Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God’s Kind of Care!

"Give Thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known among the nations what He has done;
And proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord,
For He has done glorious things;
Let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel among You."
Isaiah 12:4-6

            When I am struggling with painful circumstances, I find it difficult to believe God is working on my behalf. I wonder if others feel that way, too, or is it only me? One time I was struggling with a painful situation and these verses jumped out at me and grabbed my heart. I was convicted, because I know when God seems to be silent or when He is waiting to answer what I consider an important prayer request, I can get despondent. But I have come to realize when He has me waiting, He answers my smallest prayer request to show me He remains intimately involved in my life. One of the times He did that was right after we had moved to California. God seemed so distant during our transition and even though we prayed for guidance, He didn’t seem to be directing us to any particular church. I asked God half-heartedly one morning to send a cool breeze to the field in which my husband was working. He was not acclimated to the California desert heat, and was coming in exhausted from it. That night I asked my husband how his day had gone. Without knowing anything about my prayer request, he told me it had been a good day, because a cool breeze had come up in the field in which they were working. 
Another time that I was struggling with a long-term trial, it seemed God was silent, refusing to act. At that time my husband was struggling to put an old car back together after he had dismantled it. I could tell he was frustrated, so I asked God to guide his hands so he could put all of the parts back in the right places. That night he told me he had forgotten where all the parts went and all of a sudden he was able to do it. I felt blessed in both situations by such specific answers to such specific prayers for my husband. I don't know why God chose not to make my painful situation end or make His guidance to a new church home more obvious. However, I do know He showed me He cares about the smallest things because he provided a cool breeze on a hot day and gave one frustrated husband the knowledge he needed to put an engine back together. If God is at work in the little situations, surely I can trust Him to work in the bigger more difficult long-term situations. 
I have come to realize I don't see all God does. I can't see the changes He is making in another person's heart. I can’t always see what He is accomplishing by answering one prayer with a yes and one prayer with a no and still another with wait awhile. I also realize I don’t always measure God’s care in the same way He does. There were times in the past that I thought His care was stopping a hard trial. But, now I realize God measures His care differently. He might perceive it is more caring to teach me to trust Him in the midst of a trial like illness, persecution, slander, or financial hardship than it would be to stop it. He might perceive it more caring to teach me to obey Him when I am apathetic, tired, ill, don’t want to, or am afraid to than it is to make my life easier. He might find it more caring to teach me to love like He does, which may include learning to repay evil with good, mercy for meanness, and grace for hurtful words. He might find it more caring to develop in me the ability to cling to the promise of the resurrection in the face of death. He might find it more caring to reveal Himself to me as a provider than taking away our financial stresses. He definitely is more concerned with developing His character in me, than my personal comfort.
"Sing to the Lord." "Shout aloud and sing for joy." Wow those are powerful commands! When I sing do I sing to the Lord? When is the last time I shouted and sang for joy? One night at a football game we sat by the head coach’s wife and we witnessed her passion as she rooted for her husband’s team. Believe me, she shouted and cheered passionately and it was fun to watch. However, as I was sitting there watching her, I thought about a lady I had led to the Lord in Mexico. We sat there smiling and nodding at each other afterward, but inside I wanted to do what this lady was doing at the football game. I wanted to stand up and jump up and down for joy. I wanted to run out the door and shout to the mission team that this mom became a believer. I wanted to scream from a mountain top that this beautiful lady had been translated from a kingdom of darkness to a kingdom of light. But I didn’t, I just sat there smiling at her. I wonder what held me back from being so passionate over this lady’s decision. I also wonder why I don’t shout for joy when we watch someone being baptized, when my children or friends make godly choices, weep for their friends, or share Christ. I’m not sure why I don't, but I do know God deserves more applause and a louder shout than a winning football team. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against giving applause for jobs well done, just against not giving God the applause He deserves. I am the most guilty of this. I know I’ve have been on the verge of shouting for joy and have held back. If I believe God is Holy and great why don’t I shout it? 
When life is hard and I believe God has forgotten me and I am frustrated by His silence, I benefit from spending time in His Word and reviewing what He has done in my own personal life. He has cancelled my sin, paid my debt, and translated me from the Kingdom of Darkness and placed me into His glorious Kingdom of Light. He has made me fit to be partakers of Christ's inheritance and has given me gifts and abilities to use. He has promised to never leave or forsake me! This list doesn't even include the personal things God has given me--godly friends, meeting needs abundantly, the person who shared Christ with me, emotional and physical healing, a new heritage, and a changed heart. Interesting, recounting my blessings returns me to a place the place of joy--the place God desires me to dwell. It also fills my heart with praises…whoa, if I’m not careful…I just might start shouting that God cares!

