Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get Your Motor Runnin'

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, 
that He may exalt you in due time," 1 Peter 5:6

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6

Not far from our house is a detail shop that services high-end vehicles. We keep a lookout as we pass it and occasionally we've seen a Labourghini there. Nick, like most boys his age, is smitten with cars and their specs. Cars as a status symbol is a world-wide epidemic. For example, look at this enormous red piece of evidence that satellites pick up from space.  

Ferrari World, an incredible, high-tech indoor amusement park isn't located on the boot of Italy, but in the city of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates in the emirate of Abu Dhabi (yes, Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi - like New York, New York. I suppose it was so much fun to say, they had to use it twice.).  In one of the richest cities in the world, residents of Abu Dhabi see their share of luxury vehicles driving down the streets and through the open desert highways daily, many before they enter production. 

As a result, Abu-Dhabi proves to be fertile ground for a Ferrari World featuring rides, simulators and other activities based on the Ferrari.  One exhibit allows you to walk through a giant Ferrari engine to see in detail how these speed demons work. A roller coaster simulates a race between the two coaster cars which are designed to look like Ferraris, of course.

How quickly we learn to chase down upper crust status symbols, and it begins here on Main Street, U.S.A. with jeans and tennis shoes. I don't want Nick's clothing to make him to stand out like a sore thumb among his peers (unless he wants to), but neither do I want him to value status over quality. Quality lasts and serves the buyer while status symbols change and demand the buyer serve them through purchases and free advertising. 

Which road would people say we walk? The bright, popular and active road of changing status symbols or the firm, substantial path of significance and purpose with our Eternal God? We must hold what's temporary with loose, nonchalant fingers while grasping our status as God's children with firm grips.

Father, we come to You today through Your Son Jesus Christ and Him alone.  Our hearts bow before You to accept whatever You've designed and allowed into our lives, and the lives of those we love.  Because You love us with a love we can't begin to understand, we can trust You and trust Your decisions.  Because You see all the way to the end or our roads on earth, we accept the paths You've chosen for us and will allow You to point the way. Because You love others who are dying without You as much as You love us, we give our lives to show others the Way to You.  Fill us with Your Spirit of Love and Wisdom. May we love as You love and trust You more today than yesterday.
In the Name of Jesus, The Way, the Truth and the Life

Monday, May 21, 2012

Full Sail

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?   He who did not spare his own Son,  but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"
Romans 8:31-32

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me."
Micah 7:7

Father-God, it's Monday and many of us are looking at a lengthy list of goals to accomplish.   Others see today as one step closer to a difficult decision or significant change. Some of Your children feel acutely alone in their Monday through Friday worlds while others feel more "at home" at work than at home.  All of us carry battlefields within us and all of us need Your merciful intervention.  Hear our prayers, Father, and fill us with Your Power.  You've promised not to leave us empty or useless.  You sacrificed to save us and now You work to mature us.  Keep us from rushing into this Monday until Your Spirit rushes through us, filling us with the power and purpose You alone give us. 
In the Name of Jesus Who gave everything to make us part of God's Family

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012 - Hold up Your Blanky Proudly!

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, 
but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  
All that I know now is partial and incomplete, 
but then I will know everything completely, 
just as God knows me now."
1 Corinthians 13:1
     Recently I learned that the term "security blanket" was born in Charles Schultz's cartoon series, "Peanuts."  Ironically, Linus, the one carrying the blanket by his ear and sucking on his thumb, is the wisest and most mature of the Peanuts characters.  He's the "out of the mouths of babes" anchor in a group of self-absorbed kids. He's the true counselor for a confused Charlie Brown.  Maybe the fact that Linus alone sees things clearly and from a long-term perspective leaves him feeling lonely and uncertain. So, he hangs onto the comfort and security of that blanket.   
     Believers, we're the Linuses of the world.  People laugh at our security blanket of a God and they laugh at our "old-fashioned" ideas.  They prefer modern psychology and entrepreneurship (Lucy), looks and natural beauty (Frieda), romantic love (Sally), self-expression (Pig-Pen), leadership and control (Peppermint Patty) or personal achievement and heroes (Schroeder).  We hang on to the God Who wraps us in His Truth and speaks through us to people who question His existence and His character at every opportunity.  We depend on Him to instruct us clearly in a world of muffled and conflicting opinions. Thank the Lord for the Linuses in your life and let's strive to be one for others.
"The LORD give His people strength.
The LORD blesses them with peace." 
Psalm 29:11

