Month: February 2015

Road trip home

We’re almost home after spending two chilly weeks in Florida. But our annual jaunt was wonderful, despite the weather.

Yesterday I drive most of the day.

I brought one of my favorite books about prayer with me, “Hearing God”, by Dallas Willard. I’ve referenced this book often on this blog. I’ve told you how I’ve read it through many times and it has always left me perplexed.

Guess what! ūüėÉThis time I think I’m finally understanding what Willard is saying. It really fits in with what I’ve been reading¬†in Scripture.¬†and my personal experience with prayer.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts at a future date.

Anyway. for now, I’m just happy to be almost home.

God bless and I hope your week-end is good.

God’s discipline is wrapped in love

How many of you have read, I mean, really read the book of Lamentations? I mean, I know I must have because I read through the Bible on a regular basis. But, honestly, maybe because this time I read it on my NOOK, it just kind of jumped out on me.

(Let me side-track for a minute. I never wanted a NOOK because I love books in their original form. I love turning the pages. I love highlighting. I love old books, worn book, new books. I simply love books. I like seeing them everywhere in my home. I never consider books “clutter”.To me they are art. So when I got my NOOK, I was certain it was a waste of money. NOT!)¬†

We are in sunny Florida.

me in Florida

me in Florida

sand between your toes

sand between your toes

I brought my NOOK. So I’m reading my Bible on it. I don’t know if it’s because the print is bigger or what, but today the words are just leaping off the page.

nook

nook

at the beach

at the beach

beach

beach

(If you’re wondering about tennis shoes on the beach, it’s because of serious foot issues and even in my¬†expensive orthopedics I limp really bad. Hey, at least I can walk.)

¬†Anyway…………….

I know the concept of God’s discipline¬†is hard for many people, Christians or not. There are some Christians who honestly believe God never punishes. They come up with this view because they think when God became man, the man Jesus, that all this (the wrath¬†part) was done away with because Jesus died for our sins. But those sins still have to be acknowledged and confessed.¬†Jesus said He¬†came to fulfill the law not to do away with it. It’s back to reconciling the seemingly¬†disjointed attributes of¬†God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Many Christians just don’t want to deal with that.

I’ve just finished reading Jeremiah where he¬†continues to warn the Israelites what is heading their way if they don’t follow what God has clearly laid out for them. Jeremiah tries really hard to convince them that judgement is coming but they can’t see past the noses on their faces. They’re liking their life as it is. “Thank-you, but no thank-you”, they tell Jeremiah.

But God, because He is Holy, has to act from that Holiness and everything that Jeremiah has been predicting comes true.

Here are some of my favorite verses:

1:9: “She never considered her end. Her downfall was astonishing.” I mean, really, isn’t this where so many of us fail? By not looking down the road and getting that our choices¬†now,¬†affect our choices¬†then.¬†

3:17-28¬†My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is. Then I thought: My futures is lost, as well as my hope from the LORD. Remember my affliction……..

20: “I continually remember them (our flagrant sins, my note) “and have become depressed, Yet, I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”.

(23-26) “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say” The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, for the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.” (This certainly fits in with my present series, God’s voice or mine?)

28″ Let him sit alone and be silent. for God has disciplined him.” I think this means we are to contemplate the discipline that has come our way.

32: “Even if He causes suffering, He will show compassion according to His abundant, faithful love. For He does not enjoy bringing affliction for suffering on mankind”.¬†No matter what the discipline, God is there with us and showers us with compassion. It’s a kind of bittersweet experience.

In all the above, remember that none of this would’ve happened¬†had the Israelites only obeyed. So many¬†of the struggles that happen in our life are because we’ve disobeyed as well.

Finally, the verse that really got my attention and one I will be considering for a while. This verse got me to thinking really, really hard about my prayer life and why sometimes it seems ineffective. Is this verse just for the Israelites or does it have application for me as well?

Lamentations 3:44

   You have covered Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.

