Monday, February 23, 2009

Simple Adjustment

Recently, my cousin Jessica sent me an email that makes my life just a little easier with a very practical and simple adjustment. I dare say that this amazing little revelation will affect most of you as well! Are you ready for this? You who are ever in the kitchen and have used either aluminum foil or plastic wrap know or have experienced this: you pull the product from the roll, and the whole roll falls out of the box and you have to put the roll back into the box and start again because the product has become twisted, tangled and torn. It's one of those annoyances we put up with over and over because we never really considered that there was much we could do about it. Well, go now and get your box from the kitchen drawer. Go ahead, I'll wait. (Really, go get it...)

Okay, now look at one of the ends of the box. You see the perforated area? Stick your thumb into it. It forces a tab into the end of the roll. Now do it on the other side of the box as well. Now the roll has been secured in the box, and it shouldn't fall out anymore! OMG! Who knew? Surely my mother didn't, did yours?

When I read the email from Jessica, I had a cheap, store brand of aluminum foil, and it too had the tabs. Such a simple thing! And yet it makes the kind of difference that just takes an edge off daily a good, sharp knife that cuts when you need it to, or a can opener that smoothly and easily opens the can, or a friend that gives a word of encouragement when you need it, or a God who loves you despite yourself...

For me today, it's good friends that God has brought into my life that are the tabs at the ends of my box! They have kept me from falling out! As much as I've been slipping and sliding around of late, my stability to remain has been directly attributed to the gifts of God in these people He has divinely placed in my life. They live in my community, across the country, and around the world. Their love and their prayera have helped me to keep my attitude adjusted like a chiropractor works out the kinks in the physical body.

Iron sharpens iron, and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And it's in times of utter weakness and desperate pain that God sends these dear saints to keep you strong through the battle, and they are those who cover you when you are naked and wounded. When you are too weak to pray anything but, "Jesus!" they faithfully intercede on your behalf until you are victorious. They are truly the tabs at the end of your box.

This is my testimony! I have brothers and sisters whose incredible love has kept me when I had no staying power of my own. Family that behaves like family when lonliness of heart was burning and pervasive. Friends who were not afraid to do whatever it took to see me through.

Ultimately, it is God my Father who is the glory and the lifter of my head. He is my all in all, my portion and my cup, my joy, and my delight. It is Jesus who is my Redeemer, my Savior, my Keeper, my Lord, my friend and the love of my life. It is the Holy Spirit who is my intercessor, my comforter, my standby, my guide and my teacher.

And He sent YOU to be the light of Christ that disperses the darkness in the hearts of others.

Psalm 57:1-3 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me. For my soul trusts in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me...

I'm so thankful He sent YOU...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The KEY to Success

When my children were little, they had the habit, like most children, of deciding they did not like a food put before them based on what it looked like, regardless of the fact that they had never tried it before. So, I instituted something called “The Try-Me Club.” In order to be a member, they had to at least try a small bite of the food in question, and if they really didn’t like it, they didn’t have to eat anymore. It was amazing how many times they would take a bite and find out that they actually liked it! Of course, there were times that noses would wrinkle in disgust as well, but the fact that they tried kept them card-carrying members of the club!

Well, I have a wonderful adult friend who also has a habit of not liking a food based on looks alone. While we were out to dinner with a group of friends, I offered him a membership to the Try-Me Club! And he bit! Literally! We were at an Italian restaurant, and with my goading, he bravely tried a stuffed mussel, scungelli, and veal francese. He took each bite without hesitation, but with grace and a smile! I was so proud of him, so much so that he may not only be a member of the Try-Me Club, I might make him the president! (By the way, he also firmly refused to try anything he’s had before and knew he didn’t like, or felt was too unhealthy.)

And you know I have to find a spiritual twist to this! So, here it is. In this journey that we are on, there are often opportunities put before us of new and different experiences. Most of us don’t like change. It can be disconcerting to leave our comfort zones and venture into the unknown. And yet, it is in these places that I believe we truly find out God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Having experienced stepping into the unknown realms, I’ve discovered that God moves with us, and is not a bully, forcing us to do something we don’t feel ready for. If we don’t move, He will allow us to remain right where we are, but if He is leading, it would be to our detriment to stand still and not follow. As we boldly take steps into those places where He leads us, we learn that we are actually good—even anointed there, and discover the gifts and talents God has placed in us for His glory and the building of His kingdom. (Remember, if you have an anointing, gift or talent, it is not for YOU…it is for someone else!)

