Thursday, November 02, 2006
Acts 2 - It is Raining the Spirit
"In the Last Days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I'll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both,
and they'll prophesy.
I'll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for helpto me, God, will be saved."
Oh, some days I just want to cry out for Him to pour His spirit on me like rain. Today was one of those days. The tedious and the mundane were over-running my life.
I want to see His wonders and His miracles. There is so much need around me. My business partner's sister had surgery yesterday as she is dying of cancer. We prayed and miraculously there was no cancer in her stomach. She still needs strength to recover from the surgery, but I believe He is at work in her life. Rain on Her Lord with your healing love.
We need direction in our business. Lead us to the right partners Lord. I know that our business is not too mundane for you. It is an incredible opportunity to pour out your love and your power.
I love what Acts 2:27-28 says about how David viewed God:
I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side.
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I've pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you'll never dump me in Hades;
I'll never even smell the stench of death.
You've got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.
My tent is pitched in the land of hope! My feet are on His life-path. There is no other word like "Hallelujah!".
Monday, October 16, 2006
This chapter of the gospel (translated: Good News) of Luke is truly good news. If you do not have a relationship with God, if you do not know his unconditional, extravagant love, then He is waiting for you to be found -- for you to return to him.
The story of the sheep says that if just one sheep in a flock is lost, He will look until he finds it. He won't give up on finding you, until you are back in His tender arms.
The story of the coin talks about a woman that has lost just one of 10 coins. A coin by its very nature is generally of little value. But if you have just 10 of them, losing one is significant. At the end of this story she gets so excited about finding the lost coin that she tells all the neighbors about it!
The final story in this chapter is a familiar one - the prodigal son. Dictionary.com defines prodigal (noun) as a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift. Have you wasted your life? Have you wasted God's gifts or sqandered the love and trust of others. Come home. God is waiting for you to return to Him. He wants to throw a party!
God's love is constant, predictable, unconditional. He loves you. Whether you are lost or you have just wandered from Him, forgetting His goodness and mercy, COME. COME.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Proverbs 15 - 17
A pattern emerges - a Life Plan
Gentle answers, commending knowledge, healing words, accepting correction, seeking righteousness, wise words, prayer, discernment, a cheerful heart, fear of the Lord, a meal made with love, patience, understanding, listening to wise advisors, pure thoughts, hating bribery, cheerful looks, humility -- This is what Solomon says is good in Proverbs 15.
Proverbs 16 tells us that while man looks at what we do, God looks at our motives and what is in our heart. Solomon tells us to commit our plans to the Lord and he will bring success to us.
and your plans will succeed.
4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends—
even the wicked for a day of disaster.
5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.
7 When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.
Solomon then continues with the list of things that should be included in our life plan -- righteousness, honesty, wisdom, humility, listening to counsel and trusting the Lord, discernment, pleasant words and patience. These are things we should pursue.
The beginning of Proverbs 17 uses contrast to demonstrate what we should be doing -- comparing a sparse meal that is served with love, with a feast in a house full of strife. Solomon also reminds us that even a servant who is obedient will be better off than the son that doesn't heed what his father says and that in fact the inheritance is at risk if you disgrace your father. Verse 12 says that it is better to meet a grizzly robbed of her cubs than a fool that is hellbent on folly.
Much of chapter 17 is about how we behave in community:
5 Whoever mocks poor people insults their Creator;
gloating over misfortune is a punishable crime.
... and in business:
15 Whitewashing bad people and throwing mud on good people
are equally abhorrent to God.
Verse 17 talks about how we should behave with our friends and family.
17 Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.
but the "life list" is the same.....
Peace, wisdom, honoring parents and grandparents, eloquence, truth, overlooking offenses, cherishing friendship, faithfulness, being cheerful, perception, justice and mercy. These are the things that we should pursue.
Lord -- give us your Spirit so that we can easily conform to your life plan. We need you.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Proverbs 12-14 - The idea is clear - Serve God and live
Discipline, a life rooted in God, justice, sensible talking, hard work, kindness to animals, good conversation, taking good advice, being truthful and seeking truth -- these are just a few of the things that Solomon admonishes us to seek after.