Father, wrap Your great Self around us and help us keep our ears close to Your Heart to hear Your Truth.  Override our feelings of loneliness and uncertainty with the safety and security we find in Your Love and Truth. Show us how to draw strength from Your constant Presence so when we open our mouths, we speak Truth and Wisdom.
In the Name of Jesus, Truth, Light and our Good Shepherd

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

God Loves You And So Do I

"There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand."
Proverbs 19:21
     I found a bookmark in my closet that simply says, "God Loves You."  We've worn that amazing truth down to a flat, trite, ignorable sentence on a bookmark when it should answer a lot of "why" questions.  

"God Loves You" explains why He sacrificed Jesus to conquer death so we can live forever - with Him.  

"God Loves You" is why He wants us to enjoy abundant life, which is why He shines His seemingly harsh Light into the dark nest of sin poisoning our lives.  

"God Loves You" explains why He healed people with every imaginable disease, both physical and mental.  It explains why He still heals.

"God Loves You" and says don't play with matches or in the traffic or become addicted to gods who take rather than give life.  

"God Loves You" explains all the rules and commandments that keep us safe from ourselves. 

"God Loves You" explains why He won't leave us alone to do whatever we will, but lays out consequences for our disobedience and rebelliousness. He loves us too much to let us be selfish brats. 

"God Loves You" means He calls us to love one another and understand that True Love may seem harsh to others when we say "No" or stick to His Book on tough social issues.  

"Friends don't let friends drink and drive," and Love doesn't watch passively as people wreck their lives running from Truth headlong over cliffs. 

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:79

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012: Absolutely Nothing

"For nothing is impossible with God."  
Luke 1:37

When others question God's ability or His miracles, we find rest in the core of our faith in Luke 1:37.   

When Satan attacks us with doubt, self-incrimination, and shame as he mocks us for believing God will forgive us or change us, we find an impenetrable shield in Luke 1:37.  

When we face "impossible" odds, we find our supernatural strength in Luke 1:37. 

When God calls us to speak, to act, to sacrifice, to love . . . we find our excuses erased by Luke 1:37.

An angel came from God Almighty's throne in heaven to tell a young virgin girl God had chosen her to carry, deliver and mother His Son.  Her reasonable question, based on the laws of nature,  "How is this  possible?"  elicited Gabriel's response, as recorded in Luke 1:37.  

May we let this vintage, Scripture-based chorus stick in our heads today and remember, even on a Monday, nothing - absolutely nothing - is too difficult for Thee!

"Ah, Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power!
Ah, Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thine outstretched Hand!
Nothing is too difficult for Thee!
Nothing is too difficult for Thee!
"Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing is too difficult for Thee!"

In the Name of Jesus Who conquered death and rose to continue living forever

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012 - You Can't Give What You Don't Have

     My maternal instinct has to be reasoned with at strange times. For instance, the first time I heard a flight attendant instruct me to put on my own oxygen mask before helping my little one put on hers I wanted to stand up and say, "You'll have to come up with another plan because that ain't happening in seats 16 A and B. My children come first."  
     Logically, I realize that calmly putting on my own mask first is in the best interest of my children since I would be more useful and helpful to them alive and thinking clearly, but hearing the plan went against my motherly sensitivities.
     That's the problem and the beauty of motherhood and sometimes of believers: we react to the needs of others first, but don't take care of ourselves properly - spiritually, physically, mentally, or socially - then we collapse and take them down with us, all in the name of love and it isn't God's plan.  

