Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Define "enemy"

enemy: 
1) a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something

2) one who feels hatred toward, injury towards, or opposes the interests of another

3) something destructive or injurious in its effects

After reading these three different definitions (especially the third one), I realize how deceptive enemies can be.  In fact, I mistake them as friends and allow them to cozy up to their target, my heart, before I recognize them as enemies. Have you been duped by any of these enemies? 

Worry
Anger
Bitterness
Jealousy
Doubt
Self-pity
Apathy
Pride
Grudges
Selfishness
Favoritism
Sarcasm
Laziness
Ingratitude
Self-righteousness
Greed
Evil
Mediocrity
Addiction
Vanity
Hate

Listen to the sales pitch of these opponents and you'll find yourself heading in the wrong direction BUT
God has always been your defense;
His eternal arms are your support. 
He drove out your enemies as you advanced,
and told you to destroy them all." 
Deuteronomy 33:27

God drove out Israel's enemies as they moved into the Promised Land. He also told them to destroy any enemies they encountered.  When they didn't, they paid dearly.  When they mingled with their enemies and adopted their false gods, they fell.  

"Hear my cry for help, 
my King and my God, for to You I pray. 
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly."   
Psalm 5:2-3

Jesus died to destroy Death and Sin, but He also warned us:
"Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."  John 8:33

We work with God to destroy what would destroy us or we work against God by letting our enemies move in, assume command, and enslave us. Who will we serve today? Our enemies or the God Who destroys what would destroy us?


Monday, July 1, 2013

Surely Temple

"Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love."
Psalm 48:9 (NIV)

"Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19

     Over the last few weeks, the fire in this temple has needed kindling.  Sacrifices ran the temple grounds, unattended and unruly rather than bound and burned.  Dust gathered on the instruments of praise. I've tossed blessings in a dark corner rather than polishing and displaying them.  My love, attention and service grew unseasonably and unreasonably lukewarm.  
     The worst part is that I can't explain why.  No major changes in my life triggered a crisis of faith.  Terrible news didn't break my heart nor did "good" news leave me thinking I didn't need God. So when and why did I slip into spiritual apathy? Did I grow weary without a miracle? Is it too hot to meditate? Am I exhausted from praying about the same issues and fears? 
     I don't know whether God will  provide answers to these questions, but I do know that for whatever reason, I'm ready to respond to God's sweet, urging Voice to return to HIm, confess my apathy, bring out the bellows, sacrifice the false gods, invite the Spirit to blow through and remove the dust, display the blessings, dispose of distractions, and refurnish this temple with all that makes Him at home again. 

"God's beloved; God's permanent residence. 
Encircled by God all day long, within whom God is at home." 
Deuteronomy 33:12 (The Message)

"Take delight in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

Monday, June 17, 2013

LOL

Jesus Calling encourages lighthearted living today. According to the author, our faith in God's power shines through when we can laugh at ourselves and our circumstances.  Our sincere laughter (not the nervous version) expresses faith in God's loving provision. Laughter lightens the mood, breaks the spell of gloom, and sends God the message that we trust Him to handle the situation.  

In the beginning, God assigned people a workload, and in the Gospels, Jesus promised His followers He would put a "load" on them.  
"Come to Me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest.  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light." Matthew 11:28-30 

I evidently think I can handle more than the light load God assigns me since I add to my load until I wobble like an overloaded washing machine.  If I hear about a problem, I feel it's my responsibility to solve it and I figure, re-figure, plan and revise until my mind is worn out. 

"A cheerful disposition is good for your health; 
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired." 
Proverbs 17:22
Amen, Brother Solomon!

The answer? "Mind your own business!" or, to put it nicely, "Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain." (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)  We may not realize we're minding God's business when we pull other people's problems, circumstances and issues into our domain to solve for them. 

God decides our business (workload), including when and how to help others with His guidance and help. He lays this "yoke" gently on us and sticks with us to carry it to completion.  He's the only one who can carry the weight of the world on His shoulders.  

