Joyfully Serving My Master

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Location: Indiana, United States

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Lessons in Music

I love the Christmas season. I am enjoying listening to beautiful Christmas music as I write. There is something about words put to beautiful music that touches the soul. God has used music to teach me so many amazing lessons. Some of them have been hard. I’ve fought against them at times. But when I have surrendered to God’s better plan for my life, I have found intimacy and joy in the presence of my Savior. God has chosen at this stage to completely take me out of the music portion of every service because of some rather drastic reactions to the music within my frail shell. I say that not to elicit pity, but to help you understand the beauty of the lessons I have been learning from music lately. God has given me the privilege of singing solos for Him alone each Sunday. I have the freedom to kneel, cry or even dance as I sing, and not worry about what anyone else is thinking. I am not distracted by the clothing or hair or attitudes of anyone around me as I sing to God. I can worship in song with my whole heart. Of course I could also do that in the service with everyone else. But I’m so sinful and weak, and can so easily focus on people rather than God, and seek to glorify myself by the notes coming past my lips rather than magnify the only one who deserves glory. So my loving Heavenly Father has sweetly removed me from those temptations and has taught me to delight in singing to Him, and Him alone. So as we sing Christmas songs this month I will revel in the truth that I was saved to worship the one who gave up heaven for me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I should have my brain examined

No.  Really.  I should.  In fact, the neurologist ordered tests to do just that.  I don't have much profound to say right now, but I wanted to write here my gratitude.  I'm thankful to know without a doubt that God never gives me more than I can handle.  I thankful that God only expects me to serve in ways that he enables me to accomplish.  I'm thankful that God has given me an incredibly loving, tender, and patient husband who cares for me with such joy.  I'm thankful that my boys enjoy me even on days when my brain is foggy, and that this is all happening at a time when they are old enough to not only do most of their own work, but also help me when I really need it.  I'm thankful for parents, sister, and other family who love me, are so supportive and pray for me daily.  I'm thankful for women in my Bible study who encourage me and show their love to me in tangible ways.  I'm thankful for my hair.  Okay, that may be a little bit surfac-y, but I really am thankful that God has given me the gift of hair that looks good even on a day when my brain is foggy and I forget to even pull out a hairbrush because I'm trying to figure out how to make a decision right then.  I'm thankful for a fun furniture re-do project to keep me interested and occupied.  I'm thankful for fellow servants who gladly pick up the ministry load from me if it gets too heavy for me to bear.  I'm thankful that on a day when I'm tempted to be scared of what life will be like when the state takes away my driver's license and I have to deal with side effects of new medications, that God can bring to my mind so many things I have to be thankful for.  And I'm thankful that there is always enough grace to deal with everything that God allows in my life, so I don't need to worry or fear about the future.  I can rest, and be thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Love

We are quickly coming upon Christmas. What a wonderful time of year where we all focus together on the coming of Jesus to earth. These days there are many distractions that try to draw our attention away from Jesus. There are parties, programs, presents to buy and wrap, and on, and on. Therefore as we enter the Christmas season, we must purpose fix our eyes on Jesus. It is a time to revel in the incredible love that was showered on mankind when Jesus came to earth as a baby, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose again to prove that his sacrifice was accepted. Christmas gives us a picture of the amazing love of God.

As I was preparing to teach on Revelation recently, I began to ponder the love of God shown in the letters to the churches. I was still pondering this love as I reached 4:11 which says, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." Here I stopped as the Holy Spirit took God’s Word and connected some of the dots in my mind. I realized for the first time that the amazing love of God that we see at Christmas, and Easter, and as we look to the future redemption of the church, was just as powerfully displayed the moment God spoke the world into being.

You see, from eternity past God knew every detail of time. Before there was light, God knew that man would sin. Before the waters were separated to produce land, God understood fully that the sin man would commit would condemn him to an eternity in hell to pay for that sin. Before plants began to grow on the land, God had purposed to take that punishment on Himself by becoming a man and dying on the cross. Before the sun began to shine, God knew the pain of the nails being driven into his hands and feet. Before a bird flew overhead or a beast walked the earth, God felt the utter aloneness of being completely forsaken as he bore our sin. And yet He created man anyway. Do you understand that because God knew everything that was to come from eternity past, that the very act of creation shouts the love of God? God wanted to have a relationship with man to such a degree that he committed Himself to everything He would suffer before He created anything. All the promises God has made, were sealed before time began.

Is it any wonder then that we also read of God being a jealous God (Ex. 34:14)? A love so great and so fully committed must be reciprocated. He has done everything to build a relationship with us. He has bound Himself to provide a way for us to have that relationship for all eternity if we will but accept it on His terms. He has offered forgiveness for sin, and gives us instead His own record of perfect righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). This love is a powerful and absolute love. As we read in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, let’s get back to Christmas. The way to experience joy and peace this Christmas is to immerse ourselves in the love of God. We are able to serve joyfully and effectively when we look deeply into the love of God and seek to reflect to others what we have ourselves received. We can give generously (while being a good steward of our finances) when we remember the love that motivated God to give. We will not be able to keep silent about this love as our heart so fully overflows with gratitude for the relationship that God has initiated and built with us. So, my challenge to you is to purposefully focus each day on the love of God which is celebrated at Christmas, and to allow all the rest to flow naturally from overwhelming gratitude for God’s amazing love.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For the Joy Set Before Me

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB)

October this year marks a milestone birthday for me. I turn 40. You know, I have never minded getting older, because with age also comes experience, more knowledge, and a deeper relationship with God. One habit that I have developed over the years is that each year on my birthday I set a theme for the next year of my life. Sometimes that theme is a topic. Sometimes it is a verse. It is always something that I know I need to work through with God in order to grow to be more like Christ. And I really enjoy picking out and planning that theme. Of course, it is putting the theme into practice and taking the next step of growth that makes any difference, and that is always the more difficult part of the year’s theme.

This year I’m choosing my theme from the passage above. I started out with just the very center of the passage, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,” to give me a theme of “for the joy set before me.” But the more I ponder the verses and the rich context of that statement, the more I realize that though the theme “title” may be short just so I can remember it quickly as I go about my day, I need the rest of those verses too.

