Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year





A little encouragement for all of us as we usher in 2013. 

This verse reminds me of a wonderful song called Press On by Selah. 
If you haven't heard this song, I've included a link to the YouTube song.

Blessings to you all in this coming year.


Friday, December 28, 2012

In Retrospect

On my blogs in the past I have usually dedicated the year-end posts to looking back at what the most popular articles have been. It's a great idea to look back and find out what story was clicked on the most. However, I don't feel the need to do that this year. First of all, I already have a little blogger widget in the right-hand column which shows the top 5 posts. It's there all the time for anyone to see. Second, I don't do typical blog things here. I try to allow the Holy Spirit to lead me in what to write about and when to write. I don't stick to a rigid writing schedule and I'm not trying to follow all the "rules" in order to make this a successful blog. Whether I have 3 or 300 readers makes no difference to me. I write for whoever the Lord leads to read this blog.

I started this blog in April of this year after spending a few years blogging for another site. This blog is more personal and is an outgrowth of my spiritual journey. As I grapple with issues and absorb what the Lord teaches me, I try to share the things that are on my heart. Personally, this year has been a strange mix of events and I've spent some time today reflecting on them. I'm still trying to make some sense of it all. As I was driving home from an appointment, I was listening to the radio and heard a song by Casting Crowns that I had never heard before. God wanted me to hear it. The song was called Already There. The lyrics to the song really helped me remember that even though all sorts of random events may be occurring, God sees them all as a memory. He's already there at the end of my life looking at it from that perspective and everything makes sense. From my perspective, nothing seems to make sense and I'm always looking for answers. God has a different perspective than we do and, unlike me, is not bound by time (minutes, hours, days, weeks, years). 

I decided to look up the song on YouTube. The first thing I found was not the official song but a short video from the artist explaining the meaning behind the song. I loved watching this video and want to share it with you here. If you are struggling to make sense of events in your life, watch this short video and then listen to the actual song. Remember that God is always in control and He knows what you are going through because He's already there seeing your life in retrospect.
   
 


 
Casting Crowns: behind the song "Already There"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Three On Thursday: Purpose

With all the Christmas plans and time off work this week, I'm a little out of my routine. I haven't done a Three on Thursday post in a while, so here are some notes I took after listening to Tony Evans speaking about a Christian's life having purpose.

  1. A Christian's purpose in life is to glorify God and advance His kingdom. If you are fulfilling God's purposes, people will be impacted. If others are not being impacted by you, then you are merely existing. 
  2. Your purpose will always involve your passion. What are you passionate about? If you aren't sure what your purpose is, take a look at what you are passionate about. 
  3. All believers have been gifted with a divine capacity to serve God and be used for the kingdom. God will use our experiences (the good and the bad), our personality (uniqueness), and our gifts--if we make ourselves available.
May we all strive to find and fullfil our kingdom purpose and be like David as described in Acts 13:22

...‘I have found David the son of Jesse,  
a man after My heart, who will do all My will.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Light of the World

Son of God love's pure light.

I was reflecting on the lyrics to Silent Night today as I heard an instrumental version being played. This particular line from the third verse of the song may not be as well known as the first verse, but it's packed full of hope and love.

Son of God
God came to earth in the fom of a baby, born in a humble location. 

Love
God came to earth all because of love.

Pure
Free from blemish, different than anything or anyone the world has ever known.

Light
Illumination for a dark world.

Jesus is Love's Pure Light

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; 
he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, 
but will have the Light of life.” - John 8:12

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, 
that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light 
 of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; 
and they will reign forever and ever. - Revelation 22:5


As we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, take some time to reflect on more than just a baby in a manger. The Light of the World was born in a humble stable and eventually sacrificed his life on a cross to take on the sins of a dark world. Let's personalize it: He took on my sins and your sins. That IS real LOVE. That is what Christmas is all about.

Blessings to you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Coasting Through Life?

Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) 
by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we
[firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult
 in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.
Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph
in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that 
pressure and affliction and hardship 
produce patient and unswerving endurance.
And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character
(approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] 
produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Romans 5:2-4  Amplified Bible (AMP)

I used this AMP translation because of the built-in definitions for illustration.


