Tuesday, June 26, 2012
"Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." -- Proverbs 21:21
Teaching KidsPraise at my church as been such a blessing to me. It is my way of using the talents God gave me to give back and serve others. But, it has taught me so many things, and reinforced things I already knew. My experiences with KidsPriase have really brought the Proverbs verse above to life.
This past Sunday, the lesson was about TRUST...trusting that God is bigger than your fears and if you keep your focus on Jesus, then you can do amazing things. The Bible story was one of my favorites...Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Yes, the story and the way I told it was meant to teach children about the Bible and about God, but it was so perfect for what is going on in my life too.
Grown-up life can be a pretty scary thing. Living with consequences of bad choices from the past...dealing with bad things that get dropped in your lap...your plans for your life don't always work out the way you thought they were going to and sometimes the way they are working out is really tough. Sunday morning I woke up and had all those thoughts running around in my mind...I was just plain afraid of what was going on and afraid of what is going to happen in the future. You know the feeling when you are TRYING to do the right things and fix past mistakes, but you seem to be going no where? But, I picked up my KidsPraise script and began reading through it again.
The story goes that the disciples were so afraid in the boat in the middle of the huge lake in the middle of a terrible storm in the middle of the night...they were in the middle alright...the middle of a nightmare. Then they saw what they thought was a ghost walkign toward them on the water...when they realized it was Jesus, Peter took a huge risk and stepped out of the boat. With his eyes on Jesus, he took several steps in a journey that was virtually IMPOSSIBLE! But, the minute that he took his eyes off Jesus and realized where he was and what he was doing, he sank straight down in to that terrible story water. But, when he cried out to Jesus to save him, the hand of the Lord reached down and pulled him out!
Reading through those words was a comfort. But...when I was in front of those little faces...in front of children who haven't had the chance to make huge mistakes and live with the consequences...the story came to life for me!!! They helped with making it seem more real by blowing and rocking back in forth like the waves rocking the boat. They looked up in amazement when I spoke of Peter walking on TOP of the water! They understood WHY Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus.
By studying the Bible and teaching it to others, I have been pursuing righteousness and love. I am looking for help. when I feel like I am drowning in my own circumstances I need only to cry out to Jesus and he will life me out of the story water and remind me to keep my eyes on him. By learning to pursue righteousness (a life of full of God's love) I am finding life! Life isn't always easy...it is full of scary storms. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus and TRUST him, then I know I can make it through the storm!
Just typing that, it sounds a little trite and too easy to to be true. But...I am here to tell you that it IS true! I am still afraid of what the future holds for my hard situation...but the good thing is I KNOW that I will make it through. I will be ok. I CAN work through the consequences of past mistakes and not drown because I go back to keeping my eyes focused on Jesus.
I am looking forward to a life of love, prosperity and honor, knowing that I have a Savior who loves me and will save me when I am drowning.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
"Sing to God, sing praises of his name. Extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him - his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land." -- Psalm 68:4-6
Believing in God is not that hard. Just look around you...it is impossible to look at the intricate parts of plants, animals, the human body, the solar system and not believe that we have a creator that put all of this world together in a specific way for specific reasons. No, believing in God is not the problem...relying on God is much tougher for us.
How do we RELY on someone we can't touch? How do we have a RELATIONSHIP with someone who we can't have a conversation with? How can we PRAISE someone we can't see? How do we have confidence in someone who we feel sometimes is not there?
Those are all valid questions...without faith.
Faith is not easy. Sometimes it is strong and we feel God with us. We can see how God is at work, even if we can't see God. But, there are other times, and unfortunately, there are probably more times, when faith is harder to come by and we don't seem to see God anywhere in our chaos.
The key is faith along with obedience. Obedience is doing what is right and relying on God, even when you can't see God. Hanging on to faith, even when it is small and weak, and still doing what is right...that is what God wants from us, and he will reward us for it.
I have had my time living in a sun-scorched land. There have been times in my life when I couldn't see God, couldn't feel his presence and didn't feel like doing what was right. I did my own thing, went my own way, and I suffered for it. I had a TASTE of life without God. At first, I thought I was free...I could do what I wanted and not worry about the consequences. I was young and even though I BELEIVED in God, I didn't think I NEEDED God. That freedom turned into slavery...I made mistake after mistake and unfortunately, I am STILL dealing with some of the consequences of those mistakes. But, God doesn't want his children living in slavery...when I was low, so low I called out to that God I believed in to help me, and he picked me up out of the slavery I had put myself in and he showed me how to not only believe, but have the faith to rely on him and obey him as well. It was THEN that I was free!