Why, you may ask, would I choose “for the joy set before me” as a theme for the next year? Well, simply put, it is because I know the self-focused condition of my own heart. I realize that my motives are so often at the very least tainted with pride and a desire for my own glory. How many days do I make supper, clean the house, do laundry, check homework, go shopping and taxi the kids around with a selfish motive? I want my husband to tell me what a good wife I am. I want my kids to think I’m a really great mother. I want friends who come over to think I’m a good housekeeper. I want to be comfortable. I want it to be easy for me. Though what I’m doing may be right and good, in my heart it is far too often all about me. And where does fixing my eyes on me lead? It leads to discontent, complaining, ineffectiveness, and growing weary and losing heart.

Knowing the selfish and proud condition of my heart, I understand that in order to grow in effectiveness, to not grow weary, and to not lose heart, that I must fix my eyes on Jesus and follow His example. His example in this passage is that He endured the cross. He sacrificed Himself to pay for my proud and selfish heart, as well as every other sin that anyone has ever and will ever commit. But He didn’t sacrifice Himself as a woe-is-me martyr, like I so often do. He endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” Joy. So if I’m going to be like Christ, then any work or sacrificing that I do should be because of the joy before me. What is that joy? It is Christ Himself. He offers me eternal life and abundant blessing in this life too, but the greatest joy resides squarely within the person of Christ. And He invites me to abide in Him both now and for eternity.

I must fix my eyes on Jesus by spending time alone with Him each day. I must recognize that the faith I have not only originated in Christ, but that He also does the work of perfecting my faith day by day. I remember the example that Jesus left as explained in Scripture. Then I enjoy Jesus now and look forward to the joy that lies before me.

So I wash dishes for the joy set before me. I clean up the third spill of the evening for the joy set before me. I lovingly discipline my sinful child for the joy set before me. I choose to lose a bit of sleep so that I can have time alone with God for the joy set before me. I welcome women into my not always perfect home for times of discipleship and relationship building for the joy set before me. I serve and love my husband for the joy set before me.

I think that’s a theme worth pursuing with every ounce of energy I have. And if I do, I will change. I will be a clearer picture of Jesus Christ to the world around me. What a privilege that I have to be able display the image of God as I sacrifice myself in the mundane things of life for the joy set before me. Won’t you join me? I can promise you that the joy that God sets before us is worth it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raising World Changers

I am raising godly men who will change the world.  That may sound boastful, proud or just plain arrogant.  But believe me I feel the full weight of that responsibility very deeply and take that task more seriously than I can communicate -- at least when I'm thinking right.  Today has been a day where I have spent quite a bit of time thinking through what the extra hours of summer that arrive in less than two weeks will mean in terms of effective discipleship of my three boys.  I must plan.  I must pray.  I must depend on my wise and godly husband.  I simply can't move towards a goal like this in a haphazard way. 

Let me back up a bit to explain where this all comes from.  When I was in junior high school -- I believe it was 7th grade -- I read two books that God used in my thinking. The funny thing is that neither of these books was particularly impactful spiritually on their own.  One wasn't even a Christian book.  They were simply fictional stories about raising boys.  The books happened to be Louisa May Alcott's Jo's Boys and Grace Livingston Hill's The Obsession of Victoria Gracen.  This is not a plug for those books.  They are fine, but there's certainly nothing earth-shattering or particularly deep in either of them.  But God chose to use those fictional stories about raising boys to build in my mind a conviction that God could use my life in a significant way if I were to raise boys to be godly men who would change the world.  So I started asking God on a regular basis to give me boys so that I could raise them to be godly men who would change the world.  I prayed that for about a year.  And then I forgot all about that prayer.

Fast forward to late fall 2001.  My husband and I were on our way home from the OBGYN.  I had just had an ultrasound and the technician had informed us that we were going to have a son.  I guess I should say another son because we already had two boys.  Sitting in the car talking with Jonathan about the prospect of raising three boys, God brought to my mind an amazingly vivid recollection of my junior high prayers for the first time since they were prayed.  God had answered my prayer.  It was as I pondered that incredible answer to a young teen girl's prayers that the weight of what that meant hit me.  I didn't just ask for boys.  I asked for boys so that I could raise them to be godly men who would change the world.  Wow.  Really?  Just how was I supposed to do that?

There were many more things that went through my mind back then, and many ways that has impacted the way that we parent our boys, but I don't have time right now to go into all of that.  However, I say that to explain my first sentence.  I am raising godly men who will change the world.  I really don't have a choice about that one.  I told God more than twenty-five years ago that I would do that if He gave me boys.  He gave me boys. 

My boys know about my prayers and why God gave them to me.  Luke once told me that it was a heavy weight to know that he was an answer to my prayer for a son who would one day change the world.  I told him that it was really God who would change the world, but that he needed to get to know God so well that he could become the instrument that God would use for that task.  And that's what I tell myself too.  I am a weak and sinful mother.  I fail my children in so many ways.  But I have absolute confidence that God will fulfill His purpose in my boys through me just because He can and because He answers prayer.  So I pray ... and pray ... and pray.  I ask God for wisdom, strength and discernment as my husband and I parent.  I ask God to give my boys a hunger for Him.  I ask God to let my boys get caught in sin so that it can be dealt with.  I ask God that if my boys will one day struggle with any of the "big" sin issues that they will do so while they are still in our home so that we have the opportunity to disciple them through the process [an important prayer, but boy is it ever a scary one].  I pray for their future wives.  I pray for their future ministries.  I pray for the issues that are big in their lives right now.  And I'd better keep praying.  I simply can't do this.  But God can. 

That brings me back to today.  After praying for my boys, God expects me to act in obedience.  So I'm making plans for the summer.  I can't afford to waste the time.  I have a mission to accomplish, and with Luke beginning high school in the fall I realize just how short the time is before he leaves home.  Because I'm raising godly men who will change the world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loved & Released

Loved and released. That makes me think of the old saying, "If you love something, set it free...." And that fits. In a way.

I have spent a lot of time over the last day pondering Revelation 1:5, particularly the end.

"and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood"

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. This means that he has first-hand knowledge of what he is saying, and that he knows it with perfect clarity so that he is able to communicate the facts accurately. It is very important that Jesus is not only a witness, but a faithful witness. My father is an excellent attorney, so I grew up hearing about times when dad needed to work with witnesses to prepare them for trial. Why would witnesses need to be prepared? Well, because each of us as humans is weak and easily swayed by what we hear. We can be lead by a skilled questioner to say things that we don't really mean to say. But that isn't an issue with Jesus. He is a "faithful" witness. Every single word out of his mouth is true and can be fully trusted.

