Nov 27, 2007

The Good Gifts

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Today I went Christmas shopping for my son, Cooper and I was ecstatic about it. I had in mind what I wanted to buy him (because he had made it clear after all) and was double and triple checking the toy aisles to find exactly what he wanted. Maps. Yes, maps. This kid sits enthroned on his car seat and peruses the Dallas area map telling me which direction to drive. Never mind that the map is upside down and that he’s pointing at an airport while directing me to the zoo. Details. He just loves gazing at the tiny, crooked lines of the country roads and the big, blue signs that number the major highways. I also believe that he enjoys telling me what to do, but that is beside the point. Anyway, our problem is that the map he has to look at is as large as he is and when he finally manages to get it opened up, it has become a head to toe blanket. Hence, his desire for his own toddler-sized map. And although it was difficult to find (I spent an hour in Target), I loved looking for it. And what I found was better than I expected: a plastic, easily foldable, small map of Texas, including detailed maps of the major cities! Just his size! And do you know what was right beside it? A kid’s atlas with fun activities included on every page! He loves dot-to-dots! I know that I’m getting a bit excited about my find, but I just know that it’s going to make him so happy. It pleases me to be able to give him the gifts that he desires.

Isn’t that just like God? Don’t you know that He is pleased to bless us? So many times in His word, He instructs us to ask Him to fulfill our needs. We are told to ask for wisdom (James 1:5), to present our requests to the Lord (Php. 4:6), to come to him for our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), to simply ask (Matt. 7:7). So why do we hesitate? If God wants to give us gifts and even says that every good and perfect gift that we receive comes from Him (James 1:17), what’s holding us back from asking? I, of course, have a few ideas.

*We simply don’t think about it. Whatever our need is seems so trivial, we don’t even think about approaching the throne room of God on its behalf.

*We’re too busy. If I’m not carving out time to spend with God, then I’m definitely not praying like I should. This also robs us of peace because we are trying to do it all on our own again.

*We don’t want to be disappointed. If I don’t ask God for something, then I can’t be disappointed when He doesn’t provide it. The problem with this one is that in asking God to do nothing, sometimes that’s exactly what He does: nothing. He still protects us and watches over us, but we have cheated ourselves out of seeing God work in this particular situation.

*I wrote the book on this one: we’d rather worry and do nothing than ask God and find peace. Ouch! I know; I’m sorry if that one hurt. I’m a bit bloodied by it, too. I think as women, we are natural worriers. Even though it’s no fun, it’s comfortable. We’re familiar with it. We’re more unfamiliar with the whole asking and trusting thing. But again, we are cheating ourselves of the peace we would find if we would learn how to present our struggles to the Lord and choose to believe that He’s going to act on our behalf (Isa 64:4).

Are you trying to do it all on your own? Or are you one who is afraid to trust God again because you feel you’ve been burned in the past? Maybe, like me, you’d rather just sulk and worry than get on with it. Ladies, God says in John 10:10 that the life He means for us to live is an abundant life. A full life. But He also says that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). I want every aspect of abundant life I can get my hands on! I want all the joy, peace, love, wisdom, strength, and effectiveness that He wants to give me. I want it all. I surely don’t want to miss out on any part of it simply because I wouldn’t ask for it.

This Christmas season, with all of the giving that’s going on, let’s let our Heavenly Father give to us. Let’s bring it all to Him, no matter how small or big, and expectantly wait for His answer. He will answer. And be assured that the response we’re looking or hoping for will pale in comparison to what He will do. Let Him show off in your life! He is always up to something, and that something is good and loving. His reply may look different than we had anticipated, but it is ever for our benefit and for His glory. Will you cooperate with Him? Will you trust Him? Will you let yourself be given to? Unlike a child who is not guaranteed what he has asked for, we will be given to. Let Him do it.

Memory Verse:

Isaiah 64:4 - “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

Thank you, Lord, that you are so involved in our lives, that you want to give to us. Father, help us to remember to pray for everything that we would ever need, should it be spiritual like wisdom, joy, and peace or material like mortgage. You are the Meeter of all of our needs. Thank you. We praise you, Jesus, and ask this in your name. Amen.

Nov 20, 2007

To Rest or Not to Rest. . .

