Friday, June 5, 2009

Growing in the Desert

It's the end of August and I have not posted a blog entry all summer! It's time to get back into a schedule of some sort. Vacations, summer schedules, and a general desire to be outside instead of in front of a computer, I must admit, have kept me away. I've missed writing and putting words and thoughts in black and white, so here I am, back plucking away at the keyboard. Here are a few thoughts to get back into the swing of things...

18Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. 19Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:18-19

Have you ever felt like you've been doing the same thing forever, with no change in sight? Do you have dreams that you desire to see come to life, but they seem more distant than ever?

In worship this past Sunday night we were singing a song by John Mark McMillan called 'How He Loves Us' when one of the lines really hit home.

"All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me. Oh, how He loves us..."

That is the thing that gets me through. Remembering how God loves me. Spending time in His presence brings light to our issues, hope in our darkness, water in our dry place. Spending time in God's presence allows Him to speak to us about the things He is doing. He is always working on our behalf. He is always moving to make our path straight. As we follow, as we allow ourselves to be formed into His image, even when we don't feel like things are changing, we can rely on His word that they are. We can rely on His word that He is doing a new thing.

There is going to come a time that we are going to realize that something has changed. Sometimes it's a suddenly. Sometimes we just suddenly realize that things are different. So that's where I am right now, trusting, hoping, waiting to see that new thing springing forth. Promises becoming reality. It's not easy to not look back, to not remember the way things have been. It's not easy to keep looking forward. But giving into fear is not an option. Looking forward to what God is doing, lining every area of our lives with hope. That's where I choose to be. That's the direction I'm growing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beautiful Praise, Beautiful Life

"Praise is beautiful, praise is lovely, praise is lifting Jesus up..."
This is the chorus to my favorite worship song right now. It's from Suzy Wills Yaraei's CD entitled "Praise is Beautiful." Part of the reason it is my favorite right now is because it reminds me of what our focus is supposed to be in life, and it caused me to reflect on what beauty is and how we become beautiful, and remain beautiful.

Sometimes I don't feel very beautiful. I've felt like my attitude has stunk. I've been easily irritated by people. I can try to hide it, but I'm sure it comes through in my actions. If someone had looked at my life at those times, I don't think they would have thought of God unless it was in the context "God, help her!" We all go through seasons, times when we forget that our lives are supposed to be lived with God in the center instead of ourselves.

In Psalms it instructs us - "Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises
to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful
." Psalm 147:1
Offering praise can be a sacrifice when we don't feel very beautiful, we don't feel like anything beautiful can come from us. But that's the thing about praise - it's not about who we are, it's about who God is. It's so freeing to realize that, it's so freeing once I begin to praise. Once we begin to praise, that beauty reflects into our lives, it changes us.

If praise is beautiful, then when we live our lives as a praise until the Lord our lives will be beautiful. How do we do that, what constitutes living our lives out as a praise unto the Lord? It's not as simple or one dimensional as it might sound at first. As we live our lives there are so many things involved - emotions, attitudes, actions, reactions, what we allow to come out of our mouths, what we allow into our ears and eyes... the list could go on.

Just as we look into a mirror for our reflection, when we look into God's word and learn His character we can see what our lives and character should look like. Are the things we're doing, looking at, saying, or writing giving praise to God? I'm still working on living a life of praise, but I do know one thing - it is worth the effort!

Living a life of praise brings us peace, it brings us solace in hard times, and it brings us joy. You may think this is crazy, but I smile the most when I'm praising my God. When we praise, the presence of God washes over us and transforms us. There's nothing more wonderful, nothing more beautiful, and the more I can incorporate that into every part of my life the more beautiful my life will be.

My prayer is: Holy Spirit, help me to live my life as a praise, help me to quickly recognize attitudes, mindsets, and actions that are not pleasing. I desire a life that gives praise to my Creator, that causes others to want to know the God of all creation. Thank you Jesus for making a way for me to come into intimate relationship, I don't ever want to take that for granted. May my life be a living praise, a beautiful praise to You. Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heart Condition

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: "O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan--that fine hill country and Lebanon." But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. "That is enough," the LORD said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." -Deuteronomy 3:23-26

Moses had quite the responsibility set before him when God asked him to lead the people out of Egypt. Not only did he have to confront Pharaoh, but he had to basically govern, care for and lead hundreds of thousands of people through the desert! These people were used to living in a place where they knew how to get the basic necessities for life. They were slaves, but they had grown accustomed to that life. Moses was extremely long-suffering if you ask me. When I read the accounts of the people going across the desert I just want to yell - suck it up people!

