Archive for September, 2008

 Sometimes the simplest verse strikes me and brings me peace. I was reading my Bible tonight. I read the last couple of chapters of Esther and wanted to continue to read. I am slowly reading through Psalms, so I turned to Psalm 143, where my bookmark was. Verse 10 struck me:

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
on a firm footing.

David, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, describes God’s Spirit as gracious – full of grace. The Holy Spirit isn’t angry or critical or cruel. He is full of grace. He’s gracious. The word that’s used also means good, beautiful, kindly, and pleasant. That’s God’s Holy Spirit. That’s who I want leading me! That’s who I can trust to lead me forward (forward! That means my life isn’t stagnant or going backwards. Praise God, because sometimes it doesn’t feel that way) on a firm footing (I won’t stumble – thank You, Lord).

That’s the kind of God I want to make my own. Teach me to do Your will, Lord, for you are my God!

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 Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? The shorter version of the Westminster Catechism asks the question “What is the chief end of man?” In other words “Why were we created?” Fortunately, the Catechism also answers the question – we were created to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sounds pretty good to me!

Of course the answer begs another question or two: How do we glorify God? How do we enjoy Him?

While books and books and books have been written on those subjects, may I suggest a simple approach? Actually, it’s not me, but the Apostle Paul making the suggestion. In our Bible study of 1 Thessalonians a few weeks ago, we came across Paul’s urging that we “live lives worthy of God” (2:12). The verse has stuck with me. Lord, I want to live a life worthy of You.

I’m not going to write books and books and books about the subject, but let me add just a few thoughts. Living a life worthy of God means first and foremost committing all we do to the Lord. Again, from the Apostle Paul: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) In other words, involve God in ALL aspects of your life. Ask Him to join you at both work and play, when what you’re doing is easy and when it’s difficult. Keep up an ongoing conversation with Him as you live through each part of your day. Commit all that you do to God, not just those things you think He’s most interested in…because the truth is that He’s interested in ALL of it.

My second (and final) suggestion (for today anyway) is that having committed everything to Him, relax and enjoy it! Begin to think of your life as taking a long walk with your best friend. Sometimes you’re walking along the beach, other times climbing the steep mountains, but it’s still a walk with your best friend. If you’re have that ongoing conversation I discussed in the last paragraph, talk about the journey as you go along. He’ll reassure you that He knows the route and will get you to the destination safely!

(Wow, this last paragraph sure sounds like a suggestion I need to embrace more fully! I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it – I’m sure there will be another blog about that some time!)

So on your journey through life, let me encourage you to glorify God and enjoy Him always! Along the way, be sure to meet His son Jesus. He’s the One who ensures your “forever.” Be blessed, friends.

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As I am doing devotions today, I am aware that I need to call a customer imminently. He called yesterday afternoon when I was out and I feel pressured to call him back immediately this morning.

Wanting to focus on devotions and NOT on the work that must begin soon, I prayed “Lord, free me from the expectations of others.” My immediate thought was…I need to be freed from the expectations I put on myself first. In reality, it’s unlikely that the customer I need to call in a few minutes is really sitting by his phone waiting for the business day to start and watching to see if I call him at the stroke of 8am. (Well, 8:15 really, because I consider it a little rude to call before someone has time to get their work-head together, which I figure takes the first 15 minutes of the day!)

In the strive for excellence…notice I said excellence, not perfection – perfection is not attainable, only God is perfect; excellence is attainable – it doesn’t mean without error, rather with minimal error and a plan for correcting and making recompense for those errors. In the strive for excellence, I can often put more pressure on myself than others do. Perhaps you are like me. How do you deal with it?

 I find that I must continually do several things:

1) Evaluate the source of my striving for excellence. If it comes from a desire to impress or please other people, my focus is probably wrong. My job (both at my place of employment and in my personal life) is to please the Lord. Sometimes that means NOT pleasing other people. If I find that I have been operating from wrong motivations, I must turn to God in repentance, asking Him to forgive me for caring more about what people think than what He thinks.

2) Remind myself that God is in control of my business, not me. Sometimes I fall into the trap of believing that I’m responsible for the success of my business. The truth is that I do lots of the work, but God is the source of my ability to get work, my ability to accomplish it, and the favor shown to me by my customers. Again, repentance is often required here when I realize that I have again fallen for the enemy’s trap.