"So He answered and said, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 
Matthew 11:28-29

God's plan is "God first, then neighbors," including those in our own homes and churches, down the hall in the shape of small, needy children or increasingly independent teenagers.  Putting God first gives us what we need to get the rest of our relationships in the right order. Look what He gives us when we put Him first:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Luke 10:27

Those are refillable gifts we take with us to do what we're called to do as believers. 

"The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, but let's keep it in perspective. No matter how outrageously or perfectly families express their love and appreciation, it's not enough to last long.  And if they do nothing or what seems to be too little, we still have what God's already given us.  For us to have the right kind of encouragement and nourishment in our pantries for ourselves and for our families, we "come to Jesus" first instead of relying on other people to provide the main course.  

Father, help Your children come to You for all we need.  Free Your Power to work in us, to rest us, to nourish us.  May we not try to give on empty tanks, but stop to feed on Your Word and Presence.  In the Name of Jesus, Giver of rest, Gentle, Humble Teacher

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - Don't SaveThe Best for Last

Woe is me, my bird is dead.
So woe is me, I hold my head.
We were so close, my bird and I.
Now he is gone and sad am I.
But God is good.
The problem with believers swapping testimonies is our tendency to get caught up in the gory details so we never get to the point.  What is the point of a testimony? to testify to God's purpose, Power and Presence during the tough time, but we generally spend our listener's attention span on how bad it was: the abject pain, the unparalleled loneliness, the impossibilities of what God called us to face. Then, when their eyes start to glaze over or their eyes shift to the nearest clock, we remember the point we should be making and throw in a "But God is good. He saw me through." 

And where exactly does the spotlight shine in this kind of "poor me" testimony? On us for 99.99% of the time and on God for the last .01%.  The Apostle Paul knew how to give a testimony and  provides a great example in the first verses of 2 Corinthians.  He prepares his readers to accept what he's about to share by first praising and glorifying God for His mercy,  comfort and purpose so they know what they're listening for in the testimony:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ."

Next Paul gave them a general but adequate idea of what he and his fellow missionaries experienced in Asia:

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death."

Paul included his fellow sufferers in his testimony so it wasn't all about "poor Paul." He didn't get off track by sharing too much information at this point, but whet their interest to hear the main point.  He didn't candy-coat the circumstances, but he didn't drone on and on about them either. He shared what his readers needed to know to understand the greatness of God's Power.  

"But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us,"

In just two sentences, Paul gives God credit for having a purpose for the "great pressure" they suffered, gives Him glory for delivering them with His great Power, and states his trust that God can and will continue to deliver them.

And, just as Paul used included those who'd been with him in Asia in his testimony, Paul makes draws his prayer supporters in as well:  "as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."   (all verses from 2 Corinthinans 1:3-11)

   We rob other people when we don't tell them our stories of God's Power and purpose in our lives, but we rob them of the Best and Crucial part when we save the Best for last and then skimp on it. 

Father, teach us to testify so You alone are glorified. Our pride struggles to keep the spotlight on ourselves as the heroes of the story and we waste opportunities to point to You. Forgive us and help us follow Paul's lead in keeping the Best part of the testimony in every part of our testimony.
In the Name of Jesus, the Reason we have a story to tell

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - I Wanna Hold Your Hand

One of my least favorite middle school teachers had a gleam in his eye as he passed out our first exams for his class. When a student nervously asked a question, the teacher asked sarcastically, "Do you want me to come hold your hand?"  He not only shut the poor boy's mouth for the test, he shamed him from ever saying or asking anything in that classroom again.

The Bible pours out story after story stuffed with promises that God's goal is not to humiliate or shame us. Our weakness doesn't bring out His worst, but His best. When we're nervous or afraid, He latches on and promises help, minus the rolling eyes, sarcasm and impatient sighs. On the contrary, He rejoices in our need for Him.

