No Business of Mine

Personality tests come in various shapes, sizes and colors, so I’ve learned.  At a Christian women’s retreat a couple of years back the leadership team decided to use a short, fun, colorful personality test both as an ice breaker and way to divide into teams.  This particular quiz divided the room full of women into “reds,” (outgoing, take charge individuals), “yellows” (conscientious rule-followers and hard workers), “blues,” (tender-hearted harmony seeking people) and a minority of “greens,” (thinkers, learners and problem solvers).  While all these tests are just indications, and it is pointed out that most people have more than one “color,” this quiz indicated a predominance toward these characteristics.  I was a green.  Greens like logical approaches and need to know the “why” behind decisions and like to think of helpful solutions.

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pixels wide) contains 1 million pixels, each of a different color. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colors. Judd, Deane B. Wyszecki, Günter (1975). Color in Business, Science and Industry . Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics (3rd ed.). New York : Wiley-Interscience. p. 388. ISBN 0471452122. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of faith in Christ has a particular challenge for the “greens” among us.  The very essence of faith means we usually don’t know the “why” and we don’t get to create the helpful solution.  We place much in God’s hands and trust that He is indeed working all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (reference:  Romans 8:28).  Then we trust, wait and obey.

In the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, a verse from Joel is the basis for a great comment by C.H. Spurgeon.  First the verse:

And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.  (Joel 2:32)

All of us, no matter what personality “color” we lean towards can find ourselves in that “whosoever.”  When we come upon troubles and trials and perplexing situations we can take these words of C.H. Spurgeon to heart:

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My case is urgent, and I do not see how I am to be delivered;  but this is no business of mine.  He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.  It is mine to obey His commands;  it is not mine to direct His counsels.  I am His servant, not His solicitor.  I call upon Him, and He will deliver.  C.H. Spurgeon

Even as a “green,” is so comforting to know the final outcome of that which concerns me is not my deal, it’s His business.

 

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Morning Prayer

In the quietness of this morning I consider a new day and the contents of my daytimer.  It is time to increase my time of prayer.  Oh Lord, how I need You!

There is some time scheduled in a doctor’s office with someone I love.  Lord I pray for the decrease of anxiety, for peace and the flowering of faith and trust in You.  There are some errands to be ran, and some necessary shopping.  Lord, for the divine encounters in the ordinary passages of life, may You prepare my heart.  Help me not to be so focused on the incidentals that I miss the big picture.  Thank you Lord for providing for us in this season of change.  May I be thankful.

English: Speak Lord For Thy Servant Hears

English: Speak Lord For Thy Servant Hears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is some art work to be done today.  Thank you God for the joy in this – for it is in creating that I catch a glimpse of the You, the Great Creator and the obvious delight You took in creating us!  Today there is ministry for someone that needs Your healing touch.  Lord, I pray for Your direction, Your mercies, Your guidance, and for Your Word to speak powerfully to my heart, even as I speak and listen.

Estelle's Irises - named for a godly woman of prayer

Estelle’s Irises – named for a godly woman of prayer

Lord, where I have been preoccupied, where I have totally missed Your plan in the moment or the people You have put before me, where I have missed an opportunity to speak as You would have spoken, or just plain failed miserably, please forgive me.  This is a brand new day, Lord.  In the many things that are before me, help me not to forget that this is the day which You have made, may I rejoice and be glad in it.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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Accepting Help

It is much more comfortable to be the one giving help.  Accepting help is against our grain in several instances.  If one is the serving type and loves to make everyone else feel welcome – then accepting help can be hard.  If one is a leader type and feels a weight of responsibility than being the one who needs help doesn’t feel quite right.  And again, if we tend to be independent, then, help means dependence.  There are many instances where we can find ourselves resisting the love and concern of others through practical acts of care they want to do to help us.

While Christianity causes us to be “givers” instead of “takers,” there is a time and season for many things in life.  We are commanded to work hard and to be self-sacrificing.  But sometimes it is our turn to humbly accept help.  Humility is a Christ-like characteristic.

Elijah was a mighty prophet.  God worked through him tremendously.  Elijah stood against 450 false prophets of Baal and challenged them to a “bake-off.”  Really, it was about Elijah offering a sacrifice to the one and only true God and proving to the whole community that the worship of Baal was idol worship. The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob was not pleased with the worship of other gods.  The results were amazing.  Then Elijah prayed for much-needed rain, and it poured.  Not only did God dramatically answer his prayer, Elijah ran a race with a chariot and won!  Talk about a spiritual high!  In all these events Elijah was a spiritual leader.

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the W...