I don't know HOW it works...I don't know what God looks like or what his voice sounds like, but I do know he's there. I have a relationship with him because I talk TO him and listen for his guidance around me. His voice may come from that still small voice inside me, or it may come from a friend, or from a repeated Bible verse that keeps popping up. I may not hear the "voice" of God as Moses did, but I have FAITH that I hear him!
And so, I praise him! I sing my praises to him, the one I can't see, hear or touch because I believe and have faith enough to rely on him AND obey him. I even praise him when I have doubts and my faith is small. He knows...he hears and he takes care of me! Thank you Lord!
Monday, June 18, 2012
"Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out." -- Colossians 4:5-6 The Message Translation
Who are the "outsiders" in your life? In the verses above, I believe Paul is speaking about non-Christians. It is natural for us to want to be around and hang out with people who like to do the same things we do, believe the same things we believe and think in similar ways...it's comfortable to live like that. But, if you follow Jesus, you know that Jesus leads us to step out of that comfort zone and interact with people from different walks of life.
If you only hang around people who are "like" you, you are missing the boat, and the whole point of Christianity. The verses above are filled with great advice. Not only are we to live and work among outsiders, we are to USE OUR HEADS and bring out the best in others in our conversations and build people up not put them down.
Talk to people and get to know them. Use your heads and allow God to lead your conversations so you are creating positive relationships with people...all different kinds of people. People who are living in ways you don't agree with...people who don't know God and the blessings he can bring...people who are living in ways that make it obvious they NEED God in their lives. Talk to them without juding their lives. You never know when that opportunity will arise when they will reach out and WANT to learn more about Jesus. And, even if they don't...be gracious with them and not treat them as an outsider.
You never know when you will be an outsider to someone else...One of my favorite books and movies is The Outsiders. That story is about kids who were different and just wanted a safe place to belong. How many people do you run across each day who just want to a safe place to belong? We ALL feel like that sometimes.
Jesus was an outsider...Think about it!
Friday, June 15, 2012
"Carry each other's burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ." -- Galatians 6:2
The Message translation puts this verve with the one before it and after it and says it in way that will make sense to many:
"Live creatively friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out, Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived."
There is so much MEAT in those words! "Stoop down and reach out..." When I first read those words, I thought about some that place themselves ABOVE others. But I think it might mean that we all get low and oppressed from time to time...oppressed by our sins, but also by our circumstances, our feelings, our failures. We get so down that we can't see getting up. We need a friend to come, who is not down at the moment...someone who can stoop or bend down and SEE where we are and reach out and pull us up.
Christ's law...what is that? Jesus taught by his words and his actions. When asked, he said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind and soul. He also said the second commandment is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. So, if we are loving God with all we have, we will also be able to love the people around us.Jesus also LIVED by his words and reached out to people who were down and out. Loving someone can mean you listen, you advise, you help them...you lift them up. That's what we would want someone to do for us when we are down, right? Jesus also LIVED by his words and reached out to people who were down and out.
Share or carry each other's burdens...this doesn't mean we are to take on the problems of the world. But...it means we should care about those around us enough to learn what burdens are weighing our friends down and do our best to lighten their load. I am a "fixer"...which means I sometimes think I can solve everyone's problems and FIX the situation. This sometimes gets me into trouble...rarely do I FIX the problem and end up feeling like a failure for my friend. What I forget is, I probably can't and don't need to FIX it...I just need to be there. Lightening someone's load may just be giving them a smile and giving them something other than their problems to think about for a while.
This isn't rocket science, my friends! But...if we don't bother to stoop down and reach out, we ARE deceiving ourselves! Be an ear that listens to someone today. Call a friend who has been having difficulties lately just to say hi. Do a favor for someone who isn't expecting it. Stoop down and pull someone up a bit today! The world is FULL of hurting people! We need to help each other! If you WANT a friend...BE a friend!
James Taylor had it right when he sang:
When you're down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten even your darkest nights.
You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there...you've got a friend.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you." -- Ephesians 4
I read those words and I dream of a world in which all people tried to live like that every day. What a pleasant dream!
If you believe the Bible to be God's words to us...God-breathed words...words spoken by God to human beings he chose to write them down...then you believe that the Bible is filled with God's advice to us. Our Father is giving us advice on how to live a better life.
My father used to give me advice. He would boost me up by telling me I could do anything I put my mind to. He would tell me that life is full of hard work. Oh yeah, and he was very polically minded and shared those thoughts with me as well. He wanted the best for me...wanted me to be happy...wanted me to succeed...waht parent doesn't want those things for their children!
When I think of God as my Father, then it is easy to understand why he sent his words in the form of a book that has withstood thousands of years. He wants us to learn something from his words. He wants the best for us...he wants us to be happy...he wants us to succeed. But, more importantly than fatherly advice, God's instructions to us are his way of trying to make the world that he created a better place. He created this world and it was perfect! The he created humans, gave us free will so we could choose to live the way we wanted, and we proceed to mess up his perfect world!