"For I am the Lord your God Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 
'Do not fear; I will help you.' Isaiah 41:13

“I have told you these things,
so that in Me you may have peace. 
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  
John 16:33
Jesus' warning, "In this world you will have trouble," also serves as  a gentle reminder of "that world," where trouble will stop troubling us. Meanwhile, back in "this world," Jesus insulates us in His peace and power. The One Who has overcome death, and sin's power holds our hands through our skirmishes and battles even when He's already won the war for us.  

"I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:12-13
And there's where God leads us when we hold His Hand and let Him wrap His Peace around us: to contentment, confidence and courage.  

Father, we want to hold Your Mighty, Capable Hand and walk where You lead us.  We're tired of fear, worry, and burdens stealing our trust and life. Help us buck Satan's efforts to humiliate and shame us when we face trouble. Strengthen us to shake his discouragement loose and grasp more tightly to Your Hand.
In the Name of Jesus, the One Who overcame the world! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday, May 7 (Happy First-Ever Birthday, sweet Addy!) Burdens or Blessings

When I was a child, people commented on my height until I felt mildly freakish about it.  I envied my tiny, cute-as-a-button friends who seemed to get away with everything because they looked younger and more cherubic. It took a while to realize that from their point of view, I had the advantage. Never happy, are we? Somehow each of us feels our burden to bear is a little heavier and harder than other people's burdens. 

Take Joseph son of Jacob, for instance.  He began his life as the envy of his ten older brothers who watched their father openly dote on the family baby. Their hatred for Joseph grew until they wanted to kill him.  Joseph knew his father only favored him because he was Rachel's child and not because of his personal merits or accomplishments.  He probably plucked up his proud feathers to hide the loneliness and fear he felt around his ten older, angry brothers. 

Unfairness offers us the opportunity to trust God has a plan for what He allows into our lives.  Joseph struggled years later to state truth to his brothers as they bowed before him, trembling in fear of his retaliation. He chose to forgive and free them with these gracious words:
"You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives."
Genesis 50:20
Lord, You only allow us to experience what will drive us to You. You can use anything for our good. We don't appreciate the trials You weave into our paths until we look back and see how You use them. May Your Truth lighten burdens we carry when we don't see them as blessings
In the name of Jesus, treated unjustly for "the saving of many lives."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Prayer for All of Us, Sunday, May 6, 2012 - Sunday Prayer

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
2 Corinthians 4:18

Father, if we're to obey the command in this verse we need You to change our vision. How else can we fix our eyes on what is unseen?  I understand that to focus on what is important to You, what You've stated in Your Word, we must learn to close our eyes to the artificial lights and temporary enticements we can't avoid from day-to-day.  I know the greatest things on earth aren't things at all. Your Word says we hold greater Treasure and Power because of Your Spirit within us. Still, we need godly vision to see these truths. "Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord."  "Be Thou My Vision."  Let the world "grow strangely dim in the Light of Your glory and grace" as we turn our eyes on You.
In the Name of Jesus, the Visible Word

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012 - "Look It Up!"

The judge I work for is one smart cookie.  He reads and studies constantly and I believe the key to his amazing vault of facts and knowledge lies in a phrase he repeats and practices: "Look it up."  If an unfamiliar word, phrase, location, piece of trivia, (etc., etc.) comes up during an office staff discussion, he says, "Let's look it up," and somebody does. Mysteries are solved and minds can rest.  

As a child, my teachers and parents often replied, "Look it up," when I asked for the definition or spelling of a word. When I was a student, research took a great deal of time with trips to the library to study in the reference section or to scan portions of biographies and other topical history books. Uncovering the truth was a "Eureka!" moment. Today, the chase has reversed. Organizations and companies research us and flood our computer screens and widescreen televisions with what they hope will grab our attention, our business, our loyalty, and our votes. Our labor has shifted from fact-finding  to wading through the ocean of "facts" served up by individuals and organizations with unapologetic motives and opinions.  