I've often thought about the fact that Moses did all of this and yet still missed out on entering into the promised land. I was rereading the story recently and it stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Remember the rock at Meribah? The Israelites were in need of water again, this time the story went like this...

"Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink." So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." -Numbers 20:6-12

God spoke to Moses and told him to speak to the rock and water would come forth. Moses was so frustrated with the people that he struck the rock instead. I believe after reading these passages recently that it was not merely the act, but the heart condition. Moses never repents to the Lord for his disobedience. In fact, at three different times he blames the people for God's anger with him:

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, "You shall not enter it, either" - Deuteronomy 1:37
"The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance." -Deuteronomy 4:21

The Lord desires a humbleness of heart. He desires a true repentance in us. Why do we discipline a child? It is to make them realize they were wrong. The purpose is to bring about a change of heart. Moses never admitted that he had sinned. You see, God had spoken directly to Moses and told him what to do, not the people. The people did not make Moses strike the rock instead of speak to it. Even when Moses died, he was still strong, still full of life, there was no reason for his death other than the fact that he would not repent.

What really brought this home for me is the contrast with King David. David just built sin upon sin when he not only slept with Bathsheba, tried to cover it up in bringing her husband back, but then had her husband killed when out of duty he would not sleep with his wife. When Nathan came to David to confront him, he could have blamed his actions on any number of things - on the audacity of Bathsheba to bathe on the roof, on her flaunting her beauty, on her coming when he called. Here was David's response...

"So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." 2 Samuel 12:13

David repented, he was truly sorry for what he had done. He did not look to someone else to lay blame. He did not place his shortfall on someone else. He said simply, 'I'm sorry.' If Moses had simply done that, it makes me wonder if he would have lived to step foot into the promised land.

As humans we are going to make mistakes. Sometimes it's out of not knowing any better, sometimes we're just downright disobedient to what we know we're supposed to do. Sometimes we shirk responsibilities. Whatever the sin, whatever the the situation, God is looking at the condition of our heart. God is looking for a heart change.

There was a time I found myself doing this - always blaming a mistake on someone else. One day the Holy Spirit caused me to hear myself and take note each time I did it. I realized there was a problem with my heart's condition. I was not willing to admit that I was wrong, not truly, because my wrong was always caused by someone else.

I would challenge you to take some time and reflect on your life and how you respond to criticism or being called out for doing something wrong. Do you always look to a reason outside yourself for why the wrong was done, or do you simply say, 'I'm sorry' and truly feel it in my heart. Go for the big things of God, go for the full promise. Look at what God is doing in the situation. What is He trying to work in you.

I had to consciously make an effort to realize what my heart condition was. I had to consciously make an effort to be repentant. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, He was faithful to keep it before me so that my heart could truly be changed.

Prayer: Lord, help me to quickly realize when I have sinned. Holy Spirit, soften my heart to sin so that I would not tolerate it. If there are things that I have done wrong and blamed someone else, not truly repenting, bring them to my remembrance that I can truly put it behind me. I desire to have clean hands and a pure heart. My desire is to fulfill the plans and purposes that you have for me. I do not want pride to get in the way, to disqualify me to step into the promised things. Thank you for your faithfulness, even when I am unfaithful. Amen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Remember Who Our Enemies Are...

"A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT

As a woman, when I feel attacked, I find that I often react from emotion if I don't stop to think about how to respond to a situation - especially if it's a fellow Christian because they have no excuse and should know better. I would react to people as if they are attacking me personally. I have to remind myself of this scripture – ‘we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood...’ Just as I perceive that someone is attacking me, maybe they are acting this way because the enemy of our souls caused them to think I was attacking them. The enemy would like nothing better than to divide relationships.

This chapter in Ephesians goes on to talk about the armour of God, about His peace, protection, and how to stand strong. Then it extends the purpose of this exhortation in verses 18-19: "Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God's secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too." Paul is reminding us who our enemy is and how to stand strong against them because we are God's witness for sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. What better tool does the enemy have than to divide friends, to cause us to be alienated from those we come in contact with on a daily basis because we look at things only from this earthly perspective.

