Nothing Accidental

I met with my dear friend and mentor, Melba today.  I have desired and prayed for a mentor for YEARS, and God provided one for me this year.  She is graceful, loving, godly, and loves the Truth.  She also is very healthy in always pointing me toward resting in Him/His word.  She is not perfect…she walks in humility and authenticity.  I thank God for this season.  As I pour into many, I am being prayed for and poured into.  She is not there to solve or fix anything but to speak truth and point me toward that which is life–Christ.   Lately, I have heard the desire from those to be poured into from solid older adults.  I understand that desire.  I have owned it for many years.  What gets me is when people use that as an excuse not to disciple and pour into others who need it.  Just because people have not stepped up in your life, that does not give an excuse to forfeit the race and the call to disciple others  (Matthew 28).  God is sufficient.  He brings things in his timing.  He has grown me in season and out of season.  He will do the same for you.     One of my deepest passions is the solid discipleship of women and men in the church.  I am praying and studying and thinking a lot about how to lead well in that.  There is SO much false teaching in churches today.  People wait to be taught and fed and coddled–reaching out for the latest feel good book or popular teacher or conference.  I see the battle day in and day out for the mind and hearts of those who follow Christ.   Studying God’s word and praying and knowing Him does not come accidentally or easily.  Equipping people to know him deeper takes investment on my part and their part.    We do not wake up one day and stumble into godliness.  He initiates relationship.  We do not earn it…it is by his grace.  However, we do have to work hard at fellowship.  We seek not to earn his attention but to know him more deeply.  This takes examination of our hearts in the study of His word.  I am humbled everytime I look upon His word.  I see my sin and my desperate need for Him.  My passion is to keep pointing others to His word and His presence.     So many people who call themselves by Christ’s name, are ignorant of His truth.  It is simply laziness on their part.  Meeting with Melba this morning, we were reminded that we must pursue His truth daily.  Bathing ourselves in His truth, the Spirit spurs us on, convicts us of sin, and brings repentance and clinging to Him.  He holds us in his hand relationally–we do not add anything.  But, in fellowship, we seek Him.     May my mind and heart seek Him purposefully today.  May I surrender today.  May I desperately drink in His truth to wash away the lies of this world that invade my mind and heart each minute.  This will not accidentally happen….I have to seek it.  And, you do, too. 

Thankful reflections

Today, I got to go to my sister’s lake house to be still before God.  I curled up in a chair with a heater on full blast and journaled prayers and studied God’s word.  It was a blessing.  In December I visited there, and I knew there was a need for me to pull away consistently to do that.  There’s something about the water and total quiet.  There are no excuses, no distractions.  Plus, on the way there, I enjoyed music on my ipod.  It is so good when you listen to songs that quench your soul.  I listened to one of my old favorites from Dave Hunt–“Vision of Christ.”  These lyrics are a good reminder:

 

battered and bruised, knocked down and torn

i’m so tired of fighting

so what’s the use of going on

i am weary of trying

then when I want to lay down and die

the Spirit of God quickly reminds me. 

 

 

the eyes of the Lord see so much farther

than you and i can see

past all the pain,

past all the sorrow

into eternity

when we are tempted to run and hide

may we remember the vision of Christ 

 

an innocent man wrongly accused

he knew no sin at all

a beautiful lamb mocked and abused

he responded to the call

to be sin for us

and  lay down and die

that you and i could experience life

 

it was for the joy set before him

that he endured the cross

we know in this world

we will all have trouble

but he has overcome

 

Puts things into perspective, huh?  I am reminded of Paul writing of fellowshipping with him in his sufferings.

Romans 8:17-18

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

 

Philippians 3:10

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death” 

  May I remember to focus myself daily on the reality of the gospel…of Christ’s beautiful offering…of the ABUNDANT life we have in Him.  May I NEVER complain about the petty hindrances of my life.  May I rejoice that I get to share in sufferings with Him…because of his name.  May I not forget my brothers and sisters around the world who fellowship in sufferings daily…some becoming like Him in his death.   

