Sunday, September 29, 2013

Keeping Our Eyes on God

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Wax On, Wax Off which was inspired by the original Karate Kid movie. As I was watching this movie, I discovered some interesting spiritual applications and wrote a post about it.

I didn't have time to watch the entire movie that night, but I recorded it on my DVR to watch later. I finally watched the rest of the movie, and was once again inspired by the words of Miyagi.

You see, Daniel was in training. Whether he realized it or not, all the hard work he was doing was giving him endurance and teaching him skills. Evenso, Miyagi had to continue to correct Daniel.

At this point in the movie, Miyagi finally shows Daniel how all the hard work he has done prepared him for what will come next.  Each chore--waxing the car, sanding the floor, and painting the fence--taught Daniel basic karate moves.

Then at the end of the first real karate lesson, Miyagi bowed. A stunned Daniel mirrored his teacher's move and bowed, however he looked down at the floor. Miyagi quickly grabbed Daniel's face, he pointed to his own eyes and said, "Always look eye."

This isn't a perfect analogy, however it did bring to mind that I should always keep my eye on my Teacher (God) and His path for me. It also reminds me of Solomon's wise advice to his son in Proverbs 4:25-27...

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Give What You Have

I was reading this VERY FAMILIAR Bible story last week. Some Bible stories are so familiar to us that we have a tendency rush through them with the "been there, done that" mentality. Really, the feeding of 5,000 is one of those Bible stories we learn as children and hear over and over and over. It's a great story of a miracle, but often the focus of the story is about the miracle of Jesus.

For your reading pleasure, here's the account of this story from the passage I was reading. Go ahead, I'll wait until you're done...

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand - Matthew 14.13-21

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. 
But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot 
 from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, 
and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, 
and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go 
to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. 

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, 
and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, 
he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people.  

They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up
 twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day,
 in addition to all the women and children!

So, did you see anything new in this passage? When I was reading this story last week, I suddenly noticed something I hadn't seen before. I don't know if it was the translation I was reading (NLT), if it was the Matthew passage instead of another Gospel, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit teaching me. Perhaps all three!

Here's what jumped out at me while reading it this time...

The disciples had this extremely practical idea: Let the people go home before dark to eat. I'm sure the disciples were shocked when Jesus told them, "You feed them" (verse 16). I'm imagining the disciples were a bit puzzled by that response. They already knew they did not have enough food available to feed that many people. Jesus asks them to bring what they have.

Just bring what you already have...

What you already have is enough...

Whatever God is calling me to do, I have enough. Just bring it.

You and I may not feel we are fully prepared, fully trained, or fully funded, before setting out to do something the Lord has called us to do. I know I often feel woefully inadequate, but actually that's probably a better place to be because God gets the glory in whatever happens instead of me.

There may be times when we are fully prepared. But, more often than not, we may be called to give from our weakness--inadequate as it may be.

By bringing what we have, Jesus blesses it and multiplies it--for His glory. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recommended Resource for Singles

Another website I subscribe to recommended this short video and was intrigued by the title: Dealing With Disappointment When You're Single. Steve DeWitt recorded this video; he's a pastor and was single into his 40s. This guy knows what he's talking about. I truly appreciate where he's coming from and his sound, biblical advice in this video.
Click Here to watch Video

I also appreciated hearing Steve say, "Have you noticed the real "experts" on singleness are married people? They say things like, 'Surrender this to the Lord, because until you do God's not going to bring you a wife.'"

In other words, Jesus needs us to jump through certain hoops and follow these seven or ten steps before a mate will be given to a Christian. Huh??? I don't think so.

The "expert" advice we singles often get are from well-intentioned people who simply want to help, but sometimes they just don't get it. I remember being told once that I didn't market myself well. (Hellooo...I'm not a commodity.)

I think this is a good reminder to all of us--me included--that we can't hand out advice like Tic-Tacs. If we really don't know the answer, say so. Let's be careful not to make something up to fill the silence. Sometimes people just want to be heard--to know that someone understands. But, I digress... 

Ultimately, if we have Christ, we have all that we need. Watch this short vlog on the subject of Dealing With Disappointment When You're Single.

(in)Joy! -- Encouragement for Single Women 

Join me at (in)Joy! an online community of single, professional women who desire to grow in God's truth and discover what it means to daily find our joy in Him.

I will be co-leading the group this session as we do a book study, share prayer requests, and encourage each other. This group is part of the (in)courage community of women who meet on Facebook. I joined this group one year ago as a participant and enjoyed having like-minded women to communicate with on a regular basis. It's been interesting to see how God has opened the door for me to go from being a regular member to now leading this group.

Groups will be limited to 30 participants. The Fall session begins September 23rd, 2013. Please register today at (in)Joy!  Hope to see you there!!

