Saturday, October 29, 2011

Look At It This Way

The stench was almost unbearable. In fact, it led me to notice some of the other things surrounding me that seemed intolerable as well. Soon my mind was reeling with thoughts of the irritations, inconveniences, and petty nuisances I faced daily, not to mention the quirky practices of those around me. What a peculiar place I was in! Thankfully, the day was nearing an end and it was time to sleep -- which I had little trouble doing those days.
What relief I felt the next morning when I awoke to find myself in a completely different place. I immediately noticed the sun -- it was shining! What a happy, welcoming blessing we have in the sun. I felt the crisp, cool air, which lingered all day and provided ample opportunity to get outdoors with the kids. I thought of the blessings, opportunities, adventures, and new people we had yet to encounter. Gratitude sprang up inside of me for what God had provided and would do in that place.
Here is the strangest part about all of this: I was in the same place the whole time -- the same location, that is...but a completely different “place” in my mind. What a difference our perspectives make on life!
I once had a professor who said (almost daily!), “There’s power in our perspectives.” Now I know why he said that so much. He wanted it to stick with us (and it has for some 15 years!) because it is true.
A friend of mine recently said that she has heard, “Your perspectives become your reality.” The illustration above reveals the truth of that statement as well. 
Oh, how we need to seek to have God’s perspective on our life and circumstances. What is your reality right now, my friend? Does it look bleak, like my first outlook did (and I still battle it at times!)? Maybe we all need to check our glasses and make sure we are looking at life clearly, accurately, through the lens of God’s Word. Those glasses sure do get cloudy when we don’t keep them clean with His truth! And, as I have learned, they also get muddled when we have a negative spirit. A thankful attitude will go a long way in helping us have God’s perspective on our life and circumstances.
Blessings, my friend --

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miniature Me

I had had enough.  The whining, complaining, ungrateful attitude was getting to me.  I tried to be patient and speak with love, but my annoyance was escalating.  Finally, my frustration came to a head: “That’s enough!” I said firmly (and a bit too loud), “I am really tired of your whining and complaining when you don’t get your way!”
I was speaking to my daughter, but as the words came out of my mouth I realized it may as well have been God speaking to me!  How often have I whined or complained when things don’t go “my way” -- either out loud, or in my heart and thoughts?  How often have I exhibited an ungrateful attitude because things are not happening the way I thought or desired?
Many times, I see in my children a reflection of me; I get a glimpse of my own childish attitude or behavior toward my Heavenly Father.  How thankful I am that “the Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).  So unlike myself as a parent.  
I have personally learned that nothing humbles us (me) like being a parent.  But it also teaches me about the greatness of God, my Father: His patience, kindness, forgiveness, grace...  What a privilege it is to be called His child through faith in Jesus Christ.  Now, I better act like it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

True or False?

A woman in my Bible study class recently made a statement that made me think. She said, “If we are deceived, then would we even know it?” Hmmm...good point. I decided to look up the definition of “deceived”: to mislead by a false appearance or statement; delude; (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary); cause (someone) to believe something that is not true (New Oxford American Dictionary)
To be deceived is to be convinced that something other than “truth” is true. The very nature of deception is to delude us so quietly that we do not realize we believe a lie. It is sneaky...cunning...crafty. We learn from the Bible that people can deceive us, Satan can deceive us, and our own flesh can deceive us. Sin is deceitful (Hebrews  3:13). Our very hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphasis added).
The most sobering aspect of this is that any of us can be deceived...and not even know it. You may study God’s Word daily, attend Bible classes faithfully, pray fervently, and still be deceived in a particular area. Or you may be on the opposite side of the spectrum and think everything I am writing is a bunch of hooey!  Yet you, too, may be deceived. 
These are some ways that you and I may be misled:
  • In our actions
  • In our beliefs
  • In our attitudes
  • In our choices
  • In our activities
  • In our marriage
  • In our parenting
  • What we allow into our homes
  • What we allow into our minds
The list could go on. My conclusion is that I need to pray.  I must ask God to open my eyes to the ways that I may be deceived. I need to ask Him what to do about it, and be willing to change.  I must pray that I am sensitive to His Spirit as He convicts me of sin and leads me into the truth through His Word (see John 16:8, 13; 17:17).

Will you pray with me that the Lord will remove the scales from our eyes and help us to know if we are being deceived in any area(s)? May we ask Him for the grace and help to follow His truth instead of the lies, whatever the cost.
Find Blessings in His Truth,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rejoicing, Not Regretting