Jesus is also the firstborn of the dead. Of course this doesn't mean that he was the first to die. It doesn't even mean that he was the first to rise from the dead. We not only have Elijah and Elisha raising a couple boys from the dead in the Old Testament, but Jesus himself raised Lazarus from the dead. This firstborn refers not to a timeline, but to position. He was the preeminent one who was raised from the dead. Jesus was the one who was exalted and occupied the position of honor and authority.

The final description of Jesus in this verse is that he is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Talk about putting a lot of amazing truth in a very short space! This preeminent one whose every word is true and trustworthy is also in control of every single ruler of every country on earth. There is not a single king or president or prime minister or whatever else a ruler may be called, who is not actually under the ultimate control of Jesus. I tell you, in a world where rulers seem to be leading in ways I don't understand or like, it is an incredible comfort to know that even the foolish and wicked rulers are nothing but pawns in the hand of my almighty savior, and can do nothing but what will bring about the purpose and plan of God.

However there is another side to the statement that he is the ruler of the kings of the earth. If the verse stopped there it would certainly provide great truth about the character of Jesus. It is good to be reminded of just how high and powerful Jesus is. He is God. He is unapproachable. He is so far above any human, including the most powerful rulers on earth. Don't miss that, because it is in light of this huge chasm between the power, truth and preeminence of Jesus and our sinful lowliness that the next statement is so amazing.

This verse declares that Jesus "loves us." What?!!!! Do you understand what that means? The one who rules over the greatest king loves me, and loves you. Loves. And because he is a faithful witness, his love is a love that knows every single truth about me, even the deepest secret sin hidden in the remote corner of my heart and yet chooses to love anyway. This love is so great that it moved Jesus to give up heaven, come to earth to live as a man and die on the cross to pay for my sin (John 3:16). Our verse says that Jesus "released us from our sins by his blood." This is a love that didn't set me free to go out and do my own thing. Rather, this incredible love broke the chains of sin that bound me, and washed me from head to toe so that not one single sin remains on the account books of heaven. This type of love wasn't cheap. It required the very blood of Jesus to accomplish such a deep cleaning.

So what do I do about all of this? Well, first I fall on my knees in wonder and amazement and worship the all-powerful one who would do such a thing for me. Then I love him back -- not because he tells me to, though he does; not because it is expected of me -- but because I can't imagine NOT loving the one who would love me like that. Part of the way that I love him back is that I joyfully obey what he says. You know, when I understand just how much Jesus loves me his yoke truly is easy and his burden light (Matt. 11:30). The other part of the way I love him back is that I enjoy him. I talk to him all throughout the day. I laugh alongside him when something he created is funny. I dance in his presence -- yes, I do dance as I sing and pray to God. The joy welling up inside can't help but overflow in a private expression of delight. Frankly, I'm too much a proud sinner to do that in public though, because I know that the minute I did that my focus would immediately turn on myself and what other people might be thinking of me -- good or bad -- and it would no longer be an expression of love for God, and therefore would be of no use whatsoever. But in private, you bet! I twirl and laugh and cry with sheer ecstasy as I enjoy the presence of God -- this exalted faithful ruler who loves me enough to release me from my sin by his blood.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Be Thou My Vision

I'm so very thankful for God's nearness right now. At the moment I'm feeling very weak and worn, and tempted to be fearful if not for the sweet arms of God wrapped around me. My body is so fragile it seems. Yesterday I started to pass out because of the heat in the school kitchen. Since my body doesn't sweat, the heat is a real issue for me. I spent the next couple hours in Jon's office curled up on the floor or leaning over on him or his desk. It was nice just to be with my dear hubby. He knows me and how to take care of me. I came home and slept for several hours. I ate supper with Jon and the boys. Then I went to bed early. I expected to wake up and be back to normal, just as I have done after each other heat-related incident. But instead I woke up with a terrible headache and slightly blurry vision. So I must lean on God's strong arm. He must be my vision today. Father, help me to trust in You and You only.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pressed Down and Running Over

Once again I sit here in wonder at how abundantly God provides. To understand the full impact of His great provision I need to back up a little bit and give some background story. Last month we purchased a wedding gift for our nephew and his new bride. There was a computer glitch at Target when we tried to buy it and have it shipped directly to the, so we ended up just buying them a gift card so that they could purchase the item on their own -- which they did, immediately. Then I got home and found a confirmation e-mail that the first gift actually had gone through and the gift was going to arrive on our nephew's doorstep soon. They ended up returning the shipped item, and mailing us the gift card issued to them by Target. Yesterday, I went to Target to buy some of the good deals. My time there was horrid! Well, I guess to be fair, only the checking out part was horrid. The rest of the shopping time was just fine. But I felt like they were treating me like a criminal because I used so many coupons. I had to keep justifying the coupons, even needing to dig items out of the bags to prove that I really did purchase an item that matched the coupon. Naturally a process like that takes a VERY long time when there are a bunch of coupons. I ended up with $33.31 left on the gift card (that number is important). After leaving the store I went to drop something off at my parents' farm. I told my mom about the coupons and she ended up offering to buy the gift card from me since she needed to run by Target to get a few things anyway. I was thrilled to have $33.31 cash so that I could shop wherever I wanted instead of having to face the Target coupon police again.

Today after soccer practice I decided to run over to Meijer to pick up the few things that we really need for next week, including a bunch of meat for a large gathering we are hosting next weekend. When I checked out the total came to $33.31. Yes, God provided the exact amount, down to the penny. Because of the great deals I got on milk, meat and laundry detergent and the coupons I had that could be doubled at Meijer, the amount of the gift card was enough to purchase EVERYTHING that we needed for the next week. I went home rejoicing and shared God's provision with my sweet husband.