Suffering produces patience.
Patience produces character.
Character produces hope.

After I read this verse I realized how absolutely true it is. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my mind. That's always how it is when God reveals something to me through scripture. I may have read it before and just glossed right over it. However, this time something about it really resonated with me. I've seen this process unfold in my life over the past year. The pressure put on my life through circumstances produced patience, character, and hope.


It's natural to try and resist pressure. It's uncomfortable. Let's avoid it at all costs. It's much easier to just coast through life. I don't like conflict! But what does coasting produce in my life? Nothing of lasting value. Please don't think I'm talking about rest when I mention coasting. Rest is valuable and necessary. God brings us to places of rest at certain times in our life (Psalm 23:2-3). Coasting means to slide down an incline through the effect of gravity and/or move aimlessly with little effort. Coasting seems to produce spoiled childlike (immature, soft) characteristics. Have you ever been around someone who was spoiled and catered to? Everything seems to be have handed to them with no effort on their part at all. [My mind immediately goes to Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie!] Nobody likes to be around people like that for very long.

Spiritually speaking, coasting through life doesn't make for a mature Christian. One of the purposes of a Christian is to be more Christ-like. To remain immature and be aimless--never experiencing hardships--does not accomplish Christlikeness. A little effort produces stronger faith muscles for endurance. While it seems counterintuitive to rejoice in suffering and hardships, Paul tells us that God is accomplishing great things within us. It's all for His glory and to further His kingdom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wordy Wednesday



Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, 
for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. 
And the sea was also gone.  

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, 
coming down from God out of heaven 
like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! 
He will live with them, and they will be his people. 

God himself will be with them.He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

- Revelation 21:1-4

I can't wait for that day... 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adversity: Major Trouble

I’ve been working on this particular post for several weeks while I processed the things I studied and tried to put things together in my mind. I had this post just about done when this horrible, tragic mass shooting occurred in Connecticut a few days ago. I was thinking of postponing this article but realized that there’s always going to be something adverse going on in our lives or in this world. So, for what it’s worth, this week’s article is about adversity which was written about the life difficulties we experience. It's not meant to address this unexplainable tragedy, so please keep that in mind as you read.



One thing is certain in this life: We will have adversity. Call it what you will—trouble, trials, challenges—everyone experiences them. If you are not experiencing adversity now, maybe you’re just getting past a bad time or about to head into it. The Bible teaches us that we will have trouble in this world.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. - James 1:2-3
 
So I wonder why we’re always surprised (me included) when adversity comes our way?

Adversity comes into our lives from a variety of reasons. It could be caused by unwise choices that we’ve made, other people may do something to cause it, Satan may be the source, or God may have allowed adversity into our lives. However, if we think of adversity as a tool, we might have a different perspective on it—a God perspective. 

Imagine a gardener working in a flowerbed. The tools used to dig up and rake the ground loosen the packed soil to make it receptive to the new seeds. All of the useless matter is pushed away—dead leaves, roots from dead plants, weeds. What’s left after all that digging is the prepared soil. With careful attention and watering, a few seeds will produce a plant which will grow and bloom.

God uses adversity in our lives to for reasons such as: producing endurance, to test our faith and devotion to Christ, to purify and equip us, and to show us His greatness and love for us.

What it boils down to is this…

Adversity serves a bigger purpose--a Kingdom purpose.

We may think that annoying neighbor down the street who complains about everything serves no purpose except to upset the delicate neighborhood ecosystem. But, it does produce patience in us. It also reveals—shines light on—those hidden thoughts in us that we’ll just call “unloving.”

Another type of adversity we may encounter is when we are waiting on answers to prayer. A delay in fulfilling our desires may be more important to God, serving a purpose to prepare us. In that way, it produces a form of adversity. Paul was an example of this. His “thorn in the flesh” was a desire to he wished to have removed. He asked God to have it removed but that desire went unfulfilled. Although nobody knows for certain what this thorn in the flesh was, I’m sure it was something that caused Paul enough concern that he actually mentioned it in his letters. He had a legitimate desire to have that “thing” removed. Paul also spent a lot of time in prisons and fearing for his life. Even so, God chose to use those hard places in Paul’s life to advance His Kingdom and to teach Paul things that could not be learned any other way.

