Friday, September 12, 2014

A Pace of Grace

As I was in the States in May of this year, I did a bit of reflection, and God convicted me of a few things that I needed to incorporate in my life as I returned to Slovakia.  One of those things was to slow down!  Virtually every day, I had found myself rushing to different appointments, hurrying through the grocery store, and anxiously trying to get my 'to do' list done for that day.  There seemed to often be that underlying sense of trying to perform to meet my, or other people's, stated or unstated expectations which led to a less than peaceful existence with myself!  

I'm so thankful that, as I have returned to life and ministry in Slovakia, I have found that inner rhythmn with the Lord and have allowed myself the freedom to really enjoy His presence and all that He has given me to enjoy in this beautiful life of being His servant for His glory!  It was such a confirmation and so encouraging  to me as I read the monthly 'Soul Care Reflections' that our organization publishes by Randy Rains which stated the following:  'Jesus lived and ministered in a relaxed way. He invites us to follow Him not only as The Truth, but also as The Way. As you reflect upon the life of Jesus you sense an inner rhythm of unhurriedness about the way He lived and served. You might say He lived and ministered at the pace of grace. Does that phrase describe the pace of your life and work? What does it even mean to live at the pace of grace? That's a great question.

To live at the pace of grace means to live an unhurried life. It doesn't mean we will never face urgent situations or serious needs. It simply means that whatever circumstances we face, whatever responsibilities are before us, we move toward them and through them with an inner rhythm of calmness and patience… just as Jesus did. We don't allow the pace of the world and the needs of people to determine the pace at which we live. Our pace is set by the internal clock of the Spirit and 
the voice of the Master. As Paul reminds us - "All who are led by the Spirit of God will be called the 
children of God" – Romans 8:14. The pace of our lives should be calibrated from an inner calling, not driven by outer needs and strategic plans.' 

May you find that unhurried pace of grace so that you can most effectively serve and honor the King of kings in your life, while enjoying His presence and the beauty of all that He has given you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thirst, Living Water, and Satisfaction

I just love it when God speaks to me on the same day, week, or month in themes and through so many resources!  Well, yesterday it was on the same day and the theme was thirst.  Am I truly satisfied in this life and with God alone?  Painfully, the answer is no.  There are moments and days when this is the case, but I often allow other preoccupations to 'fill' my thirst.  The truth is, however, it is only a temporary feeling of satisfaction.  I tend to be part of the 'bucket brigade' - wanting to live up to God's expectations or the expectations of others, rather than depending on His mountain spring of grace and drinking from it for complete satisfaction.  
Read this excerpt from John Piper to have a better understanding of what I'm talking about:  'God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket brigade.  If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell people what you’ve found.  My hope as a desperate sinner hangs on this biblical truth: that God is the kind of God who will be pleased with the one thing I have to offer — my thirst. That is why the sovereign freedom and self-sufficiency of God are so precious to me: they are the foundation of my hope that God is delighted not by the resourcefulness of bucket brigades, but by the bending down of broken sinners to drink at the fountain of grace.'  
As Beth Moore writes, "Who could object to a goal of pleasing God?  Trying to please God can, however, place the spotlight back on ourselves.  When our concern centers on how well we live up to expectations, even God's expectations, we find ourselves focusing on ourselves.  God wants to change that focus to Himself.  I want to wake up thinking about God's glory instead of my image.  I want to think of honoring Him rather than impressing people."
And, most importantly, God's inspired Word reads, '“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:1, 2 NIV)
"You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you." (Psalm 63:1-5 NIV)
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14 NIV)
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39 NIV)
He alone can satisfy our thirst because He is the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 17:13) and the One who has created that thirst with in us.  Come to Him, drink deep, and be satisfied in Him!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

God is FOR US!

Do we truly believe that God is FOR US?  If we don't t believe this, then we are not believing the truth of God's word and are being deceived by the Enemy of our soul.  Believe in this truth and fall into the strong and trustworthy arms of our loving, Savior and Lord!

 Isaiah 33:21 says, “The Lord in majesty will be FOR US!"