I haven’t done any research on this verse yet but here’s my gut-instinct analysis. I think God is saying that until we confess what has brought us to our own place of discipline, God will not hear any other of our prayers. Another way to say this might be, that the only prayer that can part those clouds of sin, is our prayer of confession. I picture it in my head as an arrow piercing through a cloud and breaking it up.

prayer piercing the clouds

prayer piercing the clouds

Below is an excerpt I found from searching the web. I thought it was well-written and easy to follow.

Lamentations is quite similar to the Book of Job. Both Lamentations and Job deal with the problem of suffering. Job deals with this problem on the personal level. Job suffered greatly as an individual, and the book that bears his name describes his suffering. Lamentations deals with the problem of suffering on the national level. In it we see God’s people suffering greatly.

This book describes in painful detail the suffering of the nation of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. There are many statements in Lamentations that recall what Job wrote about his sufferings. “Oftentimes the believer has not been aided or prepared by solid exposition of Scripture or a theology of suffering to cope with the suffering as it comes in national disaster, death, depression, separation, rejection, or the like. Too frequently the only place many turn in such circumstances is to medically trained clinicians.

This is not to say that a referral to the medical profession is not altogether appropriate at times; but we do maintain that ‘grief management,’ as the phrase goes these days, is the business of the gospel as well.”26 The suffering of God’s people is a problem because it pits the love of God against His justice. On the one hand, God loves people and has promised to do what is best to bring about their blessing.

But on the other hand, God punishes people for their sins, and this does not seem to be loving. This is the same problem that children have who grow up in homes where their parents tell them they love them‚ÄĒand yet punish them. Careful attention to the Word of God solves this problem, in most cases, because God has explained why He punishes those whom He loves.

Yet at other times, as in the case of Job, there does not appear to be adequate reason for the judgment. In Jeremiah’s day, the people did not understand the reason for their suffering. They only saw the punishment. They had forgotten the reasons for it given in the Mosaic Covenant. This problem was what concerned Habakkuk as well. But this problem of suffering has an even deeper dimension.

It eventually boils down to the antinomy between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. If God is sovereign, are human beings genuinely free moral agents? Is not God, rather than man, really responsible for sin? Almost all students of the Scriptures have concluded that the resolution of the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom lies beyond our present power to comprehend.

The best that we can do now is to acknowledge that God is indeed sovereign; He is the ultimate authority in the universe. But at the same time, human beings are genuinely responsible for their choices. The Jews in Jeremiah’s day struggled to keep these revelations in balance, as anyone does who experiences extreme and apparently unjustified punishment. They denied either the sovereignty of God or their own responsibility. Job, too, struggled with these issues, but in his personal life.

A great revelation of Lamentations is the covenant faithfulness of God in spite of the covenant unfaithfulness of His people.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

How to be absolutely sure God is leading us. (part 8)

His leading is only for those who are already committed to do as ¬†He may choose. To such it may be said, “God is able to speak loud enough to make a willing soul hear.” Lewis Sperry Chafer

Will it impinge on any tasks God has already asked me take on?

Sometimes we sense God changing His prior leading. Is it God or are we just wanting to move on to the next thing?

I¬†believe God has specific tasks for each of us. If I’m already involved in something I believe God has called me to and it hasn’t been completed, would God call me to something else as well? That’s what this post is all about.

Let’s look at¬†Moses. God gave Him orders to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. That was the one and only thing God required of him. Any¬†additional assignment was only in agreement with carrying out that first assignment.

Moses and the burning bush

I think it’s easy to forget about a prior leading ¬†when something more appealing comes along. We are flattered and we forget we haven’t finished the task we were previously assigned.¬†Churches are infamous¬†for asking people already functioning in an area of ministry if to take on something else. It happens all too often.

I taught Bible classes for years and while I did, I refused any other responsibilities for¬†my church. I took my teaching position very seriously. God made it clear I should be teaching. I would’ve only been stroking my¬†own ego if I’d said yes to anything else.

Churches rob others of the opportunity to serve when the same people are asked to fulfill roles within the church.¬†I’ve always believed that if a church program is something God wants to continue, He’ll provide the people. If there are no people to run a program, the question to be asked is whether or not that program should exist at all.

