Monday, September 27, 2010

What if today you were not alone?

"If Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh to you right this minute, I seriously doubt that you would care how your favorite football team can improve its offense.

I don’t think it would matter anymore whether you need to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home.

I don’t think you would be worried about how you would get that bill paid.

I think you would be captivated by His presence.

Awed by His magnificence.

Lost in the wonder of His love, and trembling in fear of His power and holiness." (Ovation blog - Andy Wood - Clearing out the mental clutter - September 20, 2010)

After I read these words I stopped to imagine such a scene - What if Jesus were to suddenly knock at my door and come in and sit on my couch?  How would His presence with me, in my space, impact my day? What would it be like if Jesus were here with me?

But the amazing thing is that, He is.
He is already in your house, on your couch, next to you while on the computer.
There's not a moment today where you are alone.
Not today, or actually ever.
We are always in the presence of God for He has promised "I will never leave you or forsake you" Hebrews 13:5.

I don't have to imagine what it would be like to have Christ show up at my door to day because He is already here with me and there with you. Nothing I do, or say, or encounter will be without His witness. No difficulty or disappointment will be experienced without his awareness.

Imagine if Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh to you right this minute...then open your eyes and realize that you don't have to imagine because He lives in you.

For this is the secret:
Christ lives in you,
and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
Colossians 1:27

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting dressed for church

As I am without a church home, every Sunday is a little bit different as we're going to various churches and I find the type of church we're attending impacts what I'll be wearing. 
This morning it was casual pants and ballet flats, last week it was a skirt and heels. One service had hymnbooks and the other words on a screen; one a guy with a guitar, the other an amazing choir. On the platform today was a young pastor in jeans while last week there was an older minister in a suit behind a pulpit. The beauty of it was that each church, as different as they are, were still a place of worship and that I, in heels or flats, was still coming from love for my God.

There is no dress code when coming to God; no special outfitting necessary before He loves us.
If I pray with "Our Father who art in heaven" or "Lord, help!", God hears my prayer.
If my preferred translation is  KJV or NLT, the Spirit of God still speaks through His Word.

There are no qualifiers on our appearance when we come to God! No dressing up of ourselves is necessary nor a cleaning up of our hearts.  All He asks is that our hearts are open to Him. 

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. Psalms 89:15

"Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." Hebrews 4:7

My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, "LORD, I am coming." Psalms 27:8

Come just as you are.
Come in whatever you're currently wearing -
Just be sure to come.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No fleece necessary!

We know the story of Gideon - God had told him exactly what to do (He'd even sent an angel to tell him!) but Gideon was still not exactly sure about God's direction so he put out a fleece ( a piece of animal skin) and asked God to confirm his decision by making the fleece wet  and the ground around it dry. And the next morning it was exactly as he'd prayed for but poor Gideon was still not sure so he prayed that the fleece would be dry and the ground around it wet, and God, ever a gracious Father, again gave him the confirmation he was seeking and then, finally, Gideon was ready to get with the program.(Judges 6)

Often it seems God speaks this way - over a period of time,after much time spent in prayer and consultation with wise friends and a weighing of the pros and cons... but, as I discovered today, sometimes God speaks with another voice...

This morning, while in a small group for Bible Study, it was mentioned that there was need for a teacher for the 3 and 4 year olds so that many of the women who had to find babysitting arrangements on their own would be able to bring their children with them.  A worthy cause, giving mothers of young ones a time and place to get into God's Word - surely I could help! Throughout the next hour I kept thinking about the need and my own perfect qualifications for meeting it, saying "Well Lord, is this what you want me to do? I could do it but it would be quite a commitment...what do you think I should do?" I thought I'd get more information and then continue praying about it during the week to see if this was where God wanted me. 

And so the information getting conversation began;
There is a need?
What does it entail?
"First...., then....., and then....."  

I did not meet the first requirement of having attended this study for three months already (which would be difficult seeing it was Week 2) so even though I explained why I had the ideal qualifications to help but it didn't matter, I was summarily dismissed until three months had passed.

I had been rejected!
"It's insane to turn down a volunteer who's willing to make a commitment like that", I thought as I walked out. "She has no idea who I am and could have at least talked to me a little longer to find out and why should these poor women wait when I'm offering and I am a great teacher and...".my thoughts were raging angrily and it wasn't until I paused for breath that I heard it - the voice of God saying "You asked me for an answer didn't you?"