Prayer: Father, please open our eyes to Your involvement in our lives. Help us to believe the truth of the glorious things Your Word says You have done, are doing, and will do. Free us of all that keeps us from shouting and singing for joy! Fill us with the desire to proclaim Your Holy name among all people, including our families, friends, classmates, co-workers, communities, and nations. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Speaking Truth

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
Ephesians 4:14-16

Paul began this passage by reminding the Ephesians they were a part of the body of Christ and had been given the spiritual gifts Christ desired them to have. He also explained the church was given leaders to help the members mature. A part of the maturing process is to speak the truth in love so individuals become more like Christ. The fruit of this is church unity, allowing the church to function as smoothly as a human body. The hands, feet, mouth, brain, eyes, and ears each having different functions, yet all needed to get a task done. When one part of the body is weak the whole body is affected. A couple of years ago I broke my ankle and as a result lost range of motion in it. It doesn’t just affect my ankle it affects my leg muscles, my hips joints, my back and my neck. Just like an athlete who is competing will want to be able to utilize every muscle to its full extent, we want to mature and utilize every believer in the church. When everyone is striving for the same goals and God is working in each person the church functions healthily and God's work is accomplished.

What does the word “truth” mean? Some of us think that truth is our perceptions, but it isn’t. The Scripture defines truth as the law (law of truth--Malachi 2:6), Jesus (I am the way, the truth--John 1:14), and Holy Spirit (Spirit of truth--John 16:13). We are also told to rightly divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. These verses say God is truth, His word is truth, and the Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth. I think that truth can also be what we see, feel, touch, smell, hear, and experience when it is framed with the Word of God. If I am speaking truth to someone, my words must line up with the Word. I have had people give me their opinion or feelings and claim they were "speaking truth" to me, but it had no backing with the Word of God. We are to honor and love each other and when we vent at someone in the name of "truth" it reveals more about us than the truth God may want the a person to know.

If God wants us to “speak truth” we need to be sure we have facts, the trust of the person, and knowledge of God’s Word as it pertains to the situation. We need to come along side of a person, not attack him or her. When I believe God has impressed on me to speak truth, I will often ask the person questions and listen until something is said that verifies to me that it was God’s leading. I had that happen awhile back when a girl came up to me crying and she said she didn’t know why. I felt in my spirit it was something and asked a few questions until she finally admitted why she was upset. I knew she would be helped more if she admitted what was wrong than if I pointed out what was wrong. What she told me was exactly what I felt God was telling me. Sometimes I asked students how they were doing with God, and they told me something I felt God was impressing on me to talk to them about. Brennan Manning in his book, Abba Father, tells a story about a man and several small children who got on a train he was riding. The man let his children run wild and the people near the family were becoming agitated. After awhile, the man gently asked the dad if he couldn't restore some order by asking his kids to sit down by him. With tears in his eyes the man quietly said, "Their mom died an hour ago and I don't know what to do." Had he confronted the man harshly or sat and glared at him he would have not had the opportunity to minister to him. We don't know what is going on in a heart when we are speaking the truth about behavior. So, we need to be open to learning about the persons heart. 

To speak the truth in love we need to understand Biblical love. In 1 Corinthians 13 we see love is patient and kind, and it is not prideful or easily provoked. When confronting sin the initial response may be a defensive one or a judgmental one, which flows out of our pride. Love in the form of humility will see past the defense mechanism and remain gentle. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrong. Once we’ve addressed the issue, we need to let it go and let the Holy Spirit do His work. Love believes and hopes. Some people don't change because they believe they can't. We need to impart a belief that the hearer can overcome the issue and pray diligently for them. If we are called to speak truth to someone, we want to avoid using a kamikaze method. Instead, we want to be like Christ, who was in the trenches loving people He confronted. Before speaking the truth to someone, we want to bathe our words in prayer so God can fill us with His wisdom. We want to leave the individuals dignity intact, while inviting them to live in the light. We want to do it in such a way he or she believes we truly love them and want the best for them. We will be able to speak more lovingly if we remember only God can truly change a heart. Our responsibility is primarily to love and to speak the truth.

This speaking the truth thing is a part of God’s plan in maturing us so that we are not tossed to and fro by teaching that comes our way. I am a part of a counseling ministry in our church. I am really surprised at what some of the people believe when they come in. It is often a skewed view of the Word and it isn’t being taught in our church. A wise Christian once told me, “A half truth has the power of a whole lie.” We can prevent a lot of needless suffering by speaking the truth into the lives of others.