Remembering My Dad

Jen and Dad Tomorrow would have been my  Dad’s 74th birthday.  He died a little over two years ago from Parkinson’s disease.  He was the kindest, gentlest, loving man I have ever known.  I am glad that I had 30 years with him…even though the last were filled with the devastation of a horrible disease.    Days like these are always hard.   I miss him like crazy when I allow myself to think about it.  Yet, I am REALLY am overjoyed that he is before the throne of God and free from pain.  I always remember how much I miss him when I spend time with my family.  A hole is there that can never be filled again.  It is in those times that I remember to cling heartily to my Heavenly, Everlasting Father.   The lesson is that there is nothing here on earth to cling to but Christ.  Things and people always change.  There are no guarantees.    I used to hate the fact that I inherited my dad’s nose.  My mom is a beautiful woman who was a class beauty when she was in college.  My dad was a very handsome man, but qualities on a man transferred to a woman do not always turn out for the good:).  I always wondered why I had to look like my dad.  I was teased mercilessly for having a crooked nose in junior high school.  I had a 7 to 8 year awkward phase of life–I can show you some interesting pictures that were not helped by the way my mom had my hair cut.   I remember the exact day as a high school freshman seeing my grandfather’s picture with the infamous nose on his face, too.  Then and there I stood up straight with pride instead of feeling ashamed.  I never met my grandfather, but I carried part of him with me.    I was at a funeral the other day for my brother-in-law’s father.  Funerals always bring fresh emotion to me about my dad.  A man who went to college or seminary with my dad approached my mom and me, and he said, “you look just like your father.”  I beamed, “yes I do, don’t I!”  There are still pieces and rememberances of him here on this earth through our family and the people he touched.  I laugh to myself as I think about the pride I felt in that moment.  I bet it was the nose that sealed the deal for that man!   My dad was a very talented minister of music.  Just after he died, I tried out and began singing for the worship team at our church.  Just like my nose, I had always felt a lack of confidence with my voice.  That is the one thing I wish I would have done before he died.  I know it would have brought joy to him to see me use my voice again to glorify God.  But, every Sunday I sing, I think about the fact that I am singing with my earthly Father as we are both before the throne of our Heavenly Father.     I cannot list all the things I loved about my dad, but today I remember him with joy and fondness.  And, there is a little part of me that hopes that one of my children gets his nose:).  Though, if it is a girl, she might want to kill me later for it!   For, sadly, they will never know my dad, but I hope pieces of his character and person transfer to them.

Respectable Sins: ungodliness

Wow.  I just read the first chapter that dealt with a specific sin in Jerry Bridges “Respectable Sins:  Dealing with the Sins We Tolerate.”  He proposes, quite well, that our root sin is ungodliness.  He uses the illustration of a tree where the trunk is pride with the roots being  ungodliness.  He defines ungodliness as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, God’s will, God’s glory or dependence on God.  Gulp…           He speaks of four specific ways where we live ungodly  lives.

  1.  Making plans without recognizing our UTTER dependence on God to carry them out (James 4:13-15)
  2. Praying prayers about what we need or want (quick fixes to make ourselves feel better)–treating him like our bell-hop while not praying that our lives be God-centered (Colossians 1:9-10)
  3. Living life in every activity with no thought of glory to him before him alone and before others (1 Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 5:16)
  4. Lacking desire for the development of an intimate relationship with God (Psalm 42:1-2)

I guess we all catch the drift that we are all ungodly.  I was ashamed after reading the chapter, and then, in his great grace, he reminds me again of the gospel.  He has made a way for me to walk in obedience and godliness with him.  Jesus lived in perfect godliness, but we fall somewhere on the spectrum.   1 Timothy 4:7-8 says

“Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths.  Rather train yourself for godliness;  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  

  I am reminded of how I seek to be on the easy road of how I appear to others.  Training myself for godliness takes time and energy everyday.  It takes courage to listen to the Spirit and dig through the cobwebs at the recesses of my heart.  Training takes surrender.  I think upon hours and hours of prayer and study to connect with my heavenly Father, and I think about the conscious decision each time to do that.  I do not think it ever gets easier.  I always have something that calls to me…house projects, the newspaper, the computer, people, the telephone, chores, shopping.  Oh that everyday I consciously pray through the day that I be mindful of him in all things…living as if he is the only relevant thing.  If I do not foster that daily fellowship with him, I cannot genuinely desire to please him or glorify him during our days.   Bridges asks these questions which we need to ask ourselves:

  •  How ungodly am I?
  • How much of my life to  I live without any regard for God?
  • How much of my daily activities to I go through without any reference to God?
  • How far do I go in a positive direction to seek to glorify God before others?
  • Do my prayers reflect a concern for God’s will and God’s glory and a desire that my life be pleasing to God?
  • What specific areas do I tend to live without regard for God?