We need to complete the one task before we start the other. When I talk to people heavily involved in their church and sounding stressed and anxious, I question what they’re doing and what their churches are doing. I was there myself once and wouldn’t do it again.

There are some programs that don’t continue to serve their original purpose. Churches get caught up in tradition and sometimes don’t know when a “pet” program needs to go. Those in authority ask the same¬†people over and over again to take charge because they’ve always asked them and don’t trust that someone else could do the job as well.

Churches are notoriously “cliqueish”.

God is not the author of confusion or stress, but He can certainly change how he wants us to complete that initial assignment. We need to be open to that change. When God seems to change direction midstream, it can be confusing. This is when more intense prayer, or maybe prayer and fasting ,might be necessary to figure out whether God is the author or not.

I think sometimes God might change his direction because someone else is being prepared to take over our present situation. I’ve actually seen this happen on more than one occasion. I was heading a support group at our church and sensed God leading me to teach a Bible study. Once I was sure of that decision, there was immediately someone available to take over that¬†position. God was working in both our lives.

I have another example. Years ago I felt God was directing me to write a book about depression. As  you know, I had a long history of episodes and am now depression free. I worked really hard to get better and learned a great deal. I researched everything I could get my hands on. I came up with a plan. I worked that plan and got better.

So I started writing. Then about two years ago I was surfing some blogs and felt some yearnings to start a blog. I sensed God was behind my plan. So I prayed and started to set up a blog. It was so frustrating I almost quit more than once. But I still sensed this was God’s leading. After a while it all made sense and I realized this was a way to get my message out to others. I’ve never doubted this was where God was leading. It isn’t the book but it all fits, doesn’t it?

And, of course, the book may well evolve because of this blog.

We are supposed to grow in our walk with God.

God progressively reveals concepts to us over time as we are ready to receive them.¬†Any new direction¬†doesn’t mean God got it wrong the first time.

I¬†have had times when God has sent me in directions that seem contrary to how I’d experienced His guidance in the¬†past. On further reflection, I¬†realized that God was maturing me¬†and my previous conclusions¬†had to come under some spiritual revision.

awakening

Philippians 4:13, often misunderstood and misapplied, means that God equips us for the tasks HE brings our way, not the ones WE bring our way. We can’t take actions¬†not ordained by God and expect God to equip¬†us in the same way he would were¬†he the Author. Read the verses surrounding Philippinas 4:13¬†and I’m pretty sure you’ll interpret it the same way. We cannot take Bible verses out of context and expect to get the message correct.

We can get so ho-hum about our faith, that we need to be challenged now and then. It gets us to thinking.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

(The post, “How to be absolutely sure God is leading, part 8”, first appeared here.)

How to be absolutely sure God is leading us (part 7)

I know God is speaking when what I hear is consistent with what I know about Him. I remember a time when someone told me something my husband Keith said. It wasn’t negative. It just didn’t sound like him. I found out later it was a different Keith Moore. I knew deep inside that wasn’t my man. Likewise we know deep inside, “That just isn’t my God.” I’ve got to know God and His word well enough to know what “sounds” like Him and what doesn’t. He never speaks contrary to His word and His character. Beth Moore

Will it impinge in any way in my relationship with my family?

I believe our families are our greatest blessing. Our relationship with our spouses, parents, and children should follow right after our relationship with our God.

families

Any action that causes us to neglect our family is not of God. We all go through times when we may have to re-prioritize our obligations for a short period. I don’t think we have to feel guilty about that. After all, life happens.That’s not what I’m talking about.

I‚Äôm talking about jobs, hobbies, friendships that consistently take time away from our families. I‚Äôve seen in time and again and just like the song ‚ÄúCat‚Äôs in the Cradle‚ÄĚ, there will come a day of reckoning.

cat’s in the cradle

If that promotion means you’re never home, it’s wrong. Trying to convince ourselves that it’s for our family, is the biggest lie of all. We will give an accounting for how we’ve managed our families.