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it." Isaiah 30:15

Well, tomorrow is the day designated to "give thanks" for the blessings we have been given. A day to take time away from the stresses of everyday life and thank God for His care. However, when we are up to our eyeballs in turkey, cranberries, and out of town guests, running hither and yon from morning 'til night, it's difficult to have an attitude of gratitude. We swap the pressures at work for the burdens at home. In turn, we wake up Thursday morning, and probably Wednesday as well, feeling defeated before the day has even begun.

"How am I ever going to get everything done?"
"I need to clean the house, pick up Mom at the airport, dress the turkey, and make the pies. By noon."
"Will someone shut those kids up?!" (Although, I'm sure you would never think this.)

The past couple of months God has been impressing upon me the importance of rest. And although physical rest is something that God clearly wants us to do, it is the spiritual rest that is paramount. Life-giving. In the midst of busy days like tomorrow, we are in danger of losing our tempers at best and our minds at worst if we are not quiet and at rest in the Lord. So, how do we get there? How do we get our minds to rest?

God instructs us to cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He also says that if we keep our mind steadfast on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Isn't that what we need? A healthy dose of peace? A mind at peace is a mind at rest. However, our problem, as outlined in Isaiah 30:15, is that sometimes we will have nothing to do with it. We continually lay our "stuff" down at His feet, start to walk away, then turn around and pick it right back up. We don't trust Him to take care of it. We worry about everything. What would happen if we woke up tomorrow morning, got on our knees in prayer and gave our day to God? What if we just said something like, "Lord, this day is Yours. Help me to accomplish the items on your agenda and let go of the items on mine. Help me to see that just because I think something needs to be done doesn't mean that You do. This is a day to spend with You and my family celebrating the blessings You have bestowed on us and we WILL do that. I resolve to trust your plan for the day."

This would free us up to enjoy the happenings of the day. The pumpkin pie didn't get made? Oh well, I guess we didn't really need it. Maybe someone's allergic. Every room of the house didn't get cleaned? Maybe another woman in the family needs to see that it's okay to have a little dirt in the house. Those kids simply won't cease barreling through the house at 90 miles a minute? Maybe I need to learn to lighten up and enjoy the innocence and joy of childhood. Mom didn't get picked up on time? Maybe she needed a lesson on forgiveness. Or patience.

Let's give it all to the Lord and then trust Him to take care of things and work out His plan. He's always doing something. Can we just let Him do it? Wouldn't it be so much easier to just let Him be God and stop pressuring ourselves to fill that role? Let's sit back and watch Him do His thing. Who knows? Maybe if we're still enough we might actually get to see Him at work instead of missing it because we're trying to do His job.

"Father, we thank you for an opportunity to rest and enjoy our families. We ask that we would be able to be still and quiet, trusting you to run the day ahead of us. Help us to remember that you've got everything under control and to find rest in that. We love you. Jesus, thank You for your sacrifice for us and the freedom it provides. In Your name we pray, amen."

Nov 13, 2007

How Much Fruit?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

As I sit here at my computer staring blindly at the blank page waiting to be filled, God reminds me anew that He is the source of all good things in me. This week has been one of slight personal struggle, and I confess, I have reacted to my trials by pulling away from spending time with God. Interesting that this follows on the heels of my devotional last week encouraging us to make it our goal to know God more intimately. Anyway, I digress.

I have known all day that I need to sit down and type up this post, but I could not figure out what it was I wanted to say. Usually, I am feeling particularly passionate about a lesson God has given me and I can’t wait to get it out. I decided I needed to pray and ask God what He wanted (duh).

“Father, I know I have not spent time with You as much as I should. I’m sorry. But these ladies are depending on me to get out a devotional tonight, so could you please tell me what to say?” I left off what else I was thinking: “and hurry, please. I need to get this done before Cooper wakes up from his nap.”

Still. . .nothing. Shocking, I know. I plodded on, deciding that I would write about a subject that God has been talking to me about for a couple of months. However, after I managed to painfully put a few words together to compose the first sentence, I had nothing else. A vast vacuum of nothingness. It was as if someone had turned my brain completely off. Stringing together words and phrases in an effort to give us something to ponder has been a joy to me and all of sudden, I was incapable of putting words to thought. It was at this moment that God reminded me that anything that He wants done through me will come from Him, not me. Not only will the command come from Him, but the ability to carry it out will also.

