Archive for November, 2010

“Thanksgiving is not only an act of gratitude and worship to God, but a way to keep us grounded in the reality of our abundance.”

On this last day of November, a month most closely associated with our American day of Thanksgiving, I read a blog written on the last day of the Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a reflection about the relationship between being aware – or present in the moment – and being thankful. I love the last line of the blog and quoted it above. But what comes before it is worth reading. Check it out!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Messages, Prophecies & Revelation

We’ll be reading only two books throughout the month of December – Isaiah and Revelation. They are books that I pray will give us a Christ-centered perspective during the Christmas season. We’ll read both Isaiah and Revelation.

Isaiah – A Timely Message and Abundant Prophecies About Jesus
I often read various commentaries before writing my monthly Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule article. I take bits and pieces from each and hopefully provide something that draws you into that month’s reading. Well, maybe I’m tired this morning (which is quite possible) but the following narrative from The Believer’s Study Bible seems so compelling that I’m including large portions of it. Read what the authors have to say about the book of Isaiah:

[Isaiah’s] message is presented against the background of Israel’s greatest period of prosperity after the “Golden Age of Israel” under David and Solomon. Prosperity, the promotion of agriculture, the enlargement of the kingdom, the strengthening of the fortifications of Judah, the reorganization of the army, and the commercial activities in Arabia and elsewhere precipitated immorality, excessive drinking, display of wealth, ritualism, idolatry, perversion of justice, oppression of the poor, false prophets, immoral priests, greed, hunger, and a great chasm between rich and poor. Therefore, Isaiah stressed (1) salvation by faith, (2) the holiness of God and ethical living, (3) the offense of man’s sins, (4) the certainty of judgment, and (5) the assurance of redemption for a repentant remnant.

Does that sound like a message we in America need to hear today? Yes, the economy has been difficult for many of us over the past couple of years. Still, we live in a prosperous and strong nation, and many (all?) of the sins described as prevalent in Isaiah’s time are prevalent in today’s American culture. Isaiah’s message to the Israelites is clearly a message we need to hear as well.

The Believer’s Study Bible continues:

Of all the books in the Old Testament, only the Psalms contain a larger number of messianic predictions than Isaiah. Isaiah sets forth every aspect of the glory and ministry of Christ: (1) His incarnation, (2) His youth, (3) His mild manner, (4) His obedience, (5) His message, (6) His miracles, (7) His sufferings, (8) His rejection, (9) His shame, (10) His vicarious death, and (11) His resurrection and ascension.

Sounds like great reading for the month of December!

Revelation – “The revelation of Jesus Christ”
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary
defines “revelation” as an act of revealing or communicating divine truth, something that is revealed by God to humans, and an act of making known.

The Apostle Paul writes in the first verse of the book of Revelation that it is “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” It’s such a significant verse! First, we are being given a revelation – God is revealing something to us. He is communicating something to us. He is making some thing(s) known to us. That’s pretty exciting. I love it when God reveals something to me. Even when it is revealed to me by reading His Word (which thousands and thousands of other people also read), I often feel like it is something He has whispered in my ear and it’s a secret between Him and me. The book of Revelation is just that – a revelation. Who wouldn’t want to read it?

Interestingly, it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. That little word “of” can mean two different things – about or from. So, is the book of Revelation revealing things about Christ or is the revelation come from Christ? The answer is both! As you read the book, you’ll see Christ reveal Himself as He addresses the seven churches, gives us glimpses of the throne room of heaven, and then begins to unveil things which are still to come. The month of December is a great time to receive a greater revelation of Jesus Christ.

Caution: Don’t get bogged down in trying to figure out the things that are still to come. God will give revelation when He sees fit. Without that revelation, we are only wasting time speculating about things we cannot yet understand.

The third verse in the book of Revelation gives us another reason to read it: Multiplied blessings.

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.

To receive the multiplied blessings, don’t just read the book, take it to heart! (You might even consider reading it aloud so you can hear it as well – or read it to a partner or friend so that you’ll both have multiplied blessings).

Enjoy Resting at the River’s Edge during the month of December – it’ll be a daily fifteen or twenty minute respite from the busyness of the season, and I believe it’ll enhance your joy of Christmas.

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule is below.