The alternatives? Refusing correction, scheming, corruption, death, contempt, starvation, ruin, trouble, deceit, lies, distortion, laziness, worry, misfortune, disaster.
Whew..... when given the option, what choice would you make?
Practical wisdom. That is what Solomon provides for us. A guideline, a roadmap, a book that shows not only what to do, but the consequences of going our own way.
Personally, while I'm enjoying reading Proverbs, I am missing reading about Jesus! It had to have been a bit overwhelming in Old Testiment days to have to live up to what Solomon wrote about without the hope of the help from the Holy Spirit and the gift of mercy and grace of Jesus' life.
Their only hope was to keep company with the Godly, the wise. Proverbs 13 says:
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Proverbs 10 lists all of the wise things to do and their results, as well as the foolish things and their consequences. This is like having road signs and stop signs on the road of life.
If we follow the wise path, we will reach a good destination. Without good direction, people lose their way.
Proverbs 11 begins with a discussion of the virtues of honesty and integrity.
an evil life is a hard life.
the story's over, end of hope.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Proverbs 7-9 Discipline is at the heart of the story
Proverbs 7 covers the now familiar story of the man being seduced by the temptress. If the repetition of this theme in the first 7 chapters of this book is any indication, this must be one of the most important things that Solomon wanted to get across to men! Again, as a woman, this doesn't resonate with me, but I do need every day to look at the things that seduce me away from the path of seeking what is pure and right.
To me, it all boils down to discipline and holding on to what is right. My graphic today is supposed to represent a treadmill. It is a little tough to see in a thumbnail view of the art, but to me, a treadmill embodies discipline.
I am in Colorado on business today and when the wakeup call came at 645a, I had to decide whether to embrace discipline and get up and go to the gym or whether to sleep another half hour. Fortunately discipline won out and I worked out for 30 minutes and before my meeting, am getting my blog done (although I somehow missed that we started on September 1 with a Proverb a day, so I'm catching up here!).
In Proverbs 8 Solomon says that discipline is a good thing!
those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
don't squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
awake and ready for me each morning,
alert and responsive as I start my day's work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
to say nothing of God's good pleasure.
But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul;
when you reject me, you're flirting with death."
Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I've prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
Walk up the street to a life with meaning."
Verses 9-12 of Chapter 9 talk about how true wisdom is in the fear of God and that our lives will get deeper and richer if we embrace and know God.
tell good people what you know—they'll profit from it.
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God,
insight into life from knowing a Holy God.
It's through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens,
and the years of your life ripen.
Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life;
mock life and life will mock you.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!". I want the rich, deep life and I want wisdom to permeate all that I do and say.Have a super Saturday.
Friday, September 08, 2006
In Proverbs 6 Solomon outlines many things - laziness, hanging around with riffraff and rascals and once again adultery, but the most important in my estimation are in verses 16-19:
and one more that he loathes with a passion:
eyes that are arrogant,
a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent,
a heart that hatches evil plots,
feet that race down a wicked track,
a mouth that lies under oath,
a troublemaker in the family.
Chicke Fitzgerald ld
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This chapter is an admonition for men to stay away from adultery. To be fair, women should as well, but Solomon knew full well that he needed to stress this to the young men first.
her soft words are oh so smooth.
But it won't be long before she's gravel in your mouth,
a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart.
She's dancing down the primrose path to Death;
she's headed straight for Hell and taking you with her.
She hasn't a clue about Real Life,
about who she is or where she's going.
For those of us that are not tempted by adultery, but who are seduced by other things in our lives, we need to remember the previous chapters of Proverbs that tell us to seek Wisdom and to surround ourselves with the counsel of the wise, lest we be tempted.
Of course my favorite part is verse 18 where he encourages men to rejoice in the wife of your youth. Well, I have to be careful here, because Michael and I didn't get married until I was 33 - hardly considered a youth!
This chapter ends by reminding us that the Lord is watching and pays attention to all of our choices. Here are verses 21-23 in the New International Version.
21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all his paths.
22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast.
23 He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Lest we be confused about where Solomon stands, this chapter reiterates over and over that we must seek Wisdom in all that we do.
love her—she keeps her eye on you.
Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!
