Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Takes Two...

“If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful,
       because he must be true to who he is.”
Continue teaching these things, warning people in God's presence not to argue about words. It does not help anyone, and it ruins those who listen. Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person he will approve. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way. 2 Timothy 2:13-15
I love to dance... My husband Brad was a great ballroom dancer and teacher. He had the knowledge, skill and patience to not only teach me, but allow me to enjoy llearning. We often danced the romantic Waltz, the lively Cha-Cha and even the fun and energetic Swing! He knew just how to hold me “in position” so that I could not help but follow his lead. Sometimes he would speak instructional words into my ears as to what foot to move that we could move together on the dance floor and have it appear as if I knew every step perfectly. Only Brad and I knew my desire to follow his lead help to made my part of the dance look flawless and easy. There was one dance we never tried to master...and that was the Tango. For some reason, I just couldn’t stop laughing at the intensity of this dance. It seemed tinged with “anger” to me...and I was anything but angry when dancing with Brad!

“It takes two to tango”...a traditional proverb is well partnered with the Spanish one that says; “It takes two to quarrel, but only one to end it.” 
I can’t help but see a bit of the “Tango” proverb going on right now in our country. The hostility towards Christianity seems higher than ever. Unfortunately, the reaction of many Christians towards this hostility and to the “stepping on our feet” especially now during this Christmas season has us acting like angry tango dancers. 

When Christians engage in “Tango-ing over “The Reason for the Season”  and other often serious  “affronts” to our expressions towards our faith with non-believers and those who are hostile to Christianly...we open the floor to waltzing people away from the Manger Child rather than helping them to swing towards Him. 

Hmmm... I can’t help but wonder, what Jesus would feel if He heard someone say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. What would Jesus think of the person(s) who said it or even of the person(s)who mandates the Christmas season can not be about the birth of Jesus? What would Jesus say in response to these things? What would Jesus do?

Somehow... I think Jesus would have great patience with each one and express  compassion, mercy, love and grace towards them for he knows about their deeply hidden pains or lack of understanding of who He is. The Lord would know what words of encouragement to say and what actions to take. Only the Lord knows if  one day they may be receptive to walking across the floor and even take hold of His hand with the desire to dance... trusting Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in us...we too can respond as Jesus would.

You know...for me one of the great thing about having danced so often with Brad is I eventually was able to anticipate his next move and even imitate his steps. I  often delighted Brad with what I had learned. I loved it when I delighted made dancing with him all the more special. 
Even more so, I love the thought that I can delight the Lord. How beautiful the feet that follow Jesus...

So...I still don’t want to tango! When someone tries to get me to dance to it, I just let them try that dance alone. I want to respond instead by imitating the steps I learned that has me delighting the Lord. After takes two...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Pause Button

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him  ~ Psalms 37:7a
I have often been too “quick” in responding to just about everything in my life. One of the hardest things I have had to do is find my “pause button” and then... not misplace it! Although I have learned much through trusting in the Lord’s strength on how to “wait”, I still struggle with this from time to time.
Just, this morning as I read my bible...I  was “quick” to jump from my pondering over some Scripture verses and how the Lord would have me understand them, when I began to spontaneously think about how they need to be known as well by a few other people I could think of...
Instead of sitting still with my Teacher and allowing the Holy Spirit to help me absorb and fully accept in my own heart and soul His teachings...Instead of asking questions that would lead me to a greater understanding and knowledge for what God’s plans are for me...Instead of listening how He would have me be a reflection of His Word...Instead of being still and know that He is Lord...I jumped up from my quiet time with my own thoughts of how I could “use this” instead of how I could “be this”. 