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling says, "In the darkness of adversity, you are able to see more clearly the radiance of My (God’s) Face." This is so true. If God really is light, then His light will shine during those dark times. And we know from Scripture that God is light. In John 8:12, Jesus describes himself as “the light of the world.”

I know this is true in my own life. Adversity has produced fruit in my life that may not have come about any other way. I have seen God’s light in the midst of those dark times and I have felt His comfort during those times I felt I could not go on. I’ve called out to God and He rescued me many, many times. God is always faithful to answer.

Then call on me when you are in trouble,
    and I will rescue you,
    and you will give me glory.” Psalm 50:15


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blessed Beyond Measure

Last night God orchestrated such a blessing in my life. I was able to attend the Toby Mac - Hits Deep Tour in Nashville. A friend texted me about four hours before the concert and said that they had an extra ticket--in a luxury box, no less. Did I want to come?


Absolutely!! It sounded like fun and I like a lot of Toby Mac's music. I had no idea who else was scheduled to sing and was surprised when I found out who else would be there. When I finally learned of the other artists in attendance, I was amazed! My friend didn't know that God has been using the music of these artists to minister to me this year. Seven of the songs performed at the concert by the various artists were already on my Favorites Play List! Some of my favorite songs performed were:
  • Stronger, Good Morning, and Shackles by Mandisa
  • Hold On and Me Without You by Toby Mac
  • He Said by Group 1 Crew
  • Center of It by Chris August
Toby Mac

Brandon Heath

Mandisa
Several times as I was enjoying the concert, I just marveled at how God brought all that together as a gift for me. I rarely attend concerts like this so it truly was a blessing to go and to hear so many of my favorite songs!

Thank you, Lord! {blowing kisses your way}

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wordy Wednesday



Some great words of advice, especially during this busy Christmas season...


Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. 
Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 
Love each other with genuine affection, 
     and take delight in honoring each other.  
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  
Rejoice in our confident hope. 
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. 
Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
- Romans 12: 9-12


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Expectations and Prayer

I recently wrote a post about Expectations.The main focus of that article was having the proper view of our expectations--a reality check. Interestingly--and I'm sure not coincidentally--I heard a couple of sermons from two different pastors talking about expectations from another perspective: Prayer.

This is an area in which the Lord has been teaching me the past few months. I have this tendency to only bring really big stuff to the Lord in prayer and try not to "bother" God with too many personal requests. Anyone else ever feel like that? I pray for others' needs while pushing my own needs off to the side. I may bring up a request every once in a while and meekly ask God if He might--when He has time--answer it? Then I would be afraid that if I ask for something too much it might come across as demanding or pushy.





So the Lord laid on my heart a few months ago that I should begin to pray fervently for a specific request I have. I should boldly and regularly ask God for an answer to this prayer request. I'll be honest...it's not easy. I suppose it has something to do with my upbringing of being trained to not "beg" for things. However, this fervent prayer is a learning process which has a purpose. 


Let me tie all of this together now: Expectations and Prayer. Acts 3:1-10 is about Peter and John healing the lame begger. This begger was blind from birth and he was carried down to the temple each day where begged for money to live. The beggar saw Peter and John and asked for money. What the lame man really needed was a pair of good legs. But, the begger kept asking for money. 

But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. 
But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of 
Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand 
and helped him up. And as he did, 
the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened.  
He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! 
Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, 
he went into the Temple with them.
All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God.  
When they realized he was the lame beggar 
they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, 
they were absolutely astounded!
Acts 3:4-10

You see, the begger had a real need but he didn't ask for what he really needed. He just kept doing what he always did--begging for money. Granted, he did need money but his real problem was his legs. It appears the begger was setting his expectations too low. The Apostles saw what his real need was.

Obviously, God doesn't need for us to ask for what we want because he already knows. Prayer is not for changing God's mind, it's for us. In my own situation, praying fervently is another way of building this faith relationship between me and God. The loving Father wants his daughter to come to Him with anything that concerns her. My expectations should be focused on God. My heavenly Father created the universe in six days so I know that no problem or request is too big--or too small--for Him to handle.