“Who has seen a God like this, who works for those who wait for him?” (Isaiah 64:4)

"Our God will fight FOR US.” (Nehemiah 4:20 ESV)

 “If God is FOR US, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

"If God hadn’t been FOR US —all together now, Israel, sing out!— If God hadn’t been FOR US when everyone went against us, We would have been swallowed alive by their violent anger, Swept away by the flood of rage, drowned in the torrent; We would have lost our lives in the wild, raging water. Oh, blessed be God ! He didn’t go off and leave us. He didn’t abandon us defenseless, helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs. We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird. Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight. God ’s strong name is our help, the same God who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 124:1-8 MSG)

I am so very thankful that He is FOR ME and I praise His Name for that!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Want peace?

Whew!  I noticed that I haven't written in my blog since September 7th!  As I looked back over my calendar, I noticed that that's when we began traveling a lot and had lots of guests/meetings in our home.  I guess traveling, hosting and blogging consistently don't mix well in my little world!  Thankfully, I am not traveling this week and can actually pull a few thoughts together to blog!

There is a wonderful recipe for peace between the pages of Philippians and I want to share it with you!  I don't really understand the notion of NOT sharing recipes.  Why wouldn't we want people to have their taste buds tantalized or to... 'Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!'?  (Psalms 34:8 NLT)  Of course, I believe the enemy of our soul wants us to glide over these verses and NOT recognize this recipe!

We are to rejoice in the Lord and not in our circumstances, possessions, relationships, etc.  He is that one constant in our lives that will never change and will always be with us!  'He also says to the Son, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” (Hebrews 1:10-12 NLT)

We are to pray about everything with thanksgiving!  Turn your thoughts into prayers of supplication and thanksgiving throughout the day.  This takes great discipline as we take each thought captive to the obedience of Christ, yet it is the key ingredient to experiencing God's peace, joy, peace, and victory in our lives here on this earth.  (II Corinthians 10:3-5)  We must also remember that essential element of thankfulness with each prayer.  We are not to give thanks because of everything that comes our way, but in everything, as this is God's will.  In essence, these verses in  I Thessalonians say the same thing:  'Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.' (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV)  God's peace will guard our hearts and minds as we rejoice in Him and pray about everything with thankful hearts!

We are also to only think on those things that are true - in line with who God is and what His Word says, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.  We can do this only with God's help!  Thus, the quality of the 'ingredients' of our thoughts are essential as well.  The old motto, 'garbage in, garbage out', continues to hold true; we must feed our minds on the Word of God, who He is, and those things that promote healthy and wholesome thoughts.  Thus, the second promise will come true in our lives as we practice this truth of thinking on quality things...the peace of God will be with us!

This is not a practice that you say, 'I got this one.'  It is a daily, constant battle that we face in our minds that requires diligence, perseverance and self-control.  I must constantly remind myself of these truths so that the God of peace will be with me and will exude His peace both in and through me for His glorification!  I'm praying that you will experience His peace and presence in your lives on a daily basis!

'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.' (Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Honesty Is the Best Policy - Part 2

Honesty truly is the best policy with God, and with others.  Oftentimes, we shy away from telling the truth because we are afraid of how the other person may react or, for that matter, they may even disagree with us and begin arguing with us!  That is called the fear of man and that brings a snare or stronghold in our life. 'Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.' (Proverbs 29:25 NIV)  I find myself being so consumed with wanting everyone to like me (an approval addict) that I question whether my loyalty is completely given over to Christ as His servant alone to use for His glory and not mine.  'For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.' (Galatians 1:10 NASB). I do seek to be His servant and His servant ALONE!

Conflict inevitably comes within our natural families and in the supernatural family of God.  Do we allow it to lie dormant and fester like an open wound, or do we seek to bring healing through open, honest, direct, and loving communication?  I am reminded of the verse that points out how healing often begins, 'Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.' (James 5:16 NASB)  Here is some great 'one anothering' that brings about healthy relationships - prayer and confession!  They go hand in hand when it comes to having relationships with others that honor the Lord.