We have all experienced trials or pain to one degree or another.  Sometimes we bring pain upon ourselves by poor choices.  (Particularly when we do not follow God‘s instruction book -- the Bible -- in our decision making!)  I think of a particular situation that has become my “thorn in the flesh.”  It was an unwise purchase that my husband and I made, and we are still experiencing the consequences of it 6 years later...and probably for some time to come.  I realize that compared to some, this trial seems ridiculous.  But it has been real for me.  It has been painful.  However, this trial has taught me many, many things.  
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”  (Romans 8:28-29)
In all trials, if you love God and belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, then He is working all things together for your good.  That is hard to imagine when you are in the midst of a trial, especially if you feel like you have brought it upon yourself.  The “good” that He is always working is to make you more like Jesus Christ; “to become conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29). 
The reality is that God is in control. 
  • He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (from Ephesians 1:11)
  • “No purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (from Job 42:2)
  • “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1)
My purpose is not to address the sovereignty of God, but to encourage you that there are times in life (perhaps, many times?) when we make a decision, and it doesn’t turn out as we planned or envisioned that it would.  It may end up bringing us grief and pain. But God allowed it, and He has reasons for allowing it. He has good things to teach us in the process, maybe some things that we would not have learned any other way than to go through that particular trial at that particular time.
I have focused these thoughts on so-called “poor decisions,” even those we pray about but do not gather all of the facts or take the time and effort necessary to make a wise decision.  But here is another thought: Perhaps you have been faithful to pray, study, seek counsel, and confidently go forward with a decision that you were convinced God wanted you to do, and yet that decision has brought great agony and distress.  Remember that obedience to God does not guarantee an easy life free of pain.  Again, the Lord often uses pain or hardship to draw us closer to Himself and teach us lifelong lessons.  Just because things have not turned out the way you had hoped does not mean it was a “bad” decision.
Do you have regrets over any decisions you have made?  Is the regret over making a sinful decision, or because the situation did not turn out as you had hoped?  If it was a sinful decision, God offers forgiveness if you confess your sin to Him (1 John 1:9).  Once you have been forgiven, walk in it!  Either way, rather than living in regret, look at what God has done in your life, specifically through that painful decision.  Maybe even write it down (there’s that idea again!).  Share it with others.  Rejoice in the Lord instead of being a prisoner of regret.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Season of Life

Seasons of life...there are certainly more than four! Sometimes it seems there are four hundred seasons in life. In this season of my life, I have three adorable children ages 4 and under, who FILL my days with singing and dancing, doling out peanut butter kisses (and fingerprints!), giggles and gurgles (dirty diapers, too) and lots of memories. This explains why I started this blog with gusto and it has dwindled to striving for 1-2 postings a week. But that’s okay -- I realize that this may not be my “season” to write. Yet there are things that God is doing in my life; just because this is a busy season at home does not mean God isn’t using me or working in my life -- He is! For one thing, He is tugging at my heart to be happy at home: to be a better example (for my children) of a wife who loves the Lord and respects her husband, to train and teach my children, take care of the many responsibilities at home (cheerfully), and PLAY with my kids! 
Some of my friends are in a different place in life -- unmarried...married without children...married with older children...etc. God has given them burdens or opportunities different from my own. It is unwise for me to assume that I ought to be  serving in the same ways they are, or involved in the same things they do. It is also unwise for me to become too concerned with how the Lord is using them and compare it to my own life. (Does that strike a cord?) Jesus addressed an issue along these lines with Peter, one of His disciples. 
When Jesus spoke to Peter about the way he (Peter) would die, Peter’s first response was an effort to compare: he wanted to know what would happen to John, another disciple. He wasn’t satisfied with focusing on God’s plan for himself. Jesus answered Peter by saying, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). In other words, it is none of your business what I have planned for John. You follow me. I think He is still saying the same thing to many of us. 
What is God tugging at your heart to do right now, in your “season”? (Perhaps it is to start asking Him what to do!) Is it time you begin to give more? to leave it all behind to reach the lost? to pour yourself out for others in some way? to pray more? to invest in your children’s lives? to write a book? What is it? 
Rather than being caught up in comparisons, let’s focus on what God is teaching us individually, and what He is doing in our own lives. What a waste of time and energy it is to make comparisons or battle discontentment. It is exhausting! What life and joy there is when we blossom where He has planted us in this season, for this time.
Blessings as you blossom,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Follow HIM Fully

I have recently finished studying the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament. I am in awe of all that God taught me through these books! Jehoash (also shortened to Joash) is on my mind today. “Jehoash?” you may be saying, “I don’t even know how to pronounce that name, much less have anything to say about him!” I understand! And don’t worry about the pronunciation -- most of us louse up the Hebrew names anyway (which are beautiful when pronounced correctly). I will do my best to give you enough detail to share the lesson the Lord taught me, and maybe whet your appetite to study him as well if you haven’t already.
Jehoash had a blessed beginning: 
    • He was hidden and protected from the evil and destructive Athaliah who wanted to secure the kingdom of Judah for herself (as queen) by killing the royal line, to include Jehoash (2 Kings 11:1-3).
    • He grew up in the house of the Lord. His formative years were spent there (7 years).
    • He was raised by Jehoiada the priest.
    • Became king of Judah when he was 7 (yes, seven!) years old, and reigned 40 years.
At first glance, it’s easy to conclude “Wow! With such a beginning, he must have been a strong man of faith when he was older.” But there was a problem with Jehoash. Scripture tells us: “Jehoash did right in the sight of the Lord all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2, emphasis added). In other words, as long as Jehoiada was around, Jehoash did what was right. 
Once Jehoiada was no longer around to demonstrate godliness and be a positive influence, Jehoash was swayed by the negative influences around him:
“But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them” (2 Chronicles 24:17).
The result was that the house of the Lord was abandoned and the people followed after idolatry. God eventually sent Jehoiada’s son Zechariah to bring a warning. Look at the surprising response: “[Judah] conspired against him and at the command of the king [Jehoash] they stoned him to death” (v. 21).  How heart-wrenching, all because Jehoash succumbed to ungodly influences! 
It is very possible for a person to do right only because of the influences around him or her, and not because it is truly in their heart to love and please God. 
“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Proverbs 29:25)
“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)
Are you like Jehoash? Do you need to step up your trust in God and do what is right even in the face of potential rejection, criticism, humility, or whatever you seem to stumble over into fear of man? Ask the Lord to help you seek His favor rather than the favor of men.
What about your children? I know I have been writing a lot about and for mothers recently, but that is the chapter of life I am in! Pray for our children NOT to be like Jehoash, but to be so solid in their faith and love for God that they will do what is right even when faced by ungodly pressures.
Blessings as you seek to follow HIM fully--