Tuesday, December 04, 2012

To the Right or to the Left?

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it."
Isaiah 30:21

When I used to read this verse I always assumed that it meant that God had an individual will for my life and if I wasn't careful, I would miss it.  But the more I dive into Scripture, the more I'm learning that my way of thinking is incorrect.  And ever so slowly, He is changing my thinking so that it actually lines up with His Word.  I am learning that there is His Sovereign will, which is His secret plan to determine everything that happens in the universe and I can only (sometimes) understand something after it has happened.  Then there is His moral will which is revealed in the commands in the Bible which teach me how I ought to believe and live my life. 

I don't know about you, but I desire to know whether or not I am following His will for my life.  I want clear-cut answers to decisions.  I want the lightening bolt to strike me and for God to clearly say "This is the way, walk in it!"  I believed that there was this individual will in which God would always tell me which job to choose, where to live, what school to go to...etc...

But there lies my problem.  The focus is on ME.  It's self-centeredness at its best.  The focus is on the way in which I should walk, what path I need to be on, MY life.  Not God's plan or His Word.

There are numerous Scriptures that tell me to lay down my life and pick up my cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25, Luke 12:22, Luke 14:26-27, and many many more...).  It's all about Him.  Not me.  Not I.  But Him.

So how do I do this? 

Simple.  His Word. 

His Holy Word contains everything that I will ever need in order to follow Him.  If I want to know the path to take or what decision to make, I need to look at His Law...His Word.  His way of righteousness is the way of success and He has laid it all out in 66 books.

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness...
Isaiah 35:8

So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.  Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Deuteronomy 5:32-33

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail.  if you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.  Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
Deuteronomy 28:13-14

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:7-8

Ok...that's all fine and dandy...but how exactly do I actually stay on God's way of righteousness?  How do I actually put all this into practice in my life so that I may be found in Him?

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:9

My goal in life is to please Him.  Now I know that I am a sinful human being...trust me, I know.  So pleasing Him all the time is not the easiest thing for me.  I am fighting my sinful desires...daily...sometimes minute by minute.  But thankfully that is why He is in the business of transforming me (2 Corinthians 3:18).  It is a process.  One that will take time to learn.  All my old thoughts have to be replaced by new thoughts that come straight from His Word, His Law. 

And Romans 12:9-21 helps begin the transforming work in my heart.  It lays out what pleases Him.  In a nutshell here is what He is asking of me...
  • sincere love
  • devotion to other believers
  • diligence in serving Him
  • rejoicing
  • patience (ugh...so difficult!)
  • faithfulness
  • hospitality
  • blessing persecutors
  • living in harmony with others
  • humility
When I am doing these things, the focus begins to shift off of me and onto others and onto Him.  And really, that's what it's all about.  Loving Him and loving others.  Serving Him...and then serving others.  If I really want to know what His will for my life is...it's all right here.  Focus on Him and then love those He's placed before me.  Get rid of my selfishness and turn my eyes to Him.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25

And the fruit of following His smooth path will be evident even in life's most difficult trials.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) will flow out from deep within because He is the one residing deep in me. 

I am on a journey with God.  His Word is my moral compass and as I seek His truth, He will straighten or smooth out the path before me.  He will not provide all the answers and I will not know or understand all the "whys" behind some events until after it is all said and done.  My job is to seek Him through His Word (Law), prayer and worship so that I may understand and choose how to live a righteous and faithful life before Him.  And as I align my choices up with His moral will...His commands...His love, I will look back one day and see His hand over it all.  It will not be about what I wanted to do, but more about following His Word and obeying it with each choice I make.  And yes, He gives me the freedom to make those choices so long as they line up with His Word....I mean really...did Adam and Eve consult God on what to make each night for dinner.  No!  He gave them a choice and only gave them one restriction of what NOT to eat.  Same thing in His Word.  He's laid it all out and tells me how to live my life according to His Word.  I have the freedom to make choices within that moral will...and the best way to learn it...by keeping my eyes upon Him.

It is not about me.  It is about Him.  Always has been...and always will be. 

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Monday, November 19, 2012

Healing, Death or New Life...

"Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick.'

When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.' Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days...

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.'

His disciples replied, 'Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.'...
~John 11:1-6, 11-15

When I read this, I can feel the agony of the sisters as they asked Jesus to come and heal their brother...and yet, he didn't come right away.  He waited.  TWO days.  He waited.  Why would their Lord wait two days?

