Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's Up With That???

Hey, Mr Moses, Deliverer-man, what's up with that? You said, let my people go, and look at us, slavin' away tryin' to make bricks with no straw!!! Y'all are liars! We are bein' whipped and you promised deliverance???

Has that ever happened to you? Hey God, what's up with this? You promised_______and I am here being squeezed to the limit. I don't know if I have another drop to give...

When God sent Moses to deliver Israel from slavery, he told Moses what to expect. That there would be severe resistance on Pharaoh's part in order for God to show His power. But the Israelites weren't "let in" on that part of the plan. So when their oppression got worse, they hurled accusations at Moses and Aaron.

The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, "You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day." When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, "May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us." Exodus 5:19-21

Isn't that just like us? To try to put pressure on someone we can see in order to somehow relieve our own pressure.

I love how Moses responds (especially after so many times of telling God, "I just can't speak!") He turns to the Lord (God is smiling here!), and puts the burden on Him where it belongs.

Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all." Exodus 5:22,23

There are times when I have responded to pressure or discomfort like the Israelites. I wanted to pass it on to someone else. Cast blame, or invoke a response. And at other times, I have been like Moses, and turned it over to the Lord. The former brings division and disention. The latter brings peace and encouragement.

So often when we are on the brink of a breakthrough, it seems like God has stepped out. But in fact He is very present and working in our circumstances. He orchestrates the times of intensified trial in order to give us a greater awareness of our need, a greater faith for endurance in trials and to transform us into brighter reflection of Him. Whatever we go through is always for His glory, our good and His purposes.

It is at the point of "things getting worse" that we find ourselves in the place of decision: will I trust in Him with all my heart, or try to fix it on my own, or cast blame. In this place of decision, where we focus will determine our reaction. Do we look to God and His promises? Or will we look at the circumstances and the seemingly impossible situation. One brings peace, the other discouragement.

Father, grant us grace in trials, especially when they seem to get worse as we wait for you, to keep our faith and hope in You and Your promises. Thank you that you are so wise, You always know what we need and You will rescue us! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Me? A "mother-of-the-bride"? OH MY!

A couple of weeks ago, I heard an older song on the radio entitled "Butterfly Kisses". Do you remember that one? A daddy remembering his little girl on her wedding day. The song progresses from her being little when Daddy tucked her in and they shared butterfly kisses, through her walking down the isle with little white flowers all up in her hair. He was reminiscing over cherished, sweet times together. I was in a pool of little girl has been talking of a wedding. She has been looking @ rings w/Andrew, they have been talking about their future. And...planning.

Today we looked at gowns. Kayla tried on eight or nine elegant, glistening, white dresses. Yes. I cried. A little bit. But we had a truly wonderful day. It is amazing to see your baby in wedding dresses, ready to move on in life. I found myself wondering at how in the world I went from being a bride to being the mother of one. Where did the time go?

And people are asking, "Did she get engaged?"

We laugh. Andrew has made his plans known, but is still saving money for the ring. They want to get married Sept. 4th on our farm, so we really need to get started with all the plans. It feels a little funny to me. Without a ring, it is hard to think of it as being "official". So I answer their question, "she is betrothed".

We are planning according to a promise.

It kind of reminds me of our faith journey.

As believers in Jesus, we live by faith in His promises. We have the holy Spirit as a "seal" of Jesus' betrothal. The Spirit in us is love. Kayla is resting all her plans on the love that she and Andrew have for each other. And resting in the promise that the ring will be there. I know, they are a little counter-culture; they are not going the normal route...ring, then plans...I admit I have had a hard time with the lack of a ring. I have felt-tentative-until today. Seeing her in those dresses created anticipation in my soul. A desire to move forward with her, as she has the assurance that the thing promised will come to pass.

We went to lunch and pulled out my planner. We began the list "to do". Painting, digging, building, researching flowers, caterers, photographers, lights, plants, decorations, centerpieces, napkins, and we know the list is still incomplete. We have a lot to do.

Suddenly, in the faith parallel, I find myself asking, "Do I live in anticipation like this for the great Wedding Feast to come? Am I preparing with such enthusiasm and careful attention to details?"

I am excited for this wedding! I know it is going to be a lot of work in the process of pursuing the day. Difficulties will inevitably come. Such things as the guest list (how to keep it in the budgeted amount?) or, "how are we going to pay for all of this?". Perhaps disagreements between Kayla and I, or her and Andrew...and then there is the added workload of prepping the yard...I know what will get us through those challenges is keeping focused on the future event, and the united life together that we are planning for.

Just like our betrothal to Jesus. It all reminds me of this passage of scripture I memorized at a retreat one year on 4-17, 18:

2 Cor: 4:17,18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Knowing that Jesus never breaks promises helps me not be tentative about moving toward the Great Wedding when we all feast with our King. I pray he will help Andrew be faithful to his promise to Kayla. Will you pray too? I guess I might still feel a little tentative...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Digging Wells

Have you been pursuing something diligently only to encounter contention and opposition? Perhaps you have been praying for someone you love for a long time, with seemingly no answers from the Lord. Perhaps you have been pursuing a dream that the Lord has laid on your heart of writing or establishing a ministry. The more you put into it, the more you encounter obstacles or opposition. People doubt your calling, or you doubt it yourself. Or they oppose it, or get in the way...
Genesis 26:17-22

17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land."

