Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2012

Breathe in this truth, long and deep:  God delights in you.

“That’s impossible,” you may say.  “I can be downright self-centered, lazy, and prideful.  Some days I can’t seem to do anything right.  How could God possibly be pleased with me?”  (I am quite familiar with this train of thought myself!)

Listen carefully.  “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

e3665bf15363d761c7aca27cd64ad53d

Fear, in this case, does not refer to terror.  Fear refers to these attitudes:

  • reverence
  • trust
  • respect
  • awe
  • consideration
  • appreciation

The second half of that verse makes clear that God rejoices in those who turn to him with faith.

If those terms describe your heart, then the following statements are true of you:

He smiles upon you as you express appreciation for his blessings.

His eyes glisten with love as you pray for guidance and strength.

He revels in the time you spend immersed in his Word.

His heart fills with joy as you exult in creation.

He beams with pleasure when you help a stranger.

He rejoices when your heart is filled with peace and joy.

Yes, there are going to be moments when we stumble back into selfishness and pride.  We’re not perfect—at least I’m not.  But hallelujah!   God does not leave it up to us to work through the perfecting-process alone.

Consider this good news the writer of Hebrews shared:  “May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Wow.  God not only makes clear what pleases him, he works in our hearts and minds to mold us into those kind of people.

Meanwhile, I think he takes great pleasure in progress, just like human parents do.

You know how it is.  Mom and Dad practically shiver with excitement when their little tyke takes his first step and speaks his first word.

baby walking with mother small

But did they leave their little one to learn these skills on his own?  Hardly.  With loving attention they held the little guy upright so he could practice taking steps.  They repeated words countless times until their toddler could form them on his own.

Now relate this situation to our Heavenly Father.  Isn’t it probable he experiences the same joy as we take faltering steps toward spiritual maturity?  And he’s not leaving us alone to find our own way.  He’s equipping us and working in us all along the way.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Lord, for being a gracious God who actually delights in his children.  Thank you for loving us in spite of our failings and for smiling upon our efforts, meager as they may be.  Our hearts are filled with awe and gratitude to realize you, the ultimate, all-powerful King of the universe, not only care about each step of progress we make, you are right beside us.  You are magnificent—I can never praise you enough!

(Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.bsna.co.uk.)

 

Read Full Post »

1119-hand-of-god

See if this sounds familiar:  You’re reading along in the Bible when you come upon a phrase you’ve seen before, maybe even many times.  But suddenly the realization dawns.  You don’t really know what that phrase means.

That was my experience as I read this verse:  “I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).  Can you pick out the two words that caught my attention?  Right hand.  I had to wonder, what is so significant about God’s right hand?

After a bit of research, here is what I discovered.

1) In Bible times, the position to the right was considered a place of honor.  This concept is seen at its finest in Hebrews 1:3 where Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  But according to Psalm 16:8 (above), he is in the place of honor in my life and yours.  With our reverence and obedience we can demonstrate our honor of him.

2) If a man has God at his right hand, it means God’s shield is next to him.  God’s sword arm is free to deal with the enemy.  Visualize yourself walking behind that impenetrable shield.  And in his right hand, God wields His sword, ready to strike down the enemy—Satan and his demons.  “He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him” (Psalm 109:31).  I love that visualization of God on the offensive for us.

3) A bride stands with the groom on her right, symbolizing the groom’s protection.  The Lord Jesus is our Bridegroom and we, his church, are the bride (Revelation 21:1-3).  David proclaimed God’s protective right hand in Psalm 17:7.  “You…save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes,” he said.  God is our undefeated defense.

4) For many of us the right side of our bodies is stronger than the left.  Perhaps David had that idea in mind when he wrote, “Your right hand sustains me” (Psalm 18:35b).  And what does sustain mean?  Uphold, encourage, and affirm.   Imagine God’s right hand upholding you—day in and day out.  Just the warmth and strength flowing from his touch has the power to encourage and affirm.

