Monday, January 30, 2012

You Want Some Cheese with that Whine?

     There are a few things in life that set most people's teeth on edge:  a scraping sound across a black board, an incessant honking horn because someone hit their button and now cannot find out how to turn it off, loud airboats going across a lake in the early morning hours (especially while people are trying to sleep here in Florida), a dog barking nonstop, and people whining and complaining.  The last one is particularly annoying because there doesn't seem to be any way to help the person find joy in living.  Everything is negative and nothing seems to please them.  I know all about this because I have done more than my fair share in complaining.  In fact, we "all fall short of the glory of God" in this department.  A co-worker once said, "Do you want some cheese with that whine?"  It was a point well made.
     Here is the way it usually happens.  We complain because we do not have a job.  Then, when God gives us a job, we complain because we don't  a) like the hours  b) like all that we are asked to do or c) we are not being paid enough for our work.  Never mind that thousands don't have a job and would give anything to make something!  The same goes for those who are workers at home.  While homemakers are not paid for their work, they have the privilege of working at their own pace and setting their own agenda.  However, we hear them complain about a) no one appreciates what I do  b) no one helps me which leads in both cases (those with jobs or homemakers) to c) "poor me".
     Self-pity, whining, and complaining accomplishes nothing and is a grating sound in the ears of God.  Consider the Children of Israel as Moses led them out of captivity.  They complained because they did not have food like they had in Egypt despite the fact that they were slaves there.  So, God in His mercy gave them manna in the wilderness to meet their needs.  However, this was not good enough for them so they whined that they wanted meat.  Once again, God gave them the desires of their heart and provided quail for them to eat.  Then, they complained because they had no water.  God, again, provided for this need.  His long-suffering is amazing to me.  I don't think most of us could ever endure such an ungrateful people.  In fact, God did get angry and some of His people were destroyed (Numbers 11:1-4). Yet, the Lord was merciful when Moses interceded for the people.  This example gives us a picture of the ugly sin nature.
     In the Bible, we see many verses that deal with this issue.  Philippians 2:14 reads:  "Do all things without grumbling or questioning."  Ephesians 4:29:  "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
James 5:9:  "Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the
Judge is standing at the door."  These are just a few of the verses that warn us about the sin of whining and complaining.  This is one area we need to work on daily.  If we do not, there will always be consequences.  For example, marriage relationships can be damaged when either husband or wife spends all their time complaining about what the other person is or is not doing.  In working relationships, tension builds and leads to an unhappy atmosphere at work.  Most importantly, our witness is damaged when we spend our day whining about all our problems as though no one else has any.  So what are we to do?
     Initially, we need to recognize that we are caught up in this web of sin.  We must repent and ask for God's forgiveness but also for the Spirit's help in overcoming this area.  We need to be able to say as the Apostle Paul did in his letter to the Philippians 4:11-12:  "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."  If anyone had the right to complain, it might have been Paul.  He was beaten, shipwrecked,
bitten by a poisonous snake and imprisoned.  However, he found God's grace to be sufficient in all circumstances, and he learned to be content.  This needs to be a goal if we are ever to avoid complaining.
     Secondly, we need to learn to hold our tongue, transform our mind through prayer and Bible study, and actively look for ways to be positive.  The Bible tells us:  "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).  We should all want the good medicine!  But some will can I be cheerful when my world is crashing in?  Let me ask a question:  Will complaining change your circumstances?  Wouldn't it be better to give it to the Lord and praise Him even during the difficult places?  Complaining and whining only bring us down and those around us.
     Finally, we have to recognize that in order to be a reflection of Jesus Christ to a world in need we must give up our rights and live in obedience to the Lord even as Jesus did.  Paul wrote:  "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made; Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:5-8).  He is our example.  We are to imitate
Him and reflect His glory.  He died for us that we might have life and have it abundantly.  How can we then complain and whine?
     Certainly, life is not fair and there are many things in this sinful world which cause us pain.  Nevertheless, our goal should be to praise Him through the storms.  As we lift Him up, He will lift us up and give us hope.  Likewise, we will have more fruitful relationships with others both at work and in our homes.  After all, do we really want someone to ask us if we want some cheese with our whine?  Selah!
I welcome your thoughts here.  Please leave a comment or share how you have overcome complaining in your life.  Blessings!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not Bound by Time - Some Thoughts from C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis at work
     As I began this new year, I decided to use a devotional book which was a gift to my husband from his sister.  The book is entitled "A Year with C.S. Lewis".  I have always enjoyed reading the thoughtful words this master writer has produced.  When we home educated our children, we read through "The Chronicles of Narnia" which was a delight for the entire family, and as new Christians some forty years ago, both my husband and I read "Mere Christianity".  Lewis has a way of penning words that makes the reader think and stretch his mind around a concept that otherwise he might not have considered.  Such was the case for me yesterday.  How often do we question God's utter sovereignty over all the affairs of men?  Where does our free will come in?  C.S. Lewis puts this in clearer perspective by making us think of how different our concept of time is compared to God.  The following is an excerpt from "Mere Christianity" which appeared in the devotional book on January 17th (pg. 19):

