Monday, May 23, 2016

Knowing God's Will = Seeking God

Yesterday I listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley about discerning God's will. My biggest takeaway was that if you want to know God's will, don't seek to hear some audible voice giving you direction. Instead, seek to know GOD better. Learn what is important to God. Notice what He is doing in the world around you. Seek His face.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (NASB)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Returning Insult for Kindness: Being Misunderstood

This morning in my quiet time, I read 1 Cor. 19. David sent condolences to the son of an Ammonite king. The son misunderstood David's intentions--thought David's men were spies instead of comforters--and responded with rudeness (shaved beards and cut clothing to expose men's butts.) It was insulting.

[It reminded me of the time when David asked Nabal for food when running from Saul in the wilderness. If Abigail hadn't intervened the misunderstanding, death would have been on David's hands. So David was acquainted with being misunderstood.]

The whole incident resulted in war. Thousands died.

I don't know what the moral of the story is, but I can certainly relate to having my personal intentions questioned, being misunderstood, and decisions made against me as a result. It pierces the deepest part of my pride--of wanting to be known as a kind, creative, and caring person versus selfish, haughty, and rude. Perhaps it is because I do so many dumb things that it is just assumed. For example, David was innocent of spying against Ammonite king--he really did want to send condolences, however, in the next few chapters of 1 Chronicles, David did ultra-stupid:  he took a census of all the Israelites (this was forbidden). As a result, 70,000 were killed. So David wasn't innocent of everything he did in his life. As the youth say these days, "Haters gonna hate."

Matthew 5:11-12"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Lord, help me to remember to TRUST in You when I'm feeling misjudged and misunderstood. Help me to learn to rejoice that You've got this.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Declare His Glory!

Good Morning, Lord, I love you. What do you have in mind for me for today? I want to be a part of it!
I read the following passage in my quiet time this morning. I was immediately reminded of the song we sing in choir at church: Declare His Glory.

1 Chronicles 16: 8-36 NKJV
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember his marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and all the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Israel His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statue,
To Israel for an everlasting covenant,
Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,"
When you were few in number,
Indeed very few, and strangers in it.
When they went from one nation to another,
And from one kingdom to another people,
He permitted no man to do them wrong;
Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes,
Saying, "Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do my prophets no harm."
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is also to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and gladness are in His place.
Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, "The Lord reigns."
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it.
Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
And say, "Save us, O God of our salvation;
Gather us together, and deliver us from the Gentiles,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
To triumph in Your praise."
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting!
And all the people said, "Amen!" and praise the Lord.

One of my goals this summer in the ladies Bible study is to emphasize to the power of God's Word in speaking to our hearts and giving us direction.
If I had to meditate on the above verses and ask the Lord to speak to my heart about anything He'd like for me to focus on or internalize, I think I'd start by highlighting all of the verbs:
Give Thanks
Make known
Sing, Sing
Let Rejoice
Seek, Seek
Give Thanks
Say Save, Gather, Deliver, 
Give Thanks
Praise The Lord

If I truly believe that God is the God of the Universe and that He really loves little, old ME, my life should be filled with verbs that recognize HIM. I should actively be worshiping, trembling, giving thanks, declaring His glory, praising, singing, remembering . . . .
Lord, help me number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. I love you and want to live my life as a vessel for your glory. Amen.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fighting, Crying Out, TRUSTING again and again and again

In 1 Chronicles 5:
18-22 The families of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh . . . fought against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. God helped them as they fought. God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. God answered their prayers because they trusted him. 
The families fought --> God helped
The families cried out to God in battle --> God answered their prayers
They trusted
Seems like a formula to me.

23-26  . . . But they were not faithful to the God of their ancestors. They took up with the ungodly gods of the peoples of the land whom God had gotten rid of before they arrived. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria) to take the families of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He deported them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan. They’ve been there ever since.
The families took up with ungodly gods of the peoples --> God sent them into exile
In other words, they stopped trusting.
Yeah, formula.
The thing that scares me when I read stuff like this is that while I may be seeking His face today, I may turn around tomorrow and try to live life MY WAY. Trusting is difficult.  Trust must occur again and again. It isn't a one time, "I'm gonna turn my life over to God, now." It is a daily, "Good morning, God, I love You. What do you have in mind for me for today? I want to be a part of it."
My grandmother, Mamamarge, began each of her days with this prayer. (The painting is from my cousin Beth as a Christmas gift to me this year!)