Of course, we definitely need a large dose of God's wisdom, grace, love, and timing when we talk to others about things that may be controversial or point out incongruencies in others' lives for the purpose of  health in God's Kingdom and in His people.  I can think of several scriptures that can guide us before we begin flapping our jaws:
- 'Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,' (Ephesians 4:15 ESV)
-“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 NIV)
- 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.' (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

May our goal always be to have open, honest and healthy relationships with God and others in order to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  'As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.' (Ephesians 4:1-6, NIV)


Monday, September 2, 2013

Honesty is the Best Policy

Honest is the best policy...when spoken in love and in God's perfect timing!  As Christ's disciples, we are to model His character in all things.  Jesus modeled truth when relating to His Father and to others.  In relation to His Father and to His disciples, I am reminded of the time He spent with them in the Garden of Gethsemane.  'And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” ' (Matthew 26:37-42, 44-46 ESV)

Jesus was willing to share His emotions with His friends as He told them that His soul was sorrowful, even to death!  We all deal with emotions; in fact, they are God-given.  The rub is that we are not to be controlled by these emotions, but controlled by God the Holy Spirit, who empowers us and enables us to deal with these emotions in a Christlike way, and trust in His infallible Word as our standard of truth and not our fickle emotions!  The first thing that we are to do in dealing with negative emotions is to confess them to God.  He knows anyway and it is no secret to Him!   David was the perfect example in this as he was so transparent with God in the Psalms and shared his troubling (and encouraging) emotions.  John Calvin,  an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformatin, called the book of Psalms 'An Anatomy of  all the Parts of the Soul' as it deals with all of the distracting emotions that agitate our minds and hinder our walk with God and others.

As David exemplified in so many of the Psalms,  confess these emotions and weaknesses to God and allow them to become an avenue of worship rather than a distraction.  This last nugget of truth comes from the study that Beth Moore wrote (and I am just now beginning! :-D) entitled 'Stepping Up...a journey through the Psalms of the Ascent.'   We also see the apostle Paul use this approach in his life in the book of Romans:  'We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.'(Romans 7:14, 15, 18-21, 23, 25 NIV)  If it's good enough for two of the most noteworthy men of God, then it's a good enough practice for us!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Priority of Unity

I've heard a lot of statistics lately in regard to the need for community and the harmful effects of isolationism. Employers are looking for 3 things from prospective employees and they are appropriate dress, community, and a good sense of humor. Research has shown that isolationism causes early morbidity. We are way too prone to isolationism in today's world than in the past. I'm sure we can all come up with reasons why that is the case.

I truly believe that disunity and isolationism is a tactic of the enemy because it deeply affects us both individually in our relationship with God, on a corporate level within the local and worldwide church, and in how the unbelieving world views us. I find it interesting that many languages don't even have an appropriate word for self-reliance. In an excerpt from the book, "When People Are Big and God is Small" by Ed Welch it states, 'Americans often use variations on the phrase “self-reliance.” This phrase is a notorious problem for translators. For example, in Latin America, the closest they can come is a word more like our “independence” in that it is political and social, not personal. In some Asian countries the phrase makes no sense, or it is a sign of mental instability. The person should never be self-reliant, according to most Asian traditions. The person should be interdependent.' 

We are commanded to do the following: 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.' (Philippians 2:3, 4 NIV)

'How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured 

on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.' (Psalm 133:1-3 NIV)

We are to delight in each other and promote the welfare of one another; this is illustrated by the anointing oil that was poured on Aaron's head which was considered as holy and extremely fragrant! The fragrance wasn't just for Aaron and the one who anointed him to enjoy, but those around them smelled the beautiful fragrance as well! May we be a fragrant aroma of the Lord Jesus Christ that causes others to want to know Him.

Aaron and his sons were not allowed to minister to the Lord without this anointing oil. Our service to God is not acceptable without His holy love characterizing our life. 'If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.' (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2 ESV)

Here is another quote from the book "When People Are Big and God is Small" by Ed Welch which gives a good commentary on the illustration of Mount Hermon in Psalm 133 - 'In a similar way, Hermon was the largest mountain in the region, and Zion was not much more than a hill. If the dew of Hermon fell on Zion, it would be a deluge of fruitful blessing in an arid area.
This psalm is a critical prayer for the people of God. When we fear other people and either isolate or protect ourselves from them, we isolate and protect ourselves from a significant part of Godʼs remedy — love and unity with his people. A psalm such as Psalm 133 reminds us to pray for Godʼs remedy. It reminds us that one of the great blessings on earth is to be united with Godʼs people rather than to fear them or be isolated from them.'  What is the result when we put Psalm 133 into practice? We are everlastingly blessed by the Almighty God of the Universe!