                                                                                                        "Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do
      tomorrow.  But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise?
      Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the
      Timeline like us; the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot.  Well, if that
      were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not
      to do them.  But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line.  In that case, what we call
      'tomorrow' is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call 'today'.  All the days are
      'Now' for Him.  He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them,
      because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him.  You never supposed that your
      actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing.  Well, He
      knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way - because He is already in tomorrow and can
      simply watch you."

     One of the greatest difficulties we have as human beings is, as Lewis stated, seeing God on a Time-line.  While studying "The Truth Project" dvd series, Del Tackett (the "tour guide" in this series) indicated that we see this world and all creation from our perspective.  He represented this as being in the box.  God, however, is outside of the box.  He is not confined or defined by time.  He is above all things.  Because we are creatures that live in yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's, we assume that God does too.  Perhaps this is why I enjoyed reading this excerpt from "Mere Christianity".
     God lives in the "Now".  He said of Himself "I Am" indicating that He is the present tense.  There are no boundaries such as we experience, so is it any wonder that we do not always understand the actions of God?  Why did this have to happen?  Why did so-and-so have to die?  We cannot see nor comprehend the plans of God.  However, we do not have the whole picture as He does.  We only see bits and pieces or chunks of time.  God sees it all.  This is why we can trust Him because He knows our beginning and our end.
     One day, we will cross over into His presence and time will be no more for the Christian.  We will enter the "Now" and live with Him.  At present, we live in "the box" which is confined to time.  This is the world we experience, and as such, we must remember Isaiah's admonition to us:  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  We can lean on His wisdom, understanding and guidance because He holds us in the hollow of His hand.  He is utterly sovereign over all the affairs of men.  Therefore, we can rest in Him knowing that the plans He has for us are good as He works in our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  Selah!

I welcome your comments and thoughts.  They serve as an encouragement to me and others who visit here.  Blessings to you!

Picture of C.S. Lewis taken from The Gospel Coalition blog by Kevin DeYoung.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sticking Like a Tick

     Some years ago, we returned home from a brief vacation.  We had boarded our two dogs (a dalmatian no longer with us and our basset hound) while we were away so we made our way to the kennel.  The owner told us that we should carefully check both dogs for ticks as they had been having trouble with ticks that year due to the heavy rains.
     Arriving home, we gave our dogs a bath and we didn't initially see any ticks.  We had flea and tick collars on both animals when we took them to the kennel so we felt they were protected.  Much to our surprise, when I turned our basset hound over, I found nearly 150 ticks attached under his legs, between his paws and in his ears.  Our Dalmatian was a little better, but she had nearly 50 ticks on her.  I spent nearly two and a half hours working to remove the nasty pests.  Roscoe, our basset hound, seemed quite happy at my removal process but our dalmatian squirmed as I worked on her.
     This whole experience reminded me of how easily sin can attach itself to our lives much like the ticks attached themselves to the dogs.   Sin, like a tick, starts out small but can grow to monstrous proportions and create a lot of problems!
Our dalmatian Duchess resting with her friend Rocky who was
visiting our home at the time.
     James 1: 13-16 points this out:  "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt any one.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."  James points out that sin grows slowly, little by little until it accomplishes destruction.
     We often try to convince ourselves that no one can see the bad habits or secret sins that we hide in our lives.  While those around us may not see them, God certainly does.  Just because we wear the title Christian, does not mean that we do not sin or that we are never tempted to sin.  This is a dangerous form of thinking.  Remember, I thought my dogs would be safe because they had on flea and tick collars!  Throughout the Bible, we are warned to be on our guard against temptation which leads to lust and then ends with sin. (I Peter 5:8)
     In addition, we often try to blame God or others for the sin we allow in our lives.  How many times have we heard people say, "If only the Lord hadn't brought that person into my life, I would have remained faithful to my spouse", or "If my friends hadn't offered me a drink, I never would have become an alcoholic."  All to often, we try to escape the fact that we nurtured a temptation until lust conceived and birthed sin.  The death of our spiritual relationship with God was not due to the Lord or our friends.  We made the choice to proceed and act on a temptation.
The ugly dog tick
     How we respond to God's work at dealing with our sins is also much like the response our two dogs had when I worked on them.  Our basset hound was relaxed and open to my efforts while our dalmatian was quite resistant.  When God points out our sin, are we willing to give it over to Him and admit our wrongdoing?  Or are we like the dalmatian that fought off efforts to free her from the ugly ticks?  By yielding quickly to the Lord, we can find peace and healing.  If we resist Him, we only find that sin will suck the life out of us in every area.  Sin brings death to our relationship with God and others.
     What is God speaking to our hearts today?  We need to stop and do some self-examination in our lives.  If the Holy Spirit convicts us of an area of sin, let us be quick to confess it that we may be cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Likewise, let us put on God's full armor each day that we may resist temptation when it comes our way.  There is no need to suffer separation from God.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this subject today.  Please feel free to leave them.  Blessings!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Harbinger of Change