As I prepare for this summer's ladies' Bible study, one of the things Andy Stanley encourages us to begin doing is starting the first few moments of every day in prayer.  And specifically, to pray the following prayer by Moses, "Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12.

"Lord, teach me to number my day today, that I may gain a heart of wisdom."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Overboard & Working Girl

In the late 1980's, two movies came out that I watched again and again and again--I had video-taped them on my VCR when I signed up for cable TV: first month free access to a movie channel. Overboard and Working Girl both told the stories of women who got second chances and turned their futures around. The movies inspired me that I could have a do-over, too. I could be whatever I wanted to be and walk away from my past.

Today in my quiet time, I read in John 5 about a guy who got a do-over.  The Bible didn't even mention his name--just his position: first he is called an Invalid, and then he is called the Healed Man. For 38 years, this guy hung out by a special pool with multitudes who were crippled, blind, and even paralyzed. He told Jesus how helpless he was by blaming that others could always get into the healing waters faster than he. I can't possibly imagine what life would have been like with no hope of ever being a productive and useful member of society. I suppose a lot of people are in that situation, even today. I don't know how they cope.

Then Jesus comes and heals him. What to do now?? He has no skills. He has no clientele. His best friends are all incapable of doing anything, either. 
The next place we find him is in the Temple. I imagine that is the absolute best place for him to be. Jesus found the Healed Man in the temple, approached him, and told him he'd better go his way and SIN NO MORE, lest something worse happen to him. Now this is where I bring in the movie references--the guy has got to make some big life changes. He is given a second chance.  It is time to turn from sin to holiness--or it's gonna get really bad.

This story reminds me of the reason I'm wanting to do the Shandon Summer Ladies' Bible Study: Time of Your Life by Andy Stanley. It is time to make some changes. It is time to stop wasting my life. Time to take up my bed and walk. I wonder what that's gonna look like. 
I'll soon find out.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Huldah the Prophetess

Huldah the Prophetess. Nope, I've never heard of her, either.

In my quiet time this morning, I've been reading 2 Kings 22. The boy king Josiah ruled 31 years, and followed after God. When a book of scripture was found in the temple and read to Josiah, Josiah wept, tore his robes, asked for prayer for himself and Judah, and sought God's guidance.
Besides the story of Josiah asking for God's help, seeking God, being faithful, I happened to notice the small details of this prophetess being thrown in to the story.  Because I'm On Mission--and looking for God to speak to me and get me prepared to develop a study guide for this summer's ladies' bible study Time of Your Life, I've been finding lots of little golden nuggets in my quiet time.
To explain the tidbits I'm finding, I'll post the scripture passage and then point out the juicy stuff.
2 Kings 22:

11-13 When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found! God’s anger must be burning furiously against us—our ancestors haven’t obeyed a thing written in this book, followed none of the instructions directed to us.”
14-17 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went straight to Huldah the prophetess. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, who was in charge of the palace wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter. The five men consulted with her. In response to them she said, “God’s word, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you here that I’m on my way to bring the doom of judgment on this place and this people. Every word written in the book read by the king of Judah will happen. And why? Because they’ve deserted me and taken up with other gods, made me thoroughly angry by setting up their god-making businesses. My anger is raging white-hot against this place and nobody is going to put it out.
18-20 “And also tell the king of Judah, since he sent you to ask God for direction; tell him this, God’s comment on what he read in the book: ‘Because you took seriously the doom of judgment I spoke against this place and people, and because you responded in humble repentance, tearing your robe in dismay and weeping before me, I’m taking you seriously. God’s word: I’ll take care of you. You’ll have a quiet death and be buried in peace. You won’t be around to see the doom that I’m going to bring upon this place.’” (The Message)

Here is my thought: 5 important men, including the priest and the king's top adviser are sent by the KING to seek out a woman who's married to a man in charge of what people in the palace wear. I'm thinking that her role as a woman and fashion consultant are nothing compared to her ability to listen to God. 
Our lives are full of responsibilities and roles, but underneath it all and at the end of the day, do we listen to God and act upon what He is showing us? I sure hope I can answer, "Yes."