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then it happened.  The evil woman Jezebel threatened Elijah, and Elijah freaked out.  Elijah fled for his life.  In a short amount of time he found himself alone, exhausted and depressed.  He asked God to take his life.

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elijah needed help.

The rest of the story is recorded in I Kings 19, but in short, Elijah needed some physical things to help him regain his emotional stability, his mental equilibrium, and strengthen his faith.  Elijah was encouraged to sleep, eat, drink water and sleep some more.  Then he went to be alone with God and pray.

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston

Elijah in the wilderness, by Washington Allston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elijah’s healthy perspective returned.

We all need help sometimes.  Followers of Christ are united into what the Bible describes as “the body of Christ,” meaning that although we all work in different ways, we are all important and needed.  Like a physical body, some parts are more prominent, but each has a function that is vital to the health of the whole body.  We help each other.  No matter what part of that “body” we play, in some season of life we will need to help of others and we do well to accept that help.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

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Filed under Crisis, Depression, Fear & Anxiety, Grief & Loss

Tug of War

There’s a tug of war in the believer’s heart and one side wants what it wants when it wants.  That’s the self.  On the other side is the part of our heart that truly wants to please our Maker.  On our journey with Christ spiritual growth means that the side that wants to please the Lord is gaining the upper hand.  Oh, how our culture screams in the opposite direction!  We hear a lot about “me.”  “Me time,” “What’s best for me,” “What makes me happy.”  We tend to hear and “I love Jesus” rather than “Jesus loves me.”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we know if we love Jesus?  Is it primarily a feeling or an intellectual nod to the things He said or what we think about Him? Do we “love Jesus” because He is cool or fashionable?   A writer named John in the Bible said it pretty plainly:

But those who obey God‘s Word truly show how completely they love Him.  That is how we know we are living in Him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.  I John 2:5-6 (NLT)

Obedience and following His example…two things that do not come “naturally” to the human heart!  It’s against our grain – contrary to our independent, seemingly “self-sufficient” nature!  But why should it surprise us that loving God means to be obedient to Him and follow His example?  Don’t we want this from our children?  As parents we want what is best for them, and we recognize being able to take direction even if they don’t understand it is for their own benefit and protection.  No!  Do not put your finger in that light socket!  No, do not run into the street!  No, do not drink that orange scented shampoo!

As parents having our children simply say they love us but reject our instruction and example would indicate that there is no real love at all – just maybe a warm fuzzy affection, at times.  God could have created us without a free will and made us completely obedient beings.  But genuine love cannot exist without the ability to make a decision of our own free will –  from the heart – to obey even when we don’t understand or feel like it.

The only reliable means of measuring our love for God is to examine whether we obey Him.  – From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom

 

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Unanswered Prayers

Some of God’s greatest blessings may be in unanswered prayers.  That may not be theologically correct…exactly.  Unanswered prayer is what we are feeling sometimes, not the reality of what is happening in the heavenlies.  There are many Biblical references that substantiate that God hears every prayer and knows every intent and motive in our hearts.  It’s just that when we do not experience any outward sign of our petition that we think that perhaps God did not hear.  But because He loves us in a deeper way than we can comprehend, sometimes He holds back.  It is restrained grace.

God the Father 16

God the Father 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Sometimes our prayers are focused on the surface – changes that we believe would make our lives go on a little easier.  The requests no doubt line up with God’s will.  We pray for people in our lives and the choices made that cause them harm, ourselves included.  But sometimes it is in the waiting, the longing, even the suffering that His restrained grace has it’s full effect.

The Apostle Paul, when going through a troubling time wrote these words:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia.  We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact we expected to die.  But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves, and learned to rely only on God…We placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.  II Corinthians 1:8-9a,10b

 

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Our lives are messy.  God is not any less loving than the parent or grandparent that steps back and allows the learning to take place, knowing it is for our ultimate good.  God’s plans and purposes are so much deeper than ours, and His restrained grace is always full of meaning and care.

In Psalm 77 the writer lamented:

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.”

But later in the Psalm when the writer regained his composure and insight he wrote:

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;  I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Both the Apostle Paul and the Psalmist recognized the mind game that unanswered prayer seems to be.  However God doesn’t play mind games.  It is a mental and emotional challenge for us and step of obedience for us to accept with trust His restrained grace for our good and His glory.  Paul in his troubled time learned to rely on God.  The Psalmist comprehended the importance of mentally reviewing how God had been faithful in the past and his thought patterns changed as a result.  He was able to see that, this too, is still in the hands of the Almighty.

May that which concerns your heart be committed to His restrained grace, and may you experience that day when the tears are ended with the night and you know the full joy of the morning.  Hang in there.