Throw your arms around her—believe me, you won't regret it;
never let her go—she'll make your life glorious.
She'll garland your life with grace,
she'll festoon your days with beauty."
it will add years to your life.
I'm writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way,
I'm drawing a map to Righteous Road.
I don't want you ending up in blind alleys,
or wasting time making wrong turns.
Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip.
Guard it well—your life is at stake!
Don't take Wicked Bypass;
don't so much as set foot on that road.
Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth.
Make a detour and be on your way.
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
leave evil in the dust.
Lord, keep me focused on you today and on the path that you have set for me. Keep the kids safe and healthy. Show us your heart and teach us how to love.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Proverbs 3 - I'm holding on to the promise of an afternoon nap!
If you read my post from yesterday, you will know that I've been praying for direction in our business. I woke up today with an email from a dear friend that told me to pray without ceasing and that God would do amazing things in my life and in our business.
Then as I read this third chapter of Proverbs today, the first passage that hit me was:
Verses 5 and 6 may be more familiar in the New International Version:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.
These verses build on what was said in Chapter 2 about integrity and also about surrounding yourself with people that will provide sound advice -- love and loyalty are essential to keep the right people around you and then as a result of doing so, a solid reputation will ensue.
Following these passages, Solomon throws in some wisdom about tithing and also about accepting God's discipline.
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline;
don't sulk under his loving correction.
It's the child he loves that God corrects;
a father's delight is behind all this.
Well, we don't have a barn or wine vats, but I'm ready for our bank account to burst and our wine cellar to be full! In fact, the New International Version says it will be new wine, the good stuff. Bring it on! May my heart be as ready for God's loving correction when I don't listen to His word!
Chapter 3, verses 13-20 remind us that Lady Wisdom is the tree of life and that "Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her."
And verses 21-28 is where Solomon makes my favorite promise:
don't for a minute lose sight of them.
They'll keep your soul alive and well,
they'll keep you fit and attractive.
You'll travel safely,
you'll neither tire nor trip.
You'll take afternoon naps without a worry,
you'll enjoy a good night's sleep.
No need to panic over alarms or surprises,
or predictions that doomsday's just around the corner,
Because God will be right there with you;
he'll keep you safe and sound.
Since I travel constantly, the promise that I will travel safely and neither tire nor trip has special meaning. It is actually funny, as this past week when I was in Mexico, I actually did take an afternoon nap after my meeting with my client. I didn't do so without worry though, as I really needed to be working on writing a business plan! So I was missing an important ingredient -- common sense told me that my body (and my spirit) were really weary and that I needed to trust that God would refresh me and inspire me, keeping me safe and sound, not only physically but in our business as well.
The last part of Chapter 3 deals with generosity, being straighforward and wise living. Yesterday in church, we were reminded that ministry begins with giving a cool cup of water to someone that is thirsty. Verses 27-28 say:
your hand is God's hand for that person.
Don't tell your neighbor "Maybe some other time"
or "Try me tomorrow"
when the money's right there in your pocket.
We have been greatly blessed financially and are generally quick to write a check when there is a need expressed. I pray that I will be as quick with my hand and a cup of cool water, when that is what is needed.
I will switch to the New International Version for the end of this study:
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise inherit honor,
but fools he holds up to shame.
Grace is given to the humble, but thankfully the promise given to us by the death of Jesus on the cross is that grace is ours - we don't have to earn it.
Lastly, when we demonstrate wisdom, we inherit honor. I don't know anyone who would choose shame over honor.
Lord, let me hear your Word today and really listen to what you have said. May I find new rest in your guidance and act responsibly with what you have blessed us with. Be with our children today in school and continue to work in their lives -- teaching them not only about math, science and language arts, but about what is truly important in life. Seeking you and trusting you.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Proverbs 2 - Lady Wisdom and the journey of life
In Proverbs 2, verses 10 and 11, it says
and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion.
Good Sense will scout ahead for danger,
Insight will keep an eye out for you."
If we are going on a journey, who better to accompany us than Lady Wisdom and her friends Brother Knowledge, Good Sense and Insight.
In the early part of this chapter Solomon talks about how they keep us on the right track, versus others who will try their best to detour us from this path -- traveling paths that go nowhere,
wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends.