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

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3While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mark 14:4-9

What surprised me the most as I read this story last week was Jesus’ reaction. I began to think over other stories and parables and it seems to me that Jesus always commended extravagant actions of worship and faith!

While it was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, this woman’s action went above and beyond. The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament points out that “Her anointing of Jesus represents a major sacrifice and indicates the depth of her love.”

Upon reading the commentary, the Holy Spirit brought two questions to mind:

How long has it been since you gave Jesus a gift that represented a major sacrifice?
Or have your gifts indicated that the depth of your love for Him has grown shallow?

And so I pose the question to you, dear reader:

How long has it been since you gave Jesus a gift that represented a major sacrifice?
Or have your gifts indicated that the depth of your love for Him has grown shallow?

It seems like a long time since my gift to Jesus has represented a major sacrifice. My service has been steady, but my sacrifice has been light. Steady service is good, and we probably can’t live our lives in “major sacrifice” mode all the time. But if our love for Jesus is genuine, there will be times when our actions are extravagant and represent a major sacrifice.

During this holiday season, I encourage you to seek God with a sincere heart.

Ask Him what gift He would like you to give Him for His birthday.
Ask Him what He wants from you in 2011.

And celebrate the season with extravagant praise to the One who is worthy of more than our greatest sacrifice and our greatest extravagance.

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In yesterday’s blog, “But” Out, I encouraged all of us to leave the “but” out when giving thanks. Often we know that we have much to be thankful for, but… And that “but” robs us of the joy of the blessing. I am blessed to have a nice home, but it needs a new roof and I can’t afford one right now. I am blessed to be able to write this blog, but there’s so much more I want to do with Apprehending Grace Ministries and I simply don’t have the time. In each case, I rejoice over the blessing, but before that rejoicing is fully enjoyed, the “but” steals all or part of my joy. So let’s choose to leave the “but” out so that we can fully enjoy the blessing!

There is, however, a time for putting the “but” in, and that’s when we are focusing on the “buts” of God. Two of my favorite phrases in the Bible are “but God…” and “but the Lord…” They are the phrases that indicate a tremendous change in circumstance that would not have happened had it not been for a sovereign move of our Lord on behalf of an individual or group of people. There are many verses in the Bible where you’ll find these phrases. I’ve organized a few of them according to the action God took when He sovereignly interrupted others’ lives throughout history. We can count on God to do the same thing in our lives.


God’s Supernatural Protection

Day after day Saul searched for [David], but God did not give David into his hands.
1 Samuel 23:14b

You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
Psalm 14:6

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
Psalm 118:13

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.
Psalm 34:19

We can trust God to protect us when we are in danger and when others attack us or seek our destruction.


God’s Supernatural Care and Provision

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
Genesis 8:1

I love this verse – “But God remembered Noah…” It gives me confidence that when I have stepped out for Him, as Noah did, He will remember me and send whatever is needed to care and provide for me.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73: 26

Sometimes we can’t see what God is doing – in the natural it seems that our flesh and heart are failing. Even in those times, God can be our strength and we have the promise that He is our portion (or inheritance) forever.

God’s Supernatural Move to Accomplish His Will
I love this category of verses. God moves in and through the lives of people, despite their circumstances and abilities, to accomplish His will. I love it because of the promise that His plan will be accomplished and I love it because it promises that He can use me despite my circumstances and abilities.

[Joseph is speaking to his brothers and says] “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

21“We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.
Deuteronomy 6:21-23

9Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
Acts 7:9-10

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

14Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Amos: 7:14-15

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1:17

God can intervene in the midst of our rebellion. Sometimes that intervention is unpleasant because God knows what is required to get our attention and turn us around. Jonah repented in the belly of the great fish and cried out to the Lord for help. God did just that and Jonah went on to preach to the Ninevites who all repented and turned to the Lord.

God’s Supernatural Insight

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b

God’s Supernatural Healing

Indeed he [Epaphroditus] was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
Philippians 2:30


God’s Supernatural Salvation

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
2 Samuel 14:14

This is another of my favorite verses. Death seems so final and irreversible…“But God…devises ways…” I love serving a God of infinite possibilities.

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
Psalm 49:15

23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Acts 2:23-24

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

This is the verse that God used most when I was struggling to understand Him and trust Him with my life. I was resisting Him, but He loved me through it.

