there was no one riding around on a bike!

Effervescent thanks and such relief!
Chivalry wins out over stupidity!
Rescue over failure.
Mercy over mistakes...

When I got up this morning I had no idea I’d need to be rescued before the day was over.
I didn’t know I’d make such a stupid mistake. And it’s a mistake I’ve made several times before – hadn’t I learned any better by now?

The fact that I’d done this before and still did it again didn’t matter. What mattered is that I needed help and there was nothing I could do to help myself.

The cross still stands for you believer who at the end of your day find you’ve made the same mistake, committed the same sin, or have failed yet again. The arms that spread as wide as the beams of the cross to show how much God loves you still are open to you.
Redemption from sin and forgiveness for failure are still available, even if this is not your first time flat on your face. He stands ready to rescue, to forgive, to restore.

Should we stop trying to live right lives then since there is always forgiveness to avail ourselves of? Is it easier “to ask forgiveness instead of permission”?

That’s such an old question I’ll let the apostle Paul answer, “Shall we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not!” Romans 6:1

But when I inevitably fall there is rescue available. There is grace on my behalf, If I confess my sin, He is still faithful and just to forgive.(1 John 1:9).

I have driven hundreds of miles, maybe even thousands without locking my keys in the car, but when I did, and when you do, there is mercy.
The cross still stands. God still loves, still forgives. The blood that was shed for your redemption still flows to cover your sin. The grace that saved is the same grace that restores. Even if you knew better, even if you’ve made that mistake before, or if you’ve walked circumspectly for years and now have stumbled, God still reaches down a hand of rescue; just humbly and gratefully take it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Appointment

9:05 a.m.

“I’d like to make an appointment.”

“Let me take your number and we’ll call you back.”

By the end of the day still no phone call to schedule the appointment, not to mention then how long it may be to have the actual meeting.

A lesson that is learned well and early is this: If you want to have an appointment by September, you’d better call and schedule it in July.

My education came with my first call to the OBGYN.

“I’d like to schedule a prenatal exam. I just found out I’m pregnant!”

“Is there any particular day that you’d like to see the doctor?”

“As soon as possible. I’m available at any time.” (Of course I was available any time of any day; nothing would stand between me and the health of my baby!)

“Okay, let’s see… the earliest available appointment would be at 2 p.m., three weeks from Thursday.”

Three weeks from Thursday! How could they put me off for that long? I was pregnant. This was my first baby; terrible things could happen in three weeks – didn’t they understand how important this was to me?

Routine appointment? A couple of months.
Impacted tooth? Rising Fever? Wheezing Cough? A couple of days.
Emergency services necessary? Even then a couple of hours.

Seldom does it seem like what is important to me is urgent to anyone else.

The lack of availability to meet my needs reminds me again that I am one of
hundreds...thousands...millions...billions...

What about trying to make an appointment with a specialist or a person of great influence? How long of a wait would that be?

Are you seeking an audience with a boss, CEO, or the President of the United States?

If, and that is a very big IF, they will see you , it will be on their terms whenever that would be.

I attempted to make two appointments today.
I guess when the office opens tomorrow I’ll attempt to set up this first appointment again and again wait for them to return my call.

The second,
I was ushered in immediately.

No hassle
No waiting
No other visitors but me

I had an audience with the most powerful, knowledgeable and influential person in the universe.

“When you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
I will be found of you, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:12-14

There is not greater physician or counselor, He is a specialist in all matters and had a wide – open space in His appointment book and was just waiting for my call.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Causing God delight...

I watched my girlfriend dancing at her daughter's wedding and can not even communicate the pure joy that was causing the Cheshire like grin on my face. She was having the time of her life and I was so thrilled for her.

Everything at the reception looked familiar as place cards, favors, programs, and centerpieces have been the topics of our conversations over the past several months. I've watched her running here and there and compiling information for weeks as she's helped her daughter with all the planning and preparation and now it had all come together and it was absolutely fantastic.

Being happy makes us, well, happy! And it's not often that we feel deliriously happy as we go through our days. We're not sad either, we're just normal, balanced, dealing with whatever we are at the moment.

But then there are those precious moments like this where you are filled with joy, or laughter; when you are just delighted.