Have you ever been on a trip without a map or a GPS system? As you travel the road you thought you knew, you find only detours and dead ends. Frustrating isn't it? Particularly if you were seeking advice and got poor directions.
This chapter is about surrounding yourself with good advisors. Listen to those that are Godly and can provide not only information, but can translate that information into wisdom. Look for those that use good sense and can provide insight into the natural things that happen in your life -- those that look to the end of the journey, not just the fun along the way.
There is always a path between two points that is the fastest and that path is generally straight, although there may be deviations that are necessary to get from point A to point B (such as going around a mountain). There are times when it is ok to take the scenic route (when there are no time pressures), and there are other times when you must just take the fastest route because time is of the essence.
There is also the issue of your skill level in how you get from one point to another. A mountain climber might elect to go over the mountain, whereas someone who didn't know how to safely repel and climb or who didn't have the right equipment (e.g. adequate oxygen) should take the longer way around.
In any event, to sum up Solomon's advice in Chapter 2:
keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths.
It's the men who walk straight who will settle this land,
the women with integrity who will last here.
The corrupt will lose their lives;
the dishonest will be gone for good.
Lord, today may I focus on Lady Wisdom and selecting people who walk straight and have integrity to follow as I made the decisions in the coming days about our business. Give me common sense and insight as I ponder my choices.Keep your hand on the kids as they continue to pursue knowledge in school this week. Let them hunger and thirst after wisdom.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
For those that have been following my blog, you will know that our kids have been going through a bit of a transition in moving from Montessori environment to a more traditional type of school.
For Sergey, Montessori did not provide enough structure and because they combined 3, 4 and 5 year olds in kindergarten, he didn't get proper training for 1st grade. So this year, he is repeating kindergarten at his new school. Recognizing the situation was the first breakthrough and acting on it, by moving him to a new, more structured school environment has produced his own personal miracle. He is enjoying school and working hard. By the end of this year, he will be ready for the challenge of first grade and that transition will be much easier than if we had ignored the situation and just moved him up.
Kiera on the other hand, loved Montessori and excelled in the less structured environment. Unfortunately, the transition to the new school has exposed the weakness in the old environment where she was "handheld" through much of the learning process and although there are things about Montessori that encouraged independence, it did not produce the kind of discipline that she needs in the new school.
This morning before church, Kiera was having trouble studying and doing her homework. It was as if a dark cloud lay over her. At church I was talking to several people about how hard it was for her and one of our friends, Thristene, offered to pray with her.
On the way home from church, after praying for a breakthrough, Kiera was commenting on the sky (it was raining really hard when we came out) and how grey it was. I mentioned to her that behind it was blue sky, even though she couldn't see it and that it was just like with the homework -- now it seems grey, but with her hard work will come the "A" that is right behind the clouds.
I recall thinking as I said it, that I wished that the clouds would open up just a bit so that she could see the analogy, but thought it was hopeless (as I'm sure Kiera was feeling about learning math and science this week). Just then, our own personal miracle occurred. All over the sky, the clouds just broke up and bright blue sky appeared and the clouds that had been grey, turned fluffy! It was amazing!!!
God is so good. He cares about homework and 8 year old girls and loves to demonstrate His love through His creation.
So let's look at the spiritual side of this life lesson. When we try to do things under our own steam (ie. without God's help), things can look very gloomy and even downright depressing. But when we ask for His insights, he removes the veil and allows us to see clearly.
Lord, this week I ask for your clarity of vision for Kiera and Sergey in school -- that they would remember the things that they have studied and be thankful for the wisdom that you have given to them. Give Michael, Fidelia and I the patience to work with them and teach them all that you want them to know, in addition to what is required of them at school.
Continue to place your hand on our lives and on our business.
And thank you for the sunshine and the fluffy clouds.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Solomon became king nearly 1000 years before the birth of Jesus. He was the son of David. He was known for his wisdom.
The first and most famous incident of his cleverness as a judge was when two women came to his court with a baby whom both women claimed as their own. Solomon threatened to split the baby in half. One woman was prepared to accept the decision, but the other begged the King to give the live baby to the other woman. Solomen then knew the second woman was the mother.