Of course, many people aren't as interested in truth as in quick, easy answers from someone they can blame later if things go wrong. Such is often the case with spiritual maturity. The 66 Holy-Spirit breathed books of the Bible provide a reference section of history, biographies, how-to, self-help, poetry, and quotes, all originating in Truth from the God Who loves us. We have a Teacher, a Counselor in the Holy Spirit. We've been provided with the Power to learn, to retain and to apply Truth we can't explain.  God created us to grow from students of the elementary teachings of others into disciples who research His Word and pray for His personal guidance as we "look it up" and "look up." 

My prayer for today is expressed in these verses:

With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.

With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.

I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.

I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
Psalm 119:10-18

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012 - Waiting to Exhale

It's not Tom, but there's an uncanny resemblance in the
top half of the face.
     From what I understand, it's physically impossible to sneeze without closing your eyes.  I've tried with no success, especially when driving.  Here's another one to test: take a deep breath, hold it then try speaking without any air seeping out.  We become Instantly mute since words stick in our throats without the breath to carry them. 

"In the Old Testament, God's word and God's Spirit are parallel figures. God's word is His almighty speech; God's Spirit is His almighty breath." (from Knowing God, by J.I. Packer)

"The Spirit (breath) of God was hovering over the waters. And God said (Word). . . and there was . . . (Gen. 1:2-3) 

     God's Spirit (breath, inspiration) carries His Word to accomplish what He commands. 

10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
    It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.

     God fills believers with His Spirit, and provides the words needed. However, He gives us the free will to exhale and bless or to hold our breath and just look silly.   

"I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly."
Psalm 40:8-10

Father, "You are the air I breathe" and You fill me with Your Spirit to accomplish every single calling You give me.  Change my heart to be more willing to exhale blessing and good news, testimony of Your Goodness and Righteousness.  Don't let me speak empty words and don't let me hold back any word You give me to speak.
In the Name of Jesus, the Word of God

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 (Happy Birthday to my bro. Tom) - Shopping for a Throne

"We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God. When the person in the church, let alone the person in the street, uses the word God, the thought is rarely of divine majesty."
- J.I. Packer, Knowing GodWhere do we invite Him to sit?

How do we honor God's divine majesty today?
*On a rocking chair because we see Him as an old God who's lost some of His "umph?"
*On a stool at our feet so He's handy to serve us by answering small prayers?
*On an office swivel chair so He can keep up with our busy schedules and obligations?   
*Or, seated and commanding on a throne fit for the King of kings and Lord of Lords?

"I exalt You, my God the King, and praise Your name forever and ever. 
I will praise You every day; I will honor Your name forever and ever. 
Yahweh is great and highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts.
I will speak of Your splendor and glorious majesty and Your wonderful works.
They will proclaim the power of Your awe-inspiring acts, and I will declare Your greatness.  They will give a testimony of Your great goodness
and will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. 
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love. 
The LORD is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made."
Psalm 145:1-9

Lord, reveal Your majesty and glory to us as You have to others. We offer You the best seat in the house.  Take what is rightfully Yours and keep us from thinking small thoughts of Your divinity and power. Stop us from offering You any seat but the throne You deserve! We bow down in worship to you, Great God.
In the Name of Jesus, Who sits at the right Hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday, May, 1, 2012: Oh, The Thoughts We Can Think!

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?                                          Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"  
Luke 12:25-26
Let's do a quick self-evaluation: 
If you thought 1000 thoughts yesterday (conservative, round figure), how many of those thoughts did you invest in worry and how many did you invest in praying?  (choose a percentage):
Percentage of thoughts spent 

  100/0         80/20        60/40         50/50        40/60       60/40        80/20       100/0

We reap what we sow, so what do we get for our investment?

Worry: dark thoughts, confusion, Satan's lies, frustration, nervousness, fear, poor witness, bad health, and you add answers from your own experience here:

Prayer: release, peace, healing, real answers, truth, maturing faith, joy, a better understanding of our Father, and you add answers from your own experience here:  

". . . because of the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 
Luke 1:79