Archive for November, 2009

A Season of Hope and Expectation

As we enter the final month of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings, we’ll be reading about the life, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus, and then the great book of Revelation, which is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave [John] to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:1-3) We’ll enter the great Throne Room of Heaven as we continue to read and praise with the living creatures and elders:

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.
Revelation 4:9-11, and 11:16-17

We’ll end the year with as the Bible ends:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Revelation 22:20-21

There are some other books thrown into the mix, but the highlight for me is always the revelation of Jesus and worship around His throne.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the year! I pray that God has blessed you as you’ve been diligent in His Word throughout 2009. Whatever shall we do in 2010?

To download a PDF of December’s reading schedule, click here.

12DecReading JPG

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One day last week I was thinking about what we were to have for lunch and dinner that day. On our menu was rice and beans. Quite frankly, I was getting a little tired of that entrée! We bought ourselves a rice cooker for Christmas last year and we eat a lot of whole grain rice. I like rice and we make it lots of different ways…but we frequently make enough to last several days. Sometimes we make just the rice and doctor it up with other ingredients after it’s cooked, giving lots of opportunity for variety. Other times we dump all the ingredients in the rice cooker and eat the same thing for a couple of days in a row. Somehow we ended up with many meals of rice and beans. It was tasty and nutritious. It had just become boring.

The same thing happens with oatmeal or other whole-grain hot cereals we make in the cooker. So I was probably facing a breakfast of oatmeal and a lunch of rice and beans and a dinner of…something equally unexciting. (I’m not complaining, just reporting what life was like last week.) The truth is that I was bored with the food we were eating. Now don’t feel sorry for us. We cook tasty, heart-healthy meals sometimes, but when we get busy we revert to lots of leftovers. And there are many in this world for whom a daily meal of rice and beans would be a treat.

I remember very specifically walking down the stairs thinking about what we would be having for lunch and God spoke into my mind: “Not every bite needs to be a vacation in your mouth!” Hmmmm….. It got me thinking.

Many of us in America are so blessed – we can buy just about any food we want to eat whenever we want to eat it. As a nation we’ve learned that we like rich foods and really greasy foods, and it’s why our obesity rate is so high. Nearly one third of adults in the US are obese. (Yes, I am among them.) And the prevalence of obesity in adults has more than doubled in the last forty years, most of the increase occurring in the last twenty years.

I like rich, creamy foods. My favorite food (well, dessert actually) is cheese cake. My second favorite food is pizza. With lots of cheese. But God, with his one line instruction, has helped me to begin to think about food differently.

As I meditated on God’s message to me, I began to reflect on my life in general. Newsflash: Not everything I do during the day is a vacation! Instead, I work hard most days of the year so that I can enjoy a relatively few days of vacation every year. Generally, less than five percent of my days are vacation days. I don’t think I’ve ever reached ten percent in a year. Do I think that’s a lifestyle that honors God? Yes. Vacations are good for recharging our batteries, reconnecting with our families and just generally having fun, but God’s Word clearly honors working diligently.

So if about five percent of my life is spent in vacation mode, why should I view food any differently? Why should I think it honors God to eat rich foods at every meal? Why should I think it honors God to even expect “vacations in my mouth” many times a day? Or even once a week for that matter?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that healthy, nutritious meals shouldn’t taste good, but there’s a difference between a healthy-tasty meal and a rich, creamy vacation-tasty meal.

A few days after God spoke to me, I read Proverbs 23:

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,

2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.

3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.

Proverbs 23:1-3

I imagine a king’s table as a buffet with lots of “vacation” bites on it. Perfectly cooked meats in rich sauces. Desserts that fill your mouth before melting away. Maybe a good salad to cleanse the pallet before reaching for another vacation bite.

God says that when you sit to dine with a king, make a note of the food before you and control your eating. He goes on to say “do not crave his delicacies” because the “food is deceptive.” The food is deceptive in that it doesn’t increase our strength, as God designed it to, but it bogs us down and makes us lethargic. What God has created and provided for our health and strength, we have made into delicacies that rob us of both. The food is deceptive.

Lord, forgive me for tasting and craving the delicacies that do not give life. Forgive me for wanting every bite to be a vacation! Help me to discipline my eating habits in a way that brings You honor.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and most of us will indulge in comfort foods from our childhood. I’m looking forward to the stuffing and gravy and pumpkin pie. Enjoy! It is a vacation day! But be mindful on Friday that yesterday was one of your five or ten percent days – the vacation days for your taste buds – and not every bite needs to be a vacation in your mouth!