So often we get instruction from the Lord and we take it and run. We devise an action plan, implement strategies, and get going. And we are successful for a time. We are in His will. We are seeing fruit. But, inevitably, the moment comes when we realize we have done everything we can do in our own power. We hit a wall. Maybe you get assigned a task that you are completely untrained or ill-equipped to handle. Or maybe you are forced to work closely with someone who you, quite frankly, despise. Maybe, someone you feel you have been sent to help, is starting to look like they are beyond help at all. Or maybe, like me, your creative juices just dry up. Our plan starts to unravel, and we start to doubt whether we are really called to this place at all. Yes, we have seen fruit, but we begin to imagine it withering on the vine.

“Maybe I misheard God. This is too hard and I have no idea what I am doing. Maybe He didn’t really call me here.”

“I knew God calling me here was too good to be true. Obviously, I’m not succeeding anymore; everything is stagnant. I need to move on.”

It is at this exact time that God is calling us to turn to Him. He is whispering, or maybe with some of us yelling, “You cannot do this on your own! You need Me! If you will let me do this through you, the results will be astounding!”

God tells us that it is His will for us to bear much fruit (John 15:8), but He also tells us in verse 5 of this same chapter that we cannot do it if we are not remaining in Him. In the original language, remain has two synonyms that I find extremely interesting:

1. to stand
2. to wait for

How often do we stand and wait for God to give us further direction? How often do we hear only the first step and hastily bolt out the door confident that we know what to do from here? We know what we're doing, after all. Ladies, we must pause. We must listen. We must stop thinking that we know how to do it all. (Don't you hate that it always comes back to that?) We need to take our humility pill and admit that we need God to not only give us the what, but the how, where, and when as well.

God has a great plan for you, a unique way for you to do His work. And it will be the most fulfilling work you've done. But it is His plan, not yours. His way, not yours. Your way may produce a little fruit, but His produces much. And it is fruit that lasts (vs. 16).

Resolve today to stand, wait, listen, and then obey. When you do, your branch will begin to bend under the weight of new fruit. Mmmm. Do you smell that? Smells like grapes.

Father God, thank you for your patience with us. Thank you that when we rush ahead of you, trying to do things on our own, you are still there waiting to catch us when the fall comes. Thank you that you have everything under control and that your plan is good. Help us to wait on you, to trust you with the timing and the details. Thank you that we even get to be a part of your work here on this earth. Amazing. We love you. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Nov 6, 2007

The Narrow Door

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”
Luke 13:23 – 27

This portion of scripture makes me a little uneasy. Uneasy for our church community. At first glance, we can mislead ourselves into thinking that the people outside of the door here are only those people we consider “non-believers” or “atheists” or whatever we would like to call them. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear to me that He could also be speaking of the person sitting next to me in church. Of the sweet lady who serves in the children’s ministry or the man who greets me as I walk into the door to the sanctuary. Of any one of us who does not “know” Him. Know Him. What does that mean? If not knowing Him is going to keep me out of the gates of Heaven, I need to know what that looks like. Surely those attending church and serving endlessly and selflessly know Jesus. Surely the smiling grandma who welcomes my son into Sunday School each Sunday knows Jesus. And honestly, yes, they probably know Him in a salvation sense. They've probably asked Him into their hearts and will spend eternity with Him, and that is what Jesus was talking about here. But it got me thinking. Is that all that God desires of us? A knowledge that saves us from hell? Or does He want more for us?

Interestingly, two of the synonyms (or synonym phrases) for the original Greek word translated as know here are :

1. a knowledge grounded on personal experience
2. a knowledge obtained by proximity to the thing known

Do we know Him? I mean, really know Him? Are we experiencing Him in a very real way in our lives? Are we getting what I like to call “down and dirty” with Him? Are we asking Him the hard questions? Are we bringing Him our gut-level concerns and fears? Saying with our mouths what is really going on in our hearts? Are we being real? And are we in close proximity to Him? Allowing Him to speak into our hearts? Quieting ourselves enough to hear Him? Spending quality time with Him? Or are we just too busy for a real relationship with Him?