Solomon wrote Proverbs, as well as Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
Proverbs begins with a discussion of wisdom and it lays an important foundation:
I like that he acknowledges that the young need this, but also for those of us that are a bit more "seasoned". We are fortunate that someone as wise as Solomon took time to write down these instructions for us. If we follow his guidance, we can avoid untold frustration and sorrow. Like the sign in my graphic for today, he is showing us that there will be obstacles in our lives, some even unseen to us, but no less trecherous.
This week we've been battling the homework and study challenges at home. Although our daughter is very bright, she is failing at her least favorite subjects -- math and science. To this, Proverbs says:
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.
8-10 Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you;
never forget what you learned at your mother's knee.
Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair,
like rings on your fingers.
There is a very important passage beginning with verse 10 that reminds us not to listen to our friends when they try to get us to do things that are wrong. It is easy to relate to this when we think about our children, but is much more subtle when we are adults and are swayed away from what is important by the mundane -- email, a house that needs to be cleaned, finishing up that client project even though it is the weekend.
The rest of the chapter talks about the fools that reject wisdom and learning and how bad choices have consequences. The New International version says:
since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
But lest we think that it is all hopeless, he continues:
In these tumultuous times, where terrorists would have us be anything but safe and at ease, it is wonderful to know that in God, we can be at peace -- and become wise!
Lord, show us your ways and help us to desire your wisdom and to be able to pass on that desire to our children.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Several months ago, after a 3 month recovery period from surgery, I came back to work with a singular thought. I didn’t want to be there!
Now for some, you would just begin looking for other work -- not a problem. For me, it was my company and I couldn’t easily walk away. So I started creating my “get out of jail” plan. Now I wasn’t in a real jail and to be fair, I love my work. But I felt trapped. Trapped by having to earn enough to keep others employed, trapped by a need to “deliver” to my consulting clients on strict schedules and trapped by the sheer demands on my time.
In Philippians, Paul and Timothy are in a real jail. They are trapped by real bars and no doubt by oppressive treatment from their captors. Yet, they take the time to encourage others. Wow.
Looking back to Philippians 1:6, it says “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finishon the very day Christ Jesus appears.” I don’t know about you, but this week I desperately needed that encouragement. I love the thought of a “flourishing finish” to the work that God has begun in my life.
I love Philippians 2. A very dear friend of mine John Stangle from my early days as a Christian used to sing a song from this chapter. It was a bit of a paraphrase, but talked about how we should think about ourselves as Christians, walking in His image.
Have that mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus
He who was in the form of God, counted it not wrong to be equal with God
But He emptied Himself, becoming a servant
I know that this sounds awfully spiritual and I’m not sure that I even got this before now. The beginning of Philippians 2 in the Message translation says:
1-4 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."
Boy, did I need this one this week. Can you think of someone that you need to be deep-spirited friends with? As Christians, that is what we are to be to each other.
In the end of Chapter 3, Paul likens our walk as Christians to a race and he encourages us to keep our eye on the prize. In verse 14 he says “I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.” In beckoning us to Jesus, he is beckoning us to love – to really love.
Chapter 4, versus 6-7 urge us to let go and let God manage our lives. “Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Then in verses 8-9, Paul says “Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."
Sign me up for that! I love to sing and I have always loved singing harmony. I love the fact that if I put Him first in my life and do what He has called me to do, that everything – the good and the bad – will work together for good. My life will be like the most perfect harmony.
And back to being in jail – whatever your jail might look like – Paul admonishes us with his statement “I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
Lord, help me to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in. Teach me to love.
And now, as you go into the long weekend, I admonish you with what Paul says to the Philippians in verse 23:
Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus
Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Philippians 1 - It's all about LOVE!
Remember the silly game with a daisy - he loves me, he loves me not? Our study this past few weeks of the book of John told us unequivocally that HE LOVES ME!
In the book of Philippians, Paul and Timothy begin their letter to the church in verses 9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
In verses 27-30 Paul exhorts the church "Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people's trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they're up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You're involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter."
As Paul writes, he is actually in prison and he speaks of the power that he has been given to witness about the love of Jesus. He isn't speaking theoretically about suffering. He is suffering daily, but still using that to give glory to God and to speak of the power of Jesus in his life.