 

A little break…

Blogging has been really good, but it can be a bit all-consuming.  I am excited about sharing my thoughts and encouragement, but I found myself on the computer a lot last week.  It seems that between the internet, the radio, the T.V. and people noise, that I needed some rest.   When I was a freshman in college, I went through a time when I learned about fasting from the media.  I attempted one week during the summer (which lasted one day) to avoid reading the paper, listening to music, watching tv (and the internet was around but it was above my head).  In fact, now that I think about it, life was simpler then.  (As you read this and think I sound 80, remember I am just 32).  I did not even have a cell phone.  But, back on topic…  It was extremely hard.  I wanted noise all the time.  Even though I did not make it a week, I did pull a media fast once in a while for a day or even an afternoon.   The noise has just increased…with the computer, cell phones (where there is never a way to hide), facebook, myspace, email, blogs, more people.  God calls us in the Psalms to “Be still and know that I  am God.”  This is a discipline.  This will NEVER happen by accident. In fact, all the things that “make life easier” also tend to imprison us to noise all the more.   So, all this to say, I did not get on the computer this weekend.  It was refreshing.  I did not miss it.  I think this will be a regular practice in the quest for “disciplining myself for godliness.” It is funny that the things that can be started for good (a blog, facebook page, etc) can ensnare us quickly where we lose our focus.  We sang a song yesterday morning that said:  

 “Spirit now living and dwelling within me   

Keep My eyes fixed ever on Jesus face.

Let not the things of this world ever sway me,

I’ll run til I finish the race.” 

Oh, that is my prayer.  May I throw off the things that so easily entangle me!  By the way, another good practice is riding in your car in silence.  It creates space for prayer, listening, and rest.  Have a great day! 

A Sobering Look at the Prosperity Gospel

Warning:  This is not for the easily offended or faint at heart.  This is a video that absolutely tore me apart.  May we be diligent to only share what is in God’s word.  May we throw off every false gospel…and share the complete truth in love.  The true gospel is the ONLY thing that changes lives.  No humanitarian effort or kind act eternally changes lives…only Jesus Christ.   May I have the courage to cling to Him and treasure Him above every comfort, every relationship, every seemingly good thing.  Amen.

Love’s definition

In my couple’s small group, we are reading “What Jesus Demands from the World” by John Piper.  This is another good read if you are ready to dig in and be challenged.  Piper studied through the gospels and looked at all the commands/demands Jesus made in his teaching.  Before this summer, it had been a long time since I had camped in the gospels to study.  It seems that I had been in Paul’s letters a lot (to borrow a Seinfeld line–not that there’s anything wrong with that).   It is so easy to read what we want to read to help ourselves feel comfortable.  A lot of Jesus words are so blunt, and I had not camped there to listen in a long while.  I have really grown and been challenged as I have led a study through Matthew (for my young women’s small group) and read this book.     Today I was in a chapter about loving your enemies.  It was filled with a lot of good meat.  Piper made a point that true doctrine is the root of love.  That is how Jesus lived.  He did not compromise the truth to win a following.  So many movements in the church today abandon the truth or bend  it when God’s word does not produce a response that is popular.  I loved how Piper stated that love is not pitted against the truth but it lives by it and burns by it and stands on it.    It seems weekly I hear, “lets put our differences aside and love one another.”  Well, when the differences are preferences, sure that is fine.  But, we have to be so careful that we are not abandoning the very message of Christ just to make ourselves comfortable.  Jesus said that a servant is not above his master.  If the world hated him (Truth), it will surely hate us as we live out and share him.  It is so easy to want to be liked, but we are accountable to God for how we compromise. Piper made an excellent point that in today’s culture ‘love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives but the subjective response of others.’  In our culture and the church, we have allowed a person’s response to an act to define whether the act was truly loving.  Let’s think about this.  The Pharisees responded poorly to Jesus teaching.  They were offended, angered, etc.  Does that mean that Jesus did not love them with the truth?  We forget that the true gospel is offensive to our sin loving, self-serving ears.  So, I have to go to Him daily to decide whether I want to serve someone’s comfort for the moment or love them with words of life for eternity. I have dear friends who have confronted me in my sin over the years.  I did not respond well at first, but as the Spirit worked, I was exceedingly greatful that they would love me deeply to give up their comfort to spur me on.  They did this in gentleness and respect and truth, and that is how we are to walk.  We are not to speak within our own pride or authority.  We are to speak in humility and to trust God. I have had several really hard conversations with others in the last 6 months where I have had to speak the truth in love.  The reaction of others was not good.  The people were angry and/or hurt.  I dreaded the conversations.  I did not take delight in them.  It was not comfortable, but I knew it was for their edification in Christ.  I had to examine my heart, pray for strength and trust my Father in heaven and the Spirit to work in them.  Piper reminded me in this chapter that I give an account to God…He is the absolute and not the person’s feelings of woundedness.  May we each examine within ourselves how we define loving others.  May we listen to Him and be in his word to walk forward instead of our own definition.   