He then looked at me and said that there was a family at church that was really having a tough time right now. Did we have enough food to pack some up for them? Once again I gleefully went through the pantry, the stores in the laundry room and the refrigerator. I packed up 6 bags of food, cleaning supplies and toiletries for that family. As I was leaving Jonathan said it would be nice if I could just drop off the food without the family knowing it was from us. I agreed, but didn't know if I could do that with a sack full of refrigerated items in the mix. So he said don't worry about it and just give it to them. When I arrived they weren't there. So I set all of the bags on the porch except the refrigerated ones. I carried those bags to their next-door neighbor. A sweet lady answered the door and was very happy to keep the items in her refrigerator until they returned home. I had introduced myself when she first opened the door, but as I was about to leave she stopped me and asked for my name again. I smiled and said that I would actually prefer that the family not know who gave them the food.

At supper tonight we talked with our boys about God's abundant provision. We told all about His provision for us. Then we told about His provision through us for the other two families this week. Then I took the boys to the pantry and refrigerator and had them look at how much food was still left. They were shocked that we still have at least as much food as we normally have after I go shopping. And then Jon reminded them that there was also a stash of food still in the laundry room. And I reminded them that I spent only HALF of our normal weekly budget, both for this past week and for next week. Jonathan then read to the boys various Bible passages about giving and how God gives to His children. Those verses came alive to our boys this evening as they saw them lived out before their very eyes. All I can say is wow! What a wonderful God!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Abundance Given to Give Abundantly

God is so very amazing! When He chooses to give and bless He does so with such incredible abundance -- "pressed down, and running over." Over the last few weeks God has allowed me the opportunity to use lots of coupons along with some great sales. My cupboards are so full that I have been storing things down in the laundry room. And even that got so full that I really wasn't sure where I could put anything else. With such abundance it was a pretty easy thing to say that I wasn't going to go to the store for anything other than the bare essentials, or those items I could get free or almost free. So I set my spending limit for only $40. As I wrote below I easily stayed within that amount. Yet I had so many great deals that I did bring home many bags of groceries for that $36.

Some friends at church had a fire about six months ago. Their house was finally approved for them to move back the day before yesterday. Yesterday I was over there helping clean out the kitchen because the smoke and soot had covered every surface on and in the cupboards. In doing so I found out that they had to throw away EVERY item of food except those in cans. That means every spice, every box on the shelf, everything. They could have kept the things that were in the freezer except that the electricity was shut off for several days and all that food was ruined.

As I prayed for my friends this evening God brought to my mind the abundance He has provided recently. And I realized that this great abundance was not given to us so that we could sit back and enjoy having our cupboards stuffed so tightly that the doors won't shut. He gave that to us in order to provide for a very real need for another family. I practically skipped around the kitchen -- and laundry room -- as I gathered together bags of non-perishible food, toiletries, cleaning items, etc. I ended up with a laundry basket full of bags to take over to them. And there's still plenty left over for my family.

I know that God could have provided for this family in many other ways. But He chose to allow me the thrill of being a part of His provision. And He did it in a way that showed such abundant provision that my heart sings in amazed gratefulness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

God's grocery provision for this week!!!!

I just returned home from shopping for our family for the week. My goal was to spend $40. I knew that this was going to be difficult for our family of 5, of which I'm the only female and my quickly growing boys (well, Luke really doesn't look or sound much like a boy anymore) can eat an amount that amazes me. I had also gotten notices from two different teachers that I needed to provide snacks for each class this week. And I'm providing a meal for another family today that I needed some ingredients for. So I asked God to help because I knew without His work that I would easily go way over the $40 limit. I had to buy one medical item which will be reimbursed as soon as I turn it in, so I don't really count that in the limit. The total for all the groceries, toiletries and medication was $45. When I take out the $9 that will be reimbursed later in the week the grand total comes to under ********* $36 ************* !! Woohoo! God gives so very abundantly. This $36 represents over $141 in products. We will in no way be scrimping in our food this week. Our cupboards are full, and I'm even having to put some of the items in extra storage in the laundry room. God provided me with great sales combined with an abundance of coupons for just those items, that were sorted and ready for me to use. Thank you, Father!

Friday, September 12, 2008


I was reading lately in Dee Brestin's book, "A Woman of Moderation." I was particularly struck by the concept that the best way to be moderate in areas of life where I struggle is to be immoderate in my passion for Christ. So my plan, as God gives me strength and blesses my very meager efforts, is to replace the immoderation that shouldn't be in my life with immoderation that should be there. Usually I pick a yearly focus on my birthday. I'm still a month away, but I think the new focus is going to start now, especially since last year's focus of growing in prayer still fits very well.

I can't say how excited I am to have as my focus this year. I have been praying through just how this will look in my life. How can I grow in passion for the Lord of the Universe and the work He has given to me?

One of the things that happened recently is that God took some things out of my life. I have a tendency to get very involved in serving at church and at the Christian school where my husband is principal and our three boys attend. Last month I made a list of all the roles, responsibilities, and serving opportunities that I had. I wanted to pray through them before the new school year started, and wanted Jon to go through them with me. I honestly desire my husband's input on where I serve and how I use my time. He is an extremely wise, loving, kind, servant-minded man and is truly looking out for my best interest and that of our family whenever we talk about my serving and schedule. He serves well and hard too, and always supports me in my serving and work 100%. That is why when we discussed my list I was so surprised at his response. He told me, "I don't want you doing that. You need to cut back on this. You should re-evaluate whether you are really needed in this and this." Oof. I took a moment to regroup and realized that God was answering my prayers with a very easy to understand "Yes to this, but no to the rest." I must admit that I was tempted to say, "Now wait a minute! I like serving in those capacities! I'm good at what I do! They need me!" (notice how the focus was just on me -- oh, the pride that lurks in my heart). Thankfully I have learned after many, many failures that it is always better to submit to God's direction the first time than to have Him have to use other measures to get me to obey. So I talked with leaders of the various ministries and stepped out of pretty much everything except two main areas for my ministry: leading the discipleship portion of the women's ministry of our church (which, being a church of 1,600 people really does need me to focus on), leading my own Bible study, and keeping in contact with friends who are missionaries (but that's really more fun than a ministry, so I'm not sure it counts). That's it. And it seems like such a small list to me.

What I haven't mentioned yet is what Jonathan said next. He gave me very clearly the reason that he wanted me to pull back on some ministries where others in our church are equipped and able to do take over my work. His frank comment was, "Nikki, I need you to help me more in my ministries. I don't have any more time I can devote to them. I have to have your help in caring for our deacon care group, and helping me with things at the school that nobody else is doing."