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

We were dead in our transgressions and sins, “but God” chose to give us life. Not just any life, but life in Christ. And He chose to raise us up with Him and seat us with Him in heavenly realms. Why? So that in the coming ages He might show us the incomparable riches of His grace.

“But God…”
No matter what our circumstances are, we can trust that God will move to change them. In an instant, our story will change from “I am in great need” to “but God provided for me;” or “but God delivered me.” I didn’t include all the instances of God interrupting the flow of history and changing life circumstances. If you’ve been reading the references, you noticed that the verses come from both the Old and New Testament and cover from the beginning of time through all of eternity. God has always been at work in the lives of His people (and often in the lives of those who deny Him) and He always will be.

Yesterday we were encouraged to leave the “but” out of our thanksgiving. Today, I am encouraging to put the “but God” into our circumstances. Trust the God you know to meet your needs, whether they are for healing, provision, comfort or salvation. He has proven Himself faithful over the millennia – why should we choose to believe the lies of satan that He will abandon us now?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much to be thankful for – and serving a God who is wildly, passionately in love with me is at the top of the list. My list is long, and I’m hoping yours is, too. I have a roof over my head and am well fed. I’m blessed to be able to write this blog and am involved in a number of other meaningful ministries. I have a wonderful marriage and good family and friends. I have my own business that is moderately successful and gives me a degree of freedom over my schedule. That freedom allows me to be involved in events at my mom’s nursing home and other daytime activities that I might otherwise have to miss. Of course I could get more specific and the list would begin to bore you.

Yet for each of those things, it would be easy for me to add a “but…”

  • I have a roof over my head, but that roof needs to be replaced and I can’t afford to do it.
  • I am blessed to write this blog, but I don’t have time to do all the many additional things I dream about – truly taking Apprehending Grace Ministries from being simply this blog and a few other things to being a vibrant ministry.
  • I have a moderately successful business, but there are so many stresses with owning a small business these days.
  • I have a wonderful marriage, but…

You get the idea. For every aspect of our lives, we have a choice – to look at the blessing or to look at the disappointment. The disappointment might be real or imagined, but either way, it mitigates the joy we feel when we think of the blessing. I find that the disappointment we experience falls into two categories:

  • “Not yet” disappointment – that is, disappointment in what you haven’t yet seen, received or accomplished.
  • Experienced disappointment – reality crashed into your expectations.

Both find their solution in God.

Experienced Disappointment

We will experience disappointments and sorrow in this life. Things will break and people will die. Life will crush in and our hopes will be shattered in Humpty Dumpty fashion. We can hold onto that disappointment, or we can give it to the One who cares for us more than we’ll ever be able to comprehend.

28Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11 (NLT)

I find that dealing with life’s shattering disappointments makes me weary. There’s no better word for it. Weary is more than just tired, it’s overburdened and tired. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines weary as “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness.” Phil’s family would describe it as “all used up.”

Jesus says “Come to me when you are all used up. Come to me when your strength, endurance, vigor or freshness is gone.” I love that the word “freshness” is included in the definition. When you have become stale and are about to become moldy – “come to me.”

And once you’re there – give him all your disappointments, your worries and your cares.

Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip or fall.

Psalm 55:22 (TLB)

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.

1 Peter 5:7 (TLB)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

If a “but” is taking the joy out of your blessing, you are carrying burdens you need not carry. Go to Jesus – the yoke He has for you fits you perfectly. Once there, give Him all your “buts” – and don’t take them back again. Let Him deal with them for you. (Remember, He is always working in the background to cause all things to work for your good if you continue to pursue Him.) Give God your “buts” today – then just focus on the blessings.

“Net Yet” Disappointment

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.

Psalm 13:12 (NLT)

“Not yet” disappointment is the disappointment in ourselves and/or God, that our dreams have not yet been fulfilled. Scripture validates our feeling of disappointment, but that doesn’t mean we ought to dwell there. It also validates that fulfilled dreams bring life and joy.

Pray into your unfulfilled dreams. Trust God to bring them. “Not yet” disappointment teeters on the brink of lack of faith. Push past the lack of faith into the knowledge that God is on the move! You don’t see it yet, but He is moving to bring about the hopes and dreams that are within His will and those hopes and dreams will be more fulfilling than you imagine.