This was not a rejection of me but was God quickly answering my question with a firm and unequivocal "No!." I didn't expect so immediate of an answer, as I hadn't had time to work through the process and put out a "fleece"... But God had indeed already given me the answer I was seeking, faithful in His guidance and all I could do was laugh. God indeed knows the way that I take (Job 23:10)  and the best pathway for my life (Psalms 32:8) and this was not it.

So how do you know if it is God speaking?
John 10 answers that question with a story:
"The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep...and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won't follow a stranger, they will run from him because they don't know his voice."

I called a friend last week and when they answered, for a split second, I didn't recognize their voice because it had been so long since we'd spoken even though we've known each other for years...

Keep up the conversation.
Even if you've been in a relationship with Him for years, keep spending time with your Lord and Savior so that when God speaks you will know His voice;
no fleece necessary!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gifts of Encouragement

I am doing today what I do most days—picking things up and putting them down in different places . . .

Sometimes I think my entire life feels like that of Sisyphus (the man from a Greek myth who was condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it fall back down just as he gets to the top, forcing him to start all over again) as my daily chores seem to be nothing more than doing the exact same things over and over and over and . . .

But today in moving things from place to place, I discovered an e-mail I'd printed out two years ago—one of validation and encouragement. With new eyes I began looking around, and I also found on my desk a handmade card about friendship and a wooden sign a girlfriend allowed me to "steal" from her house while I was deep into studying (it says "Be Nice or Go Away").

My life is filled with small gifts of encouragement—from e-mails, to e-mailed blogs sent to lift my spirits, to comments on my blogs that do the same. I've been encouraged just this morning through a phone call, by an upcoming planned date, and by a personally recorded CD of unbelievably beautiful piano music I've been listening to. I found encouragement in Scripture today from Psalms 73:22-23, which says "I was so foolish and ignorant . . . Nevertheless I still belong to you and you are still holding me by my right hand . . ."

Isn't it incredible how something so easy to give as a word of encouragement can be so powerful?

The discouraging surrounds us, overwhelms us, and shouts loudly in our lives, but today, in all the "boulder rolling up a hill" that you are doing, may you find a precious gift of encouragement—a card, a song, a quote, a conversation, a memory, or whatever boost you need—and may it make your heart, even if just for a moment, smile!

"My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens!" I Peter 5:12

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When I was in the dark...

So here I am in the country tonight stumbling around the front lawn in the dark. The dew has already set as the hem of my pants is quickly soaking up all the moisture. It is dark out here! So dark that you can see the stars – and I mean all the stars not just the few bright ones you can usually see!

I’m out here wandering because of an app on my phone called Goggle Sky Map – it claimed that you could point it at the sky and it would show you the stars and constellation you were seeing and guess what? It really did!

Suddenly I knew that really bright star to the right was actually Jupiter and sure enough that familiar W shape was indeed Cassiopeia. As I turned, moved, and ended up down the street, the map adjusted with me; although I could not see where I going in the darkness the GPS satellites via the phone were still tracking me. So not only was it known where I was, it presented the stars location in relation to my position.

Just because I was in the dark didn’t mean I was lost.
I may have been stumbling around blindly but my location was known.

Oddly enough I kept finding the same constellation above me - it’s called Cygnus, and it looks like the photo on this post.

Symbolically, for one stumbling around in darkness, it is also known as the Northern Cross...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Follow the Leader

Like it or not, ready or not, summer vacation is over and a new school year has begun. (sigh)So last night we drove home and I am not a night person - at all! Just try talking to me after 9, or especially 10, and you'll understand perfectly!
So I'm driving and I'm sleepy even though I did not take the cold medicine which says you should not operate heavy machinery after taking...!

All the way I did just one thing - I followed my husband's tail lights. I didn't pay any attention to what road we were on or think about what exit was coming up next. I let him make the decisions and plan out the route; I just played followed the leader and he lead me all the way home.

"When a person's steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with his ways.
If he stumbles, he will not fall, because the Lord holds his hand." Psalms 37:23,24

Perhaps "follow the leader" is the key to life. We just follow the Lord without concern about the road we're on or what turn is coming next. Just keeping our eyes on Him, following as He leads. If we lose our balance a bit, or stumble at a sudden pothole, we will not fall flat on our faces because as we follow Him He also holds our hand.
What a promise - a guide to follow, a companion to keep us steady - the assurance that we can follow Him until we're safely home!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

You have been good

Yesterday I looked through a bunch of pictures that I'd packed up from my mom's house and what an assortment they were! I relived the birth of all the grandchildren, birthdays, weddings and all kinds of people and events; but it also made me melancholy seeing the past in photos gathered by a woman whose own life is over. So many things whose time has already come and gone...