The abandonment Mary and Martha must have felt.  Questions probably rose up.  But instead of becoming angry, they trusted.  They choose what was harder than anything else...to fight against the anger and bitterness and to instead, trust. 

"'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'"
John 11:22

Here they are...their brother is dead, and their Savior delayed in coming.  But God's bigger picture is at work...things that cannot be seen in the midst of the pain.

"'Take away the stone,' he said. 'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'"
John 11:39

Instead of healing Lazarus from an illness, Jesus goes into the tomb - into the stink of it all and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Healing vs. death.

Which one would bring Him more glory and proclaim His Sovereignty? 

And how many times does He do that for me?  When all seems dead around me, when all I see is the pain from unfulfilled longings, He is at work behind the scenes.  In the stinky part of my inmost being - the sin, the anger, hurt, confusion...He's right there in the midst of it, preparing for His glory to be known through my life.

It's when He is in the midst of it all, that He moves and works.  He can either change my direction, heal the hurt, or resurrect what I once thought was dead.

"'Yes, Lord,' she told him, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.'"
John 11:27

But no matter the outcome, He is asking that I simply trust Him.  To believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God.
Keeping my eyes and my focus upon Him, provides ripe opportunity for God to move with ease in my life and heart.

"My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways." 
 Proverbs 23:26

And before long, He will say to me...

"Take off the grave clothes and let him go"
John 11:44

And that is when I can go freely in the way He has prepared for me...whether it be healing, resurrected dreams, or a new life altogether...

Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. so keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.
~Jesus Calling

Monday, September 17, 2012

Second Chances

"Thank you for giving me a second chance..."

A student's grateful response ignites my memory of all the second chances God has given me. 

Why am I so quick to disqualify someone, child or adult, the moment I deem something wrong?  If God gave me the same treatment that I give others, I would have been estranged from Him long ago.  But thankfully, I serve a merciful God who gives second chances, third chances and more.  He longs for my heart to be united with Him.  And when I come to Him in humbleness for my actions, He forgives, forgets and refines.

Change comes from pain sometimes.  And the lesson this kiddo had to learn was a simple one, yet profound.  And his thank you is a fresh reminder that second chances are just that...another opportunity to strive for something different.  To strive for a change within that will show outwardly.

I am in need of second chances.  And so are those around me.  Let this be my reminder to humbly go forth always seeking to change and be refined by my Master Creator.  Let it also be a reminder that those around me need my forgiveness and second chances as well...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Take that broadsword to selfishness!

"What if you were in a plane that was about to crash...who would you want sitting next to you and why?"

Silly opening questions in a group setting.  Why do they sometimes linger in my thoughts long beyond the time they were meant to?  And why as I look back, do I wish I could push the rewind button and re-record my answer?

My first response was to have a dear friend with me (who shall remain unnamed).  I wouldn't necessarily change the person, but I would change my reasoning.  My first response was "because I know that she will be in heaven with me."  But what a selfish response!  Oh if only I could have a redo on that!

As this thought sat in my mind I began to ponder exactly why I would want that friend to be with me.  And I realized that it's not because I know that she will be in heaven...but because I know that she would be the one standing up and inviting people to know Jesus so that they too could experience the everlasting Kingdom.  Not only that, but I know that she would spur me on to be proclaiming His truth as that plane went down.  And yet even then, my response is still selfish. 

Why can't I, even without her spurring me on, be boldly proclaiming His truth?  On that judgement day, she will not be standing next to me.  I will be standing alone before my Maker.  I will have to be held accountable for my actions.  And His Word clearly states that I am to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2) and that I am to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your [my] heart, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you [me] to give an account for the hope that is in you[me]" (1 Peter 3:15).  This doesn't say that my friend gets to do the work and encourage me to step up to the plate, but rather, that I have to be ready to obey when He directs. 

But I have to admit that my selfishness gets in the way.  There are times even in my day-to-day life that God is asking me to be His witness and out of my selfishness I deem it untimely to do so, or inconvenient, or too difficult, or too scary.  Selfishness is at the crux of hindering me in fully serving the One who died for me.  And honestly, it was evident in my answer last night.

There will not be a rewind and redo button in heaven.  I have to constantly take every thought captive to God, because what begins in my thoughts, will flow to my feelings and my heart and ultimately out through my actions.  And if selfishness is rooted in my thoughts it will be evident in my actions.  And I don't want to stand before God and say "I didn't obey You because it was inconvenient for me".  So this selfish root within me needs to be slain with the largest broadsword I can find...the Word of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...
Galatians 5:22-23

Let the fruits of the Spirit begin in my thoughts and be poured out in my actions so that I will not be able to contain this Truth inside me but boldly proclaim and live it out for all to see.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who will fight?

Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you. ~ Deuteronomy 3:22

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ~Romans 5:6

"I want you to fight for me.  That's all I ever wanted." ~ Max from the movie Real Steel

Fight: to strive vigorously and resolutely; to contend with physically or in battle; to contend for; to defend against or drive back

To fight. To battle.

I look around each day at a sea of 275 precious little faces and see pain.  I see pain from...
...an absentee parent
...a dad who abuses them verbally, emotionally or with a lack of attention
...academic or social difficulties
...dysfunctional family life or strife in the home
...a desire to be accepted and wanted

And the list goes on...

But the root of it all...to know that they are loved and that someone will fight for them.

If you think about it, when you are attracted to someone, you go to great lengths to learn everything you can about them.  And if anyone should speak negatively about that person...well...let's just say that they better be at least an arm's length away from you!  And when you have a spouse, you go to extreme measures to protect him/her from harm.  You are willing to fight for their safety and their love.

Well, these precious faces that I have the honor of looking into are asking that simple question..."Will anyone fight for me?"

Will someone fight...
...for the injustice of abuse
...to find out why I can't learn like everyone else
...when kids are mean to me
...when I'm inflicting pain upon myself
...to find out the cause of my illness
...for my self-worth
...to love me as Jesus does

As Jesus loves...

Jesus doesn't just love us when we have it all together.  He loves us even when we are a mess, when we are cruel to one another, when we are filled with sin and pride.  He loves us even when all we are, and all we think and feel is exposed before Him.  He still loves.

And He more than just loves us, He fights for us even when we are steeped in sin.  He fought so much for us to the point that He died.  His shed blood has been poured out on the battle ground of our sin.  Of my sin.

He loved.

He fought.

He died.

And He gloriously arose from the dead, ascended into heaven...all so that you may intimately know Him.  So that I may know Him.

You want someone to fight for you?  Look at the cross and see the most victorious fight that ever took place.  All for you.  And for each child that is asking the same question.

The fight begins at the cross.  It begins by laying our lives down before Him, by surrendering to Him.  He will fight for you.  And as He fights (and has fought), you will begin to notice that He will equip you to start to battle with Him for others.

Just as He has fought for me, He now has me fighting for my students.  By standing in the gap in prayer for them, by taking the time to listen or offer a hug, and by loving them as He first loved me.

Fighting is an active word.  I cannot sit complacently by.  I have to come alongside not only these children but other people that God has placed before me...and fight for them...fight for them to know and love God.

Jesus fought and gave up His life for me.  I should be willing to do nothing less than to pour mine out loving and fighting for those He's placed in my life.  All 275+ of them.

Who does God want you to fight for?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who sinned?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life..."

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go", he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

John 9:1-3, 6-7

Born blind. Blamed. Accused. An outcast. Deemed as less than worthy. Ostracized.

This man, who had no control over his blindness, his parents who had no control over his blindness...they were all blamed for some hidden sin in their life that caused it. Even Job, his friends accused him of hidden sin somewhere in his life that caused all the calamities against him.

Who are we to judge others?

What if, these things that we deem horrible, the birth of a child with a disablility, the death of a loved one, the trials challenging us making us feel like everyone is throwing stones in our direction...what if, just what if...we can see these things through the eyes of Christ?

How would our perspective change?

Would we see that these things may be sent our direction so that His glory can be revealed, not only to us, but to the world?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Broken Clay

I recently read an article that triggered a memory of a lesson I used with my 6th graders one year. The kids were having a very difficult time using their words kindly, so I had them take a fresh piece of paper, crinkle it into a ball as tight as it would go, and then open it up and try to smooth out all the wrinkles and make it clean again. They couldn’t. And what I told them is that their words are like that to others. Every time they say something unkind to someone, they cause a wrinkle…and as hard as we may try to iron out the page again, there is still a mark that is left. Well, this article I read earlier this week brought that back to mind but in a different perspective and in the form of clay pots. Allow me to share…

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. ~2 Corinthians 4:6-7

I am a clay pot in my Maker’s hands. I started out with value and beauty, untainted by the world. But as time passed, life experiences slowly chipped away at me, leaving scuffs and small scratches. If those small scratches weren’t enough, I then experienced things that caused severe blows and broke pieces off. It left me aching for what once was…the little girl of my childhood who was carefree and pranced around the house in my bathing suit (I don’t know why!), royal robe (bathroom towel) and paper crown (laden with jewels), declaring to all my royalty. But now, broken, bruised and chipped by life, I had been left wondering where to go. Wondering how to pick up the pieces…

It was at the cross, where my Maker, carefully examined each tattered piece, familiar with each circumstance that caused it…and where He began to slowly restore this clay pot.