Your Hymn to think on for the day…

Hymns are so rich in truth.  This is one of my favorites…drink in its truth.       Jesus, I am resting, resting,  In the joy of what thou art;  I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.  Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,    And Thy beauty fills my soul,    For by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.       

 Chorus: Jesus, I am resting, resting,  In the joy of what Thou art:  I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.    

O, How great Thy lovingkindness,  Vaster, broader than the sea!  O, how marvelous Thy goodness,  Lavished all on me!  Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,  Know what wealth of grace is Thine,  Know Thy certainty of promise  And have made it mine.      

Chorus  

Ever Lift Thy face upon me  As I work and wait for Thee;  Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,  Earth’s dark shadows flee.  Brightness of my Father’s glory  Sunshine of my Father’s face,  Keep me ever trusting, resting,  Fill me with Thy grace.      

Chorus  

Respectable Sins

I am reading a book by Jerry Bridges called Respectable Sins.  I HIGHLY recommend this book for those who are ready to grow deeper in Christ.  Jerry Bridges is a highly respected teacher, leader and writer who works for the Navigators organization.     

 

This book takes a realistic look at sin and the gospel of grace while helping to expose those sins that are tolerated in the church.  He touches on ungodliness, anxiety, anger, frustration, gossip, discontentment.  It is a biblically solid look at the command of putting to death sins.  He reminds the reader of the deep hope in the gospel of where we stand in Christ.    

 

 

 In the book, he also speaks of the concept of dependent responsibility.  We do not grow on our own, yet we do not sit back and not work at our Christian lives.   “We are responsible before God to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously non-acceptable ones.  At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility.  We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.”    

 

 Check this book out.  However, you may only find it on Amazon.com if you are in the Knoxville area.  Quite the irony that none if any Christian retailers in the area are carrying it.  Think on that one… 

Letting go of the ball…

hpim1198.jpghpim1198.jpgBailey, our boxer, is a quirky dog.  She loves to play with her pink ball, and she will go find it on command.  She loves for us to throw the ball to catch it, but she will not let the ball go for us to throw it again.  She runs around the room taunting us with the ball for us to catch her to throw it.  She does not get the concept that if she gives us the ball, we will throw it for her to have fun.  We will not take it away and punish her, but she acts as if that is what she believes will happen.  The light went on in my head. That is exactly what I do with God.  He holds all good things in his hand, and He promises to work for our good.  Yet, I hold on to things in fear thinking that I know better.  He longs for me to let go and live in the joy and peace of trusting his Sovreign hand.   When I do trust and let go, I remember that.  My memory does not last for long, though.  I begin to worry about finances or friendships or the future or that I know better how to take care of myself.  Oh to remember today the joy of trusting my father to lead me in running in the path of his commands.  The freedom of surrender bounding to get the ball.