 

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Peace in the Hurly-Burly

Every human soul longs for peace.  Ask fifty people their definition of peace and chances are you will hear fifty varied responses!  A short concordance definition gives these definitions for peace:

A state of tranquility or quiet;  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity; harmony in personal relations, especially with God;  a state of security or order within a community;  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.

Of all the above definitions “harmony in personal relations, especially with God” trumps all other forms of peace.  Although we desire them all, when we are at peace with our Creator, our perspective changes.  Although all the pieces of our lives may not fit the puzzle, it is still o.k. when we have God’s peace!  The people I look up to in life do not live lives of ease, rather they are those who have had great troubles, and have come to a place of peace in the midst of their trials of life.  My dear friends with cancer, a mentor whose faith burned brightly with a sharp and articulate mind, even as she faced death, my friend whose heart ached by unfair mistreatment from another, the couple whose adult child is currently in the grips of chemical addiction, the one who spoke of God’s faithfulness even when her world fell apart by choices she had made.  When she regained her faith she was able to point to this verse:

Jesus said,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Take heart, be encouraged – there is a bigger picture that what we now see.  Perspective changes everything.

We experience God’s peace when we are able to give over the things in our lives that do not make sense, the things that trouble us, the circumstances for which we have no control.  These trials of life are not allowed so that we lose hope.  Rather in giving these over to God we grow in trust and faith in Him and His ability to make good out of what is now seemingly bad.

Not a few Christians live in a state of unbroken anxiety, and others fret and fume terribly.  To be perfectly at peace amid the hurly-burly of daily life is a secret worth knowing…People know you live in the realm of anxious care by the lines on your face, the tones of our voice, the minor key of your life, and the lack of joy in your spirit…Come, my soul, return unto thy rest, and lean thy head upon the bosom of the Lord Jesus.”   -Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

The Serenity prayer points out that there are things under our control, and things that are not.  It is in the things that are not, that we can place into the hands of God in growing trust.  His peace is worth it all, and provides amazing strength for the next page of our life’s story.

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Tenderhearted

As we lay down for a bedtime story my little five-year old granddaughter listened as I told her about the anointing of David to be King of Israel, even though he was just the baby in the family and not even thought worthy of consideration.  God looks at our hearts, I explained to her.  People just look at our outsides, God sees everything within.

Israel

Israel (Photo credit: tamar_levine)

The human heart can only be judged by God alone.  We sometimes think we know another person’s motives, but truly, God alone knows motive.  Oh, for the ability to see people as God does – from the heart perspective!  How thankful I am that God deals with me according to my heart – not my popularity, looks, financial situation, fame or any such external.

God the Father 05

God the Father 05 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

It is so easy to get caught up in the way others view us – and that can have an effect on the condition of our hearts.  We ought often to remember that we play to a “one man audience,” and His opinion of us is the one that counts.  God knows how prone we are to allow other people and situations and things to become more important to us than they should.  The Old Testament speaks a lot of about the worship of idols which seem unrealistic and bizarre to us now, but the heart of people remain the same.  We tend to put other things in the place in our heart reserved for God alone – and that always causes trouble.   It starts spiritual heart disease, and changes our spiritual health.  It solidifies our hearts when they were meant to be soft and tender.  David was called a man after God’s own heart – because of the condition of his heart.  He still did things wronged and committed some devastating sins.  But when he repented he did it with his whole being and his heart condition returned to a gentle state before the Lord.

The prophet Ezekiel gave us words of hope for the human heart:

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new Spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and given them a tender responsive heart so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20.

God the Father 01

God the Father 01 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

There are many things that can be instruments to harden our hearts – disappointments, hurts, betrayal, rejection, financial reversals, tragedy, and the list goes on.  A human heart either becomes harder or softer one tiny decision at a time.  Turning to God exactly at that moment when our hearts hurt allows positive change to take place.  It’s a daily surrender.  Being able to trust God even when life is hard restores our hearts to its tenderness, giving us supernatural peace to face our circumstances and genuine hope to help others along the way.

 

 

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The Class You Don’t Want to Take

As I paint in my artist studio I try to listen to uplifting music or messages from preachers and speakers I respect and from whom I am eager to learn.  Today, while I was working on a painting of a wedding portrait with a stained glass background, I took in a session of Beth Moore‘s Jesus the One and Only that was filmed in Israel.  Beth’s messages resonate with me because of her knowledge, the way she connects in a personal way with her audience, her humble nature and sense of humor.  She is a terrific communicator but does not water down the message to try to make it popular.  But popular, she is – and for good reason.