Today, may I share the good news in all that I say and do. Not flinching or dodging in the slightest if I am up against opposition. The good news is love and acceptance and as we learned about in John 21 yesterday - abundance. Bring it on!
This chapter begins with a simple story of God's extravagant love for us. The disciples had been fishing all night without any luck. This is how we often feel when we try and try to meet up to the expectations of others or what we believe is God's expectation of our behavior. Under our own power, we just can't do it.
John 21:6 He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens."
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in.But when we call on Him and allow Him to lavish us with His love, he gives us a full net -- if only we will fish on the other side of the boat.
When He talks to us, He often asks us to do things that are the polar opposite of our nature. But in doing those things --- we receive His gift of abundance.
Matthew 5:3 "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11-12 "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Today I pray that you will listen to His Word in your heart -- fish off the other side of your normal boat. And just simply say "BRING IT ON LORD"! Accept His abundance, His extravagant love.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Today I was driving into our subdivision and they had put a speed monitor on the main boulevard as you drive in. The immediate effect of the speed monitor is to show you your speed in relation to the speed limit, which invariably is too high. So.... when you see the monitor, you slow down.
It occurred to me that the Word is like the speed monitor. There are warnings about how we should behave and an outline of what is good and right. It is the Holy Spirit's role to keep us focused on God's Word and to remind us what Jesus was teaching when He walked the earth.
John 16:8-11"When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.
In John 16, Jesus is trying to help the disciples understand what is about to happen when he is crucified. He talked them in parables and they struggled to understand. When he finally spoke plainly, they ultimately grasped what he was trying to say.
John 16:32-33 I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."
This verse is at the heart of my faith. I am so thankful for his gift to me and my ability to be unshakable and assured - DEEPLY AT PEACE. Even in the midst of difficulties, I can remember that He conquered the world, so I don't have to!In Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed for the disciples, and he also prayed for us. His prayer was simple:
John 17:21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you.
I know that you know what it feels like to be at odds with others, perhaps even with your spouse or best friend. There is nothing worse --- and nothing better when you reconcile and become one heart and mind. That is what He wants for us.
In John 18, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and delivered to Pontias Pilate. Pilate handed him back to the Jews and offered a pardon, but he was betrayed a second time when they asked that Barabbas, a freedom fighter be pardoned instead. In John 19, Pilate knows that Jesus is in fact the son of God and he is afraid and tries again to pardon him. But in the end, he is more afraid of the people than he is of Jesus, so he gives in and orders him crucified.
John 19: 16-19 Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified. They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read:
jesus the nazarene
the king of the jews.
20-21Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. "Don't write," they said to Pilate, "'The King of the Jews.' Make it, 'This man said, "I am the King of the Jews."'"
22Pilate said, "What I've written, I've written."Who are we to deny Jesus, when in His presence, the highest law of the land knew Him to be the Son of God?
Throughout the balance of chapter 19 and the account of His death, over and over, the old testament scriptures were confirmed. The account even contains a statement of its accuracy and the words that "it was told so that you would hear and believe".
John 20 - Resurrection! 1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance.
John 20 is the story of Jesus being raised from the dead. Resurrection. Life in exchange for death. This is the culmination of our faith -- the promise that He has for us. We no longer have to live in sin, in separation from God, in the mundane and the lack of purpose. We live because He lives! The chapter ends with Thomas, known forever as doubting Thomas, questioning the resurrection unless he sees Jesus with his own eyes and touches the hole in His side.
John 20:29 Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing."
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
I pray that in revisiting this familar story, you will be convinced in your heart that He is not only Messiah, the Son of God, but that if you never have said out loud that you believe, that you will now do so and that you will know real and eternal life, the way he personally revealed it. And that you too will be unshakable and assured - DEEPLY AT PEACE. Even in the midst of difficulties, you too can remember that He conquered the world, so you don't have to!
And, the next time you see a speed monitor, you will be reminded of the importance of staying in the Word and listening to the Holy Spirit who is here to remind us to love, so that we can be loved.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The Lord has been dealing me with how we all communicate together in our family. Expectations, even those as simple and mundane as when to do something or when to be ready to go somewhere or who is responsible for something like homework, when unspoken can create strife and even chaos.