And another thought--but not about Huldah--Josiah sought God. When he asked about the punishment to come upon his nation because of their sin, he was told that the punishment would still come . . . but it would be delayed until after he had passed. Personally, it is so difficult to comprehend how T-I-M-E works. Yes, I know God is always at work. But it seems strange that it takes generations for the cause and effects of history to take place.  Studying history over time is like wrapping up all the events with a bow.  But living in it, and through it, I have to wonder what big effects are headed our way in America.  Our music, entertainment, culture, lifestyle, government, family structures, etc. are going to hell in a hand-basket. I wonder what roles I play--and I'm not talking about being a school teacher, here. What does "Having the Time of My Life" mean to me?

Images: N3K Photo Studios  by James C. Lewis

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Undivided Heart

My spirit is burdened today for a very special girlfriend of mine. We have lived, laughed, and suffered together--dropping to pray at a moment's notice for each other. We've shared verses of comfort, friendship, joy, and hope. We've done the Iron Sharpens Iron thing for years.
Until now.
Like my mom, my special girlfriend has been pierced with a pain so deep that after suffering through it for so many years, she has concluded that relying on God just didn't work. She tried it. It didn't work. The pain continued. She hoped, she prayed. The suffering and attacks continued.
So, she cut the wicked source pain out of her life and at the same time her hope that God would fix or repair it. She has now concluded that her previous hope in God, while sincere, was a coping mechanism. God didn't come through as He'd promised, therefore He wasn't to be trusted anymore.
She has stated that she now believes there are many religious beliefs out there that are good for different people, but that a singular path to understanding God isn't for her anymore. At least, this is what I understand her to say.
My heart that has been so intertwined with her in the past immediately fell heavy. I understand that she has been injured by another. I understand her need to separate herself from the cause of this pain in order to protect and preserve herself. I understand that she tried to trust God with all her heart.

But my heart aches to think that she has given up on Him. As a best friend, I wish I could identify with her seeking sustenance elsewhere, but I can't. It reminds me of my mom's favorite poem:

Comes The Dawn

Submitted By: heidegret
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye you learn.
 Author: Veronica Shoffstall

I choose the eyes of a child over the grace of a woman. I feel my worth is wrapped up in the love and grace of my Heavenly Father over my own strength. Yes, I've been hurt and rejected time and again by family relationships, where I didn't have the power to eject myself, but I've chosen to run to the arms of my Savior and God. He has sustained me. I pray one day my girlfriend will throw her heart back to her Creator and Lover of her soul again.
I was reading in my quiet time about an ancient king--Jehu, who fulfilled God's commands, and then went about running the nation HIS OWN way, his own path. He did what God wanted him to do--destroy Ahab's family and destroy the worshipers of Baal, but then followed the reasoning of his own heart:
2 Kings 10:31  Even then, though, Jehu wasn’t careful to walk in God’s ways and honor the God of Israel from an undivided heart. (MSG)

Father, guard my heart. Help me to keep my hope and focus on You. I am weak, but you are strong. Help me to turn my face toward Your all-knowing, all-powerful wisdom, care, and mercy. And bring my girlfriend back to faith in You. Please. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wild Rose in the Ditch

I was walking Fred along the outerbelt road to I-26 next to a big ditch.  That's when I spotted the little pink rose in among all the weeds and trash. It reminded me of what I feel like in my life at times. 
I talk too much. 
I'm undisciplined. 
I don't have any best friends. 
Repeatedly my words or actions have unintentionally hurt others.
I have to take Prozac.
I'm not a very good judge of character or choice-maker.
But every once in a while I am reminded that all the crazy parts that make up who I am, all the decisions and choices I've made, all the work I have done, actually does produce  a sweet little rose of blessing at times. 

At this time, I'm preparing for our ladies summer bible study at Shandon Baptist. It will be based on Andy Stanley's sermon series: Time of Your Life. I'm trying to create a Guided Study to go along with it. One of the things I'm considering is the lives of different women in the bible, the choices they made, and how history remembers them. For example, Ruth was just a poor Moabite widow--yet she made a huge impact on history--her faithfulness is remembered as the foundation for King David's family heritage. Esther was a displaced orphan refugee, and her choices saved her entire race  from attack. Naaman's wife's servant maid pointed him to God. She was just a slave, but she's recorded as being a blessing for all of history to read about. I'm just a school teacher, married to a farmer/deacon/Sunday school director.
Being faithful to God in the little things is bound to produce opportunities of being a blessing to others. We don't know what the future holds, we don't know who we might influence, but we do know our days are numbered, so we might as well start buckling down now and make some wise choices. In the midst of all the crazy world we live in, we might just produce a sweet wild rose.