Today Beth talked about losing a following with an important person in her life because she wasn’t as funny as she used to be and did not shrink back from tough issues.  Life is difficult  and a lot of people are hurting.  I caught myself saying “amen” out loud several times as the video rolled on.

We live in a culture that loves to be entertained and we financially reward those who help us escape mentally for awhile be it through sports, films, or with popular music.  Nothing wrong with those things, but those who are hurting still need someone real with a sensitive ear to listen, some hope from the reality of faith in Christ and encouragement from the Scriptures.

Day 442: Precious

Day 442: Precious (Photo credit: amanky)

Jesus with little one

Jesus with little one (Photo credit: freestone)

God equips normal every day people for this task of listening, hope-giving and encouragement and His school for such ministry is called The Academy of Suffering and Sorrow.  Wouldn’t you know it, no one intentionally signs up for one of those classes.  But once they are in the academy something wonderful can happen.  The suffering and sorrow is not the wonderful part.  But those who have been trained by such are able to lend a hand, an ear and a heart to a hurting world and let others know that God is going to get them through this difficult time.  These academy graduates know because God was faithful to them in their time of need.  Their resolve was strengthened, their belief became more than intellectual and their faith made real.   Now their outlook is deeper and they can handle bigger punches from life, their attitude brighter and they are full of hope.  God can mould us by His “thundering velvet hand” and make us sweeter for the encounter.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.    II Corinthians 1:3-4

 

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The Boston Crisis – Lord, Have Mercy

We flew out of Boston just two weeks before 911, and from the same airport where the terrorists took off.  We have a friend who was in the Boston Marathon, and we are relieved to hear she is well and safe.  It’s astounding how close terror comes to us.  If it is not us directly affected, it may be someone we know or just another step removed.  Even if we don’t have a direct connection, the television screen and internet record the faces of people just like you and I…we shake our head and get a knot in our stomach as we consider the ramifications of evil acts towards innocent people.  How could this be happening?  Again we are in national crisis.

History records time and time again, “man’s inhumanity toward man.”  How could it be that this human race that is capable of building hospitals and sending people to the moon and sending missionaries into dangerous tribes to share the peace of Christ can also bring into being those who would instigate acts of terror on the innocent?  It’s frightening to think of what we, as human beings, are capable of given the wrong circumstances, bad influences, and an openness to play at evil like it’s nothing to take seriously.  Lord, have mercy.

Thoughts matter.  Thoughts lead to actions.  Actions can be for incredible good, like those who ran into harm’s way today to rescue the injured, or actions can be horrific, like the one(s) who put those bombs together.  What we think has enormous consequences.  What we choose to fill our mind with, day-by-day, influences others for the good or the bad.  Very little in life is neutral.

Have mercy on us God.  We need You.  Please comfort the grieving, heal the hurting, give strength and energy to those who are giving of themselves on a level more than they can handle to make a difference for good in this situation.  Use, as only You can, even this devastating crisis to bring about the best that people can be.  Send those with courageous acts of love and determination to make the world better directly to combat those who would obey evil impulses.  Fill the helpers with Your Spirit!  Protect them, supply them with superhuman energy and inspire them with Your greatness!  We cry out to You, Lord Jesus, our hope.  We acknowlege that You understand suffering like no other, because You went to the cross on our behalf.  You said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Lord, have mercy on us.

 

 

 

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Rock Solid Identity

What is your identity?  Who are you?

We wrestle with those questions from Jr. High days on forward.  Our identity colors what we think about ourselves, how we choose to act and with what our hearts resonate.

We often think of a relationship when considering our identity.  A parent of, a child of, a spouse of etc.  Or we think in terms of our vocation, our occupation.  I am a ………..butler, a banker, a candlestick maker.  Or we may identify with our favorite pastime – a fan of a sports team, a “skater,” a “surfer,” a “blogger,” a quilter.”

When we identify ourselves in one of those areas our worlds can be quickly shaken if something goes a rye.  If our pride and joy is being a parent and our kids make choices that break our hearts we wonder if we are good at anything at all.  Or if we are very proud of our parents and they are our stability in life, then when one of them makes a decision that makes us ashamed, our world is rocked.   If we are all about our business ventures and they go south, again, an identity crisis.  If our self-concept has to do with our physical health and that changes then we re-evaluate who we are in this season of life.

The only rock solid identity is that of a child of God.  No one can take that away.  No life change can break the cement of that relationship made available through Jesus Christ.  Hear the words of David, when he was in trouble:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what He has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord.

Faith in the One who will never leave us or forsake us provides a strong foundation for our identity.  From Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, author of Streams in the Desert:

Faith rests on the naked Word of God.  When we take Him at His Word the heart is at peace.

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Filed under Fear & Anxiety, Identity