What the Lord showed me in this passage is how Isaac persevered in seeking the water until he found it.

The first well was named Esek (contention).
The second was named Sitnah (opposition).
and finally the third Rehoboth (Broad places of fruitfulness)

This is a common experience for God's people in their journey with Him. If we think of stories of Joseph, Moses, Nehemiah, David, Ruth, or modern ministers like John McArthur, or missionaries like Hudson Taylor...we find the same story. In any pursuit or calling there are wells of contention and opposition that come before the broad places of fruitfulness.

Hang in there! Press on, sister! Keep going! Never stop!

Psalm 138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reason vs Truth

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea what the Lord had on His agenda for me to do. An idea came to me, so I went up to Kayla's room and asked her what she was doing today. I thought maybe we could go to lunch after church since the boys were planning on going snowmobiling.

Kayla started a full-time job sometime before Christmas. Between that and her full-time boyfriend, we don't have much one-on-one anymore. She informed me that they were planning on setting up for said boyfriend's grandpa's 80th birthday party. So I thought, " I can have a quiet afternoon @ home w/ the Lord..."

God had other plans. I have had the privilege of mentoring three young women @ different times in the past. One of them (who I see rarely since her marriage, full-time job and online college courses) was at church without her husband today. It turns out she needed some counsel, and we ended up having lunch, coming back to my house and doing some research on the computer.

Her struggle was with strange doctrine brought out at a Bible study. We did some online research, and learned that the founder of this "theology" has many false doctrines and is thought to be a cult. It seemed like it to me after listening to some of the beliefs that were discussed in their study. We measured these things against Scripture and the Holy Spirit gave us passage after passage that confirmed that the ideas were just that: man-made ideas.

How careful we must be to measure everything by scripture and take into account the "whole counsel of God".

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer 17:9

We can easily agree with things that make sense to our logic even though there is no truth in it. Consider Eve: she saw (meaning understood, believed or reasoned) that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Gen 3:6) She was easily deceived by her own reasoning being advanced over obedience to God's command. The result was separation from Life. It is very dangerous to lean on our own understanding. We need to bring everything to the light of scripture to see if it holds true. Otherwise throw it out.

Heavenly Father, How valuable is your Word to us! Please keep us in your truth, and as deception mounts all around us with people believing lies, help us to shine like lights in the universe by holding out your word of truth. To be the salt of the earth, unashamed. Give us discernment and may we be steeped in your Word. The lamp to our feet and light to our path. In the precious name of our Savior Jesus. Amen.

Matthew Henry says that those who advance reason above faith, are in danger of leaving faith. (comment on 1 Tim 6: 20, 21)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Voice Calling...

...the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Luke 3:2-9

In "Twelve Ordinary Men" by John McArthur, I remember reading about how John the Baptist was confronting, and Jesus was merciful. It seems they were the perfect balance of judgement and mercy. This got me thinking about different personalities and different "leanings" that God has placed in His people. We know that God creates each of us for His specific purposes, and that it is He that "leans" us, I'm in awe at His wisdom once again.

John came to confront. He was to pave the way for Jesus. He was calling to repentance so that mercy could be poured out. Mountains of pride needed to be brought down, and valleys of despair needed to be filled in with love. Scripture tells us that John came in the spirit of Elijah. Remember that Elijah was "confronting" too. He was confronting the evil in King Ahab, and Jezebel. He also confronted all the prophets of Baal. Now John comes, and here he is confronting the pharisees (the religious folk who thought they "had it in the bag" because they were descendants of Abraham) with what is really in their hearts. Something has to be broken before it can be fixed. Our hearts. John came as the "breaker" and Jesus came as the "healer". What wondrous wisdom!

In the account of John, in Luke 3, John's life ended because he confronted Herod and his mistress regarding their sin. He had accomplished what God had prepared him for. His purpose was not glamorous. What he ate were not delicacies (not in my book at least!:-0) and what he wore were not the fashions of the day...but...he did what he was called to do. He was faithful to his calling. No matter what. He was set apart, and had a one-track mind. God.

Scripture tells us that the law was given to lead us to the Savior. It was a mirror to show us that we do not "have it in the bag"; we are sinful. We need a Savior. Without repentance and mercy, if we even commit one sin, we are doomed to eternity without God. Without Good. Without Beauty. Without Music. Without Joy. Without Love. Without Light. Without Life. Without Provision. Without Peace. Without Kindness. Without Gentleness....the list is endless. Only with God do we experience these things.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more...Romans 5:20

Grace. When we get what we don't deserve. When we don't get what we deserve. Jesus' gift-free, we can't earn it by being good, it is simply appropriated by faith.

Our awareness of sin must come before we receive the gift of salvation. Mercy triumphs over judgement, but judgement must come first. The law was given for this reason. Just like the messiah wouldn't come until Elijah came, so forgiveness doesn't come without repentance.

Oh Lord, thank you that you fulfill your purpose for each of your children. Thank you that you create through us, that you live through us. May we be found faithful to our calling, and may we honor one another. Help us to value one another even when our ways differ. Help us to love one another freely and unconditionally. Thank you for the law and for mercy and grace. Thank you that you didn't leave us in our sin, but made a way back home. In Jesus' name, Amen.