Live life on purpose! Don’t just hope for your dreams to come true and don’t just pray into your unfulfilled dreams – do whatever there is for you to do today to help your dreams come true tomorrow.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:26 (NIV)

Believe God for your dreams and work toward them. Make your life a “no excuse” zone. When you’ve given your energies toward praying and making your dreams happen, you cannot be disappointed in yourself. When you know that you know that you know that God is working on your behalf, you cannot be disappointed in Him.

For All Disappointment

King David knew a thing or two about disappointment. One of my favorite passages in Psalms was written by him in a period of disappointment. You probably know this Psalm – it begins with the well-known verse “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1, NRSV) Clearly this is a Psalm written in a time of disappointment. Yet David has found the secret to dealing with that disappointment. Read on:

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

……….

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42:5,-6, 8 (NIV)

In the midst of his weariness, David speaks to his own soul – he instructs it to bring it into alignment with true reality. “Put your hope in God” he says. True reality is not what we see and hear and feel around us. Our emotions lie to us regularly. I woke up this morning wanting to cry for no reason – I was just feeling sad. I could come up with reasons I might be feeling this way and it’s tempting to do that. Life makes more sense to me when I can justify my feelings – but that’s just what it is – justifying them. Why justify them, when instead I can instruct them as David did? “Why are you so downcast, soul of mine? Rejoice in God! He is my Great Redeemer and my life. He lives in heavenly places and never ceases to pray for me. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my friend. He longs to whisper His secrets in my ear.” How much more edifying that is than figuring out why I might be sad. (Don’t hear what I’m not saying – there is a time to work through our emotions, but there is also a time for setting them aside knowing that they are simply lying to us or trying to sabotage us or divert us from God’s purposes.)

Peter has a final instruction that is worth noting here:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)

We do have power to redirect our thoughts, and using this power changes our perspective and our attitudes.

Let’s Leave the “But” Out

I have a blessed life. That blessed life is diminished when I let the “buts” of Satan rob me of the joy of the blessing.

Friends, may I encourage you to silence your buts this Thanksgiving and then continue the practice throughout the holiday season and 2011. Make it a lifestyle choice you make today.

Stay tuned – check out tomorrow’s blog titled “But In…”

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1During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

4His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

5“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

6He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, 10he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

17Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Mark 8

As I read this story, the disciples come across as pretty dense! I mean isn’t it obvious that you can’t feed four thousand men (and the women and children present) on seven loaves of bread and a few small fish? Just for fun, I did some calculations. If it were only the men you were feeding, that would make each loaf of bread capable of feeding 571.4286 men. That’s a mighty big loaf of bread! If you’ve somehow been able to accomplish that, you surely can’t pick up seven basketfuls of broken pieces of bread when you’re done! Yet that’s just what you’ve done. Don’t you think that you’d realize the tremendous miracle that had just occurred? Somehow the disciples didn’t see it.

It got me thinking: how many “obvious” miracles do I miss in the course of my everyday life? I’m betting there are LOTS of them. I’m going to look for them this week. In invite you to do the same.

Lord, help each of us see past our busyness and our preoccupation with self and see the miracles You’re doing every day. Help us to see You at work each day this week. Give us a sense of anticipation even before we see our first miracle. Thank You, Lord, in advance, for opening our eyes to see You.

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46“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; 47and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; 51for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
1 Kings 8:46-51

This comes near the end of Solomon’s prayer during the dedication of the temple he built for the Lord. What struck me was Solomon’s prayer for the Israelites when they are taken captive. “Wow!” I thought. “He is praying into the Babylonian captivity almost 400 years before it happened.” OK. I confess. I didn’t really think that. I had to look up the number of years. But I was pretty sure it was a long time. And my thought was still “Wow!” Do you get what’s happening? Solomon is praying for the Israelites who will live almost 400 years in the future! (His future, of course.)

I am continually challenged that my prayer life is nothing compared to the prayers in the Bible. First, the things I pray for on a regular basis don’t begin to compare to the things the Apostle Paul prayed for. Well, they’re beginning to compare, but I’m in kindergarten (maybe first grade) when it comes to praying Paul’s prayers.