But even more strongly than that, I had another impression as I saw my life’s history in those photos; God has been faithful.

Through the thirty years laid out before me, through every experience and incident, joy or problem; God had been there and has been consistently caring for me.

I have lived the promise of Isaiah 46:4 - "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you."

Scott Krippayne has said the same thing in his song You Have Been Good.

You Have Been Good
If I never get to see another rainbow
Or share another laugh with a friend
If I never stand barefoot by the ocean
Or get to kiss my child good night again

If I never have another prayer that's answered
Or have another blessing come my way
If this is all I ever know of heaven's kindness
Father I would still have to say,

You have been good
You have good and I am in wonder how could it be
You have good, you've been so good
In so many ways you've been good to me

You have shown me mercy upon mercy
Grace upon grace, time after time
But I know all too well what I'm deserving
Yet you are still so patient and kind

You have been good
You have been good
And I am in wonder how could it be
You have been good
You've been so good
In so many ways you've been good to me

If suddenly it all were ended
And your blessings disappeared
Looking back over a lifetime
The evidence is clear
You have been good

You have been good
And I am in wonder how could it be
You have been good
You've been so good
In so many ways you've been good to me

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Worth the effort

Suddenly it has gone from a balmy 70’s in the morning to a chilly 50 degrees! So today I reached for my jeans, far beneath all the summer shorts and capris.

As I pulled them on I thought for a millisecond that maybe they’ll be looser than they were when I wore them last in the spring... did I mention that hope lasted for a millisecond?!
Sure enough, because I had not made an effort to lose weight – I mean seriously, summer was just made for ice cream!! – my jeans were a measurement of the result.

There is no magic just because I wish there were.
Jeans that fit more loosely will only happen when I put in the effort (or when I buy bigger jeans…!) sigh...

I find a similar scenario in my Christian life when I face a situation and react just as poorly as I have in the past ever even thought I’m a year older in my relationship with Christ. Just because time has passed doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m further along in becoming more like Christ. It, as any good thing, takes conscious effort.

What what would be the result of this effort? A slimmer silhouette? Hardly! Nothing that transient!

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and who have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7,8

Roots that reach deep into the water – the living water of God’s Word
They are not bothered by _______ or worried by ______________. Whatever is put into those blanks – NOT bothered, NOT worried.
Their leaves stay green – still fresh, and growing, and producing fruit.
What a picture!

How do I become like this tree?
First I must be planted by the riverbank – do I know the Lord, do I long to be in His presence, dwelling in His sanctuary? Is He the place that I live? Where my unoccupied thoughts return to?
Secondly are my roots reaching deep for Him? Have I anchored my hope and confidence to Him? Have I wrapped my stability around and put my trust in all the precious promises He has given to me?

“And I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him.

May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.
Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By His power at work within us He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would every dare to ask or hope" Ephesians 3:16-20

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lights in the world

This is a fiber optic lamp and it is the coolest thing!

There's a bulb in the base and these thin clear filaments all rest in the base and then carry a pinpoint of light to their very tip. If a filament falls out, it looks like a piece of fishing line but when connected it has this small but brilliantly bright light.

If you take a group of the filaments in your hand together they're so bright in their concentration, you can use it like a flashlight.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" John 9:5

Jesus, while He was on earth, was the light of the world but He's back in heaven so, what now?

"You are the light of the world ... let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5: 14,16

You, and I - His lights in this world.

That's quite a responsibility and some pretty big shoes to fill... but the wonderful thing is that He doesn't call us to be lights on our own, no more than these slender fiber optic strands have to produce a light.
We, as they, merely transfer the light as we're connected to it.

He is still the Light - the bulb at the base with enough wattage to light up the darkness. We are these transparent strands, connected to Him.

As we live and move in a darkened world we bring the light with us wherever we go. Singularly we are scattered pinpoints of light and collectively we shine as a bright beacon for Christ.

This doesn't take special training or ability, nor a course in apologetics or evanglism training; it is just being connected to Christ and letting the power of His light shine.

We all have a story. Share. Shine. Be aware that you are His light in your world.