If we read God's instructions to us, work to understand them and then work to put them into practice, then we will be doing our part in making God's world--our world-- a better place.
So...Today I am going to be intentional about putting God's advice into action. When I get angry today, I am going to stop and think and try to put that anger away...get rid of it! Malice - desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness. Am I so mad at someone that I want to hurt them or want them to be hurt? If so, I need get rid of that too. Instead, I will try to be kind and compassionate to everyone, including the ones I am mad at.
Putting God's advice into action won't be easy. But the thing is...God knows it isn't easy. He knows we can't do it alone. God's advice is not empty advice. When we ask him to help us, he will. I know I can't do it it alone, so I am asking God to help me to be kind, compassionate and slow to anger today. I have the confidence and hope that he WILL help me and today I will succeed in following God's advice.
Perhaps a kinder, gentler world doesn't have to be just a dream!
Let there be peace on earth today and let it begin with me!
Monday, June 11, 2012
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus." -- Romans 3:23-24
We have all said it..."What a terrible world we live in!" or "The world is going to hell in a hand basket." or "There is so much sin and sadness in this world..." Don't we just wish Jesus would return again and this terrible world would end?
I think that is such a hopeless way of thinking...Yes, God does promise a better perfect life for us in heaven...a life with no pain, no tears, and no sin. We all want that. But, God also gave us THIS life...the one we have RIGHT NOW! Yes, the life we have right now is full of violence, drugs, selfishness, greed...sin abounds with self-distructing people who are out for number one and don't care who they take down in the process. We feel like this world we live in is so rotten...rotten to the core, and we feel it is so much worse now than it ever was...it must be the end times!
Many of us look to God, and I believe that is what God wants us to do. He wants us to read his word and believe it...believe in his plan of salvation for the world through his gift of Jesus. Jesus came and took our place...took our sin, so we can look forward to that perfect life in heaven forever. Believing this is what gives us hope in this fallen world.
But...living in this fallen world is still hard, even with hope. It is so hard that we end up resenting the fact that it is so hard. We look for reasons for why it is so hard. We see all the sinning that is going on in the world and we resent that too. Why can't everyone live like we do? Why can't everyone go to church, pray, serve and do good like I do? In order to cope with this crazy world, we get pretty self righteous. We know and feel the hope that comes from faith in God's plan, but somehow, that hope sometimes gets twisted into a judgemental, harsh feeling of supeiority. Anyone who doesn't believe as I do is wrong...anyone who doesn't act and think as I do is wrong and is part of the reason the world is going to hell.
Yes, we have a lot of bad things happening in our world today. But, when we continually blams others for the world's condition, we are fooling ourselves. ALL fall short...ALL sin. There is no sliding scale on sin...my lie is just as much a sin as the murder committed by the rapist. My ignoring the hungry child on the street is just as much a sin as the woman having an affair. I am no better than anyone else in this world. The only difference between me and anyone else is that I have Jesus in my heart...THAT should make me more forgiving, more loving, more giving and more accepting of the others in this world who DO NOT know Jesus. THAT should make me want to help others instead of judge them. THAT should make me want to make THIS world a better place instead of hiding in my church and wishing for Jesus to return and end this hell on earth.
I hate how violent, scary and sin-filled our world is. Yes, I long for the peace of heaven. But, I also know that God wants us to LIVE in this world. Jesus taught of love and forgiveness. He taught that we should not judge, but share the good news with others. Open your eyes...the "sinner" you judge, hate and fear is also God's creation...who is in great need of the peace and hope of God's plan. If you spend all your time hating their sin, how will you have time to show them God's love? How will you create a relationship with them that allows you to share God's loving and forgiving plan with them?
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for 'God is a consuming fire.'" -- Hebrews 12:28-29
Cannot be shaken...I have never experienced a real-life earthquake, like the ones felt in California, so I don't really know what it feels like to have the earth shake and shift right under my feet. But...I do know what it feels like to have my life shaken up. Several times in my lifetime, things and events have happened that shook me to the core. My father dying of cancer when I was 25 years old...moving from and selling the farm that had been in my family for over 150 years...problems in my marriage...health issues...the near death of my husband after a car accident...things that don't happen when you think God is leading them to happen...