     Growing up in Ohio, one of the first signs of spring was the arrival of the robin.  Seeing this red breasted beauty told us that better weather was certainly on its way.   They were always a welcomed sight after many months of cold, snowy weather.
     Here in Florida, we get a visit around this time every year from the migrating birds.  In fact, when we stepped out of our home yesterday, hundreds filled our yard, sat on our roof and made a mess of our cars leaving behind their not so welcome calling cards.  They are attracted to fruit and the berries of the pesky Brazilian pepper tree which grows abundantly around here.  Of course, they are also a harbinger of spring here in the sunshine state.  They are beginning to make their slow migration northward but many will still be around until April.  Its just that we seem to see them every year in January on Serenity Acres.  Their presence is a sign that soon our trees will be budding once again.  In the same way that the Robin announces that a change of seasons is about to come, the Holy Spirit enters our life as believers to bring about God's change in our lives.
Brazilian Pepper Tree
       In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he describes what happens when the veil of unbelief is lifted so that our hearts can be changed (to get the context I encourage you to read all of Chapter 3):  "But their minds were hardened.  For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:14-18).  When our hearts were regenerated by God and we responded to His call in Christ, the veil was lifted in our lives, but many of us did not know what change would sweep through our lives.  The robin comes to foretell the change in seasons, but the Spirit comes to bring about that change.  It is a radical change which transforms us into the image of Christ.
     When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, He assists us in many different areas for without Him we could not have the renewed mind and heart of Christ.  He acts as our guide and teaches to us all that we need to know and remember.  Jesus said:  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).  Isn't it good to know that when we forget or lose our way, the Holy Spirit is there to help us remember God's directives for our life?  He helps us recall the Word, and guides us as we go.  This is one big change for us in terms of our communication with God.  The Holy Spirit is our hot line to heaven.
     Secondly, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.  If ever we needed help in this area, we need it today.  There is so much false teaching in our culture that it is hard to hear the truth, but the Spirit of God tunes our ears to hear it.  Jesus said:  "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you (John16:13-15).  How wonderful to know that God's Spirit will reveal to us the truth about our Lord!  He will bring glory and cause us to glorify the Lord in our lives as we follow Him.  This is a change from our lives from the confusion, uncertainty and bondage of the old life we lived.  Truth does, indeed, set us free.
     Another change which the Holy Spirit brings is the conviction of sin in our lives.  Before we were believers, we sinned and never thought much about it.  Now, however, if we transgress against the Lord, our hearts are pricked by the Spirit to repent and turn again to God.  In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he warns us to avoid sins and adds:  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).  When we sin, we grieve the Spirit and our once stony hearts are aware of it because God has given us a new heart.  It is like disappointing a parent whom we love.  We know when we have let them down and we want to make amends.  This is the picture of our new relationship with God and a change in our lives from the unconcerned, selfish person we once were to the heart tender believer we are today as the Spirit works this into our lives.
     Finally, the Spirit produces fruit in our lives in contrast to the works of our flesh as outlined in Galatians 5:19-23.  This fruit is sweet, nourishing to our soul and to the souls of others around us.  It is not bitter, harmful or destructive as the works of our flesh.  Paul concludes this passage in his letter to the Church at Galatia by writing:  "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:24-25).  Indeed, we must walk by the Spirit if we want the fruit to mature in our hearts.  We cannot live the Christian life on our own steam.  This is why God sealed us with the Holy Spirit.  Not only does this prove that we belong to Him, but the Spirit enables us to change.
      These changes brought about by the Holy Spirit truly make us a new person from the inside out.  Our lives are now being transformed.  As we read the Word, the Spirit is there to teach us.  As we pray, the Spirit is there to intercede for us when we do not know what to say.  As we interact with others, the Spirit is there to guard us, teach us what to say, and help us to glorify God.  Unlike the beautiful red-breasted robins that come to visit us each year but move on, the Holy Spirit comes to stay when we give our lives to Christ.  He is the harbinger of change, and the One who completes it in us.  How great is our Lord to send us this Helper, Counselor, and Comforter.  May we never forget to thank God for this precious gift of the Spirit who comes to make us more like Jesus.  Selah!