Charles Stanley once said about prayer that, "God will stir our hearts to pray when it's His will (for us to pray)." If it's not God's will for me to pray about a particular request, He will let me know. There may come a time when it's time to stop praying and do something or to lay aside that request. 

Luke 18 is the parable of the persistent widow which is a great example of prayer. And this verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says...

Pray without ceasing.

This just scratches the surface on this topic of prayer. But I rather like the idea of setting my expectations high--on God--and laying my requests before Him. I may not always get the answer I want or expect, but I can confidently ask and trust God with the outcome.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wordy Wednesday



Genesis 17:7-8; 15-16

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”



Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”


And from this covenant began a line that would one day bring forth a Savior (Matthew 1:1-2).


Monday, December 3, 2012

Expectations



We all have expectations. Charles Dickens even wrote a novel on the subject which he titled Great Expectations. That novel was about the expectations of a young boy and his hope of achieving something greater in life.

There are ordinary expectations that we all have such as, turning on a light switch and expecting that there will be light. If someone sits in a chair, there is a expectation to believe it will hold that person up. Or you might have an expectation that someone will remember your birthday. Those are all reasonable expectations. In other words, you have every reason to believe that these things will come to pass barring any unforeseen circumstance. Light bulbs occasionally burn out, chairs sometimes break, and people may forget your birthday. But, you can be pretty optimistic that all of these expectations will be met.

Then there is something called False Expectations. I did a little Internet research on this phrase to see what would come up. I found a few random definitions:
Expecting more than you will actually get. 
Unrealistic expectations.

A few examples of unrealistic or false expectations might be expecting mustard to come out of a catsup bottle, having a toddler who will never get messy, or that the Chicago Cubs might actually win a World Series. (Okay, just injecting a little good-natured humor here.) Having these types of expectations will set someone up for disappointment.

Interestingly, when I was researching this topic, I came across a curious acronym:

False Expectations About Reality = FEAR.

I haven't had time to ponder this acronym, but I suppose false expectations could indeed produce fear in addition to disappointment.

Finally, there are Unmet Expectations. In my opinion, these fall somewhere between realistic and false expectations. They are the type of expectations that are often realistic but remain unfulfilled. Examples of this type of expectation would be the hope of landing a job after months of searching, the hope of healing after an illness, or the hope of marriage or family.

From a spiritual standpoint, these false and/or unmet expectations can produce...
     storms (inner turmoil)
          faith that wavers
               doubt
                    discouragement.

This especially happens when we put all our hopes and dreams into a particular outcome, praying over something and not seeing any results. Putting all our hopes into a particular outcome like this can cause faith to waver. When we don't see the answer we are expecting, it throws us off kilter.

I like this quote from Cheri Hill, author of Waiting On God. "Our false expectations can create a storm in and of itself. When life doesn't happen just as we think it should, the winds start roaring and the storm clouds look ferocious. Our faith can begin to fail amidst the overwhelming atmosphere of doubt and despair."

There are a few problems with this type of scenario.
  1. Our hopes should never be pinned on a particular outcome. Our hope should always be directed to the Lord. That doesn't mean we can't hope for or pray for something to come to pass, but ultimately we must remember God is sovereign. This is presuming that what's being hoped for is something that is not against biblical principles.
  2. We must trust God with our hopes and expectations even to the point of surrendering them. This is NOT easy to do. But this is a place where God wants us to be--a place of rest and trust in Him. It's also a place where He wants to teach us and grow our faith.
I wish I could say that I have this all figured out, but the truth is I struggle with these issues. I am in good company, though. The Apostle Paul asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh many times but never had that prayer answered. He did learn to accept it. David was anointed King and then had to run for his life for more than ten years. The Psalms are full of his prayers asking for God's help. After being anointed King, one would have a realistic expectation that being hunted down was not part of that plan--right?

It all seems to serve a greater purpose than we can understand. Even in the unmet expectations, God can have a purpose that we may not understand this side of heaven. That takes us back to God's sovereignty. God's able to see the whole enchilada. Whereas we can only see situations from our little microscope. We just have to continually pray and ask God to show us if our expectations are realistic, then take a deep breath and trust God with all our expectations.

Have you struggled with this issue? What has helped you?