Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Make Room for Interruptions

     Over the years, I have learned that there is nothing more certain in a day than interruptions.  When our four children were small, it was a rare day when a telephone call, meal preparation or housecleaning was put on hold due to a crisis of some sort that needed immediate attention.  This is just a part of life.  We can make all the plans we want to, but God often has other priorities for our life.  His sovereign plan is always the best.  Psalm 33:10-11 reads:  "The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations."  There is a difference between our shaky plans and God's sovereign will.  He can see the beginning to the end of all things; therefore He allows those interruptions to come our way.
Children can interrupt us with requests to read
but what a blessing and privilege it is!
 For example, look at the account of Mary in Luke 1:26-31.  Here is a young virgin who is betrothed to a fine man.  She is going about her daily routine when suddenly an angel appears to her with the news that she will be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.  She was troubled and shocked by the news that she would give birth to a child though she was not yet married.  If she were found to be with child outside of marriage, she could be accused of unfaithfulness to her betrothed.  This was a major interruption, and yet, an unparalleled blessing from God's Hand.  Mary yielded to God's will for her life, and delivered the Son of God who would one day deliver her from her sins.
     In Acts 9:1-9, we read about another interruption that radically changed a man's life.  Here we see Saul of Tarsus.  He was a man who hated Christians and persecuted them to the death.  He was traveling on the road to Damascus to carry out further orders to put Christians in jail.  However,  a light flashed around him causing him to fall to the ground, and he heard the voice of Jesus asking him why he was persecuting Him.  This was an amazing interruption in a life that was dedicated to the destruction of Christians.  Of course, we know how it ends.  Saul becomes a believer in Jesus Christ and turns the known world of his day upside down by taking the Gospel to the Gentiles.
     Both of these cases point to the fact that God has a perfect plan which often over rides our daily list of "to do's".  The problem comes in when we look upon interruptions with frustration, fear, irritation and doubt.  What we see as an obstacle to getting something done may really be, in fact, a greater blessing than we could ever realize.
     Recently, when I went in for some heart testing, I felt it might be a waste of time or interruption to my daily routine.  Nevertheless, I went through the tests and discovered there was a problem and it was addressed putting me back on the road to improved health.  I believe it was one of those divine interruptions we often complain about.  It has made me realize that we need to look upon intrusions from a different perspective.  We need to be able to exchange our "to do list" for His when He brings along interruptions.  Seeing it as an opportunity to serve the Lord will change our response to interruptions.  Selah!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Overwhelmed, Burnt Out and Just Plain Exhausted

     Having raised four normal, healthy and very active children, I can say "Amen" to the title above.  There were days when I felt overwhelmed as I homeschooled them, cooked the meals, did the laundry and delivered them to the many activities they were involved with in our community.  At other times, I felt burnt out and just plain exhausted because I had no extended family around my husband and I to assist with the children.  However, I did have some precious friends in Christ who came to my aid.
     Both ladies could see that I needed some quiet time to work on lesson plans apart from the children; so for about one week, one of the ladies lent me her kitchen table in the afternoons while the other dear lady helped to clean my home for me.  What a treat!  The children were looked after, I got my lesson planning done for the upcoming school year, and I had a time in which I could enjoy some quiet.  I needed that, but I resisted the whole proposition at first.  My pride made me want to do it all on my own.  How foolish!  However, there was another person in the Bible who thought he could handle things all on his own.
     In Exodus 18:13-24, we see Moses sitting to judge over people who had disputes from the rising of the sun till evening.  Verse 13-14 reads:  "The next day Moses sat to judge the people from morning till evening.  When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this that you are doing for the people?  Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?'"  Now, Moses' father-in-law Jethro had a good point.  How can one man keep up a schedule like that without becoming overwhelmed, burnt out and exhausted?  However Moses pointed out that he had to settle the disputes arising and make the people know God's statutes and laws.  While this seems legitimate, Jethro pointed out that it was not effective in verses 17-18:  "Moses' father-in-law said to him, 'What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for this thing is too heavy for you.  You are not able to do it alone."
Big Ben in London reminds us that
we must use our time wisely.
     Most of us can speculate as to how Moses might have felt being offered unsolicited advice from his father-in-law, but Jethro went on to tell him a plan to have wise men who loved God help him in judging the many cases that needed to come before the Lord.  By breaking down the task, the people would receive justice and Moses would be relieved of having all the burden thrust upon him.  Surprisingly, Moses listened to Jethro.  We read in verse 24:  "So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said."
     There are two things we can draw from this story and apply in our own lives if we will.  First, we need to listen (verse 24) as Moses did.  He accepted his father-in-law's sound advice.  Secondly, we must be willing to accept help (as described in verse 25).  There are times when we don't accept the help we need due to pride, but that is not always the case.
     Sometimes life is just moving so fast with so many demands piled up on us that we hardly have time to react or even contemplate asking someone for advice or help.  Ah, but God reminds us in His Word (as seen in this story) that we need to surround ourselves with wise counselors who can offer us advice drawn from their experience and wisdom.  We don't have to run in circles pretending to be "Super Dad" or "Super Mom".  We can listen to a wise father-in-law as Moses did or a dear Christian friend as I did when I was overwhelmed with busyness in my life.
     Taking prayerful advice and learning to delegate responsibility helped Moses deal with a large responsibility.  He was not less of a person for taking this action.  In fact, it made him a more capable leader because he was able to use his time more effectively.
     Those ladies who came to me many years ago and offered me relief were blessings in my life.  I am happy they saw my need, approached me and gave me the opportunity to have a mini retreat.  We all need to be able to accept help, advice and godly counsel when it is offered.  Then we need to act on it so that we will not be burnt out or overwhelmed.  God cannot use us when we are carrying a load by ourselves that we were never intended to carry.  We must allow others the privilege of helping us.  Both the person who helps and the one who receives will be blessed.  Selah!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Heart Work