Prayer: Father, there are times that You are going to ask us to speak Your truth into someone's life. I pray that each of us will do that with a loving, humble attitude and demeanor. I also pray that we will each allow others to speak Your truth into our own lives. Help us to discern the difference between the truth and our own feelings, prejudices, and opinions. Give us both the boldness and tenderness that Christ had. Amen

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cursed on our Behalf

"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree..."
Galatians 3:13

I am not sure I have fully grasped how much grace was demonstrated to us through Christ’s death on the cross. God’s wrath for our sin was poured out on Christ as He took our sin in His body, hanging suspended between heaven and earth. In return for our sin, He clothed us in His righteousness. In that one sacrificial act, Christ reconciled us to God so we can have a personal, intimate relationship with Him. In that one act He translated our citizenship from the Kingdom of Darkness to His glorious Kingdom of light.

There are several things that stand out in regard to the crucifixion. The first is the thorn of crowns. Thorns came about as part of the curse that God gave to Adam and Eve when they sinned -- "So I will put a curse on the ground…The ground will produce thorns and weeds for you, and you will eat the plants of the field." (Gen. 2:17-18) Later, God told Moses if he did not remove all the people from the land he was giving them that they would be like thorns in his side. In Proverbs 22:5 we find, "Evil people's lives are like paths covered with thorns and traps." The Bible tells us that the fruit that the Holy spirit produces in us is love, joy, peace, patience, long suffering, etc. Max Lucado says that the fruit of sin is thorns -- spiny, prickly, cutting thorns. These thorns can include the consequences of our sin. The consequences can be the events brought about by our sin, as well as the emotions we feel when we sin--shame, disgrace, fear, discouragement, anxiety, anger, disconnection, rejection, and hurt. A person we have sinned against can also feel painful emotions, but the truth is own sin hurts us the most. We are all familiar with those "thorns." I think Christ was also familiar with the thorns when He rubbed shoulders with sinful people He loved and even more so when our sin was laid upon Him. He was overwhelmed with the same feelings we feel when we sin and He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Don't we feel forsaken when we sin even though the Scripture says He will never forsake us? We know Christ never sinned, but He felt the same feelings caused by our sin as they were laid upon Him. 

In His grace, God gave us a beautiful picture of Christ bearing the fruit of our sin, the crown of thorns. I believe the men who laid the crown of thorns on His head did it spitefully with the intent of mocking Him. They did it without knowing it was a perfect physical picture of what was happening in the spiritual realm as Christ hung on the cross. It just goes to show that God was still in control of everything. He graciously allowed them to place the prickly crown upon His head so we would have a physical picture of exactly what was taking place. Like Joseph said of his brothers, we can say man may have meant it for evil, but God meant it for good! He wanted us to fully understand that Christ took our sin, our shame, God's wrath, and yes, even the curse for us. How ironical the symbol that man -- in his most evil state -- used to mock Him turned out to be a physical picture of God’s goodness and grace! He gave up a heavenly crown to wear a crown of thorns so we could become joint heirs with HIM!

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: What are the emotions we feel when we sin? Why do we feel these emotions? Does it make our relationship seem more intimate with Christ when we realize the cry of anguish from the cross was because He felt our guilt, anxiety, shame, sense of rejection? Does it make it easier to come to Him to confess when we know He truly understands? Read Psalm 22. It was a prophecy of the pain that Christ would go through as our Savior. Knowing the pain He faced, He still chose to go to the cross for YOU and for ME. God chose to meet man's most hateful moment with His most loving act! Does that make sense? If we honestly look at our sinfulness, we have to say, "NO!" Yet, that is what God chose to do. That is His grace in action. That is His demonstration of deep abiding love. How do we respond to His grace, to His love--the best response is to embrace Him who was Cursed on our behalf. 

Father, I know how I bristle when I am falsely accused, misunderstood, or made fun of by someone who dislikes me. Yet, Christ took it patiently to buy me out of the slave market of sin. Thank you for sending your Son to pay for my sin. Thank you most of all for having Him bear the curse and wrath for my sin. It hurts my heart to know that the cry of anguish from the cross was because of my sin being placed upon HIM. It hurts to know that He had to feel all the ugliness of my sin and feelings I have when I blow it. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you most of all for making it possible for me to have a personal relationship with You. Thank you for choosing to see only Christ’s goodness when You look at me. Thank you for the life-picture the crown of thorns represents. How painful and how shameful it must have been for Him to wear the symbol of the curse for my sin, yet the victory over my sin is so sweet. Thank you, Lord. I love you. Amen


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!