As I sat in front of my computer screen to write all that I had just learned, I found myself looking at the blank page realizing I had already “forgotten” what I wanted to write. 
Yikes! Writer’s block...I quickly summed. Or perhaps I’m getting forgetful in my older age. Hmmm, I’ll stick with writer’s block I decided.
As I went back to those Bible verses that had earlier sparked my intent interest and given me such wonderful insight to share with others, I remained “void” of any inspired words to share. 
Frustrated...I sat and tried to remember what it was I had wanted to say. It seemed so important and insightful! So, I decided, to look up some other Scriptures on the same subject and perhaps from these Scriptures I’d recall what it was I had learned.
Still nothing...“Why can’t I remember?" I said out loud as I continued my quick search of the Scriptures. “What was it that I had just learned?"
As I began to slow down and take in God’s Word, I came across several Scriptures that may not have been “what I was looking for” but spoke perfectly to my greater need. 
“Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord”                      ~2 Corinthians 6:17a 

As I sat quietly meditating on 2 Corinthians 6:17a...I began to realize something interesting about my “forgetfulness” this morning. How could I possibly “remember” something I have not even heard? I had been in such a hurry to do something with an exciting introduction, that I had missed out on receiving a full and rich teaching that God had in store for me to hear.
As I sit here a few hours later having found my “pause button” once again ...I realize something else. I have been feeling very pressed to be doing “something more” be saying “yes” to the many request from others.
But I heard God say to my yearning heart...”Come out from among all others and come sit awhile alone with me. Stay and listen to my instruction. I will teach you and our time together will be a constructive period of time, not wasted. You may have many “good” things you want to do but...there is no virtue in activity in and of itself. Never labor to serve, or force an opportunity my child. Be at peace as you sit at my is there you will learn my ways and be made ready and able to serve and not become anxious or tired. My plans for your life are not for you to always say “yes” to the plans of others but to always have a willing heart that says “yes” to mine.” 
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”  ~ Luke 10 41-42  

Hit the “pause button” on your life and sit awhile in the garden with Jesus. May you too find peace and great wisdom at the feet of the One who knows you best. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Divine Strength

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:5

Have you noticed that children don't hesitate to ask for help? They quickly realize when they do not possess the necessary or adequate ability to fix or solve a problem and will without hesitation cry out; 

“Daddy...mommy...please help me!”  As adults we often hesitant to ask for help...we will try “anything and everything” on our own first until we run out of options and have to look beyond ourselves. Our hesitation and resistance usually comes from pride. 

I’ve discovered to make progress in my spiritual life, I have to accept the realities of my inadequacy and also hold onto a willingness to ask God for help. The Bible says God is our Abba (the Aramaic word for "daddy") and He is always ready to hear His children's requests for help (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). 
So, here’s something to consider the next time you find yourself “in over your head”. Only power in weakness is Divine and is sure to keep its divinity where it belongs...with God, not the vessel.
Thank you Lord for being my strength and revealing your divine power found in the midst of my insufficiency and weaknesses whenever I call upon the precious name of Jesus. Your love never fails. 
“If we were made sufficient in all things, we wouldn't need God's sufficiency.”  ~ David Jeremiah 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grumpy or Grace? is the one time of the year when the world peeks in on Luke's narrative about a baby born and laid in a manger. This is a time of year when the truth of the gospel washes across the globe. The words of familiar Christmas songs like Silent Night and Joy to the World are heard, and their message of love and hope reach inside the yearning hearts of people everywhere. Songs about the birth of Jesus, breathe the wonder of the Incarnation into the darkest places in our culture as well.
Try to imagine what people from every culture would experience if every Christian stopped complaining about “the war” on their holiday. What would the world experience if we stopped being “angry” over how it has been commercialized as they also watch us “buying into” the same way of celebrating Christmas as they do... exhibiting much the same signs of stress they exhibit?
Imagine what the Christmas season would be like for everyone if Christians would just be bursting forth with joy?  Shouldn’t those of us whose hearts have been transformed by Christ....shouldn’t we be the most joyous members of the human race when the calendar flips to December? 

I was thinking...maybe, just maybe, that tired retail worker at the checkout line would say "Merry Christmas," not because we demand and insist on it, but because the joy of this season so overflows in us that they couldn’t help but have it spill out of their hearts too!