This morning was the first Monday after the first full week of school for our kids. While the children's nanny regularly does homework with them after school each day, normally in their previous school, they didn't have weekend homework. Well, this morning, we looked in Kiera's binder (way too late I might add) and found that there was homework that was not done from last week. The bottom line was that Kiera forgot about it and we didn't provide the safety net for her in checking it earlier in the weekend when we could have done something about it.
A valuable lesson was learned by all, but a painful one for an 8 year old that doesn't yet have a solid relationship with her new teacher.
Lord, help Kiera to learn how to ask for help and how to not be embarassed in front of her new friends. Ease her frustration and help us to help her succeed, instead of being quick to point out her failures and not accepting our role in managing the change that she is experiencing.
John 15 - I am the Vine and you are the branches
Several years ago Michael and I went to Napa Valley to one of our favorite wineries and had the pleasure to be a part of the harvest. Now, for those who don't understand what that entails, I have put together the pictures above of our actual journey through winemaking.
We arrived that morning at the winery and it was raining. The ground was not only damp, it was soaked. Thankfully Michael had urged me to wear boots -- really ugly boots... I saw other women in sandles and although it was much more stylish, I was very happy later when I saw what it was like to walk through the vineyard. Life lesson number one. When your husband tries to get you to be practical, it is a good idea to listen. Later on I swear I had five pounds of mud caked on each foot. Needless to say, the women in sandles were not happy campers.
First thing when we got into the vineyard, they gave us the clippers and taught us how to cut the grapes -- close to the vine. As we started cutting, it was immediately apparent that the grapes closest to the vine were the most succulent. Those that were out on long branches were stunted in their growth and not at all sweet. I knew immediately that God was teaching me a lesson about His love and that if we stay close to Him, we will bear sweet fruit in our lives.
John 15 begins with a story about God as the vinedresser and that as the vines are growing, He must prune them in order that they would bear more fruit.
We know from our many trips to Napa that it is very true in the natural with the vineyards, that those that are pruned produce so much more fruit. It is hard though when we are the subject of the pruning! But again, we saw that the branches that had missed the pruning were not only not yielding good fruit, but they were a sickly yellow green instead of the beautiful deep green of those that had been pruned.
Verses 5-8 of John 15 talk about how separate from Him we can't produce anything and that we may as well be thrown to the bonfire. Conversely if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and we will bear fruit! That fruit is LOVE, joy and peace.He wants to teach us how to love like He loved us.
John 14 - I go to My Father's House
In John 14 Jesus talks of His Father's house and how there are many rooms there and that He was going to prepare their rooms, and would be back for them.
It is amazing to me that the disciples didn't figure out that speaking of natural things was His way of helping them to more easily understand the spiritual world. They continued to try to interpret him literally. They wanted to know where the road was that would take them there.
In verses 6-7 Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You've even seen him!"
8 Philip said, "Master, show us the Father; then we'll be content."9-10 "You've been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don't understand? To see me is to see the Father.
This chapter is chocked full of very practical instruction - about loving, about prayer, about the Holy Spirit who He said He would leave behind to take care of us. The Holy Spirit's job is to make everything plain to us.
Lord - open our eyes to your Word. Teach us to listen and hear and understand. Teach us to love like you love us. Give us your peace.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Weekly Reflections and John 9-13 The Healer
This week I traveled to Mexico City on business and missed updating the blog daily, so today I am catching up with the 5 chapters from 9-13 in the book of John.
The first chapter of this week's study continues the theme of Jesus quietly demonstrating His power by healing a blind man. Again, the Pharisees attacked Jesus, this time for healing on a Sunday.
In verse 39 of chapter 9 Jesus says "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." 40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?" 41 Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure."
Jesus had a way of plain speaking that cut right to the heart of the matter. This angered the Pharisees, because they knew that he was right. Amongst the Pharisees were some who knew instinctively that the good things that Jesus were doing had to be of God.