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This morning as I looked at our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule for December, it finally hit me…2009 is almost over! Last year the Thanksgiving and Christmas season came in with a quiet, holy anticipation. I so enjoyed it. Yes, the season got busy, but because it had been ushered in so majestically (not by me, by the Lord working in my heart) the entire season had a holiness or a Christ-filled sense about it. I’ve been waiting for that holy anticipation this year. It hasn’t happened (yet).

So as I pondered over our reading schedule for the remainder of 2009 (I’ll post it later this week), it finally hit me – the year is coming to a close. The wonder of Christmas hasn’t hit me yet, but the end of the year seems imminent. What a year it has been! Perhaps this pondering is especially appropriate for this Thanksgiving week. I hope you’ll indulge me as I look back at 2009.

To start, I thought I’d go to my pre-2009 blog. I didn’t remember what I had written, so I went looking and found a blog titled Trusting God in 2009. Without meaning to brag, I have to say that I was so blessed by reading the blog. Not because it was well written or incredibly insightful, but because God used it to allow me to see:

  • that what I had written was God working in me to prepare me for the year to come; and
  • that God had enabled me to live out the blog.

The blog was an encouragement for all of us to put our trust in God, not in ourselves or the economy or anything else on this earth, and it ended with Psalm 20, in which David prays for God to meet us in our times of need and to give us the desires of our hearts.

As I read the blog, I was reminded about the times in 2009 when I was enabled to trust God:

  • When my husband had a major heart attack in February, I was able to trust God for Phil’s life and health. I am continually thankful that I am not a widow. And I am incredibly thankful that God enabled me to trust Him throughout the process.
  • When we had little or no income throughout the year, I was able to trust God for His provision and over our finances. Our business has been exceedingly slow this year and Phil missed quite a bit of work with his heart attack. Yet God has somehow made it possible for us to pay our bills. He has a way of stretching money when there is no money to stretch! And He has enabled me to know that He will provide and I truly haven’t worried about the issue.
  • When all the smaller things in life happened throughout the year – you know, all those little issues that work their way in between major challenges – God has been so very faithful and has enabled me to trust Him. Not perfectly all the time, but when looking back over the year, I can give thanks for seeing Him strengthen my faith! He has set my feet upon a rock and I have not been moved. What a great God we serve!

I was also reminded of God’s great goodness to me. He has given me a desire of my heart this year when He enabled me to complete my Master’s degree and be ordained.

Life is busy for me right now, and I’m guessing it’s busy for you. May I encourage you to take time and remember where you were last year at this time and all that God has done for you in the past year? It’s a great way to prepare for Thanksgiving.

As I shared with Phil God’s goodness in preparing me for 2009 by urging me to trust Him, I had tears running down my face.  I was rejoicing at God’s goodness when I said “and I was able to do that! Undoubtedly one of the most difficult years of my life, and as we near the end, I can say ‘I trusted God in 2009!”

Phil looked at me and said “Let’s do it again in 2010!” (I love having a husband who always challenges me to grow in ways that God wants me to grow!)

Will you join us? I know it’s an early invitation, but let’s agree today to trust God in 2010! He’s shown Himself faithful and trustworthy and good. As for me and my house, we’re going to trust the Lord. We hope you’ll join us!

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There’s an old hymn by that name. Perhaps you know it. The chorus goes like this:

“I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”

As we are reading Isaiah 43 in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading today, I’m replaying an old blog based on the first four verses. They are verses that tell the old, old story of God’s great love for us and are a foreshadow of that love demonstrated by Jesus. Take a few minutes to read or re-read my blog from last December, “How Very Much We’re Loved by God!

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I was about to be overwhelmed yesterday morning. Yikes! Monday morning, the day hadn’t begun and I was starting to feel like I wouldn’t be able to get the things done that I needed to get done even if I had three Mondays to accomplish it. And God spoke one word to my heart – “Remember!”

God has that economy of words thing down! That one word was enough. Remember! It instantly put a smile in my heart and on my face as I remembered the many times He has stepped in to accomplish what I never could. I remembered the many times He has given me grace with others to cover the things I could not get done. I remembered how thankful I am to have a job to go to every day. I remembered how thankful I am to have good health and a loving husband. I remembered that God has a purpose for my life and even as I am walking through what I do every day, He is accomplishing that purpose in me and is impacting others for good. And I remembered that even if my whole world falls apart, I will still have a loving, compassionate and all-powerful God who will be by my side putting the pieces back together in a way that is better than it was before.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

Psalm 111:4

Thank You, Lord. I remember!