Please leave your thoughts here.  I welcome them and I know they encourage others as well.  Blessings and thank you for stopping by.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Doing Good While We Have the Chance

     Our world is becoming so fast paced that no one seems to have time for the things that really matter most such as a hug, a smile, a kind word, or even saying thank you.  I have made it a personal goal to give more of these this year as we never know if the recipient of our blessing will be around tomorrow.  We don't even know if we will be around tomorrow so we need to make the most of each day.  Scripture even points this out for us.
     In Proverbs 3:27, we read:  "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.  Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow' - when you now have it with you."  These words of wisdom point to a life of service and moral excellence.  What an absolute dichotomy from the world's way of dealing with others.  The sin nature is centered on self, but the believer is to find ways in which to do good to those around them.  It doesn't have to be expensive to follow this moral course of action either.
     I work in a busy office with many people coming and going each day.  Not everyone is happy to be coming in or they may have some other difficulty unknown to those of us who greet them.  I may not be able to solve their problem, but I can certainly give them a smile, a kind word, and respect.  I would like to think they might leave happier than when they came.  This is one way we can put this scripture into practice.
     Perhaps God has blessed us with money that we were not expecting.  With this extra cash, we might be able to do good to our neighbor by buying groceries for them if they are out of work.  Another possibility is sharing an offering to assist a missionary or a local food bank.  Most importantly, if we obtain extra money, we owe it to ourselves to make certain our debts are paid off especially to family and friends.  God wants us to take our resources, time, and talents and reach out to others.  We can be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those in need.
     This is a sharp contrast to the world's motto of:  "The one with the most toys when he dies, wins!" We have all seen the rich and famous lifestyle, and aside from their possessions, there is often little else for them of substance.  Being rich in relationships both with God and our fellow man brings greater rewards to our heart and lays up for us treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt it.
     Perhaps the greatest example of this proverb given in the Bible was the story of the "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10: 30-37).  Here was a man despised by the Jews, yet, he was the only one who did not leave a man laying by the roadside bloodied and beaten by robbers.  He took this man to an inn and paid for his care saying he would come back that way and make certain everything was covered.  This Samaritan put to shame the priest who passed by this man in need because he did not want to get defiled or involved.  The Samaritan was the real neighbor who did good to a man in great need.  This is what God calls us to do as we go about our daily routine.
     Fulfilling a call to do good to those around us is not complicated or demanding.  A phone call, written message, an email, a smile, a hug, a kind word are all easy to give.  If we have the financial means, we can also do good to those around us.  The key is to listen to the Lord and seek the opportunity to do good while we can.  What an impact we can make for the kingdom when we serve others in this manner.  We bring glory to God and joy to our own lives as we give ourselves away in obedience to our Lord.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Please leave a is a treasure to me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

He Came to Divide

The Residence in Munich, Germany the home of the royal
          When we think of our Lord Jesus Christ, we often picture Him as a man of peace.  In fact, many people have this concept of the Lord who are not believers.  They see Him as a great teacher, prophet, or a "Ghandi" like figure spreading kind words and thoughts.  However, as I was reading the Bible today, I stopped on a passage in Matthew chapter 10 where Jesus spent time teaching His disciples before sending them out to minister.
     Throughout the chapter, the Lord told His disciples that they would be persecuted even as He had been.  People would not accept the message they were sent to tell, but they were told not to fear for God valued them more than the sparrows and knew even the number of hairs on their head.  Then, he announced that He had not come to bring peace.  Matthew 10: 34-36 reads:  "Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household."  These words must have sounded strange to His disciples as they do to our ears.  Some of these men may have thought that the Lord would usher in political peace and take over the government from the Roman conquerors, but Jesus was going deeper than that.
     In this passage, our Lord wanted His disciples to know that following Him would bring division even in families.  One is called out and follows Christ while another does not believe in Him.  Certainly when we become a Christian, Christ does give us peace of heart.  He breaks forever the chains of sin and death, but He also changes us .  Our old habits and lifestyles no longer fit, and we feel uncomfortable in some of the places we used to go.  Family and friends are often the first to notice this change.  It is like wearing a new perfume when everyone is accustomed to the one we had been wearing for years.   Of course, when others notice the change in our life, it gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.  In some cases, however, it means that old friends may decide they do not want to be around us any longer.  They are uncomfortable in the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us.  I have witnessed this in my own life.
     Truly there is a cost to following Christ which is pointed out in this passage.  In earlier verses 12-13, Jesus tells us:  "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."  This is a hard saying if we value friendships, family and worldly pleasures over faithfulness to God.
     In His coming, Jesus came to divide the sheep from the goats.  He uses the Sword of the Word in order to divide out those who belong to Him.  Over and over again in the scripture, we hear the Lord say, "He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 11:15).  This is a call to those who by the power of God's Spirit have been regenerated and can now hear the call of Christ.  Unfortunately, not all our friends or even our family members have "ears" to hear.  Certainly, we should continue to pray for them and their salvation daily.  Yet, in the end, there may be some who can never open their heart to Christ.
     A modern day example of a Christian who is making an impact is Tim Tebow.  As a professional football player, he has a platform to share the faith he holds so dear, and what do we see?  There is widespread division in the reaction to his prayers during a game.  Some are offended and others are blessed.  Whenever we hold fast and stand firm in our faith, we will face opposition.  The Apostle Peter, in writing about Jesus wrote these words:  "...and A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.  They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do" (I Peter 2:8).    Jesus Christ is the rock of offense to those who do not have ears to hear.  His mission was not to bring political peace for His kingdom is not of this world.  Rather, Jesus came to bring truth and salvation through His sacrifice to those who have been called by God.  
Taken at The Residence in Munich, Germany
     Knowing this, we should not be alarmed when we encounter opposition within our circle of friends, family and acquaintances.  We are merely passing through this world for our citizenship is in heaven.  May we be found faithful to stand firm knowing that God is watching over us and guiding our steps each day.  We must remember the words of Paul to the believers at Philippi:  "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).  Selah!

Have you faced opposition for taking a stand in Christ?  Have you had friends and family pull away from you because of your faith?  I welcome your thoughts and sharing here.  Your comment may encourage another.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Responding to Pain

     As I sit here typing away on my laptop, I have a moist heating pad on my back and a warm wrap around my neck,  Pain is not fun as anyone will tell you.  However, it does serve to get our attention.  Growing older coupled with the fact that I had polio has conspired against me to cause a very uncomfortable neck and upper back pain.  After struggling with it for a while now, I decided to get it checked out.  Part of the pain is due to my own foolish work habits of going full blast into any cleaning project I start.  When I finish, I am exhausted.  I know better than to do that, but I choose to ignore, to my discomfort, the advice given to me years ago by my doctor to pace myself when I do work.  Of course, the second reason for the pain is due to the damage of polio years ago.  In my mind, I think I am twenty something.  Physically, I am not, and have not accepted that fact.  It is okay to think young, but it is not okay to be foolish in behavior.  
     While reflecting on my current situation, I thought about a comment C.S. Lewis made in his book "The Problem with Pain."  He writes:  "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  How well I can identify with this statement.  When things are going well, we may hear that whisper of the Lord reminding us to follow Him, but we put it to one side since we are in "control".  Then, we hear Him speak to our conscience.  We know what He is saying, but again, we may choose not to listen.  Finally, when we fall into the moral or physical pain which comes as a consequence of our lifestyle, we suddenly can hear God speaking loudly over the megaphone of His Word.  He has roused us.  Unfortunately, some people only run to God when they are in pain.  He is like a life preserver for them to be used only when they are drowning.  Otherwise, these same souls rarely think of God if things are going well for them.
     God calls us to respond to Him when He speaks the first time in a still small voice.   He doesn't want us to wait until the pain of disobedience comes knocking on our door.  Further,  His Holy Spirit is given not only as a seal and promise of our salvation, but also as a guide, teacher, comforter to direct our steps.  We can live our lives in victory each day or choose to run our own show until the pain of life drives us to Him again.  Hebrews 3:15 says it well:  "As has just been said, 'Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'"  We need to hear and respond to His call the first time if we really want to avoid pain.
     Pain is a useful tool in the hand of God.  It certainly gets our attention, and often causes us to run to His arms.  However, we also have to learn from the pain we have as well.  If we brought it on by our own reckless behavior, then we need to humbly seek God's wisdom and forgiveness so the lesson will be learned and not repeated.  Years ago, we told our children that if they did a good job cleaning the first time, they would not have to repeat the chore.  After several times of repeating the chore, they eventually got the message and did it correctly the first time.  We are no different.  We need to learn from our pain so we are not doomed to repeat it.  
     In the future, I know I have to learn to pace myself when doing work.  It doesn't all have to be done at once.  If I choose to ignore God's direction in caring for my body, then, I will certainly enjoy more pain.  We can either change when He whispers, respond when He speaks to our conscience, or suffer when He shouts through our pain.  The choice is ours.   Jesus Christ came to set us free from sin and death.  Therefore, let us live each day by listening to His voice as He guides us that we may not come again into pain and suffering of sin.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts here.  We all experience pain.  How has God used it in your life?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Two Little Words

     Common courtesy in our world seems to have gone the way of the "Edsel", hula hoops, and penny candy.  It is rare to hear someone say "thank you" when they have received some kindness.  Indeed, many today believe they are entitled to certain services, and therefore, they do not need to give any expression of gratitude.  If only they realized how powerful those words really are, they would not forget to say them.
     In our practice, we care for some patients who come to us through a ministry called Samaritan's Touch.    
This program began this year by offering medical care to those who have no insurance and do not make enough money to pay for regular visits.    It is rewarding to help others whether they say thank you or not, but it is an added blessing when people stop and tell us how much this means to them.  This is the fuel which keeps the fire of service burning.
     If we feel blessed when people take the time to say "thank you", think how much more our heavenly Father is delighted when we return praise to Him for all His many blessings to us.  Luke recounts the story of Jesus and ten lepers in chapter 17 verses 11-19 that illustrates this point:  "On the way to Jerusalem, He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'  When He saw them, He said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.'  And as they went they were cleansed.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving Him thanks.  Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, 'Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this 'foreigner?'  And He said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'"  Only one out of ten returned to say "thanks" to God for what He had done.  In addition, the man was a Samaritan considered an outsider in society of that time.  None of the others professed their thankfulness to Jesus.   It is my surmise that not only did Jesus heal his body but He also healed His heart by regenerating his soul to believe.  As a result, he received a greater blessing than those who were only healed physically.
     How often do we forget to say thank you and render praise to God for the things He has done for us?  When it is something big, we may remember, but in the small things, we frequently forget like those ten lepers.  According to the Apostle Paul, we are to avoid being anxious about our lives and instead pray about everything with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:5-6).  This brings about a peace which surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds (vs. 7).  Being thankful has its benefits.  It is a new way of living, loving and caring not only in our relationship to God but also in our relationship with our fellow man.
     As we start this new year, we need to begin to say "Thank you" both to God for His many blessings, but also, to those around us as well.  Begin by telling your spouse "thank you" for his/her help around the house.  Thank your children for helping you with chores and teach them to say "thank you" when others help them.  Adopting this attitude of a grateful heart changes the way we live and think.  A good book on this subject is Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" which tells her journey of developing a grateful heart.  A friend challenged her to make a list of one thousand things for which she was thankful to God, and it radically changed her.  Each of us would do well to keep such a list as we journey through everyday circumstances this year.  "Thank you" is just two little words that usher us into the presence of God, and lift us above the life situations that would seek to drown us.  Take time to return to God and say "thank you" like the leper in Luke's Gospel because the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.  Selah!

Please share a time when someone said "thank you" to you that touched your heart.  I appreciate and value your comments here.  Please leave one to encourage others.                              

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lord, Why am I Stuck Here?

     We have all heard the phrase "Bloom where you are planted", but it is often hard to blossom when we are not certain God has potted us in the right location.  Couldn't He have made a mistake, after all, putting us in a limited job situation or even keeping us at home?
     I recently spoke with an individual that had just gotten a new job.  It was in the field that they intended to pursue but it was not quite what they had been hoping for in terms of employment.  In addition, the position was temporary with no guarantees for a long term future.  As I considered their circumstance, I thought back on my own work history.
     While my husband was a student in the college of Optometry, it was imperative that I find a job to help support us.  He was already working a part-time lab job at the college, and we needed additional income to pay all the bills.  I signed up with an employment agency which I later regretted.  They found me a secretarial job, and after I was hired, I discovered that the agency had contracted with the employer guaranteeing him that I would stay there for at least nine months.  No one told me about this, and I was upset.  I had been trained in college to teach, and I really wanted to pursue this thinking this secretarial job would just be a stop gap measure.  However, it did not work out that way with this nine month period.  If I chose to leave, I would have to pay a penalty to the job agency, so I made the best of it for nine months. At the end of this time, another door opened which had previously not existed.  The Ohio Optometric Association was looking for a person in public relations who could also help them publish a newsletter.  Since no teaching positions were open at this time, I jumped at the chance since communications was my specialty.  This job proved to be a blessing in many ways as it gave me a chance to learn more about my husband's profession in addition to providing a decent salary.  God's timing was perfect.
     Even today, I look back on my life at the plans that I have made and the ones that God has made for me.  Guess what?  The two sets of plans have not always matched.  I thought I would be a Christian speaker....instead, I am a Christian writer.  I thought I would be a public school teacher...instead, I home schooled for 21 years (I am so happy I did).  I thought I should run my own business and for several years I did, but I found my greatest happiness in working with my husband in his practice.  As Proverbs 16:9 tells us:  "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."  I certainly had my plans, but God sovereignly overruled me on a number of occasions.  I am happy He did!
     Many times we are tempted to question God about why He didn't allow us to get a certain job we wanted, or why He has not allowed us certain opportunities in whatever area we have wanted to pursue (i.e. writing, speaking, leading etc.).  Yet, He sees a bigger picture than we do.  His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  If we are made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, we have to be in the position where we can best do that.  So, we may ask, "Lord, why am I stuck here?"
     There are several reasons why the Lord may put us into places we would not have chosen for ourselves.  First, He may be trying to teach us something that can only occur through our current circumstances.  His goal is to daily conform us to the image of His dear Son, and He may need to break down our pride and self assurance in order to do the job.  Perhaps He has placed us in the job we currently have or has us working as a homemaker for this express purpose.   Secondly, God may be testing our faith and trust in Him.  He is our supplier and need meeter.  If we had that "all star" position, maybe  we would forget Him as the Children of Israel were prone to do.  He wants us to keep our eyes on Him not on our job.  Finally, God may be trying to teach us to be content in every circumstance we find ourselves in.  We are not citizens of this world.  We are just passing through.  Therefore, we need to be like the Apostle Paul when he wrote:  "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philipians 4:11-13).  The key to Paul's success in remaining content came from His knowledge that whatever God asked him to do he could do it because of the strength the Lord provided.  The same is true for us as well.
     Over the years, I have looked back on my work history and homemaking/home schooling days with thankfulness for what God has taught me.  Our Lord never wastes a teachable moment in our lives.  I may not have done some of the things I had planned to do, but the Lord only knows what He has spared me from as well.  With this new year, we need new attitudes of gratitude or in the words of Zig Ziglar:  "We need a check-up from the neck up to eliminate stinking thinking and hardening of the attitudes."   May we begin to see things in light of God's plan and purpose for us so we CAN bloom where He has planted us and bring glory to His name.  Selah!

How has God caused you to remain content where He has placed you?  I welcome your thoughts and words of encouragement here so others can be blessed as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Surviving a Fall

     On our five acres, we have an abundance of trees in which the squirrels love to play.  They are the natural acrobats of God's creation leaping from place to place with no fear and a great deal of ease.  I love watching them every morning play outside our bathroom patio doors.  Two trees are in close proximity so our squirrel friends run across our roof, drop onto our fence and then leap into the tree.  Occasionally, they will sit on our fence for a time while enjoying a nut.  Their agility and speed amazes me.  However, there are occasions when they do make a misstep.
     One day, my husband and I were in our pool relaxing when we glanced over at a nearby tree where several squirrels were chasing one another.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a squirrel leap and miss the tree he was aiming for.  We heard a thud on the ground as he fell.  There was silence for a moment as the stunned squirrel lay on the ground,  Then, quick as a wink, he jumped up and ran up the nearest tree once again.  I thought it was surprising that the squirrel survived the fall from high up, but they are resilient creatures.  Then I wondered.  Are we as resilient as the squirrels when we fall?  As believers, we should be.
     Traveling life's highways has its challenges every day.  Sometimes, we are asked to walk a tightrope through some sticky situations just like our squirrel friends navigate the power lines in our neighborhood.  At other times, we can bounce across circumstances like our acrobatic friends with no problem at all.  Then, there are days when we fall.  The temptation to sin overcomes us and we give in to doing what is wrong in God's eyes.  We know when we have missed the mark, but our response is key.  We can either turn and repent before the Lord seeking His forgiveness, or we can rationalize what we have done and continue on in sin.  For example, think about being on a diet.  We start out quite well until we see a delicious chocolate cake sitting on the counter  calling our name.  We give in and eat one piece.  It tastes so good, but we know we have just broken our eating plan.  We can either repent of our action and resolve to avoid such temptation with God's help, or we can use the excuse that since we ate one piece we might as well have another.  After all, we have already messed things up today.  We can do better tomorrow.  However, tomorrow will not necessarily find us stronger.  It is only when we confess and repent before the Lord that we can get up like that stunned squirrel and bounce off to another adventure in living.  I John 1:9 tells us:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  This is how we can survive a fall dear friends.  Rationalizing our behavior will not revive us.  In fact, verse 10 in this same chapter reads:  "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us."
     God knows when we have fallen.  Scripture tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our head, and He is aware when a sparrow falls to the ground.  He is aware of our transgressions whether we tell Him or not.    As believers, we have the ability to choose right from wrong because Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin.  We do not have to fall.  Before we came into relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior, we had no choice.  The Bible tells us in Genesis that after the Fall into sin man's heart intention was to do evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21b).  We are born with the sin nature.  Only the shed blood of Christ can set us free, and when we come into a believing relationship with Him, He breaks the chains that have bound us to guilt and shame.  This is good news!
     Now, when we fall (and we all still do), we are able through confession and repentance to be restored in fellowship with God.  Like the squirrel that hit the ground so hard, we are able to get up and move on in our walk.  We are not permanently down for the count.  This is why David was able to pen these words:  "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).  It is a blessing to know that we have an advocate, an attorney who argues our case before God the Father - even our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the reason we can survive a fall just like that squirrel.  If we are willing to repent of our sins and not rationalize them, He will restore to us the joy of our salvation and give us the strength to resist temptation.   Selah!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Packing Away the Old Year and Welcoming the New

     As is our custom, we packed up our Christmas ornaments this past weekend.  I am one of those people who do not like to have their lights and decorations up well after the holidays.  Of course, taking down the tree always tugs at my heartstrings as I look at each of the decorations I am carefully packing away.  There are pictures of our children smiling on some of the ornaments that they made in Sunday School.  How did they grow up so fast?  Then, there was the precious cornhusk doll figure of a mother holding a baby given to me by my dearest friend before she moved away.  I have kept the box she gave it to me in and the letter she penned so many years ago when we were both young mothers.  It is a treasure, so I stop and pray for her.  Still another hand stitched ornament reflects the friendship my husband and I had with a couple who was a part of our wedding.  She was a talented woman whose life was cut short by a tragic car accident a number of years ago.  Then, there are the very old glass ornaments passed on to me from my mother, and as I pack them in my boxes, a flood of memories come rushing in of family Christmases long ago.  Indeed, our Christmas tree holds a treasure trove of memories and reflects the people who mean so much to us.  However, this is part of life.  We pack away our symbols of faith for next year's celebration, but we never pack away our faith as we welcome the new year.
Looking far below from Eagle's Nest near Munich, Germany.
God can give us this perspective in the new year if we seek to stir up our gifts.
     While the Christmas decorations are safely stored and the new calendars are up on the wall, it is time for us to think about the exciting adventures awaiting us in this new year.  If anything, the good will, joy, hope and peace we feel at Christmas time should spur us on to live even more for the Savior born in a stable.  We must not allow the every day routine which follows the holidays to keep us from using the gifts which Christ has given to us.  Instead we must seek new ways to be used by God for His glory in this new year.
     In his letter to Timothy, the young pastor whom Paul ordained (I Timothy 4:14) along with other elders, he encourages Timothy to stir up the gift which God had given to him:  "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control" (2 Timothy 1:6-7).  Several commentaries indicate that this verse speaks about kindling the flame of faith or adding fuel to the fire in Timothy's life as it relates to using his gift.  It also pertains to us.  According to the Bible, each of us has received gifts from God when we became a believer.  The Lord has not only given us the Holy Spirit as a seal of our faith, but He has also equipped us for service.  We must add fuel to the fire in order to serve God with excellence in this new year.
     According to "Barnes' Notes on the Bible", the author says:  "However  rich the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they do not grow of their own accord, but need to be cultivated by our own personal care" (  We must feed our faith on a daily basis in order to fan the flame which God has ignited in our soul.  Bible study, prayer and regular fellowship with other believers in corporate worship help us to do this, but we must also exercise the gift or gifts which God has given to us.
My husband saying, "Which way do we go?" in the Swiss
Mountains near Zurich.  This is a good question for us as well.
It is not unlike exercising our muscles.  We know how out of shape we can get when we neglect regular exercise, and the same is true when we do not use the gifts which God has given to us.  If we have been called to teach, we should do so with joy.  If we are called to preach, we need to speak forth the Word with boldness.  No matter what our calling in the Lord, we are to use it for His glory and fuel it by growing in our faith.
     This past year with its ups and downs has been packed away like my Christmas decorations, but the new year is in front of us and we should welcome the opportunities it presents.  As Paul admonished Timothy, we are to remember that "God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control."  Therefore, we need to stir up our gifts and use them to His glory not looking back on the old year past, but seizing upon the adventures in faith that lie ahead for each of us.  Then, when Christmas time rolls around again, we will have many more wonderful memories to hang upon the tree of our life as we live to serve Christ our Lord.  May you and your family be blessed in this new year as you use your gifts for His great glory!  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Please leave them as encouragement for others to read and be blessed.