 Recently, I completed a stress test with my cardiologist as I was having some shortness of breath which she thought required some attention.  She followed up with a nuclear PET scan which is a test of endurance for laying completely still with your arms above your head for 20 minutes while they take pictures of your heart.  Following the tests some days later, I met with my doctor and she felt I needed a heart catheterisation to look at an area of abnormality.  I had previously had one a number of years ago that had shown nothing of any consequence.  However, I am always leery of tests, so I wasn't terribly excited about another one.  Nevertheless, I trust my doctor and agreed to have this done.
     This past Wednesday, I underwent the procedure knowing that if they found something they could correct with a stent or angioplasty that they would do it at the same time.  In short, they did find a significant blockage which they were able to correct with a stent.  After an overnight stay in the hospital, I came home yesterday to begin a new way of living with a better diet and a gratefulness that they were able to repair an artery before trouble came my way.  As I recuperate,  I couldn't help but reflect on the heart surgery that the Lord had performed on my heart over 43 years ago, but in a different way and not a temporary fix.  In fact, the Lord gives to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ a new heart.
     From Old to New Testament, God makes clear His plan for salvation and what it means to us.  In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God instructs the prophet to speak these words to the Children of Israel who had once again fallen from His ways:  "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."  Note:  God does all the work here from start to finish.  While He speaks here of Israel's restoration, this is a foreshadow of God's plan for those who are called by His name as we see fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  My MacArthur Study Bible's footnote on these verses reads:  "The gift of the 'new heart' signifies the new birth, which is regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  The 'heart' stands for the whole nature.  The 'spirit' indicates the governing power of the mind, which directs thought and conduct.  A 'heart of stone' is stubborn and self-willed.  A 'heart of flesh' is pliable and responsive.  The evil inclination is removed and a new nature replaces it."  This is the best heart transplant procedure ever done, and only God can do it for us.  There is no concern that we can ever lose it either.
     In the New Testament, we read these words of the Apostle Paul who testifies to our new life in Christ:  "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).  Once again, both Old and New Testament bear witness to the change in us.  We are new creations...not just repaired creations.  God has given to us a new set of values, life, and outlook.  He has forgiven our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ, and now we can live for Him.  Yes, evil and sin are still present, but we are free to obey God and to see life from a new perspective no longer bound in sin and death.  This newness of life is a continuous work of God's Holy Spirit which He gives to us to guide and direct our steps.  We no longer live for temporal things but with a view of eternity before us.  What glorious surgery the Lord does on us!
     On April 27, 1970, God did surgery on my heart and my husband's heart the same evening.  We confessed our sins and received from God's hands hearts of flesh.  We became new creations in Christ and have enjoyed fellowship with Him these many years.  How grateful we have been for His complete provision for us.  He has not only given us new life but also has given us the gift of eternal life with Him.
     While I am very thankful for my physical heart repair, I rejoice even more in my spiritual heart transplant which God has done in my life.  My eternal destination is secure in Christ who is able to keep me safe in His arms.  Has God done spiritual surgery on your heart?  If not, ask The Great Physician to give you a heart of flesh even today.  He will be faithful to answer your prayer.  Selah!

I welcome your testimony on how God has worked in your heart.  It is a blessing and encouragement to others.

Many thanks to all who prayed for me during my recent procedure and hospital stay.