God's plan is for us to strengthen each other. His plan is for us to pray for each other, to do battle in the power of the Holy Spirit for each other. When we take offense, we probably aren't going to be praying with a pure heart for a brother or sister in Christ, if we pray for them at all. We must cause ourselves to REMEMBER that our enemies are the devil and his angels as it says in the The Message version, not the flesh and blood people we come into contact with every day. When we remember this, we can pray with effectiveness. We can pray for others because we are fighting a battle for them, not against them.

I wrote a few weeks ago about knowing who our friends are as we head off to war. In a war we have to also know who we are fighting or we will never win. Jesus came to earth and died so that we would win, He already paid the price and the end of the book has been written. We win the war, we just have to remember who we're fighting and not attack our fellow warriors in the process.
Father, help me to fight the good fight of faith, walking
in the power of Your Spirit. Continually remind me of the blessings You've given
me in relationships, bring to my remembrance those you would have me to pray for, and help me to forget the wrongs done knowing that my enemy is not flesh and blood. Let me see through Your eyes, and pray with Your heart. I desire to be a witness for You, not a hindrance to others' relationship with you. I will
walk in the full armour of God, Your peace, Your truth, the faith You give, and
stand in the salvation that comes only through You. Bless those I am in
relationship with and let us be a light for you. In Jesus' Name,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Keep Dreaming the Dream

"For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay" Habakkuk 2:3 NIV

Who among us has not believed God has promised us something but it didn't come in our timing? Was it the perfect job? The spouse we longed for? The child we seemingly would never conceive? As I was reading Habakkuk 2:3 it made me think about how I question God's faithfulness to complete what He has promised. I even begin to view His promises as impossible or past the point of being capable of fulfillment.

Think of Jacob, and the years that he believed Joseph was dead. God had promised him that 12 nations would be born from him, but then he seemingly was reduced to 11 sons. Joseph, the first-born of his beloved wife Rachel, had perished and with him the dream that the vision God had given could be fulfilled. God had forgotten him. God had not deemed him worthy to fulfill the promise given to him.

Isn't that how we feel when things don't work out the way we believe they should? Our thought process goes through a litany of questions and possibilities: 'Was the promise from God in the first place? Did I do something to lose the promise, did I prove myself unworthy? Did I miss the promise and now it's gone forever?' Then our thoughts move on to things like: 'I feel so stupid for thinking I could accomplish that. I could never be in that position. That would never happen for me.' How many times have these thoughts swirled around in your head when things didn't work out in the time frame we believed they should? I know I have gone there.

"For the revelation awaits an appointed time, it speaks of the end and will not prove false.' This verse reminds me that it is God who is faithful to the vision He has given me. Jacob waited about 22 years before finding out that Joseph was really alive and that all the time God was positioning things for the success of the vision HE had given. God was working behind the scenes, moving things into position so that success and life would flow from the fulfilled vision.

I must remind myself often that the dreams God gives are not solely dependant on my abilities. God has created me for a purpose, HE has given me dreams, HE created me to live out those dreams. When I dwell on what has not come to pass I begin to not live life to the fullest. I forget the joy that goes along with the dream. I forget that it is HIM that makes me worthy. I forget that HE plans for me to succeed.

God's vision for my life will not prove false. I must remind myself that God has plans to prosper me, plans to give me a hope and a future. I must wait on the LORD, and I must keep seeing the dreams HE has given me. When I spend time in the King's presence my hope is renewed, my strength is renewed, and I realize that waiting on His perfect plan will be worth it all.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Monday, February 2, 2009

As You Head Off to the War...

"It started out as a feeling,
Which then grew into a hope,
Which then turned into a quiet thought,
Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
Til it was a battle cry
I'll come back when you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because everything's changing
Doesn't mean it's never
Been this way before
All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war "
- Regina Spektor, The Call

These lyrics from "The Call" are from the movie Prince Caspian. They made me think about the call that we have as Christians and the confidence we are given in our Saviour's faithfulness. Our faith is much like the progression in these lyrics, from the birth of hope to walking that hope out. We read God's word, we spend time in His presence, we feel His hope and our lives begin to radiate that hope. As we allow that hope to grow, our thoughts form to His and He plants seeds of faith, seeds of His purpose for our lives, seeds of life. As we allow those Godly thoughts to grow, as we hope in Him, we speak words of faith. Now once we come to the point of speaking out the Word of God, speaking words of faith, we are entering into war with the enemy.