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means 'God with us.'"  Matthew 1:23

So laugh it up today and tell God you trust Him. 

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come." 
Proverbs 31:25

Friday, April 19, 2013

No Tipping That Scale


Our dog Gus sticks close to us - sometimes for the food,sometimes for the affection, and sometimes for the walks or rides we give him. His desire to please us makes Gus a great dog, easily trained and responsive. However, Gus isn't perfect. He commits canine sins such as overturning and pilfering the kitchen garbage, dominating the cat, and wandering away to meet new dogs and people without leaving a note.  When all evidence convicts him, he senses our displeasure and backs away, tail tucked and ears down. Which is fine - he is a dog and the Dog Whisperer says dogs must earn what they're given.

Although God is our Master, our Boss, we can't earn what He gives us, especially His love. And, if we had the sense dogs have, we'd sense our Master's love for us even when He's displeased with our sin. He's told us He loves us, He's drawn us to Him and He has embedded us in His hands and heart. 

"The LORD appeared to us in the past saying,
 'I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'" 
Jeremiah 31:3

He celebrates His love for us with a splendid head to foot wardrobe of salvation and righteousness - not our own dingy good deeds but His unfailing love and untouchable righteousness. And what does He ask in return? - our delight in His gifts, our joy in His love, our gratitude for His grace. 

"I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."
Isaiah 61:10

His eyes crinkle with joy when He watches us - the way we smile all the way to our eyes when gaze at our babies and grandbabies.  His face shines with a mysterious, unearthly acceptance we don't deserve, can't earn, and can't lose.  
"Let Your face shine on Your servant;
save me in Your unfailing love." 
Psalm 31:16

He keeps loving us when we fail to keep His commands. He continues steadfast and unshaken by both our personal catastrophes and our personal bests.  We can leave behind whatever we juggle, our framed certificates and awards, our civic activities,  resumes, and contribution records because none of it adds a gram of weight to the balance of God's love for us.  That scale, filled with His own righteousness and salvation and unfailing love, has already been filled to overflowing, thanks to Him alone.  His love is independent of anything about us.

"Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His unfailing love
and His wonderful deeds for mankind."
Psalm 107:8

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poison in the Pantry

A gallon of milk in our fridge tasted strange. In spite of the future expiration date, it was "off" and tainted everything it touched.  We forgot to mention this to Nick who thought we'd bought a box of bad Fruity Pebbles (healthy because of the word "Fruity").  Nothing ruins a good bowl of Fruity Pebbles or a chocolate chip cookie like bad tasting milk.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Philippians 4:6-7 mentions a couple of bad tasting ingredients in our prayer pantries. Number one on the list is anxiety. Anxiety both doubles the punch of crisis and negates our prayers and peace. Fear-filled prayers and efforts to control the outcome don't please Him because these prayers show no trust in Him, no faith.  He wants us to pray from the calm assurance that He can, He will and He wants to intervene with peace and protection. He calls us to take the time and energy to de-tox from busy-ness, anxiety, worry and fear as we pray to Him with gratitude. 

As a matter of fact, the second poison in the pantry is ingratitude. Apparently, God knows  it's impossible to over season lives or prayers with sincere gratitude. God loves to hear thanksgiving pouring from His children's hearts and lips. Gratitude reshapes our prayer as we remember how God has blessed us in the past.

Spring cleaning means it's time to clean out the poisonous and stale ingredients in our prayer pantries.  Time to toss the expired faith, artificial joy, and traces of anxiety and to  refill with the gratitude, trust, and peace that touch God's heart and open the way for the fresh fruit of  answered prayers.  


Monday, April 15, 2013

Out of the Ring, Fighting My Own Fight

"But I trust in You, LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in Your Hands."
Psalm 31:14-15a

On the way to school this morning, Nick and I were talking about how much easier it is to stand up for someone else than it is to stand up for yourself. Praying's like that for me. The issues seem crystal clear when it comes to praying for other people - unless they're my children - extensions of me.   