The thing is, even though all those things were traumatic and dramatic in my life, ultimately, they really don't matter. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We ARE receiving...meaning that right now, in this moment, God is giving us his kingdom. God is giving it to all his human creation, and some of us understand that and are seeking out that gift. God is giving it to us right now. That kingdom, God's kingdom that cannot be shaken, is being given to us. I was shaken by the hard events in my life...shaken to the point that I wasn't sure I could stand any more. But, God's kingdom CANNOT be shaken...it will stand! It will be standing in the end when everything else has crumbled and burnt to the ground. What an awesome gift to be continually receiving!
So, what am I to do with this gift? I am to be thankful and worship the giver of that gift. You would think that would be easy. God is giving us his kingdom...we will live in it forever...so being thankful for that gift should be easy, right? Well, at least from my perspective, I see myself forgetting to be thankful on a daily basis.
As a matter of fact, in the last few days, I had begun to forget again! A few weeks ago, I typed out the words to a song, "I will not be moved." When life swoops in and give me reason to be shaken, moved and fall down...I will remember God and I will NOT be moved. That is what I WANT to do...why then it is so easy for me to moved quickly back to the "woe is me!" mode and begin crying to God all over again? Last night in my car, I had one of those pity-party moments. I cried out to God, I complained to God, I whined and felt sorry for myself...Why can't my life be different????
Well, at least I was TALKING to God. He knows my heart, and he forgives me these moments of weakness...of shakiness. I think most of us wish our lives were different...more money, more time, less stress...we want to be thinner, or more muscular, or prettier or tougher...But, if we can keep reminding ourselves and each other that right now and forever more, we are receiving a gift...a kingdom that cannot be shaken...we can get through our pity-party moments and move on with a life that we can be thankful for. We don't have to wait for heaven...for eternity to experience that gift. He gives us glimpes of it every day.
I am so very thankful that I go to the word every day...that keeps me grounded...reminds me of that gift that I am receiving every day. So my life isn't what I wish it were...so what! God knows what my life will be like FOREVER! I do thank God and worship him with awe and reverence! What a great God to give us reminders each day of the life that IS and WILL BE ours forever! Today, let me feel the warmth of God's consuming fire...let it burn off the shakiness and help me to stand strong in whatever circumstances come my way today!
Friday, June 1, 2012
"Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good." -- Psalm 25:7
Even though we continue to mess up and do the wrong things when we are adults, there is something different about the mistakes of our youth. Having a teenager right now at home causes me to think back to my own teenage years quite often. When I see my daughter striving for independence from her parents, looking for her path in this world and making mistakes in the process, I look back and find I made many of the same mistakes.
I often go to the Message translation of the Bible because it usually puts things in words that make understanding the verses easier. Psalm 25 is full of wise advice.
"Forget that I sowed wild oats; Mark me with your sign of love. Plan only the best for me, God! God is fair and just; He corrects the misdirected, sends them in the right direction. He gives the rejects his hand and leads them step-by-step. From now on every road you travel will take you to God. Follow the Covenant signs: Read the charted directions. Keep up your reputation God; Forgive my bad life: It's been a very bad life. My question: What are God-worshipers like? Your answer: Arrows aimed at God's bull's eye. They settle down in a promising place: Their kids inherit a prosperous farm. God-friendship is for God-worshipers; They are the ones he confides in. If I keep my eyes on God, I won't trip over my own feet." -- Psalm 25:7-15 The message translation
So much wisdom and insight into God and our relationship with him are contained in those verses! I want a God-friendship with my creator! I want to be a God-worshiper who God confides in! I want him to forget my sins, and they have been many!
How many of us feel like rejects? We feel like we have messed up so bad that others will look down on us and God will turn us away. But that isn't the case! God gives his hand to the rejects and leads them step-by-step! I am an arrow aimed at God...he is my path. When I trip over my own feet and lose my path, if I turn my eyes back to God, he will put me back on the right path!
Mistakes are not just made in our youth. All of us, at all ages, need to be reminded frequently of God's grace and forgiving nature. When we mess up, and we will, we can put our eyes back on God and he will direct us. But, isn't that easier said than done? How can I find God when I am so far off the right path?
Dig into the Bible. It seems so simple, and yet that, along with prayer, is the answer. In His word, God speaks to us. He speaks to me through his words every morning. When I thought I was too busy or too depressed for the Bible to make any difference in my life and I stayed away from it, my heart suffered...I felt lost. When I reached for those Bible verses again, and really thought about what they were trying to say to me, I was revived again. It is as simple as one verse a day...I get a daily Bible verse on my phone every day. It is that verse that inspires these blog posts. God speaks to me in one simple verse a day...it's THAT simple!
Are you feeling like a reject today? Are you feeling like your mistakes have messed up your life and it is beyond repair? Open your Bible and read one simple verse and open your heart to God's whispered message to you. You too can be revived! If you keep your eyes on God, he will keep you from tripping over your own feet and your own mistakes!