Personally, I have left my comfort zones many times, and in doing so have found that I can lead worship, sing solos, produce and direct plays, speak publically, and minister to people in traumatic circumstances. I would have never believed I could do any of those things if I remained where my flesh wanted to stay and where my head told me I should stay!
And sometimes, we might even misstep and go into a venture that He wasn’t exactly directing. As our loving Father, He is still blessed by our boldness to step out in faith and try something new. If the venture does not succeed, the good news is that one more door is closed, and our essential direction becomes clearer. (Forgive the many metaphors!!!)

The KEY to success is this; take a bite today of something you’ve never tasted before. You may discover that you love it, or you may find it is not something you would try again. Either way, you have taken a step closer to the ultimate goal of living the life that God has designed specifically for you!

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are You Enduring the Fire?

Have you ever felt like you were in the middle of the middle of the fire? Did you feel like it was THE all consuming fire, and you were what was being consumed? The fire I've recently been enduring is slowly turning to burning embers, and I finally feel like I'm coming to the other side. It's been a very HOT two and a half months during one of the coldest winters we've had in years.

In retrospect, I can say that I know that I know that God had a plan and a purpose for every moment of the fire I have endured. He is slowly bringing to light how He is working it out not only for my good, but to fulfill the plan and purpose He has had for me from the foundation of the earth. I also know that He cannot move me fully into that plan and purpose until I have endured the tests and trials of preparation.

Gladly, He says in Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." And if you remember the three youths thrown into the firey furnace, they were not alone! There was a fourth man in the fire! (I've always thought that is a great name for a song or a book...Fourth Man in the Fire...") When you are enduring the blue of the flame, He's not just watching over you from afar. He is with you in the fire!!!

Remember these three things as you endure the firey trials of this life. Firstly, He will never leave you nor forsake you, but is actually with you. That is His Word to you. And He is as good as His Word. But that's another blog for another day.

Secondly, He will show you, oh man, oh woman, what is good. He will bring you to the other side, and the you that does not reflect Him will be consumed--so that only HE remains.

Third, as you come from the fire, neither being burned nor smelling of smoke, you will then be ready for God to lead you to the place where you can fulfill the plan and purpose He has for you. You will have proved yourself, pure as silver in His sight and worthy of the trial you endured and the mission He has before you.

Many years ago, I came across the following story that sums up the answer to the "WHY, LORD" questions we ask as we are going through. I apologize in advance as I do know not know nor could find the author. I was stunned by the "moral" of the story, and I share it with you so that you can remember the reason the Lord leads us to places that seem so difficult.

"There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver...". This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, the silversmith held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."

What does He see when He looks at you? What does the world see? My heart is that I would be a reflection of His love to anyone who looks, that I might be the mirror that shows the world what Jesus looks like.

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you. And the end product, you'll look more like HIM! That is worth any firey trial!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No Greater Love

Truly, no greater love has a man than this--that he would lay his life down. Would YOU lay your life down for another? I bought a sandwich for a sad stranger today who was boldly begging for money in a restaurant. He neither seemed appreciative nor said thank you. He actually continued to beg from others as I bought him food.

But I kept thinking about the Word that says, "Give to all who ask..." So, I didn't hesitate. It was better than handing him money that could have gone to perpetuate a habit... And somehow, I feel like angels still rejoiced as a seed of love was planted in a heart that has seen more than its share of difficult times. And what was it to me anyway? It certainly wasn't my life being laid down like my precious Savior gave for me when I was so unworthy.

I've been meditating a great deal lately about the holiness and the love of God. We talk about Him being holy, and I don't know how much we really understand about what that means. If we did, we would walk differently through this life.

And then there is His love. When my daughter was a toddler, just beginning to walk, I followed her around the house, and watched with such delight as she explored her world. As I watched, I said these words out loud, "If you knew how much I love you, you'd be perfect!" And as they fell from my lips, I realized that it was not me speaking to my daughter, but my Father speaking them to me. If I really understood His love, I'd be perfect. Since that day, I've always understood that as I learn more and more about His love, the more perfected I become.

I have also learned that His love is HOLY. It is mighty to save, perfect in all its ways, powerful, glorious, and beyond our infinite understanding. His love casts out fear, quiets us, sacrifices itself for us, has been poured out in our hearts, binds us to Him, brings us mercy, perfects us, and allows us to be considered the Sons of God.

1 John 3 (KJV)
1Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1 John 3 (Amplified)
1SEE WHAT [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.
2Beloved, we are [even here and] now God's children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God's children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.
3And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless).