Wow. I get the great (and fun) privilege of stepping out of some ministries in order to spend more time serving alongside this wonderful man God gave me. And I didn't have to struggle or agonize over how to get it all done. It was so simple. I got out of the ones Jon said to get out of, and I'm focusing my energies on the ones he asked me to help him with, and the ones where God has given me a passion and a position of leadership. Who says finding God's will is hard? All I needed to do was ask my husband and then humbly submit to his answer. I am blessed beyond measure and so full of the amazing grace of God that it just keeps spilling out on my cheeks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Answers to Prayer

I see by the dates of the last posts that it has been a LONG time since I last blogged. Life certainly is flying by. However the reason I'm picking this up again is simply that I have a desire to chronicle how God has provided for me and my family, how God stretches and causes us to grow, and how He answers prayer. In short, this blog is simply to bring glory to God. Actually finishing the autobiography of George Muller was my motivation. It was so encouraging to read how God answered prayer and provided for this man and his ministry so many years ago. I want to do the same -- primarily to encourage myself as I look back upon God's faithfulness in my life.

I'll start with a sweet answer to prayer that God provided 2 days ago. I currently have 4 dossiers to translate. That in itself is a wonderful answer to prayer. But that is also pretty much my limit. So I asked another woman who has helped me with translations when I am unable to take them if she would be interested in one, and she said a resounding YES. With that in mind, Monday as I prayed I asked God specifically if He would give me another translation that I could hand over to Gaylene. About 4 hours later I checked my e-mail and there was another family asking me to translate. I gleefully replied that I could not but that another dear Christian woman would be happy to. Then I shared the answer with my boys. What a joy to be able to testify of God's answers to prayer.

Today I realized yet another answer to some prayers this summer. I don't know why it took me so long to see what God had done. Sometimes I'm just more dense than others. Anyway, earlier this summer we decided it was time to get rid of our full-size van. It was sitting parked in my parents' barn and it was time to renew the license. We explored selling it and found that we would probably be able to get around $500 for it, but certainly not more than $1000. Still that is a lot of money for our family. Then we heard of a need of a friend who had no car and no funds to buy one. Jon and I both desired before God to give our van to this man. So we did. And we rejoiced in God being able to provide for another person through us. Now, what I just realized today is that even though we had some very extraordinary expenses this summer we continued to have a surplus of around $1000 in our bank account. I never have figured out how that happened. Today though I came to the conclusion that God supernaturally plugged some holes in our finances, and provided little bits extra here and there in order to provide for our family the maximum amount of money that we could have hoped to receive from the sale of our van. Wow. Talk about not being able to out give God!

God has been so very good. I want to write more about becoming IMMODERATE in my passion for Christ, but I'm tired and need to get to bed. So I'll pick that up next time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Context of Diligent Study

2 Timothy 2:15 is not a verse in a vacuum. To apply it properly to my life I need to understand the context.

The letter was written by Paul to Timothy, a young man taking over some of the ministry of Paul. Paul commended Timothy for his genuine faith. He also exhorted Timothy in several matters in the chapter and a half before my verse:
- boldly use his spiritual gift
- don't be ashamed of the gospel of Christ or of Paul's imprisonment
- Hold fast the sound doctrine that he had been taught, though others have turned away
- Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
- Teach other faithful men the things that he had heard from Paul
- Endure hardship for Jesus who was raised from the dead, and God will grant life for death, and reigning with Him for endurance. But God will deny those who deny Him, even though His character mandates that He remains faithful always.
- Don't strive about words to no profit.

This last one is the verse before my verse. It is therefore the immediate context. Paul is probably referring to false teachers who took God's words out of context and twisted them to mean what they wanted them to mean.

So why should I study diligently? Because there are many today who also will make the words of the Bible mean whatever they wish. Because I must be careful that what I teach and counsel is from God and not from my own sin-cursed intellect. Because I am part of a battle and must work hard to prepare myself to endure well. Because God is so very faithful to me and deserves my best.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Time to Study

Spring and summer have come and gone since my last blog. Those months are always so wonderfully chaotic and fun in a teacher's household. As I now settle back into a normal school routine I realize that it is time to get back to work.

The work I'm talking about is that of doing real study in God's Word. Sure, I've spent plenty of time reading the Bible. I've read through several of the propehtic books of the Old Testament in the last few months and am currently well into Isaiah. But I have been lazy in my study. And I've been wrong.

God doesn't want my Christian life to be mindless or the haphazard result of casual reading. God has planned for His Word to have daily and increasing impact in my life. I'm told to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."(2 Tim 2:15 NKJV)

I don't know that I'll blog every study. But by God's grace and in His strength I am committed to grow in knowledge and application of God's Word so that I can one day present myself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Thinking Train

I was reminding a friend who is currently going through some significant physical trials about controlling her thinking during trials. We talked about Job and Joseph. We talked about the power and love of God who is in complete control of the situation and promises to use that difficulty for the good of the one who loves Him and also for His own glory. We talked about resting in God instead of worrying about personal pain. We talked about the thinking train.

What is the thinking train? Simply it is a very easy way to remember how to deal with difficult situations. The engine of the train is our THINKING. Philippians 4:8 directs us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise. Quite frankly I usually don't have to go past the true before I realize that my thinking needs to be changed. The second car in the thinking train is DOING. Once my thinking is lined up with what God wants, then I can start obeying Him and doing what I should be doing. The caboose of the train is FEELING. Basically I need to focus on how to think and what to do that will please God, then I can trust God to deal with how I feel. Jesus in John 13:17 said, "If you know these things, you are happy if you do them." In this passage Jesus clearly and simply tells us the correct place that our thinking should have. First we think right thoughts, then we do right actions, and finally we will be blessed or happy. Right feelings do not come until AFTER the right thinking has produced right actions.

As is so often the case in my life, soon after spending time with my friend encouraging her to think right and do right and let God take care of the feelings, I found myself struggling with my own feelings. God is so good to remind me vividly of my own sin and show me how to get right with Him again. I had just told someone else what to do with hard feelings. Would I take my own counsel? More importantly, would I trust God to take care of my feelings as I work on thinking and doing right? No, it's not always easy to think and do right when I feel rotten. But that is the only real solution. Yet God is so faithful to bless me and give me the good feelings once I have gotten to the other side of the thinking and doing struggle. And along the way He comforts me, helps me and gives me strength. What a great and awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Prayer of a Leader

2 Chronicles 6 gives us Solomon's speech/prayer at the temple dedication. Here we have the wisest man and greatest leader ever to have lived at what was probably the most important moment of his life. I believe there are some important lessons for us to learn about how to lead and how to live.