Then along comes Solomon. (Yes, we’re taking these out of order. Solomon really did come before Paul. It’s just that Paul’s prayers had more impact on me before Solomon’s.) Solomon doesn’t limit his prayers to the people standing before him during the temple dedication, or even to their children. He prays into the future, asking for God to forgive generations to come when they repent and turn to Him “with all their heart and soul.” Because I’ve read the rest of the book, I know that God answered that prayer. When the Israelites turned to God from Babylon, He caused their conquerors to show them mercy.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have children that I don’t think about (and pray for) generations to come. Phil and I chose not to have children – parenthood was never anything either of us ever looked forward to or dreamed about. Now, thirty years after the decisions to remain childless were made and well “beyond the manner of women” (as they say), perhaps the only thing I miss about not having children is praying over them and over their future – of placing my hands on their heads and speaking words of Life into their spirit as I bless them in the name of our gracious and precious Savior. I suspect, though, that even if I did have kids, my prayers wouldn’t extend to their children’s children’s children, much less six or seven generations into the future. When I pray for my community or our country, I pray for God to move now, not four hundred years from now.

We have such power to influence the course of history with our prayer life and few of us take advantage of that awesome opportunity. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the immediate. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the not-quite-immediate. He’s done that for me many, many, many times. Wouldn’t an eternal God also answer our prayers for generations to come? The evidence of Scripture is that He does.

Back to the issue of not having children – without children, it’s easy for me to wonder what my “legacy” will be. There will be no Sandy DNA impacting the world after I die. But there can be much Sandy Spiritual DNA impacting the world for many generations to come. And that’s something I can get pretty excited about. Especially since it doesn’t require changing dirty diapers for a couple of years and reminding someone to brush their teeth and wash their hands three times a day for a couple of decades.

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

God is changing me! (And for that I am eternally thankful!) I am finally realizing that my “job” as a Christian is to bring the Kingdom of God into every place I go and every situation I face. Further, I’m realizing that the way I do that is not so much with my words, although as a speaker and writer, I place great importance on words. Before the words can have impact, though, the atmosphere must be one in which they can be heard.

Phil and I met my aunt at a restaurant recently to catch up. We’d heard good things about the restaurant and none of us had been to it yet. Boy did we pick the wrong restaurant! There was so much ambient noise in the restaurant that we couldn’t hear one another across the table.

Often, the ambient noise in our lives is like that of the restaurant – our circumstances scream so loudly that we can barely hear what others are saying to us. I suspect that the ambient noise for many who don’t know Christ is several decibels higher than for those of us who have the relief valves of prayer and worship. At least we have the opportunity to open the relief valve and let the noise drain into quietness and peace of God. (The more we abide in Christ, the more that relief valve is constantly open.)

When we bring the Kingdom of God into places and situations, we change the atmosphere from being highly charged with screaming voices to being highly charged with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood
John 1:5

People may not understand the light we’ve brought into the darkness (to mix metaphors), but they can’t help but notice it.

What a wonderful opportunity we have! All we have to do is be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient! Piece of cake, right? OK, maybe not. So let’s start by focusing on kindness.

In preparing for this blog, I did a search in the NIV translation of the Bible. I was surprised to find the word kindness used 56 times, mostly referring to the kindness of God. Author and speaker Graham Cooke often describes God as the kindest person He knows. Clearly, the Bible places great value on kindness. American culture – not so much! Our definition of kindness has deteriorated to the canned “Thank you shopping at WalMart. Have a nice day!” Nice sentiment; meaningless when expressed in a toneless manner and unaccompanied by a smile. If we are to imitate Christ, if we are to be “practicing Christians,” our lives will be different from those around us. One of the ways it should be different is that we ought to become “the kindest people others know.”

I’d sure like to get better at it, and the holiday season is the perfect time to begin.

What leads to un-kindness?
Unkindness says a great deal about the person practicing it (yes, unkindness is a practice just as kindness is). It says things like:

  • I’m more important than you are and don’t have time to treat you with respect.
  • I don’t value you as an individual so you are not worthy of my kindness.
  • I’m selfish and self-absorbed in my own issues – I don’t care enough about you to show you kindness.
  • I’m impatient (which is a whole lot like selfish and self-absorbed) and don’t have time to be kind to you.
  • I’m lazy and don’t make the effort to be kind to you.
  • I’m ignorant, believing anything or anyone who is different from me is just wrong and/or inferior. You happen to be different from me so I will treat you with the contempt you deserve instead of the kindness God commands.
  • I am disobedient to God’s Word which tells me to treat you with kindness, and my actions demonstrate that deep down inside, I’m unappreciative of the kindness God has shown me.