3) Consider my life and whether it is in balance (or at least some semblence of balance). I know that when my life is in balance, there will always be work that doesn’t get done. There will always be one more request that a customer makes or one more accounting task to complete before it’s time to say “I’ve worked enough today. Now it’s time for family.” If that customer call came in because I was pursuing other things the Lord has called me to, sometimes the most appropriate thing to do is thank God for the life He’s given me, ask for grace with the customer and call him back at the earliest opportunity.

That’s my remedy for dealing with the pressure I put on myself. If you have other suggestions, let me know. We can all learn from each other. As for me, I gotta go call my customer!

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Have you ever wondered if you’re fulfilling your purpose? Most of us have at one time or another.

In Jeremiah 13, Jeremiah tells us about when the Lord told him to take the linen belt he was wearing and to hide it in a hole among the rocks at the Euphrates river. Later, God told him to dig up the belt. When he did so, it was (verse 7) “mildewed and falling apart” (NLT), “ruined” and “good for nothing” (NRSV). It was “completely useless” (NIV). God then gives the explanation of the prophetic object lesson:

The LORD says: This illustrates how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem. These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship idols. Therefore, they will become like this linen belt-good for nothing! As a belt clings to a person’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me,” says the LORD. “They were to be my people, my pride, my glory-an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.”
Jeremiah 13:9-11 (NLT)

While this is a specific prophecy about the Israelites, God says that they were created to cling to Him. That they were created to cling to God isn’t impacted by the prophecy. It is a statement of truth. As Christians, we have also been created to cling to God.

Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you clinging to God? Or is your pride or following your own desires and worshipping your own idols getting in the way? I know sometimes my priorities get a bit out of whack and I need to be reminded that I was created to cling to God.

Lord, help me to cling to you.

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It’s wonderful finding Christians in the marketplace. For many years I felt a bit like Elijah – the only one left. That has changed considerably over the past decade, as more and more Christians are making their faith known on the job. Last week a business associate and friend, Jim Green, suggested I write a blog on prayer. We e-mailed back and forth, several times, and the end result is this collaborative effort.

Prayer is a powerful tool of the Christian in our daily walk and communion with the Lord. Without it we are disconnected from our true Source of life, strength, wisdom and power. If you are a new Christian, prayer is an excellent topic to study, after understanding that you are saved by God’s grace through your faith in Christ and his death on the cross.

Prayer is simply talking to God. And yet it is so much more than that. Through your daily conversations with Him, you have a tremendous opportunity to know Him better, and to make an impact on the world around you. John Wesley said “God does nothing except in response to prayer.” Do you see something wrong in the world around you? (And who doesn’t?) Don’t complain about it, pray about it. Complaining doesn’t change things, prayer changes things.

Often, though, it’s easy for our prayers to become too “me” focused. Jim remembers reading a small book on how to pray many years ago in which they suggested the following simple approach to pray.

PRAY, don’t yarp.

Yarp is “pray” spelled backwards and it is an illustration of how we can sometimes get things backwards in our prayer life.

Praise God with humility and reverence

Scripture teaches that God inhabits the praises of His people. (Psalms 22:3, NRSV & KJV) He lives in them. When you praise God, His presence comes to inhabit the very air in and around you.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
             Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

Repent with a contrite heart

Repentance means to turn away from. It is saying “God, I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” And then, with God’s help, changing our ways. It doesn’t mean we immediately begin to do everything right (don’t we wish it were that easy!). But it does mean we continually bring our sins before God. 1 John says it well:

If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
          1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)

Ask for others and their needs first

At the heart of Christianity is giving ourselves for others. Jesus is our supreme example, whose blood was poured out for us on the cross (Matthew 26:28). Paul, Jesus’ disciple, opened many of his letters with tremendous prayers for God’s people.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy…
          Philippians 1:3-4 (NLT)

Yourself last

Don’t forget to pray for your own needs! They are precious to God. He has the number of hairs on your head numbered

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it!
          John 14:13-14 (NLT)

Always pray according to God’s will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus.

PRAY, don’t yarp.

Always put God first, praising Him for who He is and what He’s done. Repent of sins you’ve committed. Ask for God to move on behalf of others, the for Yourself.

Always remember to pray.

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 All this happened so they would follow His principles and obey His laws. Praise the LORD!  
          Psalm 105:45 (NLT)

Prior to this verse (i.e., the “all this” that the verse is referring to), is a recitation of the entire history of the Israelites. In other words, God is saying that all that had happened occurred so that they would follow God’s principles and obey His laws.