5) In addition to extra strength on the right, most of us have extra dexterity in our right hands.  We use that hand for writing, drawing, cutting, and other such tasks.  Any good handwork is accomplished with that dominant hand.  So what comes from God’s right hand?  The psalmist proclaimed:  “Your right hand is filled with righteousness,” (48:10).  Everything God does is good and morally correct.  He always gives his best to his work.

I thank you, Father, for the many times I have been protected, sustained, and blessed by your right hand.  If you never lifted your hand again on my behalf I would have no cause for complaint.  And yet you have promised us “eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11c).  I bow before you in wordless wonder.

(Photo credit:  sonfeld.wordpress.com.)

Read Full Post »

pray

Frequently we thank God for blessings already received:  our families and friends, the beauty of creation, material possessions, and circumstances which have turned out well.  Today in particular we joyfully celebrate God’s benevolence.

But in Psalm 7:17, David demonstrates a different kind of thanksgiving prayer.  He determines to praise God in spite of facing false accusations, slander, and injustice.

David says, “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the Lord Most High” (Psalm 7:17).

How can David be so positive in such dire circumstances?  You’ll find the answer in the middle of the verse:  “Because of his righteousness.”

And what does God’s righteousness include?

  • He abounds in love to all who call upon him (Psalm 86:5b).
  • He answers even before we call (Isaiah 65:24).
  • He’s an involved God–not one who watches from afar with impersonal detachment (Isaiah 41:10).
  • He’s always working to bring his plans to fulfillment (Psalm 33:4).
  • He brings good out of evil (Genesis 50:20), and victory out of defeat (1 Corinthians 15:57).

And that’s just a start.  In fact, the righteousness of our God is infinite, so such a list would never near completion.

To sum it up, we can be filled with thanksgiving and praise because our God acts and reacts rightly all the time.  Every time.  To every prayer.  Even the prayers to which he has responded…

…“Not now, dear one.”

Or…

…“No, my child.  For reasons beyond your understanding, I cannot grant that request.”

But what then?  How do we survive the pain?  The loneliness?  The unfairness of it all?

We cling to his righteousness.

Heavenly Father, even though there are many prayers for which I am awaiting answers, I thank you, Lord, for your righteousness.  Even though you have said, “No, that’s not part of my plan,” I thank You, Lord, for your righteousness.  You are righteous in all your ways, and loving toward all you have made.  You are near to all who call upon you.  My mouth will speak in praise of You (Psalm 145:17-18a, 21a).

 What aspect of God’s righteousness is ministering to you right now?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.

(Photo credit:  www.religionblog.dallasnews.com.)

Read Full Post »

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord (Psalm 89:15).

Ever watch a movie scene in slow motion and notice details you missed when the action was normal speed?  That same phenomenon applies when we slow down our reading to meditation-speed.  Especially scripture.  Latent truths begin to surface.

For example, let’s examine closely several phrases from the scripture above, to see what God would have us discover.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,” the psalmist asserts.  In other words, good things come to those who give enthusiastic approval to God.  What causes you to acclaim God?

My list would include:

  • a supportive, caring husband,
  • three grown children and their spouses, who are delightful company
  • a spunky four-year old granddaughter,
  • rainbows and sunbeams, clouds and surf,

,Waves breaking at Porto Covo, west coast of Po...

  • the way God engineers circumstances,
  • the way he comforts and strengthens.

If I put my mind to it, this list would surely grow very long.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you.”  Same clause; different emphasis.  Giving enthusiastic approval to God–frequently throughout the day–is a learned behavior.

How do we learn this discipline?  Certain cues would certainly help, much as ringing bells cued a certain reaction in Pavlov’s dogs.  I can develop the habit of acclaiming God at particular times of day:

  • during my quiet time in the morning,
  • when driving,
  • as I gaze out the window at clouds and sky while working at the kitchen sink,
  • while completing other household tasks,
  • as I drift off to sleep each night.

I want such moments to automatically trigger Praise Time.  Practice will make perfect.