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This week, churches in our community have participated in a 24/7 prayer vigil. Each evening there were times of worship led by different churches. During one of the meetings, as a song ended quietly, the worship leader whispered “We need you, Jesus. We are desperate for you.

The words that immediately popped into my head were “It’s when you’re quiet that I know you’re listening. It’s when you’re quiet that I know you’re listening. Exuberant praise is good and fun. Loud declarations based on My Word are important for building your faith and shattering the enemy’s camp. But it’s when you’re quiet that I know you’re listening.”

As I thought about that for awhile, an image came to my mind of the parent who takes the face of their active child, holds it between both hands and looks directly into it, eye to eye, to get and keep the child’s attention. The parent isn’t yelling to make himself or herself heard. He is waiting for the child to be quiet and listen. “It’s when you’re quiet that I know you’re listening.” I think God wants to take our face in His hands at times, turn our heads so that we are looking directly at Him, and then wait for us to be quiet so He can clearly communicate something to us. Something important. Something He wants us to understand and remember. Something very special because He wants to be sure He has our attention before He tells us.

Today a verse in Isaiah 30 reminded me of God’s Words from earlier in the week:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

God tells the Israelites that it is in repentance and REST that they find their salvation – not in activity and loud praise. He tells them that their strength is in quietness and trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) How much easier to lean on our own understanding than to trust God! (But that’s the subject of a blog that should appear next week.)

Rest…quietness…trust – words that all speak of a calm faith. That’s the kind of faith I want to live.

I love loud worship. Let me repeat that. I LOVE LOUD worship. And I firmly believe that my God is worthy of way more celebration than should ever occur for our favorite sports team (sorry sports fans). Yet I can’t help wondering – how many messages from God do we miss because we are celebrating and not resting in quietness?

Lord, teach us to wait on You in quiet faith, trusting that You will speak when You know we’re listening.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9b, 10b

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I love the Lord! This is a super crazy week! A super crazy week. Long, long work hours. It will probably be our busiest week of the year at work. Our community is engaged in a 24/7 prayer watch with community worship every evening. I’m involved in planning a ladies’ retreat that will be this Friday and Saturday. I didn’t get my grocery shopping done last week so we have no milk, bread, bananas (a staple in our house) and a long list of other things. My husband has been fighting a cold and I have felt the fatigue from it, although thankfully not the sinus and chest congestion. It is a super crazy week! And I’ve wondered how I would be able to write a blog (or two!). Writing blogs on a regular basis is a priority for me…but so are lots of other things!

So mostly, I’ve committed to not worrying (the theme of our retreat, coincidentally) and to do my best to sit back and watch God work it all out…all the while moving with what feels like warp speed from one task to the next. Are those two things possible in the same moment? Can I sit back and watch God work while I’m working and moving at a high rate of speed? Well, watch this space for more on that. There’s bound to be a future blog about it.

But back to loving the Lord. Now that you know the back story, let me tell you how the Lord is surprising me with joy. Sunday was the last day for signing up for our ladies’ retreat. There were at least 50% more people signed up than we expected! Praise God! (Right?) Well, we had planned a retreat that was going to be small and intimate in nature – one in which we sat together and shared what God was teaching us. One with lots of time for laughter and tears. No lecture format. There’s a point at which that format doesn’t work, though, and I’m afraid we’ve passed that point in attendance, so I’ve been wondering how to deal with it. It’s the top item on our prayer list for our next and last retreat planning meeting (which begins in less than two hours).

Yesterday as I mused about the situation (notice I am specifically not using the word “worry” because I am refusing to do so – I was simply wondering what God might do and I was beginning to pray for creativity) – anyway, yesterday as I mused about the situation, God made me laugh! He impressed upon me what His perspective must be of all the little plans we make. We’re almost like children playing grown-up – like the little girl playing “mommy” or the little boy playing “daddy.” He’s not deriding our efforts, in fact, I believe He is blessed and honored by our best efforts to bring Him glory. But we are His children, and I think sometimes He watches us in amusement as we “play” grownup. I’m OK with that. In fact, I am happy to bring my Savior amusement!

Then this morning…Late night, early morning, but I sat at my desk, bowl of oatmeal/12 grain hot cereal in front of me and water at my side, ready to greet the day. I took a deep breath and opened my Bible. I took a deep breath to help me resist the cry of all that was to be done and decided to continue my reading in Isaiah. I made it nine verses. Isaiah 19:9 struck me:

Those who work with combed flax will despair,
the weavers of fine linen will lose hope.”