1. Solomon recognized God. "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts" (vs 14). Solomon had worked very hard. He had hired and conscripted hundreds upon hundreds of skilled craftsmen and laborers to build this temple. Yet Solomon realized that his own work and position was not the key to this crowing achievement. It was God's work that made everything possible.

2. Solomon recognized the sinfulness of man. Solomon realized that though there was great fervor for God on that day of dedication, there would come a day when the people of Israel would turn away from God again. He prayed for God's restoration in several instances of sin. In verse 36 Solomon says, "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin)." We certainly don't have to read very far to see that both Solomon himself with all his hundreds of wives, and all of Israel do indeed fall into sin.

3. Solomon pled with God for restoration when he and Israel would turn from their sin back to God. He realized that God would punish the sin, but that the punishment was not cruelty. God allowed consequences for man's sin because of His great love. God wants His people to have a loving relationship with Himself and when they push Him aside, sometimes the only way to bring them back is by allowing them to suffer for a time.

What a humble speech for so great a man to make on such a celebrated day. May I remember on those days of success that God gave the success, that I have and will blow it again, and that I need to be prepared to fall upon the mercy of God for restoration when I have learned my lesson.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Take joy in what You hear

I was telling my son a personal story today of a way that God humbled me and taught me an important lesson about worship. I'd like to repeat that story here to remind me that worship is not about how worthy I am, but about how worthy God is.

When I was in college I enjoyed singing. Two of my friends and I used to sing in a trio. We occasionally sang in churches, and once even won a campus competition. Our favorite thing to do though was to go into a rec room with great acoustics and sing one song after another, playing around with different harmonies. We loved it. Often I would go out in the woods to pray and would end up singing my prayers to God. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. And there was nothing like singing with a couple thousand other college students during daily chapels. My heart thrilled every time.

One spring I lost my voice. And it stayed lost for almost three months. I could talk to people, but the minute I tried to sustain a note I would again have no voice whatsoever. I felt like I had lost an arm. I found myself chaffing at being denied my voice. I couldn't understand why God would take it away from me. After all, didn't I use that voice to praise Him? Didn't I help others worship when I sang for church? Wasn't it a good thing to sing hymns and praises together with the rest of the student body? I had a big why in my heart that began to disintegrate into ugly bitterness.

Then God had mercy on me. No, He didn't give me my voice back right away. But He taught me one of the most important lessons I learned in college. And He used one of the most simple songs we sang in chapel to melt my proud and bitter heart, and cause me to worship in spirit and in truth as He truly desires.

I was in chapel, mouthing the words to songs as the rest of the student body sang loudly. After two months of not singing, I was very good at lip syncing during chapel and church. We had sung several songs and came to the simple chorus, "I Love You, Lord." We began to sing and each verse hit home harder than the last until I found my self weeping with repentance over my sinful heart. Here's the song and the lesson I learned to pray with each verse:

I love you, Lord.
And I lift my voice. [though nobody around me can hear it]
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice. [I can rejoice in worshipping God, and worship doesn't take a pretty voice]
Take joy my King, in what You hear [because you're the only one who can hear my song]
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.

It didn't matter that nobody else could hear me. It didn't matter that I couldn't sing in front of a church. I realized that so much of what I had done in my singing before was to bring glory to myself. I wanted people to hear that I had a pretty voice. I wanted to be noticed for the harmonies that I could sing. I ... I ... I. But I finally realized that what I had been doing, though it may have been pretty and had good words, was not worship. It was just singing. And it was worthless.

That song stuck with me. I had beautiful times of confession, praise, adoration, and genuine worship over the next month of my outward silence musically. I learned what it means to worship God from my heart. Finally God did choose to restore my voice. Singing was never quite the same again. Sure, I had my moments of pride. But then God would bring to my mind the lessons I learned so hard, and I was much quicker to repent and begin to worship in ways that He desires.

I told that story to my son today because he asked me to sing a song for him. And you see, I can't sing right now. I haven't been able to sing for the last two months. I'm in the same place I was back in college. But I haven't been without a voice. I have the privilege of making the sweet sound of worship that God alone can hear. And that's enough for me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

God's Love in a List

I've finally gotten to the end of 1 Chronicles, right where there are a few chapters full of names. I have to admit that my first reaction to studying lists of names was not one of jumping for joy. Quite frankly I have always found those lists to be rather boring. So before I began my study time I asked God to help me learn more about Him through His Word, since I know that ALL scripture is profitable -- and God doesn't use 100% words unless He really means them. So I began reading.

I read about those in charge of the divisions of the army, and about the officers of the tribes, those in charge of storehouses, supplies, camels, donkeys, flocks, etc. As I went on it struck me that I didn't know any of the names being mentionned. I probably won't remember any of them tomorrow either. Then the Holy Spirit started turning the light on the Holy Scriptures. I may not know any of those people mentionned, but God knew them by name and cared enough for them to list them in His Bible. So I read the next unknown name, and thought to myself, "and God knew and loved him." Then I read the next unknown name, "and if God knew and loved this guy, then He knows and loves me too."

I started getting excited as I read. Person after person that have passed into the obscurity of time, yet God knew and loved each and every one of them. I found great hope as I read on with increasing interest and excitement. It doesn't matter if anyone on this earth knows my name. It doesn't matter if my work and life one day quickly fade into obscurity. For I know that God knows me intimately, and He loves me so much that He sent His own Son to die for me in order to offer me eternal life with Him. The words I was reading may have been a list of names, but the lesson I learned was one of the intimate love of a God who knows us each by name.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

After God's Own Heart

I'm still studying the life of David. Last night I was reading about when Absalom was killed. Of course just a couple chapters back was his sin with Bathsheba. Here's a man who the Lord through Samuel called a man after God's own heart. Yet David failed miserably. He committed adultry. He had Uriah murdered. He was a lousy parent, not correcting his children even when their wrong was as serious as Amnon raping Tamar. Sometimes he saw his wrong soon after his sin, and he repented right then. Sometimes it took a very long time before he realized how he had sinned, but then he repented. I think that's part of the key. He was no better a person than any of us. He sinned, and he sinned big. But he humbly threw himself upon the mercy of God and begged for forgiveness. He realized that God was the one in charge, and that it was only by God's work in his life that he held the position of king and had success in life. This seems to be a theme that I'm picking up through Judges and the books of Samuel. God kept taking sinful people and using them to bring glory to Himself. I guess there's a lot of hope there for us all. If I want to be a woman after God's own heart, then when I sin again I must humbly repent and throw myself on God's mercy. It's then that God will be strong in my life, and others will know Him through me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Content to Wait on God