Psalm 89:15 also asserts that blessings will come when I walk in the light of God’s presence.

Think of being in the company of a dearly loved person, just sitting in cozy silence, simply enjoying the precious gift of being together.  There’s no awkwardness in the absence of conversation, just a peaceful settledness.

That’s one aspect of walking in the light of God’s presence–to rest in the knowledge he is:

  • Beside me, providing support and encouragement,
  • Watching over me, providing protection,
  • In  me, providing strength and wisdom.

These provisions and more prove his presence.  His invisibility and inaudibility make him no less close.

Heavenly Father, my heart bubbles with gratitude.  I want to rejoice in you all day long, exclaiming over every one of your righteous acts. I want your majesty and splendor to be my focus; because you are the source and power behind everything good in my life (personal paraphrase of Psalm 89:16-17a).

What cues automatically trigger Praise Time in your life?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Read Full Post »

 

_71778550_tbphoto2originalgrundyphoto

 

“Faith is not believing in spite of evidence;

it’s obeying in spite of consequence.” 

Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy

 

I love quotes that succinctly express truth.  I love to get acquainted with the people who make these wise, memorable statements.  I hope you do, too.

Geoffrey was the son of a vicar who became a minister himself.  But soon after accepting his first appointment in Worcester, England in 1914, war was declared against Germany.

Studdert-Kennedy volunteered as an army chaplain, and served in the trenches along the Western Front.  He’d joke a bit with the soldiers, say a prayer with them, and pass out cigarettes.  Geoffrey was a chain smoker himself, especially fond of Woodbine cigarettes.  He soon became known as Woodbine Willie.  (Remember, this was long before anyone knew the health-risks associated with smoking.)

Studdert-Kennedy put his Christian faith to the supreme test at Mesines Ridge, 1917.  He ran out into no man’s land, that area between the trenches of the British/French forces, and those of the Germans.  Geoffrey tended to wounded and dying soldiers, even as bullets and bombs caused devastation and death around him.  His only weapons:  a wooden cross and prayer.  And whether the soldier in need of his care was English or German, he paid no attention.

Geoffrey had no foreknowledge or guarantee that his own life would be spared.  He simply obeyed the call upon his life to minister to the soldiers, in spite of the consequences.  For his heroism, the vicar earned the Military Cross.

One might expect Studdert-Kennedy to come home from the war and take it easy.  He had done more than his part.  But the hero went to work with the homeless and unemployed in the London slums.  Soon his nickname, Woodbine Willie, became loved and respected throughout the whole city. He was often a speaker at Industrial Christian Fellowship Crusades, introducing others to Jesus.

Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy more than lived up to his statement quoted at the beginning of this post.  In fact, he, along with many self-sacrificing men and women, seem to reside on pedestals so tall we can barely see them.  And I find myself wondering, Is there any hope I might someday demonstrate such faith—with the same courage and  passion as these saints?  I have such a long way to go…

 Help me, Lord, to be more obedient, to sacrifice more willingly, and serve You more diligently.  I want to be faith-filled–undistracted by the things of this world, focused on what will bring you glory.  Thank You for working in me, helping me want to obey You and then even helping me to choose Your way for my life (Philippians 2:13).

(Photo credit:  www.bbc.org.)

Read Full Post »

david_goliath_bible_hero_poster

 

 

If I asked a church group to name their favorite Bible story, David and Goliath would surely get several votes.  The classic plot of underdog-beats-bully appeals to most of us.  In addition, David provides a powerful example of faith in the face of fear.

This familiar story was the reading assignment during my Bible study one morning almost thirty years ago.  But a new lesson awaited me that day, and has impacted my life ever since.

Following the reading of 1 Samuel 17, the study guide asked:  “How did David’s past experiences of the Lord’s deliverance give him confidence to face the present challenge?”  The author was referring to the bears and lions David had defeated while caring for his father’s sheep (vs. 34-36).  Such experiences had prepared David to face Goliath with faith and courage.