Do we operate from this mindset, thinking – knowing – that everything that happens to us is for the same purpose – to help us follow God’s principles and obey His laws? Or do we kick against things that are happening in our lives, resisting God’s constant nudging toward Christ-likeness? Perhaps we simply blame Satan for all the bad things that happen to us. Scripture clearly teaching that Satan seeks to defeat us, but it also clearly teaches that God is sovereign and that He allows difficulty into our lives to form and shape us into the image of Christ. That constant kneading, pushing and pulling is the very Hand of God shaping us into the piece of pottery He has designed us for. And sometimes (often times?) that kneading, pushing and pulling hurts.

Many years ago I shattered my elbow. My orthopedic surgeon said it looked like someone had taken a sledge hammer to it! It wasn’t a sledge hammer, it was a gymnasium floor. I had fallen while playing volleyball at a denominational retreat/conference. I had gone to be refreshed and strengthened in the Lord. Instead I got an extremely painful injury that took months of recovery time and yielded a lifetime of some disability. Satan? No, it was clearly God!

After sitting with my husband during my elbow surgery, a friend received a vision. As he drove home, he saw a picture of me in my hospital bed with a very large angel by my bedside stroking my injured arm. Wow. Wow!

For weeks I had tremendous pain in my arm, often shooting pains from just wiggling a little finger. But I frequently went back to that vision and imagined that the pains were caused by the angel massaging my arm so that I would some day be able to use it again. I knew the Lord was bringing healing. Three different doctors had told me I’d be lucky if I ever got 70% of the use of my arm back. After much prayer and therapy, not to mention an excellent surgeon, I have 95% use of my arm. For all intents and purposes I am able to use my arm to do all the things I need to do. I can’t move heavy tables and I have to make adjustments when I pull heavy luggage. Small prices to pay for the many lessons that came from the experience!

A couple of weeks ago I pulled my white car out of the garage , being very careful not to hit the side-view mirror against the door of the garage…and slammed it quite solidly into the rear side panel and bumper of our gray car. Again, I was in the process of doing a good thing – I was driving to church where I was bringing the morning message  – a message that I was absolutely certain was of God and for that very day. As I type this, our car is in the body shop having a large dent hammered out, a new bumper put on, and a new coat of paint slathered on to cover any evidence of damage. Were the car able to “feel” these things, I imagine it would be pretty painful. (As it is, it will only be painful to my wallet and the insurance company.)

My point is that God is at work in our lives all the time, and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. But He is still at work, so that we learn to follow Him more closely and have a greater impact on others. It’s time for us to imagine…no, it’s time for us to know that it is God working in us, hammering out the dents, massaging the broken areas. Let’s not resist God’s efforts to make us more like Christ. And let’s remember to look back at all that He has done in our lives – they happened so that we would follow His principles and obey His laws.

Praise the Lord!

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 His mom was a “Dissenter” who taught him Scripture before she died. His father married his stepmother, a woman in whose home he never felt welcome. He became an angry young man. Following in his father’s footsteps, he also became a sailor. His father was a man of reputation and integrity. He was not. He was insubordinate, a blasphemer, and a deserter from the British navy. He served on slave trading ships, even serving as captain seeking to buy his African slaves for the lowest possible price and sell them back in England at the highest possible price.

He also wrote one of the greatest hymn of the faith — “Amazing Grace.” His name was John Newton, and one night he became convinced that God had protected him “while he was yet a sinner.” He should have died, along with everyone on his ship. Instead he and his fellow shipmates lived. And John Newton became convinced of the reality of God and of His great love for sinners.

John Newton became a man with one purpose — serving God and helping others come to know Him. He also became a Dissenter. Dissenters were those who met outside the sanctioned Church of England. They were known for lively, non-traditional worship services. They preached a personal relationship with Christ. Eventually John became ordained in the Church of England and served church members, Dissenters and seekers alike for more than forty years.

He wrote hundreds of songs and books. He was innovative in finding new ways to help believers lead transformed lives. He continued to pastor and preach into his eighties. As age began to take its toll, his eyesight, hearing and memory began to fail. “Near the close of his life,” writes biographer Anne Sandberg, “he told a friend at his bedside, ‘My memory is nearly gone, but I can still remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.'” (John Newton, published by Barbour and Company, Inc., Uhrichsville, OH)

We complicate it so much. John Newton got it right. We are great sinners. And Christ is a great(er) Savior.

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