I was reading in 2 Samuel 4 last night. The setting is that Saul and Jonathan died 7 years earlier. David was king in Judah for 7 years, but Saul's son, Ishbosheth has reigned in all the rest of Israel. Two men from Ishbosheth's army heard that the captain of the army, Abner, was dead and decided they wanted to get into David's good graces by killing Ishbosheth. They killed Ishbosheth in his sleep and brought news to David, expecting great commendation. However David reacted to the news just as he did when he heard that Saul and Jonathan were dead. He had the murderers executed. In the case of Saul's Death, David tore his clothes and mourned. His question to the man claiming to have killed Saul was, "How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?" (2 Sam 1:14).

David knew that he was chosen by God to replace Saul as King over Israel. He had been anointed many years earlier while he was the youth caring for his father's sheep. He did not become king over Israel though until he was 30 years old. If he was 15 when he was anointed (some scholars say he may have been as young as 10), then he had 15 years of waiting time before God's word to him actually came to be. Whatever the exact number of years, it was a long time for David to wait. I think we see here a bit of the difference in David's heart that caused God to say of him that he was a "man after His [God's] own heart." (1 Sam. 13:14)

So what was it that was most important to David? It certainly wasn't power or prestige, though he had been promised both. He showed in his reaction just what mattered: God's will being accomplished. Saul was God's anointed. Therefore David would not harm him though he twice had the opportunity to kill him. Therefore David mourned, wept and ordered the execution of the one who claimed to have killed Saul. David had told Goliath that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam 17:47b). His actions demonstrate clearly that David not only believed that the battle was the Lord's, but that the kingdom, the king and his own life were God's to do with as God pleased. It was that sweet confidence in God's control that allowed David to wait contentedly until God placed him on the throne. He did nothing to try to push his own timetable, though he had opportunity to do so. He knew that God's timing was best and was content to wait.

I think that's where my heart so often strays from being "after God's" heart. I get excited about something, maybe even something good that I believe would please God. Then I want to quickly forge ahead and do it NOW. And I get myself into trouble by trying to push into things that weren't meant for me to be into yet. Now, David wasn't idle during all that time of waiting. He was busy leading an army, and he did take over as king of Judah immediately after Saul's death. There was certainly no hesitation in accepting the responsibility as God gave it to him and to work hard to prepare himself and his men for the task ahead. But he did not force God's hand.

So the question is, am I willing to wait contentedly on God as He works in me and in others hearts to bring about the right time? Do I really want to be a woman after God's own heart? You know, there was another in the story who was not willing to wait. It was Saul. He got impatient with God's prophet and did things his own way. And God took the kingdom from him because of it and gave it to another who had a heart after His own. So who will it be today -- Impatient Saul or Content David?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Refining Silver

I received the following in an e-mail today and wanted to keep it available. It is not unique to me, though I don't know the author. It is certainly worth thinking through during times of trial.

Malachi 3:3 "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver"This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up, Heexplained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire wherethe flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Jealous Love

I just finished the book of Judges in my Bible study time. As I think through the characters in the book I see so many who failed miserably. Towards the end of the book there are several instances of immorality, whether that be Samson's relationship with a prostitute or the men of Gibeah wanting to have homosexual relationships with a visitor but contenting themselves with brutally raping and murdering his wife instead. I see that and think, no wonder God punished Israel over and over again for their sin. But then God was so very quick to forgive them when they repented, then to defeat their enemies and to bless them until they fell into sin again.

Judges gives us a very different picture of love than what we see in American culture today. It is a love that is forgiving, giving, and jealous. I think we can pretty easily understand how God shows His love by giving to His people, and by forgiving His people. But many have difficulty comprehending how God shows his love just as clearly when He is punishing sin.

Exodus 34:14 says, "for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." This is not the type of sinful jealousy that we might see in ourselves. This is a pure and righteous jealousy coming from a perfect, holy God who loves His people with a perfect love and wants to have a relationship with them. However when God's people sin they break that relationship with Him. As we see with the Israelites, when they refused to put away their sinful ways and return to God, the only way for God to restore a relationship with them was to punish them. He would allow another nation to conquer the Israelites, and allow them to be in captivity for as long as it took for them to come to their senses and cry out to God once more. Then He answered. Over, and over, and over again He answered them. You see, God loved the Israelites. He had chosen them. He wanted to have a close, intimate relationship with them. He loved them jealousy and would not accept them turning away from Him. So He did whatever it took to bring them back, and did it time after time after time.

Israel is not out of the picture. God promises to restore His relationship with that nation once again. However at this point in history God has also allowed people of all nations who will call on the name of Jesus to enjoy that same intimate love with Himself. And it is still a giving, forgiving and jealous love. I am so glad that God loves me enough to make life hard when I rebel against Him once again. I am thankful that He takes the time to give the appropriate consequences to my unrepentant sin. Of course I'm not saying that I like life to be hard or that I enjoy the consequences of my sin. But I am awed that the creator of the universe loves me so jealously that He will go out of His way to do whatever it takes to draw me back into His arms.

I thank God for His jealous love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Give me the faith of -- Jephthah???

I am often astounded at how God chooses to use faulty people to accomplish His plan on earth. Last night I was reading in Judges chapters 11 and 12 about Jephthah. He was the son of a prostitute, rejected by his family and driven out of his country. While in the land of Tob he gathered around himself "worthless" men. The New King James version even goes so far as to say that Jephthah and these worthless men went out and raided together, though other versions say only that they went out together. Whether he was a thief or not, he certainly was a fool to have chosen the companions he did. But the people of Israel went to him for help when they were in trouble, and God chose to bless Jephthah and gave him and Israel victory. But even in the middle of being used by God, Jephthah showed great foolishness. Jephthah made a vow that if Israel won he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Of course the first thing that came out when Jephthah returned home was his only daughter. He realized then his own foolishness, but he ended up sacrificing her anyway. This was clearly against the laws that God had established, and the consequence to Jephthah of his own foolish vow was great.