Knowing Jesus is much like knowing our best friend or our spouse. We spend time with them talking, laughing, crying, and sometimes just listening. We know what makes them tick. We know what makes them joyful and what burdens their soul. When my husband walks into the room from his ministry job, I know exactly how his time went. How? By the way he holds his head, the look in his eyes, the pace of his gait. I have spent so much time with him that I know what every look means and what's really behind the words that he speaks. Many times I can even finish his sentences. Do we know our Savior like that? Is our goal everyday to know Him and love Him a little more than yesterday or are we “trying to enter” into Heaven by serving, doing, striving? Yes, we are called to serve and to do it well, but what is our motivation? Are we serving out of obligation or because we feel like it’s a good thing to do “for God”? Are we serving and calling it a relationship with God? Sometimes we can have a relationship with serving God but not have a relationship with God alone. Let’s resolve to know our Lord and Savior more intimately than we know anyone else. To allow him into our lives so that when we finally gaze upon His face, we recognize Him. We are able to run to Him and embrace Him like a friend we have not seen in years. Because that is what He will be…a friend.

Lord, thank you that you do call us friends! Help us to really see you as our best friend and treat you as such. Thank you that you care about every part of our day from rising in the morning to lying down to sleep at night. We know that you actually enjoy being included in our activities, so please help us to invite you into them. And help us to make our relationship with you REAL. We're sorry for treating you as some far-off, impersonal being. Teach us to know you and invest in you. We love you. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Nov 1, 2007


“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”
2 Corinthians 11:14

There are two precious, dare I say sacred, days of the week that I set aside for writing. They are sacred because they are the only designated large blocks of time carved out where there is no bright-eyed 3-year-old pulling on my sleeve, staring up at me with Precious Moments eyes and sweetly begging, “Mommy, I love you. I just wanna be with you.” I can rarely resist pulling that pleading child into my arms and, thus, giving in to his demands. My days are filled with library trips, marble games, Hot Wheels adventures, and stick-fighting. Consequently, the rare times that I get to sit down with my coffee, my computer, my Bible, and my thoughts are held with a pretty tight fist. So, today when I arrived home from dropping my son off at pre-school and my husband looked at me with Precious Moments eyes and sweetly begged, “Can I get some time with you today?” my internal dialogue was…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing it was internal. I know, I know…I am blessed to have a husband who wants to be with me. Yes, he is willing to put aside his work for an hour; I should be too. All of this I know. But, all my mind was saying was, ”It’s my time! I only get it twice a week! Why can’t he leave me be and let me get things done!” And as these thoughts ran through my head, God reminded me that next to my relationship with Him, my relationship with my husband was the most important. So, I resolved to finish what I was doing at the time and then give the man what he wanted: my precious time. I know…my attitude could have used a little adjusting. Do you know what happened? That time was some of the sweetest we’ve had in the past few months.

As I came back to my computer, to a cold cup of coffee by the way, it hit me that if I would have let my perceived busyness dictate my actions today, I would have missed out on receiving the much needed love I need from my husband. And he would have been left with a longing unfulfilled. You know, I think Satan is really good at feeding us lies and making them sound believable. Of course he is; he’s the father of lies. It’s what he does. I actually believed that I was too busy today to spend time with Lou. The LORD has been impressing 2 Corinthians 11:14 on my heart the last few days. Satan will put things in our way to switch our focus from God’s best plan for our lives. As fine as writing about God and His word is, and as much as I am called to do it, it does not supercede my family. We have a tendency to think that if something we’re doing is good or noble or about God, it is from God. We need to remember that the enemy will throw good things in our paths to direct us away from the great things God has for us. Yes, I enjoy writing. Yes, I know it is something God has asked me to do. Will I let it keep me so busy and ministry-focused that I fail to fulfill the calling He has given me in my home? NO! Let’s decide today to put God and His plans first, not our to-do list. For it is in following Him in obedience that we find true soul-satisfying fulfillment and really, make the biggest impact on the world around us.

Father God, we are sorry for getting so busy that we sometimes neglect the people in our lives that need us the most. Please give us the discernment to know where you want us spending our time. And in hearing and following you, please help us to spread your love and the aroma of your Son to those around us. In His name we pray, Amen