P.S. If you're not a single, professional woman, no worries!  (in)courage has 70 different groups of women with common interests such as creative writing, empty-nesters, stay-at-home moms, and support groups for caregivers. Check all the groups out today!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wax On, Wax Off

I was watching the 1984 version of The Karate Kid and a spiritual analogy came to mind. Daniel wants to learn to defend himself so he asks Mr. Miyagi to train him in karate. Miyagi finally agrees as long as Daniel agrees not to ask any questions. "No questions," says Miyagi.
"Wax on, wax off" Karate Kid 1984.

Daniel shows up ready for his first karate training session and ends up washing cars instead. This is where that famous "wax on, wax off" scene happens. Daniel is a bit confused, but follows orders. He's trusting Miyagi will get around to the real karate training eventually.

The next day Daniel shows up and is shown how to "sand the floor" which he proceeds to spend the entire day doing. This process continues day after day with similar chores of "paint the fence" and "paint the house." By this time, a very patient Daniel is finally getting worn out, frustrated, feeling used, and is ready to go back on his promise of "no questions."

Daniel gets angry with Miyagi and is ready to give up and walk away. Miyagi says, "Ah, not everything is as seems."

What Daniel did not understand was that all the chores he was doing which seemed like busywork, was really his training. During this time Daniel was learning to trust his teacher, he was learning to focus, he was building up strength and skills in his arms. Miyagi's method of teaching was vastly different than the training the other boys at the dojo were getting.

Have you picked up on the spiritual analogy already? Sometimes we ask God for something--a ministry, a new job, a family--and then we find ourselves a million miles away from what we had in mind. Now, we'll assume that whatever we've prayed for is something good, legal, moral, and fits in God's overall plan for our lives. If that's true then it's entirely possible that God will give us that ministry, job, family at some point in the future. However, while we may think we're ready to tackle that dream now, God knows better so He puts us through some training.

In this training time God asks us to trust Him implicitly. We must rest our faith in whatever God is asking us to do right now. And, unlike Miyagi, God doesn't mind if we ask questions (and He's patient when we do!).

We may be waxing cars or painting fences and somehow all of that just may translate into an answer to our prayers later. Ah, not everything is as seems.

Hmmm. Just something to ponder next time we feel as if what we're doing now doesn't really matter.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. ~ 2 Corinthians 5.7

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Forgetting Can Get Us Into Trouble

They say an elephant never forgets.
I've been reading through the book of Deuteronomy lately. I know... Visions of page after page of Do's and Don'ts are probably dancing around your head about now. Truthfully, there are a lot of those. They might not seem important to us now, but they were very important instructions for the Israelites. And there is always something for us to learn by reading these records.

You see, the Israelites had been in captivity by the Egyptians for many years. Then they were rescued and led to the Promised Land by Moses. They took quite a long time to finally get there. Time passes and things change, including their memories. So, before the Israelites were to go into this new land, God wanted to prepare them. Hence, all those lists of what to do and not to do.

During all those years away from their homeland--and even on the return trip--they forgot a few things. They forgot the many ways that God helped them.

I've also been reading through the Psalms and recently read this related passage:

Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea. -Ps. 106:7

The Psalm continues to tell the reader how God went ahead and rescued them anyway--miraculously. But... quickly they forgot what he had done! They wouldn’t wait for his counsel! -Ps. 106:13

Then the Psalmist reminds us that on their journey home, God was simply having them wait while Moses was being given the Ten Commandments, yet again...

They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt. -Ps. 106:21

If you keep reading this Psalm, you'll notice that this pattern continues. Before we start beating up on the Israelites, we'll extend a little grace. All of us have pretty short memories. Several months ago I wrote another post about the importance of Remembering. I've been guilty of forgetting too.

Their forgetfulness is what got them into trouble. They lost sight of what God had done for them in the past. So, they fell back into their old ways and they tried to rely on their own resources. They got a little scared and decided to build a golden calf.

Our forgetfulness can get us into trouble, too. We will fall back into old ways and habits to get us by in life. We'll use the world's wisdom to get answers. Maybe we don't build a giant golden calf, but when we get scared we use money to buy some comfort; we put our trust in a job or another person instead of God. This is especially true if we think God is being too slow to answer our prayers, so we'll "help God along" by manipulating circumstances.

The bright spot in all of this is what verse 44 of this chapter says: Even so...

Even so, God remembered his covenant with His people. (He did NOT forget.)
Even so, because of His unfailing love, God continued to save His people.

Yes, the Israelites still experienced the consequences of their sin. That applies to us as well.

Forgetting the past can get us into trouble. So, it behooves us to remember how God intervenes on our behalf, even in all those little ways that we may dismiss as happenstance.

Another point to not gloss over here is that God keeps His promises and God loves His people--unconditionally. That truth extends to us as well. Isn't that great!

Because I have a short memory, I've taken to recording some of these things in a journal. It's amazing when I go back and read about some of the things God has done on my behalf and I'll think to myself, I forgot about that!

Preserve these memories for yourself and for the next generation. The next time you face a difficult decision or situation, go back and remind yourself of what God has done before.