The real war on Christmas is the one being fought every day in the hearts of believers, not by the retail stores policies or by politicians or even the economy. You know...Christians do have a choice to make in all of this. We can either revel in the miracle of the Incarnation or allow ourselves to be distracted from “the Reason for the season” by the enemy of our soul who seeks to rob God's people of our joy.

Yes... For Christians...Christmas is our holiday. Oh, the world may attempt to “rename” this season...but the truth is we have the most wonderful opportunities during the Christmas season by having nearly an entire month to rejoice at the unfolding of God's salvation plan. So this Christmas, may we be found celebrating the birth of Jesus with generosity towards those we love, charity toward those who don't celebrate as they ought, and gospel gladness and truth to a world that desperately needs the good news!
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” ~Luke 2:9-11 NLT
May the joy of the Lord guide you this Christmas...

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's It Worth?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4
How we view the “worth” of an object, a circumstance, an experience even a person... influences how we respond to it. You would think if you were given something that has great worth, you would received it with a heart of joy and gratitude...but that’s not always the case. 
Some things we receive in this life are hidden inside an outer casing that has no beauty by itself but inside holds the most perfect gift. Like a hidden diamond, too often I’ve only seen the blackness of a cold rock that I want to toss as far away from myself as possible. Yet, If I choose to patiently wait, observing and learning from the One who placed that ugly rock into my hand...I will see the black and rough edges give way to reveal the many beautiful facets of a valuable jewel that will give me great joy to last a lifetime.
So let’s consider together the worth of some “ugly rocks” that may have been placed into our hands. As a Christian...Is Christ worth our obeying even when we experience the pain of a spouse or friend’s unfaithfulness to us? Is Christ worth trusting when our financial security is threatened or even destroyed? Is Christ still worth adoring when our physical health cripples us? 
Is Christ worth serving when a loved one dies “too soon”? Is Christ worth all our devotion even when our actions are misunderstood and our faith slandered? Is Christ worth giving all honor and glory to and is the crown of life promised by God still worth our perseverance in faith when we lose everything this life once held so dear to us?

For me the answer is a decisive “Yes”! Yes Lord... it is worth whatever the cost is for me to experience the joy that comes from living a life that is filled with your purpose. I no longer desire achieving the things this world once held my attention of and left me unsatisfied, craving for something more.
It took losing someone I greatly loved for me to finally understand what James was actually talking about when he encourages us to “consider it pure joy...whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 

When my husband died, I thought it was reason enough for me to lose all joy. I questioned God, asking him how I could ever “consider” experiencing such deep pain and sorrow could ever produce joy in me. 
God is faithful..He keeps all His promises. The Lord led me through the pain of loss to discovered the greater treasure in life is to know Him more intimately. My agony in the hands of God produced in me a multi-facet jewel of wisdom. I developed a better understanding of God...something that I would never have experienced otherwise. 

In the years since my husband’s death I’ve seen and experienced the many benefits of knowing God far better than ever before. You might be knowing God as I do now...worth the suffering it took to get me here? 
Although I would not have chosen the death of my beloved husband to be my path to know God as I now do...I would not want to lose what I have gained by what it seems only Brad’s death could have brought for me to such knowledge. The Lord has given me an understanding of who He is by what He has brought me through. The compassion and wisdom and insights from Christ that filled my empty heart, helped me to see that our circumstances in this life are not made up of things that are to be only considered as “good” or “bad”... but as opportunities for God’s purposes to be lived out.  
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ~ James 1:12
The great worth of the Lord’s blessings, His kingdom and the certainty of receiving the crown of life are worth immeasurably more than the vain attempts I once sought after by clinging to the values that had me desiring only ease and comfort in this life.

The decision to praise God and say that “Christ is worth obeying, trusting, adoring, serving, giving devotion to, honoring, and is worth of my perseverance in faith... no matter what comes my way in this life... is one that becomes from realism and accepting the wisdom to "consider it pure joy", whenever we face trials of many kinds.

However reluctant I may have been to embrace it, I have learned suffering when received rightly... is one of God’s most abundant means of giving grace. Glory.

Reveal the perfect Jewel of Jesus in me...

                             How I just love you Jesus!