In John 10 Jesus continues his plain way of communicating - first beginning with an allegory about sheep and a gate and the role of the shepherd in protecting the sheep from those who would come to steal and harm. The people didn't understand what He was trying to say, so He spoke even more plainly about the fact that He was the gate and the good shepherd. The Pharisees were angry and even tried to stone Him. In this chapter Jesus also talks about laying himself down for the sheep, which was another allegory about being nailed to the cross. At this point, it wasn't time for this to happen, so the end of the chapter says that Jesus slipped away back across the Jordan river.
John 11 is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It is interesting that first upon being told that he was sick by his sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus elected to wait a few days before coming to the town where they lived. By the time He arrived, Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew that this was the chance to reach Jews who previously just would not believe. After all, who could deny that someone who was dead was now alive?
Here I was struck by the fact that something bad had to happen to allow God to be glorified. How many times have you heard people say "Why would God allow this to happen?". Whether cancer or a tragic accident, each thing that creates deep need is an opportunity for God to show His power.
Even though Jesus knew that His own life would be in danger by performing such a stark miracle, he called to Lazarus, dead for 4 days, and he came back alive. The word spread and Jesus went to a place where He would be safe with the disciples until it was time.
He knew the "script" and the perfect timing of God's plan, so He was at peace.
John 11 begins with the story of Mary annointing Jesus' feet with precious oils. She came under criticism for that move, with Judas who would betray him saying "why didn't you sell the oil and give the money to the poor?". Again, knowing the script, Jesus said that Mary was honoring Him and that the poor would always be there, but He was not going to be with them much longer.
Meanwhile, the Pharisees were plotting to kill Lazarus, as he was drawing much attention to Jesus - the last thing that they wanted!
When it was time, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. He was greeted by people who had heard the first hand account from Lazarus. This angered the Pharisees even more, as if they needed igniting. Yet some of them did believe, but "were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God's glory."
In Chapter 12, verses 44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, "Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark. 47-50"If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn't take it seriously, I don't reject him. I didn't come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I'm saying, is willfully choosing rejection."
Chapter 13 takes us to the upper room where the infamous Last Supper would be served. Jesus begins by washing the feet of the disciples. In verse 10 Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene."
The chapter continues with the recognition of Judas as his betrayer, in fulfillment of the prophesy in the Scriptures. Then he lays down his instructions to them - a New Commandment:34-35 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."
The final verse in this chapter is about how Peter will deny Jesus before morning. We know what is coming and so did Jesus.
On Friday I had lunch with my friend Thristene who just returned from 2 1/2 months in Mozambique. As I've written before, she was part of an amazing missions community there where people were regularly being healed miraculously. She herself prayed for people in Africa whose eyes were opened after being blind. This is Chapter 9 in action - TODAY, not 2000 years ago. Someone sitting across from me eating Mexican food in a restaurant in Tampa, not Jesus.
In Chapter 13, verse 19 Jesus said "I'm telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am. Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me."
Thristene was one of many in Africa who were sent to minister to the local people. Their ministry reached literally hundreds for the Lord. It isn't about the miracles, although as shown in these few chapters in John, Jesus clearly saw the value of miracles in making people believe.
It is about love - Jesus loving people enough to stop, listen, touch, pray, heal. Healing not only their bodies, but their lives - cleansing their hearts and filling them with life - removing the effects of death. We can be the man who had been blind, we can be Lazarus.
Jesus is here today. Let Him touch you and be your healer.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
This chapter begins with Jesus teaching in the temple. I found it striking that as the Pharisees taunted Jesus, trying to trip him up by bringing an adulteress to him, and initially all He did in response was draw in the sand.
The text never says what he wrote, leaving us to wonder whether he was writing what he wanted to say to her or whether he wrote what he wished he could say to the Pharisees.
The entire chapter they challenged Him and tried to twist what He said. He retorted that if they questioned Him, they questioned His Father who sent Him. This angered them even further.
He also angered them by declaring that Abraham was not the Father that He referred to but it was Father God.
He also talked of a freedom that they could not understand.
34-38Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can't come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. I know you are Abraham's descendants. But I also know that you are trying to kill me because my message hasn't yet penetrated your thick skulls. I'm talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father, and you just go on doing what you have heard from your father."
Let's not have thick skulls. He loves us. God loved us enough to send Him to give us freedom.