Improbable verse to be struck by, right? Well, what struck me was not some deep spiritual significance or detailed meaning of any of the words…well maybe some of the latter…what struck me was that I read the first line as “those who work with com-bed flax will despair.” What in the world is com-bed flax? What is com-bed? Is it some different kind of flax? (That would be the two syllable kind of flax – you know the com-bed flax!) I must have blinked then because as I was scrunching my brow try to figure out what the word com-bed meant, I finally saw that it was the word “combed” – as in comb your hair which is something I barely did this morning! It made me laugh out loud.

Thank You, Lord, for laughter in the midst of deadlines. Thank You for helping us see that life is not so serious and important that there’s no time or room for expecting  joy and laughter.

Now I’m going to go greet the day with a smile on my face. How about you?

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We all go through phases when our personal devotions become stale. For me, the cause is usually that I’ve fallen into a rut – described by some as a grave with both ends knocked out!

In my professional life, I find that I periodically must change personal organizational systems – for example, change from one size planner to another or from one computer-based calendar program to another. When I stay with the same system too long, I become lax in using it. The same is true in my personal devotions – perhaps not so much that I become lax, but I begin to approach the time on autopilot. (Lord, make it not so!)

Here’ s an article from Disciple Journal© that provides some great ideas for “waking up” your devotions. My personal favorite is reading through the Bible, highlighting it as you go along, then giving it as a gift to someone special! Pretty cool idea! Check out the article for more about this and other ideas (some much simpler).

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One of the first verses that impacted me was in Job (yes, Job!). After losing his children, nearly everything he owned and finally his health, after his wife has told him to “curse God and die,” and after his three friends unjustly accuse him of sin, Job says the following:

19 All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me.

20 I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.

25 I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;

27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19:19-20, 26-27

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” Wow! In the very depths of pain and sorrow, Job is able to make this tremendous proclamation of faith. When I first read this verse, my faith was quite new. Why was I reading Job? I have no idea – it seems such an illogical book to read for a new Christian. Perhaps, though, it was the hand of God who knew I would slog through the arguments found in chapters 2 through 18 until I came to Job’s proclamation of faith and that it would make an impression on me that would last forever. I remember pointing out the verse to Phil (“Look at this!”) and needle-pointing it on a gym bag.

I wanted, and still want, the kind of faith that says “I know my Redeemer lives” no matter what my circumstances are.

We find a similar verse in today’s Resting at the River’s Edge reading. Habakkuk cries out to God to save His people only to have God answer Habbakuk saying that things will get much worse – He will bring judgment on Judah. In chapter 3, you can hear the faith and the plea in Habakkuk’s heart:

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk 3:2

As I pray with others for revival in my heart, in our churches and across our land, I often quote this verse. “Lord, we have heard of the great things you have done. We stand in awe of them. Do them again in our day, Lord! Do them again in our day. Show Your mercy, Lord. Send revival to our land.” “Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds. Renew them in our day.”

Habakkuk isn’t finished there, though. He finishes with his Job-like proclamation of faith:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Lord, even when my life falls apart – when my business fails and my cupboards are bare, when what I’ve dreamed about and prayed for earnestly does not come to pass – I will still rejoice in You. You are my Sovereign Lord in whom I will find my joy.”

God is blessed and is honored by such a faith. Prayers like this demonstrate our trust in an omnipotent God – One who knows what we need better than we know it, One who loves us more than we can imagine and One who desires to bless us. When He holds back on what He has promised, it is not from capriciousness. It is not from folly. It is for a purpose.

I trust God’s purposes because I have come to know Him over many years. That inexperienced faith that recognized Job’s statement as significant has taken root and is learning to “rejoice in the Lord” – because I not only know He lives and that I will see Him, but I also now know His character and His purposes. (Well, some of them anyway.) His ultimate purpose (and my greatest desire) is to bring glory to His Son. Sometimes that means trusting Him when my world falls apart.

“Thank You, Lord, that we can know of Your fame and Your awesome deeds and they can increase our faith. Thank You, Lord, that You enable us to climb higher when there seems to be no earthly reason for us to do so. Thank You, Lord, that You are my Faithful God.”

Bless and honor God today, friends, by trusting Him for something that you’ve held on to in the past. Trust Him with the solution you can’t find. Trust Him.

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34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

Proverbs 11:10-11

If you live in America, please vote today.

Father, we pray for Your standard to be upheld during today’s election. May the righteous prevail so that the nation may prosper. We ask that You show mercy and bless our nation.

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