I have a friend who shared something with me a few years¬†ago and I’ve never forgotten it. She was a pastor’s wife and she said no matter how good the project seemed or how small she might look if she said no, she always considered her relationship with her spouse first. After that, her children.

My husband and I have taken this approach as well. We come first with each other. Always have. That’s how it’s supposed to be. No task, no matter how¬†spiritual it seems should get in the way of that.

When our children were young, people would wonder at our point of view. We’re still married and very much in love. Many of our friends who didn’t put their spouses first, are now divorced.

Remember, just because something looks good and appeals to our vanity because we are “the only person who can do it“,¬†isn’t worth sacrificing our marriages and families.

I just came across a new blog.¬†I’m including it here because it fits in beautifully with what I’ve been saying. This post is long but I encourage you to read it.¬†http://www.ahousefullofsunshine.com/search/label/inspire

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

(The post “How to be absolutely sure God is leading us, part 7,” ¬†appeared here first.)

How to be absolutely sure God is leading us (part 6)

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
C.S.Lewis

Do I have peace about this?

I’ve written about false¬†peace before, here and here.

False¬†peace is the peace that comes when all is right in our world. It’s fleeting and totally dependent on our outward circumstances.¬†But¬†it is not the kind of peace Paul describes in Philippians.¬†I’ve known Christians who conjure up feelings of peace as a¬†way to convince themselves that God has approved their plans. I mean if they feel good about it, it must be right, huh?

Peace, God’s peace, is not necessarily a feeling.¬† Repeat as needed.¬†

boat on water

I never felt peace when I led a Bible study. I was at peace because I knew I was doing God’s will but I was nervous every time I stood up to teach. I’ve had times too numerous to mention when God has led me to a task and I’ve been afraid (my problem not God’s). If I were counting on floods of peacefulness washing over me before I could proceed, I never would have.

breaking waves

Peace is like all the other attributes Scripture refers to such as,¬†love, forgiveness, wisdom, purity, gentleness, reasonableness. Not one of those is a feeling. Sometimes God leads and we¬†do have warm fuzzies but I‚Äôve learned not to count on it.¬†Other times God leads and we¬†have cold shivers because we’re afraid.

It’s when I’m¬†in a state of peace that I know I’m on the right track. I wish I could explain the difference. But God’s word says it is unexplainable so who am I to try? Philippians, 4:7 “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

One of the ways I¬†learned to defeat¬†depression is by becoming¬†suspect of my emotions and by trying to identify¬†them accurately. Is it excitement or is it anxiety? Is it fear or just anticipation? There are only a few¬†ways our bodies respond physically but there are hundreds of different emotions. It’s easy to confuse them.

Knowing God’s will for certain situations can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to seek His direction continually so we learn to recognize His voice. The more we experience it the more familiar it becomes and the less we allow our emotions to define for us.

It’s like my husband’s love for me. The more I experience it, the more I‚Äôm assured of it. The more I‚Äôm assured of it, the more I experience it.

It‚Äôs the same way with knowing God‚Äôs will.¬†The more I follow His leading the more assured¬†I become. The more assured¬†I become, the more I’m sensitive to His voice. It‚Äôs the natural result of a long-term relationship. someone

I believe Scripture teaches that God gives us wide berth, a wide road, in many areas in our lives. We just remodeled my pantry. I don’t think it mattered to God what color I painted it or if I added rhinestones to the wall. (And by the way, I did.) But I did talk to him about it because I know he’s interested in whatever interests me and I wanted to keep it inexpensive so I needed him to spark my creativity-which is where the rhinestones come in.

In any one week, I¬†sense God’s¬†leading about a myriad of matters. Sometimes I do¬†feel¬†peaceful. Sometimes I don’t. As long as in my heart I know I’m doing the right thing, I’m ok if my feelings are lagging behind.

Don’t equate peaceful feelings with the belief that those feelings¬†are an affirmation of your plans. A lot of things can feel good and be entirely wrong.¬†¬†Instead learn to recognize God’s voice in all that concerns you. True peace comes from God, not our circumstances.

 peaceful

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

(The post “How to be absolutely sure God is leading us. Part six” appeared first here.)

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