Often Scripture mentions how God takes delight in us. Takes delight in us! We make him happy - we bring Him joy. How amazing that we can please the God of the universe!

And how do we delight him? Proverbs gives a us a couple ways.
The Lord detests people with crooked hearts,but he delights in those with integrity.(Proverbs 11:20)
The Lord detests lying lips,but he delights in those who tell the truth.(Proverbs 12:22)
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,but he delights in the prayers of the upright.(Proverbs 15:8)
The Lord detests evil plans,but he delights in pure words.(Proverbs 15:26)

That's all pretty straightforward. Remember that we can never earn God's love for He already loves us fully and unconditionally and no matter what we do or don't do. He cannot love us anymore or any less than He already does.

But I think there is another way we cause God joy.
Why was I so happy for my girlfriend?
Why was I not as equally pleased by the happiness I saw on her sister's face, or her mother's? Simple; I had not walked with them the steps leading up to this point. I'd not seen their work, their struggle, or their effort.

Paul in Romans 7 writes so eloquently of the situation we all find ourselves in, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do...For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing..."

Sound familiar?

While God takes delight in integrity and pure words and prayer and telling the truth, I suspect that God is also delighted when he sees our success in areas in which we struggle - whatever those areas may be. No doubt we are have not fully arrived at where we should be but even a small victory is still a victory.

Perhaps you long to be a better spouse, friend, parent, or more consistent in your relationship with God, or you struggle to overcome a temptation, an addiction or a besetting sin and you find that at the end of the day you've only taken perhaps a small step forward. Or perhaps you’ve made no progress at all but you are determined that tomorrow you will try again. We are his children and we who are parents understand how in your heart you are always pulling for your kids to be able to accomplish what they are trying to do and how you rejoice when they do.

If we have that ability as parents, and if I can feel that same way as a friend, let us be comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that He who is always with us knows our struggles and also rejoices in each step forward that we make.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What God Can Do


I have decorated the inside of my home with garlands of fall leaves.
It looks nice.
I have beautified a small space.

God has changed millions of leaves into an array of brilliant colors.
I drive down long boulevards under colorful leafy canopies.
If I were to drive hundreds of miles in any direction I will see the same thing.
God has beautified thousands of miles in this season.

We can do something but what God can do, in comparison to what we are able to do... well, there is no comparison.

In my own effort I can do things for God but if instead God is doing the work through me...I don't think we can even imagine what is possible.

D.L Moody said, "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him."

Do what you can, where you are and when you have done all you can trust that if your heart's motivation is the glory of God that God is more than capable to take your small effort and increase it's impact far beyond what you can imagine.
We cannot comprehend the greatness of His power. (Job 37:5)

Just look at the trees....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Planting Hope

This year the procrastinator in me did not win because I’ve been given the gift of a second chance in the form of a 70-degree day in November to get my bulbs in the ground so that this spring there will be flowers.

I'm planting hope.
Working now for future results.
Burying ugly lumps of dried up flaky-skinned brown bulbs in expectation of colorful daffodils and tulips five months from now.

You, who are in ministry, you too are weekly consistently planting hope as you present God's Word in expectation that it will take root and blossom in lives.

You, who are parents, are planting hope that the things you've said a million times to your children will become the principles that guide them in their adult lives.

You, who are married, are planting hope as you sacrificially give your time, love, and attention to your spouse that when you reach your fiftieth anniversary it is because you still love each other and not that you just never got divorced.

You, who are a friend, are planting hope in the time you spend in contact with each other, electronically or in person that this relationship will grow only more intimate and sweeter as time goes on.

We plant hope constantly in all the different facets of our lives and it means that our hands get dirty and that we're not going to see immediate results...

You, who love Christ, are you planting seeds of truth in your life by opening God’s Word for yourself?
God promises over and over again that his Word will accomplish what He intends, it will never go out and be useless (Isaiah 55:10,11). It is building in us a foundation of truth and principles so that when we have a decision to make, we already know what is truth in our hearts. Spending time planting God’s word in our heart increases our faith because it opens our eyes to His hand on and in our lives.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1) it makes substantive what isn’t currently there in confidence that it will be. Faith is taking action on what we can't see.

It is planting because it is confident there will be flowers.
Faith is hope with dirty hands.