Our words are powerful, our words can shape our lives and the lives of those around us for the better or for the worse. We can build up, or we can tear down. When we speak words of faith, those planted in us from God's word, from the heart of God, we are speaking out His destiny for our lives. Does your life ever feel like it's a battle? Mine does, especially when I set out to do the thing I believe the Lord is calling me to do. But it's that hope, that faith that resonates inside and propels me to push forward.

Who is with us as we go into this battle? We have to know that God is with us, all we have to do is say the word and He is there. He never leaves us or forsakes us. The second is that there are others heading out into this war with us. God gives us relationships that we are to nurture so that we build each other up and war for each other as we walk through this life. I am so thankful for the friends God has put into my life, we build each other up, when one is weary of the battle, another encourages and keeps our focus strong. We remind each other of where our hope lies, which is something we can forget if we isolate ourselves.

The life we are living is not mere coincidence - we have a call and a purpose. Recall those that have lived lives of faith before us, those who have had great impact in this world for the Kingdom of God, they lived lives of victory, but if they had victory, it means there was a contest to be won. Many times we only hear of accomplishments that people make in this life, but we have to realize that there was a journey toward those accomplishments. God gives us the tools to use, His word, His presence, relationships with each other. We are to use them all, we are to build each other up, we are to develop relationships - with God and with people. "All you can do is try to know who your friends are as you head off to the war..."

Our God is faithful. Our purpose is sure. Our victory is already won.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bridging the Gap

What is a bridge? The specific definition according to is:
1. a structure spanning and providing passage over a river, chasm, road, or the like.

2. a connecting, transitional, or intermediate route or phase between two adjacent elements, activities, conditions, or the like: Working at the hospital was a bridge between medical school and private practice 1

When we cross a bridge we do it one step at a time. A bridge doesn’t transport us immediately from one place to another, it provides a way, a support, for us to cross a chasm or body of water that is too deep or too treacherous for us to have crossed otherwise. Jesus Christ became the bridge for us to cross from being alone, without direction, without hope, without faith; to a place of healing, wholeness, purpose, love, and hope.

In this life as we cross this bridge, I believe we many times lose sight of the goal or direction He gives. There are people along the way telling us that Christ isn’t really all that He says He is. They tell us He is not full of grace, mercy, and love. The reality is He is not only full of love for us, He IS LOVE.

What they are trying to take from us is our hope; they try to take our expectation. One of greatest things we can lose is our expectation. Do you have an expectation about what God has in store for you? Has skepticism set in, bringing along with it an attitude of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it?’

You know the scenes in movies where someone is crossing a bridge, only to look down at the rushing river beneath them and get caught up in fear of what’s below rather than the stability of the bridge supporting them, making a way to their destination. When Christ is the ‘bridge’ we are standing on, we don’t have to worry about the turmoil, the churning tumultuous water swirling beneath us, but we can rely on and rest in Him. We do that by keeping our focus on Him, by keeping our mind stayed on Him.

We serve a God that has huge plans for our lives, and as Christians we need to open our hearts and minds to the greatness of God. We should have an expectation of walking into things that we would not have believed if someone had told us! Habakkuk 14:5 tells us to “look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it!”

Do you walk with that kind of expectation? Are you looking to be amazed? Are you looking to be blown away by the greatness of God? Are you looking to be astounded by what God wants to do through you?

Eph 1:18-20 says “ I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.19 I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe? Are there dreams in your life that you thought too big for you? Are there things in your life that you have put aside?
CS Lewis wrote in ‘The Weight of Glory’ the following passage that has stuck with me ever since I read it. “…if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak… like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

God has called us to live a life full of freedom, pursuing Him and the places He’s prepared for us. God has called us to a great adventure with Him we just need to continue taking steps forward toward that destination – toward that vision and dream.

How often do we settle because we are told that we need to be content with what we have? How often do we wallow where we are at in life because we are told that there is not anything more for us here? That is so far from the truth! The truth of God is that he desires for us to walk into wonderful things. To be a part of the things He is doing today in the world! He designed us to be in relationship with Him. Christ came to this earth and died so that a way would be made for relationship with the Father – a bridge.