Then came the clincher question:  “What practical lessons does this teach us about the value of remembering, and the importance of proving God’s presence and power in ordinary daily living?”

I could easily recall several outstanding experiences when God’s presence and power were definitely at work in my life.  But I knew there were many more which had slipped out the back door of my memory and were gone forever.

So I decided to begin writing down instances of God’s presence and power.  Then when Goliath-sized problems arose in my life, I could review those entries and build up my faith.

The first incident occurred that very afternoon.  I locked myself out of the house as Jeremy, our youngest, and I left to pick up his older brother and sister from school.  My pastor-husband, Steve, was attending a meeting forty-five minutes away and wouldn’t be home until late that night.  To make matters worse, dinner was simmering on the stove.  (Remember, this happened nearly thirty years ago, before cell phones.)

I did have the car keys so we drove to school and started to pray for God to help us.  Upon returning, I tried every door and window.  Nothing budged.  We went to a neighbor’s house.  I started to call several leaders from our church, hoping someone would have a parsonage key.

During the second or third call, who should pull up in the driveway but Steve!  His meeting had adjourned early.  With a few spare minutes on his way to another appointment, Steve thought he’d stop by to see the kids.  Our car in the neighbor’s driveway indicated where we were.

Now some folks would call that mere coincidence.  Not I.  That was a God-incidence, and it became the first entry in my Blessings Journal.  I concluded that record with this prayer: “Thank You, Lord, for this little miracle, for proving your power and presence to me the very day I determined to look for it.  You are a great and marvelous God, yet you cared for one forgetful mother with one small problem.

P.S.  That Blessings Journal now contains over 900 entries of remarkable gifts and events!

What indication of God’s presence and power have you experienced recently?

 

(art credit: http://www.livingfaithtogether.wordpress.com)

Read Full Post »

On the way to work one foggy morning, I spotted a small patch of bright colors peeking through the haze ahead.  How strange, I thought.  What could that possibly be? 

A few moments later the mystery was solved.  Wafting over a garbage can was a bouquet of helium-filled mylar balloons! 

 It occurred to me (no doubt prompted by the Holy Spirit) that out of the garbage which sometimes collects in and around our lives—the difficult people, the stressful circumstances—God provides mylar balloons—joyful, bright spots of blessings.  I just need to keep my eyes open.

 “Alright, Lord,” my heart responded.  “I’ll try it.  First, thank you for the way the lacy wisps of fog have produced a quiet serenity over the landscape.  I’m reminded of your ethereal, surrounding Presence.  Thank you for always being with me (Psalm 23:4).

“Those balloons certainly put a smile on my face.  If someone else had been in the car with me, no doubt we’d have laughed out loud at the extraordinary sight. Thank you for the gift of humor, for the way it lifts my spirit (Proverbs 17:22).

“Thank you also for the way you engineer circumstances.  Just recently I recorded in my Blessings Journal how you miraculously shortened a to-do list that was impossibly long.  But you changed dates and cancelled commitments until the items which remained were very doable.  You are amazing!

 “My heart overflows with joy as I consider the variety of ways you minister to my spirit.  Sometimes it’s through a family member or friend, through a song, a speaker, or something I read.   Just the other day you spoke to me through a story I was reading.  One of the characters explained that trials make us stronger and purer, and you see more of your reflection in us.  It was as if you spoke those words directly to me, and my eyes filled with tears of joy, to realize I have the privilege of reflecting your glory.   

 “Well, Lord, just another minute and I’ll be at work.  Soon I’ll see my precious colleagues who have been so encouraging and supportive.  Thank you for Christian sisters who care and pray for each other.”

Needless to say, I practically skipped into work that day.  And what fun to share with special coworkers, “You are a beautiful mylar balloon in my life!” and then explain.

 What bright spots of blessing have surprised you recently?  Name them and be uplifted. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

And please return next Monday to find out how a thirty-year old impression is still finding expression today.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Our News from Italy

Notes to our Prayer Supporters

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Live fully * Love Bravely

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions