Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Be WITH His People

I have long struggled with the notion that God loves ME. I know He does - in my head. But in my heart it seems like a distant concept. And that goes along with the interpersonal struggles I've had of feeling unlove-able and unlove-ing. And the way that translates into my relationship with my God and Savior, is a problem.

That's why the obvious theme throughout the Bible is so comforting - so loving. God says over and over - and over that He wants to be the God of His people. And to be WITH them. That theme is woven into the very heart of the Bible. He often spoke about the day when "He would be their God and they would be His people." I think that is all He has ever wanted.

It must be something like this: when I talk about my relatives in the hills of eastern Tennessee, I often refer to them as "my people." I feel a bit of pride when I say that and think of the manners of speech, the old ways that I remember from my childhood - of  the faces that make up my family. My people were resourceful, independent, strong.

That must be akin to how God feels about "His people." In the Old Testament alone I have a list of at least eleven times when he told Moses to tell the people or Jeremiah, Ezekiel or Zechariah to tell the people those very words. (And I've probably missed some.) Often times it was in a warning because they had turned their backs on Him. Still, He longed to dwell among His people, walk among them - to be their God and for them to be His people in their hearts (Levititcus 26:11-12). In Jeremiah 3:19-20, He said it this way as He grieved their rebellious hearts:
     "How gladly would I treat you like sons [and daughters]
     and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful
     inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me
     'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like
     a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been
     unfaithful to me O house of Israel." NIV

You can hear the pain in His tender words. In Ezekiel 34:31 He says,

     "'And you, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are MY people, and
     I am your God,' declares the sovereign Lord." NET

But, as we know, Israel would fall into idolatry and rebellion over and over again. Still He longed to be their God. So He sent Jesus the Christ to atone for their sins and to make a way for them to be, at last, His people in their heart. And, as is so clear in the Bible, this plan for redeeming His people to Himself was extended to all people of every nation and ethnicity - any who would come to God by faith in Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus made that clear in John 10, where He says many times in that chapter that He is the Good Shepherd and that He knows his sheep and his sheep knows Him. In verse 16, He says,  

     "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
     They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

And don't we take comfort in John 14 where Jesus says that He is going to His Father's house to prepare a place for us and that He will come back to get us so that "you also may be where I am." He prayed in John 17:24 that He wants those who God has given Him to be where He is and to see His glory."  It is and always has been the heart of God and of His Son, to be the God of His people and to dwell among them.

And finally it will happen, just as He wants. In Revelation 21, John was seeing the vision of the new heaven and the new earth and he says, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." That is all God has ever wanted!

God loves His people, so much that He sent Jesus to buy them back. And I am included in His people by faith in my Redeemer. I am loved. He desires to be with me. And with you.

Oh, happy day! Happy forever!

(For reference, if you want to look up verses, the list I mentioned is:
Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, 30:22, 32:33, 32:38, Ezekiel 34:30-31, 36:28, 37:26-27, Zechariah 13:9, John 14:2-3, 17:24, II Corinthians 6:16 and finally Revelation 21:3-4)

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Gift of Joy

I'm drinking my coffee this morning out of a large mug given to me by Mom for Christmas. It is lovely, with a baby cardinal on it and a snow scene. Don't ask why there's a baby bird during the winter! That's not the point. The saying on it is, "The smallest wonders often bring the greatest JOYS."

That got me thinking about the joy that comes from the Lord. We know that joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, which means it comes from God, the Spirit. One of the definitions of joy on is, "source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated..."

I wanted the definitions to include something about a deep down happiness that is much more than happiness. I wanted it to say that happiness is caused by externals, like getting a new sofa, a new job, a new home. Or an ice cream cone. But that joy is deep down inside, even when we aren't exceptionally happy or maybe even down right sad. Because, that's what joy means to me. That's how it was for me, even when my first husband of 28 years died.

That kind of deep down joy is a gift we are given as we walk this journey of faith. "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus said that in John 16:33 but he prefaced it with, "I have told you these things (the things just prior to this verse), so that you may have peace (insert joy) IN ME. In this world you will have trouble..."

That makes me sigh and take a deep breath. It makes me joyful deep down in my being. I don't want to have trouble. Or suffering (NET version) but when I do - because I'm in the world - He wants me to have peace IN HIM because He has overcome the world. And He wants that for you, too.

In Habakkuk, the prophet was writing about a harsh judgement that was coming on Israel and he thought it wasn't fair. He had a debate with God and guess who wins. After God speaks, Habakkuk decides to trust in the Lord. He ends in Chapter 3 with:

"...I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength..."  Hab. 3:18 NIV

The text note of my Kindle NET Bible says of this passage, "Difficult times are coming, but Habakkuk is confident the LORD will sustain him. Habakkuk will be able to survive..."

I love that joy, the joy that comes from trust in the Lord. I don't always trust Him and lean on Him completely. And it's those times that I fear and worry - and don't have joy.  But when I can move back toward the Lord, knowing full well that troubles will come, and still take courage because He has overcome the world, that deep-down sense of well-being, peace, yes, joy, returns. I want to abide in that joy. I want to trust Him more!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Count Yer Blessings

Back when my 29 year old baby was about 11, I took him, my oldest son, and my oldest's very good friend to Sunshine Christian Music Festival for about 3 days. My youngest and I stayed in a motel room while my oldest camped on the festival grounds with others about his age. We had a great time and saw many greats like Stephen Curtis Chapman, Geoff Moore & the Distance, Whiteheart, etc., etc. My husband could not go with us that year so I braved the masses alone!!

The plan was to attend the last concert on the last night - which is always the biggie - get some sleep and head out the next morning, Sunday. But we all got the itch to head home after the last concert. Since I was the only driver I was dreading the late night, 5 hr. drive home, but was looking forward to my own bed and church the next morning. So we pressed forward. I loaded up with extra caffeinated soda and some No-Doz. My youngest was riding "shot-gun" (as the kids say) and the 2 older ones were VERY quickly asleep in the back part of the mini-van.

I was probably getting grouchy from tiredness and anxiety about the drive-in-the-dark, but my son was just getting started. He'd had lots of fun encounters with musicians and was soon on a roll, telling me every niggling detail. I was trying to be "not mean" but was trying to get him to SHUT-UP so I could concentrate and get us home safely. I (kinda) nicely suggested several times that I needed some quiet, and I needed a break, and I needed him to catch his breath.

You're probably already thinking what I couldn't come up with on my own. That his talking would give me something to think about and would be a tremendous help at that late hour. But I'm pretty dense sometimes. Eventually I heard deep down in my spirit, "His talking could help you." DUH!

So I decided to let 'er rip and we got home safe and sound - with son finally falling asleep about an hour before home.

How often do we, do I forget to be thankful for the blessings that God has placed within our family? Like that trait of your husband's personality that is really starting to annoy you but God meant it to moderate you (i.e. what you call tight-wad might be called thrifty, what you stew over "never expressing his feelings" might be called "steady" or "careful with words"). Or that child that seems so care-free that he never remembers to pick up after himself could actually teach you to slow down and have some fun with him. Or that child that is so much like you that you often butt heads. (That would be my oldest.) Or that mother, that mother-in-law, really anyone who you consider family?

We have so much for which to be thankful if we could learn to focus on the positives and try to minimize the negative. We do the opposite - minimize the positive and focus on the negative. I think that's human nature. That's why we need to lean on the nature of Jesus to help us learn to focus on the right things. I sure wish I had done that more when my kids were still under my wing.

Lord, help us, those of us who claim to be yours, to instruct our children with wisdom and kindness, but also to appreciate their individual personalities. Help us to teach them to channel their energy AND their personalities to serve you better, not changing who you've made them, but using who they are for your glory.
Here is said son, using a "mad skill"! Makes a mama proud
donit? (Don't even ask what his bubble medium is.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jesus is Our Jubilee

I have always loved Michael Card's music. He has a Master's degree in Biblical Studies and is a musician. This pairing of gifts has made for some very beautiful, instructive Bible-based melodies. One of his songs that's been such an encouragement to me over the years is Year of Jubilee.  (The lyrics can be viewed at this website. (It can even be downloaded as a ringtone - who'd a thought?) It is a wonderful song discussing the Year of Jubilee about which God instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 25. The song is so rich, but the line that makes such an impression on me is:

"To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there."

Really, can you just imagine? Being guilty of, oh, say, grand larceny and being caught red-handed. You have no excuse because they saw you. You think about pleading insanity or "my mother made me do it." But you know that you are GUILTY. They roughly haul you up to the judge in handcuffs and push you up to the bench, where you hang your head, afraid and ashamed to look up at the judge. You know you will get what you deserve, but how many years: 15 - 21 - 40?? As he slams his hammer down you dare to raise your eyes slightly to him and you hear "innocent - someone else took the punishment." What? Did you hear what you think you heard??

The Year of Jubilee is many things but one thing it is for sure, a picture of Jesus releasing debt and bondage to slavery. 

Romans 3:21-22 says, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made know, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

Hallelujah! We will all stand before our Judge one day and when we do, we will know our guilt. We will know all the naughty things we did and all the hateful thoughts we had and all the times we disobediently neglected doing what we KNEW full well we should have done. But then, if we have trusted Jesus Christ and believed in Him (and that belief involves humbly confessing our sins as we commit them [I John 1:9] and striving for obedience [Romans 6:1-4]) - then we will look into our Judge's face, as it were, and see not the sentence of punishment, but will see our Savior there. Oh my, what relief; what joy; what thankfulness we will experience! Such love!

Paul continues in Romans 4 by quoting Genesis 15:16, which says, "Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Part of the text note on this verse in the NET translation says, "Justification does not mean that the believer is righteous; it means that God credits him with righteousness, so that in the records of heaven he is declared righteous." All possible because Jesus paid our penalty and because we believed it.

I want to continually bask in this mercy, the unsearchable provision. What amazing grace! But I so often forget about it as life happens and I get wrapped up in what I can see and feel. Life is short and eternity is long. Really long. I, we must keep that in mind as we go through this vapor of life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh, What a Day It Will Be

It's interesting. I grew up spending a fair amount of time around my grandparents in Tennessee. My maternal grandfather loved his grandchildren. I remember him taking me, or my sister, or one of my cousins - and later his great grand children (including my firstborn), and saying how much he loved us - as much as his own children, he'd say. He was very loving and also a rascal - he loved to tease my grandmother by scaring or startling her. Then he'd laugh and laugh and retell the story over and over. He got a lot of mileage from those incidents.
Here is Grandpa when my mother was about 10, ~1945
This is around the same time
when he was a security guard
at the Oak Ridge Research Center.

This is how he loved to sit and relax after
retirement - whittling cedar sticks.

 (I posted these pictures of him because I had them. And because they bring a smile to my face.)

He loved the Bible and he loved the Lord. And he was very interested in warning his loved ones about the "end of the world" and about judgement. It was bothersome to some of the family but, for some reason, I absorbed it all like a sponge. I believe that is one of the reasons I had a deep down longing for the Lord from a young age.

However, I don't recall him really ever explaining how we, how I, could know the Lord and know that I was going to heaven to be with Him. The result of that was I grew up with an unhealthy fear of the world ending, of my world ending, and of doom & judgement. Maybe sometime I'll post about my testimony of coming to Jesus. But during all the years after I asked Jesus to live in me, and I was learning more of Him, I continued to fear "the end of the world." I think it was just so ingrained in me that I didn't really recognize it as being unnecessary, even unhealthy.

But as I grew to love Jesus more and more one day I realized that I was no longer afraid. It happened like this, I was driving in the car by myself and there before my eyes, the cloudy, stormy sky had streaks of light shining through the clouds in such a way that I thought, "Is this Jesus coming." And instead of fear, I was so excited to think I might finally see my Lord, face-to-face. And I whispered, "Jesus." And then I was excited to realize I did not fear the coming of the Lord but looked forward to it.

Obviously, that didn't happen that day but it will someday - and I won't be afraid. And you don't have to be, either.

Sometimes, as I've gotten older, I find myself longing to be with Him. I used to think people were slightly "touched" when they expressed that. And I don't have a death wish. I choose life and I think God wants us to live in that mindset, to appreciate the fact that He has blessed us with life and the opportunity to live that life in His presence. But, "what a day it will be when my Jesus I will see!" He has redeemed me, protected me, guided me, taught me, embraced me - through the Spirit. But then, it will be a physical reality. Oh my! There are no words, just tears of love and anticipation. And gratefulness.

♫ What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon his face,
The One who saved me by his grace;
When he takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.
There'll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no more pain, no more parting over there,
But forever I will be with the one who died for me,

What a day, glorious day that will be.♪ ♪

Lyrics by W & M: James Hill (1955) © Ben Speer
and can be found at the Blackwood Brothers website.

And it still happens from time-to-time. I see some unique, bright sunshine through clouds and wonder, "Is this the moment I will get to see Jesus? Let it be so."

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29
Image used by permission from
Mad-City Fine Arts.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Proverbs 31 Woman, Yet Again

It's Mother's Day, 2014 and I'm wondering if any mother is ready for yet another take on the Proverbs 31 woman. As for me, I've never really taken too much of it to heart because it always seemed like an impractical goal to strive for, or not to bother striving for. But for some reason, I have recently had a sort of an epiphany regarding the virtues of the woman described there. So I thought I'd try to put into words some of the possible lessons from Proverbs 31:10-31 - and why that passage might actually be worthwhile taking to heart.

A lot of the passage is pretty obvious, like a virtuous woman is good to find. If she is of noble character, her husband can trust her with money, with the children, with the good operation of the household and even with management of her time. ~gulp~  (I believe that I'm a "virtuous woman" - more some times than others - and that I usually look to the good of our home and money. But time management has become more of a challenge as my children have grown up and needed me less. So, by that definition, am I virtuous??? hmmm!   I"m thinkin' the Lord doesn't think time management is an "impractical goal to strive for." Rather it is very much worth striving for.  But I have already digressed.) So, a husband can completely trust his wife to look to the good of him, the family and their home.

The wool and flax of verse 13 was necessary for the woman of the home at the time this was written to see to clothing her family but not so much now (although I like the prospect of obtaining wool and flax - I've been very good at obtaining it.)  :) Nowadays, we might read it something like, she is willing to be thrifty in clothing her family and is happy to work with her hands to accomplish it. And is willing to find good food and feed her family as well as she can, even rising early to prepare sustanence.

The servants are way out of most or our leagues (and from a totally different time period). But we see that the virtuous woman is kind to her servants rather than harsh, so I think we can surmise that she is compassionate.

In vs. 16 she carefully plans for her purchases, uses the money she has earned by the fruit of her hands and buys wisely. Few of us have a need for a field or have the room for a vineyard (Although, if we bought a field we would have room for a vineyard! hmmm), but we can manage our available money wisely and use it to benefit the entire household.

She works with eagerness and energy and puts her best efforts into what she does, confident that she has done her best and produced quality, either physically or otherwise). I guess she doesn't sleep.  :) Or maybe, more likely, she doesn't waste time and is willing to work into the night to complete a task.

The tasks mentioned in vs. 19 gets back to the wool and flax, which could be, again, clothing her family OR could be that she uses her skills to earn money AND/OR uses her skills and efforts to help the poor and needy. We can all certainly do more of that in one way or another.

Her family is warmly clothed, even for winter time. But, and this is something that many in my generation have likely struggled with - at least I have - having expensive clothing.  This woman makes them, even for herself.  And then she wears them! But we must keep in mind her generosity with her servants and the poor. However, it would seem from this verse that nice clothing goes with a woman who looks to her family and herself.  :) I think that people, especially women, are made to love beautiful things and that comes to light here.

Her husband is highly regarded, probably virtuous as well, and she supports his efforts by her efforts. She uses the flax and the distaff previously mentioned to make fine linen garments to sell. She apparently does not weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9) And because of her efforts she can be confident about the future. This is interesting because we are encouraged, and rightly so, to not put faith in our efforts for the future but to trust in the Lord. There must be a healthy balance of both.

She is wise and uses her tongue only for help and instruction. And does not waste time. I can certainly use work in this area and maybe you can, too.

Her husband and children think there is no one in the world as good as she is. Oh, that we might live before our families in such a way that they would think that of us. It is our choice whether we make that so or not.

This description of a good woman ends by reminding us that beauty and charm will not be ours for all our life but living to please the Lord can be with us for our whole life. Her good works will speak for her. And then her family is told to appreciate her accomplishments.  I like that part.  ;)

So really, this woman's characteristics are not out of our reach if we look at it through the eyes of our time in history. Pleasing the Lord; taking care of our families with wisdom, strength of instruction and love; managing our money, resources, skills and TIME with wisdom; being charitable and compassionate; and uplifting our families with loving support rather than harshness and nagging - those are attainable characteristics.

Father, please help each of us ladies, to love more, manage wisely, give generously, and grace all we meet with kindness. Especially those with whom we live day-to-day. For your glory. AMEN

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Anoles Point-of-View

This post was originally posted on Spinning Memories, Knitting Love, and has be replaced here.

Uploaded image from

Anoles aren't very smart. At least in our eyes. When my boys were home and our nephew lived with us, we had 3 anoles, one for each boy. These cute little green lizards were brown sometimes. They lived in an aquarium with stones on the bottom, a long stick inside and a rock or two to hide under and behind. That was their world.  
I, more often than not, fed and watered them, mainly because I took pleasure in looking after them. Sometimes when the house was empty and quiet, I would sit near the cage and watch them interact with one another or climb around their stick or just close their eyes to rest. It was fun to watch these little creatures. I would buy or catch bugs for them to eat, dropping them down into their enclosure. And I would "make rain on them" by spritzing water into their realm so they could drink the droplets. I even hooked up a lamp nearby to give them "sunlight" and warmth. It was usually on for them during the day, especially dreary days.
But with all that I did for them, they didn't realize that this great big giant creature that comes around cares for their well-being. They didn't recognize my help and they usually ran and hide from me. When I would raise the lid to drop bugs in, they would run from my hands.
My hands had never done anything to cause them not to trust me. But the act of my hands giving them food or giving them water made them run and hide.  They only partook after I was gone - they did not see my hands connected with the provision. And they did not realize that the warm lamp light that they enjoyed so much, even that was provided by my hand. Such a small view they had!
We are much like that.  We have a "great big" creator who takes pleasure in us and who delights in providing all that we need for life and holiness (II Peter 1:3).  But we don't always see His provision and we run in the opposite direction - anywhere we can go to be "free" to make our own way, we think. We are independent and are so often afraid to trust the the One who provides for us. We prefer to trust ourselves.  I am guilty, too.
Now, one of the these anoles, the smallest one seemed to become accustomed to my help. Sometimes, just sometimes, when I would squirt him with a water mist, instead of flinching or running, he would stick out his tongue and drink off the glass as I squirted.  It was delightful and I felt that, in some small way, he had learned to trust that what I was doing was for his good.  
But one day he managed to escape his safe enclosure. He "left my care." He got free to a world in which he had no idea how to survive. No idea of the pain he was causing himself. It was winter so there were no bugs for him to catch and eat.  No water anywhere that he could get to.  I could do NOTHING for him.  His choice to run from my care changed his life forever.  
One day a few weeks later I was standing near a winter sun beam on the floor and here came my little friend.  He was being drawn to the warmth of the sun.  He had lost a lot of weight and maybe because of the accompanying weakness, he let me pick him up and put him back where I could care for him once again. And let me tell you, he drank and drank and drank.
It soon became clear that even though he had come back to a place of letting me care for him, his "choice" weakened him and he was never as strong again.  We fed him and he gained some weight and some strength.  But he was never as good as before. Not too long after that, he shriveled up and died.
Oh, that we, that you and I would choose always to stay in that place of child-like faith where God can tend to all our needs, physical, emotional, spiritual - all of them.  That place of faith where we leave Him the freest to look after us.  We make choices all the time, every day, that either keeps us in there or takes us from it, step-by-step.

Image from  
I'm not so afraid to trust Him, but I forget to trust Him. In the cares and duties of life I forget to look to Him, to lean on Him for my guidance, my strength and my help. I act like I can figure things out better than He can.  But, like the little anole that I thought was so dumb, I see my little world through my little perspective.  I walk away from the one Source of life itself. He sees the entire picture and His ways are so much higher than mine. Sometimes, my skull is just so thick.
But I am very thankful that He is patient and loving and has never turned His back on me. I am thankful for the fact that He takes us back, meets us where we are and can give us second chances, if we let him.


This post was originally on another blog of mine.

It has been (Re)Moved and placed here.

Today is Easter Sunday, 2014.  In my youngest son's words, "Christmas is over-rated; for the Christian, Easter is what  it's all about.  It's RESURRECTION DAY!"  During our Sunday School class we talked a bit about the incident between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection.  But first, some background is in order.

Peter often seemed to jump in with both feet before he thought about the cost to himself. (I have been known to do that myself.) In Luke 22:33-34, during the "Last Supper," Peter declared that he was willing to go to prison and even die with Jesus. Jesus knew Peter and his exuberance - and probably loved that about him. But He told Peter that before the rooster crowed that day, he would deny Jesus three times.

Then in Luke 22:54-62 it happened just as Jesus had said. We read, "Then seizing him (Jesus), they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

He, no doubt, had a ton of guilt about that. Just the evening before he had declared his willingness to die with Jesus. But then he denied that he even knew him. And Jesus looked right at him.  ~gulp~

So, sometime after Jesus' resurrection, He met the disciples on the shore. He had breakfast prepared for them and after they had eaten together, Jesus asked Peter 3 times, "Peter, do you love me?" After the first 2 times Peter said, "Lord, you know I love you."  After the third time, John 21:17 says that Peter was hurt that Jesus asked him 3 times, and he said "Lord, you know all things, you know I love you."  Each time Peter answered him, Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." (Yes, the first time he said "Feed my lambs.")

This story really hit me today. I've heard it many times but today I thought more about why Jesus did this and how Peter must have felt about his betrayal and about Jesus putting him on the spot. As a side note, I find it interesting that Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asked him if he loved him three times. I don't know any significance but I'm guessing that is not a coincidence. I bet Peter noticed it.

First, Peter didn't answer with his usual exuberance. In the past, he might have said something like, "I love you so much, I'd follow you to the depths of the ocean." Or, "I love you so much, I will do whatever you tell me always without hesitation." But, after his last declaration AND betrayal, he simply said, "Lord, you know I love you."  I'm guessing he was embarrassed and then humbled by his own actions and shortcomings. Maybe this humbling is just where Jesus wanted Peter to be.  Maybe he couldn't use him as fully without that humbling. Maybe it's true that our failings do, at least, provide an opportunity for growth.

But in giving Peter a job, a commission to feed His sheep, Jesus was also telling Peter that He knew his heart. That he knew that, even though Peter sinned against Him, he could be forgiven and move past his sin. He was telling Peter that his sin did not define his future or his calling. That Jesus could still use him in a BIG way.

We so often let our sin define who we are in Jesus instead of letting Jesus define who we are in Him. We let the enemy of our souls have his way with us by letting him convince us that we are useless to the Lord because we haven't yet reached perfection.

I think this story shows the love and tenderness with which Jesus deals with us. With me. Jesus was telling Peter that He had confidence in him to do the right thing, despite his previous sins. I take courage. Jesus can still use me, too, if I humble myself to Him and turn from my selfish, lazy ways. 1 John 1:9 says that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Because You Prayed

I have been in Beth Moore's study, Breaking Free for 3.5 sessions so far. It's very good and I can see the potential to really get to the bottom of some of my "hold-ups" in life with Christ. But my mind has taken a detour with one of the scripture references we looked up for an assignment.

In Isaiah 36-37, King Sennacherib (what a name, huh?) of Assyria was threatening to overtake Jerusalem who had Hezekiah as their king. King Sennacherib was ruthless and had overtaken and destroyed many cities before.  He and his advisers taunted those in Jerusalem, saying things like, "your king cannot rescue you," and "he is misleading you when he says 'the Lord will rescue you.'" And went on to name many of the other lands they had defeated and asked where were their gods. If you read chapter 36, you will be amazed at the tricks they tried to put fear into the people - tricks that the enemy of our souls try on us all the time.  That's another blog post, I'm thinkin'.

But the people of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah were shaken in their faith. Scared witless. And insulted that their enemies would humiliate "the living God" so profoundly. Hezekiah even received a letter ripping on God Almighty from a top Assyrian adviser and Isaiah 37 records that "Hezekiah took the letter...went up to the LORD's temple and spread it out before the LORD. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord." He first praised God and His greatness and then he told the Lord that, yes, Assyria has destroyed "all the nations." He mentioned how much they taunt "the living God." And then in 37:20, he prayed, "Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power, so all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord."

And guess what God did.  He sent the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah with this message "BECAUSE YOU PRAYED to me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria..." And the message goes on to tell what the Lord God will do to the army of Assyria.

And He did it! Somehow, sometime in the middle of the night, the Lord's "angel" (or "messenger") went out and killed 185,000 troops in the Assyrian camp. It says, "When they got up early the next morning, there were all the corpses! So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and went on his way. He went home and stayed in Nineveh."WOW! What a powerful God!

This really struck me. I have struggled to  remember to bring "all my cares to the Lord, even though it says that He cares for me." (I Peter 5:7) I have even, I think, taken pride that I "deeply trust the Lord and know that He will "work things out for good." (Romans 8:28) And I do have that trust in Him. But sometimes that becomes an excuse not to bother praying, especially when I'm extra busy.

He also says to "be worried about nothing but in EVERYTHING with prayer and petition, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN TO GOD..." (Philippians 4:6) Now, I know that God knows all before I ever bring anything to Him. Yet He tells us to bring everything to Him in prayer.

I wonder what might have been the outcome if Hezekiah had not prayed. Jerusalem likely would have been defeated and taken captive right then and there (They did later under bad leadership.) God said, "Because you prayed to me..." And the results were dramatic, to say the least.

I'm trying to really take this to heart and remember to be obedient to pray about all my concerns. My brain often goes into overdrive trying to figure out how to make things happen, what I can say or do to "facilitate" God's will - long before I think to pray.

But that is just foolishness. Because the next verse says, "...And the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) Oh my, what a promise in this crazy world, with so many things about which to worry, that we can have the peace of GOD. But first we have to bring everything to Him in prayer.