What an incredible quality of love. That while we were yet sinners, God considered us worthy to send His only Son to sacrifice His home in heaven, and suffer beyond our wildest imagination in physical and emotional pain so that we could be not only have the opportunity to be reconciled beyond our sinful nature, but to know Him, and even resemble Him! He sees us, those who have received the love of His Son, as pure. He looks beyond our flesh nature and sees the finished product! That which we should be working out with fear and trembling. Who is this God who sees fit to take us from sinners, unworthy to sons and daughters? Who is He that He considers us worthy at all? I will never stop asking that question, and I will never stop thanking and praising Him for this holy love!

1 John 4:7-8 (KJV))
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8 (Amplified Bible)
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].
8He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.

And that love that He gives us is "shed abroad in our hearts." It is for us as much as it is for all those He puts in our path--like my friend in the restaurant.

In "My Utmost for His Highest," Oswald Chambers says it this way, "If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, it comes naturally. In looking back, we cannot ell why we did certain things, we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God manifests itself in this spontaneous way because the springs of love are in the Holy Ghost." p121.

I have often remarked that I don't like the terminology of God "using" us. I believe that we are used of God when we, as a result of His love, do what we do in reaction to that love. The more we realize how much He loves us, the more often we will do because He first loved us. I don't believe it is ever God's purpose to "use" us. Just that our doings become a natural and spontaneous reaction to His love for us. It is His joy when our response to His love results in furthering His Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Penn is Moved by a Christian

Don't we all have those times when the door opens even a little for us to share the Gospel, and we warily and reluctantly walk away from it? Check out this video. Penn (of Penn and Teller) is sharing an experience he had as a man approached him after a show. Penn is actually being sincere, so it seems. A self-proclaimed atheist, it seems he was truly touched by this man.

Usually raunchy and cynical at best, Penn describes his experience and reaction. It's obvious a seed was planted, and I pray that it takes root in this man's heart. Pray with me, won't you?

Watch as Penn shares his own unique wisdom as to why Christians SHOULD and MUST share their faith! It will move you to increase your boldness, ask the Lord for more of those open doors, and pray for words of gold in settings of silver for each person you meet in this life. If we really believe as we say we believe, then we will certainly understand that we need to share much more of the faith and the God we love so very much...Thank you, Mr. Penn...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Don't Be Shown up by a Dog!

Yesterday, Luis was on his computer and called me over to see another video of a man dying in the middle of a busy street with many lookers on doing absolutely nothing. It made me stop and wonder what kind of a world are we living in when people choose not to help someone in dire need. This is the second such video I've seen in the past months, and then there was the woman who died in a hospital waiting room with the even the staff looking on and doing nothing.

But this morning, a friend sent me this video. If you are an animal lover, you may find the beginning a bit disturbing. Hang in for the entirety of the piece. It is amazing that one dog risked his life to save another on a busy highway. If not for this brave creature, the other would have never survived his ordeal.

We live in a fast-paced, busy world with our number one idol being "ME." If it doesn't benefit ME, then I don't get involved, no matter what the situation. But how far will our society go to neglect our neighbor? How hard are our hearts when we can walk away from someone who needs our assistance--to SURVIVE?

And yet, we have a Savior who didn't think it too great to leave His holy heaven and come to us in the flesh for the purpose of sacrificing His life that we might inherit the promise of relationship with the Father. That we might live and not die, and have abundant life in Him. And while He was here, didn't He say that a servant is not better than his Master? When He left this planet, He said we would be given the Spirit that we might do greater things than He did. Did He not admonish us that if we help the poor, naked, prisoner, and widowed that we may be helping angels unaware?

It behooves us to be salt and light in this dark and selfish world. We need to understand that we are what God has chosen to use as His hands and feet to show His great love to our own mission field around us. If we cloister ourselves in little "bless me" clubs where all we do is minister to one another, the world can never receive the hope it is desperately crying out for.

Listen, we are all they have. And God has gifted us and provided for us for one reason...that we would go and preach the Gospel, not necessarily with wonderful words of wisdom and eloquence, but being a living epistle that our neighbors can read, draw from, and look to in their times of need.

Let me put it this way. Kudos to this incredible dog who saved his friend. But let's not let a dog show us up! Be someone's hero today. It may just be a hug, a smile, a helping hand, a prayer with someone in distress...I know that my blogs have said this stuff before, but it needs to be said again. Look for ways to bless someone who doesn't expect a blessing today. It is the paint that will color your world and theirs. It is God's hand extended to someone who doesn't yet know Him. Plant a seed. You may not ever get to see the harvest, but you will have begun something that will grow into a mighty oak for someone who may otherwise never have the ability to see Him without you.

And here's that video of the dog hero. Watch it, and commit to being someone else's hero today.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Is. 61:1-3