But as He restored, there were parts that were so crushed they left tiny holes. But Jesus, with His hands bleeding from my sharp edges, and His blood covering me, recreated this pot and left His blood stained fingerprints all over His new creation. And He lovingly put me back together…even left some of the holes that couldn’t be patched and with persistence He reminded me that it is in those holes where His beauty is shining through in the depth of my brokenness. His light can shine in the brightest in them. It is in my brokenness that His glory shines through, showing the world that nothing is too great for Him to overcome.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~Psalm 147:3

These imperfections caused by life’s difficulties are a thing of glory – if I let them reflect His light. They have caused me to fall at the foot of His cross, to empty myself out before Him and to allow Him to reconstruct who I am so that I may be used by and for Him.

And while I was trying to piece together my own pot, there were pieces that just wouldn’t fit like they used to and I desperately wanted to take them apart, sand them down and try to fit them in again. I realized that sometimes God does that with us. He will allow us to go through the same lesson twice, sometimes even more, so that we can be sanded down…even to the point of causing a little hole in our pot, just so His glory can shine through.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven. ~Matthew 5:16

And even though I am imperfect, I am a new creation in Him. And I can trade in my bathing suit, robe and paper crown for “…a crown of beauty…a garment of praise…” (Isaiah 60:3)…and ultimately for a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10) as I spend eternity with my Maker, the King of Kings, the Great I AM.

...and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. ~1 Peter 5:4

(to see the article that sparked this... go here.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baal Perazim

"When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him..."

1 Chronicles 14:8

David was anointed by God for a purpose...to be king over His people so that God's people would know Him. But with that anointing, came opposition from the enemy. In this case, the Philistines. And it wasn't just one or two coming against David...but the full force. All. And what does he do? He goes out to meet them...

"...but David heard about it and went out to meet them."

1 Chronicles 14:8

I'm not so sure I'd have that courage, even if God told me to. One person against a full force?! No thank you!! But David is a better person than I am. Instead of fear or choosing to cower in a corner, he inquires of God. Now that's a smart man! I have something to learn from him!

"...so David inquired of God: 'Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?' The Lord answered him, 'Go, I will hand them over to you.'"

1 Chronicles 14:10

But it gets even better...

"So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim and there he defeated them."

1 Chronicles 14:11

Sweet! God said David would be victorious and he was. But that's not what has my mind in a state of percolation. Instead, I'm focused on Baal Perazim. Do you know what it means? Good. Neither did I. So I looked it up...and it means "the Lord who breaks out".

Hmmmm...."the Lord who breaks out". Now the switch in my brain has been turned on. What are areas in my life where God needs to break out, where I need to relinquish control, where I need to stop looking at the circumstances and simply trust Him? Or, what are areas that He's already brought break through but I'm still not choosing to fully trust Him? Where have I let the enemy attack me again? Or...what are the things that God is wanting to break through in right now, but I'm too busy over analyzing it or I am trying to tell Him "No, I'm not ready"... See my state of percolation...all these questions...and no clear answers. Yet.

But moving on...(I really could camp there all day)...Look what happened to David after that victory...

"Once more the Philistines raided the valley; so David inquired of God again..."

1 Chronicles 14:13-14

Do you see what I see? God had already defeated the Philistines for David, already granted victory. And what do the Philistines do? Come back for more...glutton for punishment if you ask me! And yet that's exactly what our enemy does. he tries to defeat us and if he doesn't win, he tries again and again and again. His goal is to crush us. But if you look closely at what David did, you'll find the key to ultimate victory.

David inquired of God...again. He didn't wallow, whine, complain or pitch a fit like I'm prone to do. He instead went to God to inquire of His next move. And God didn't disappoint. He clearly stated what David was to do to gain the final victory (1 Chronicles 14:14-17).

What a lesson for me to have to grasp! There are things that I know God has called me to, and the enemy has attacked and God has brought victory....He has broken out. And yet, when the enemy attacks again, instead of turning back to God, I desire to throw my hands up and wave the white flag. But if God is the one who breaks out victory, who is the Baal Perazim, I need to stand steadfast in trusting Him in that valley no matter how many times the enemy tries to defeat me. I must inquire of God and let His power win the victory for me!