I just received a text from a friend who understands what I mean. Her son is being rushed to the hospital with chest pains and she's asking for prayer. 

Julie and Addy
So am I. Our daughter, Julie, had five additional moles removed after an initial one tested mildly atypical.  Now two of the new ones have been tested "mild" and "severe" - and they'll be removed May 1. There's no melanoma - just the assurance that if nothing's done, danger is certain, in time. Praise God, again, that she went to the doctor.  This is my child, my daughter who's facing serious issues as she turns 25.   I'm praying urgently, with purpose and passion, for her healing and that they scoop out every abnormal cell so she never has to deal with this threat again. 

Four generations of mamas and daughters.
Praying Addy walks in her mama's steps of faith.
Why can't we be allowed to tag team with our children, jumping in the ring to handle the tough stuff for them? Because they, too, are learning to say "But I trust in You, LORD; I say, 'You are my God. My times are in Your Hands."  As a parent I must resist every urge to obstruct my children's spiritual growth by trying to have faith for them.  My job is to stand by them, to fight my own worry, to work out my own faith, and to pray for them as they learn to trust the Someone Bigger and Stronger Who never leaves them to take their hits alone in the ring.   

Lord, God, our lives - moments, trials, victories -are in Your hands.  Help us pray, not worry; remember You love our kids more than we do (??); know You're constantly refining them to bring out their best; and believe You have a purpose for everything You allow into their lives just as You do in ours.  Help us demonstrate a faith in You that will matter to them, encourage them, lead them, but never come between them and You. Mamas want to fix things and Daddies want to provide.  You are both to our children and we trust You.
In the Name of Jesus, Who wanted to gather Jerusalem under His wing like a mother hen. 





Thursday, April 11, 2013

April Showers Bring . . . February Back?

"This is the day the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24

Unexpected chill. That's what this morning held for us here in Benton, Arkansas.  We were warned ahead of time that thunderstorms would assault the area, but were assured temperatures would remain warm. So much for forecasts; it's 44 degrees on April 11. Even I know that's cold for spring in Central Arkansas and it's only my third spring here.  I opened Jesus Calling, to April 11: "Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since I am the Author of your circumstances."  Why shouldn't believers complain about the weather? Isn't that a God-given right - or at least a patriotic right? We're not to complain because complaining leads to discontent, and believers who trust God in all things are in training to be content, even when April showers re-introduce February to the area. 

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . " Philippians 4:11b

One of our first graders in choir last night was NOT content and she wanted the world to know it.  She wailed with loud moans and shed crocodile tears because it was time to stop making crafts in G.A.'s and go to choir.  Even though we were making coffee can drums in choir, she wanted THE OTHER crafts in THE OTHER room and never stopped looking back.  Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth barely describe her discontent. She used a marker to draw it:  a heart torn in two pieces with the caption "My hart is broken." Now that's discontent.

We, too, know how to put on a show when we don't get what we want, although we've learned to put on our shows with a little more finesse.  All the same, complaining promotes discontent. Discontent leads to anger and depression and this negativity assaults our co-laborers who just want to make a coffee can drum in peace.  Ironically, the complainer becomes the one complained about and the cycle continues.


Imagine a day without hearing a complaint come from our mouths.  Imagine a day filled with gratitude instead of discontent simply because  
"This is the day the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." 
Psalm 118:24


Father, complaining is a sport down here.  It's second-nature to many of us.  Teach us to replace our complaints with gratitude. Teach us to receive the gifts in every circumstance, to find the blessing from the unexpected, to leave yesterday's comfort to see what You've stored up for us today. You are our Good God Who knows without fail what we need in the moment to make us more Christlike. We open our hearts gratefully to receive whatever - whoever- wherever that may be.
In the Name of Jesus, Who thanked the Father in all things