Seeing God use such a foolish man to deliver Israel from her enemies would be amazing in itself. However there is a much more surprising ending to the story of Jephthah. His name is mentioned again much later in the Bible. Hebrews chapter 11 is often called the Bible's hall of faith. There we read about one person after another who showed great faith in God. At the end of this amazing list of godly men and women verse 32 mentions the name of Jephthah. I was rather stunned to see God single him out like that. Why would God list Jephthah among those with great faith? For that matter, why are Balak and Gideon also there? Balak was the leader who when Deborah told him to go up and fight and God would give him victory, he told her that he would only go if she went with him. Then she responded that God would give Israel the victory but that it would be by the hands of a woman that the enemy's king would be killed. Gideon tested God twice before he would believe that what God said was really true. Then after the great victory Gideon collected all the golden earrings from the plunder and made an ephod that the people worshipped as an idol.

My first reaction to reading this was simply, "why?". Why would God choose to put men who seem to me to be foolish and even lacking in faith in this hall of faith? I was almost indignant at first. But the more I pondered the question, the more humbled and grateful I became. You see there is great hope in the fact that God ended up remembering the faith of Balak, Gideon and Jephthah. How many times am I a fool like Jephthah? How often do I test God instead of stepping out in immediate obedience? How frequently do I qualify my obedience, saying that I will do it if somebody else will do it with me? And yet how greatly I long to be a woman of faith. I want to trust God completely and immediately. So I have hope. Despite my foolishness and cowardice God can take my tiny faith and make it great.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Judged by works

I was reading in Isaiah 59 and came to verse 18 that says, "according to their deeds, accordingly He will repay." Now this is not a good thing. The previous verses talk about how God looked and saw that there was no justice and no intercessor, therefore he put on garments of vengeance. This of course was referring to the nation of Israel but it made me ponder about God's judgment of sin today and in the future.

I turned to Revelation 20, the scene of the Great White Throne judgment. Here Jesus is sitting on the throne judging those who did NOT place their trust in Him as their personal savior. These are the people who rejected the death, burial, resurrection and future coming of Jesus. Verse 12 says, "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." Every single one of these people appearing at this judgment will be condemned to hell for all of eternity. However they will also be judged according to their works. Eternal torture and horror alone is not enough for those who Jesus judges most severely. Somehow the worst offenders will get a worse punishment.

My next thought was, if unbelievers are judged according to their works, what works will be judged the most severely? I thought through passages in the old testament talking about what God hates. Proverbs 6 says that "16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren." Then Malachi 2:16 says "For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously." I also thought of the Old Testament Laws and what did God consider capital crimes in His nation Israel. Leviticus 20 gave some stern words: "13 'If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.14 'If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.15 'If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal." There were certainly many other sins named among those I have already listed. But I didn't yet have my answer.

Next I looked to the person of Jesus, come to earth as fully God yet fully man. He showed us physically the nature and mind of God. So when we look at the life of Christ, which sins did He judge the most harshly? That is actually a pretty easy question if you have spent much time reading the gospels. Jesus' most harsh words were directed at the religious establishment of the time, the Pharasees. He condemned how they perverted God's laws with the addition of their own man-made rules and regulations. He also condemned any who would lead a child away from God saying, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

The next question was, why? Why did Jesus judge the false teachers and the legalistic and hypocrital religious leaders so much more harshly than those committing murder, adultery, homosexuality, or any of the other sins mentioned above? As I pondered and prayed through the scripture that I had been reading I had one of those light bulb moments -- you know the ones where the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God for a follower of Christ.

The answer was so simple. All I had to do was change my perspective. I was looking at sin from an earthly perspective. The murder and other "worst" sins as I had thought were all ones that killed or seriously hurt the physical body and emotions. That is indeed bad and deserves punishment. However there is another perspective, an eternal one. From the standpoint of time without end, harm done to this physical body is far less serious than harm done to the soul. A murderer may kill this time-bound body and cause someone else to lose even as much as 80 years of life. However a false teacher who keeps someone else from learning the truth about Jesus causes that person to spend all of eternity separated from God in horror and torture worse than we can imagine.

God is holy and can have no sin in his presence. Yet God desires for all men to be with Him for eternity. We read in 2 Peter 3:9 that "The Lord is not slack [slow in fulfilling] concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." However God has given man a choice. Our sin and works must be judged. We can choose to have our works judged at the Great White Throne judgment and face eternal punishment for the sins we have committed. Or we can choose to have our works judged at the cross where Jesus, the only sinless man to ever live, paid the only price possible in order to take away the sins of the world, and then offered to all who accept that payment His own perfect righteousness. It is that perfect righteousness of Jesus that gives anyone at all the wonderful prospect of spending eternity with God.

Looking at what it took on God's part to provide a way for man to avoid hell and enjoy heaven, it is no wonder that He is so very harsh with those who stand in the way of someone receiving such a great gift. God, may I always present You in truth and according to what You have revealed in Your inerrant Word.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Why me?

I was just pondering the opportunities God has given me to work in difficult and desperate situations with other women and wondered why He would choose me. I have never gone to look for that type of situation. I would never have considered myself the type of person to whom God would choose to trust a broken and fragile soul. Yet once again He has chosen to trust me. It is in times like these that I learn great and profound truths once more. God can use my weaknesses to show Himself strong. He takes my foolishness and makes Himself wise in the eyes of another. He takes my unfaithfulness and shows Himself ever faithful. He takes my small grains of faith and moves mountains with His mighty hand.

God could effect change in the heart and life of people with a single breath from His mouth. Yet He has chosen to use faulty people like me. God could take each believer directly to heaven the moment he trusts Christ as his personal savior and make him immediately perfect. Yet He has chosen to entrust us with life and the opportunity to be a part of His master plan on this temporary earth. God knows every need and thought in a man's heart. Yet He has chosen to act in man's life in response to the sincere prayer of true Christians. I am so insignificant. Yet God has placed the righteousness of Christ on my account and has invited me into the very throne room of heaven. I am grateful beyond words. I have been given life both now and in eternity, and trusted with the lives of others.

Why me?

Because of Christ.