Ouch! The truth is that I am all those things without Christ. Each one of those sinful qualities can be found in my heart. I am thankful that I am forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is, however, the constant urging to become the woman of God that He created me to be. There is the constant urging to beome the man or woman of God that He created you to be. So let’s look at the positive and turn our thoughts toward practicing our faith by demonstrating kindness toward others.

How might we show kindness in every day life?
Kindness is a virtue that has largely gone out of fashion. Let’s bring it back! Try these things:

  • Smile! Genuinely smile! I’ve lived most of my life not smiling at people and I’m ready to change that. I’ve found that when I do genuinely smile at people, I love the results! I feel better about myself and about life. And the people I smile at are often encouraged – they respond with surprise and their eyes light up.
  • Say “Thank you!” and mean it. Our response to the WalMart employee can easily be as automated as their thank you. When they say “Have a nice day!” don’t just mumble “thank you” as you pick up your bags and walk away. Pause and say “Thank you! I will. You have a nice day, too!” You’ll be surprised at some of the responses you get. It might even open up an opportunity for you to pray for them.
  • Do helpful things when you see people in need.
    • When you see someone struggling with something – carrying too many bags or wrangling children and groceries or about to drop the many papers in their hands – offer to help.
    • Have a co-worker that is suddenly under a pile of work? Offer to help.
    • How about taking time to help a neighbor rake their leaves or pull weeds?
    • When the snow begins to fly, don’t just shovel your walkway, do your neighbor’s (especially if you have a snow blower and they don’t or if they are elderly or a single mom).
    • Get into the habit of asking “How can I help?” At first, people will usually say that you can’t, but if you keep at it, many of them will become comfortable enough to let you help in some way.
  • Don’t respond with rudeness –no matter how rude they are to you!
  • Share your life. This season, invite others to become involved in your life. Here are some ideas:
    • Put up your Christmas trees together – first at their house, then at yours.
    • Go shopping together.
    • Share a soup & salad dinner during the week. Soup & salad is easy and fast, but gives you an opportunity to share life with someone who just might need a friend.
  • Use your talents to show others kindness. I have a friend who makes special memory cards when a family member dies. Another friend makes personal greeting cards for special occasions. If your strength is in business, mentor someone who is just getting started.
  • Be thankful for the kindness God has shown you.

Well that exhausts my list – at least for now. What suggestions do you have for making kindness a part of your every day life?

Let’s become better at being PC! Challenge yourself this season to show more kindness each day.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Romans 2:4

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Is patience your strength? No? I would have guessed that! It’s not a strength for most of us. Here’s a great post called “There is a Time to Wait.”

It won’t hit you over the head with guilt, but will help you think a bit about our incessant need to have it NOW!

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Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
Job 38:1

I am mesmerized by the picture God painted of Himself when He answered Job. Read some of the verses from Job chapters 38 through 40 with me. To make the passages more readable, I’m not going to include verse references and I’m going to treat the passages as prose rather than poetry. My intent is to hear what God has to say when He spends three chapters describing Himself. In all these passages, it is God speaking.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?…Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
Job 38:4-7

Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. We say those words, but do we really understand the tremendous wisdom, knowledge and power  encompassed in them? Do we think of God as architect and builder of this vast world? What knowledge beyond all the knowledge I can imagine is required to do such a thing? From nothing, He imagined the earth, then brought His imagination into reality.

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?

Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”
Job 38:8, 11-12, 22, 31-33, 35

What power this God has to say to the waves “This far and no farther!” – the power to command the stars in the sky and the weather patterns on earth. What we benignly call “mother nature” is actually at God’s command. Further notice the questions “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” There is more to this than God’s command over the physical world. He has established laws that govern the heavens and earth. He has dominion – supreme authority and absolute ownership – over earth. This isn’t parental authority that we can buck when we don’t like it. This is supreme authority that will rule over all and we buck it at our own peril.

“Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?”
Job 38:36

All wisdom and understanding – even the ability to gain wisdom and understand – come from the mind and hand of God. Our intelligence is not our own – it is a gift from a gracious God. All scientific discovery has been a gift from God.

“Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?”
Job 38:41, 39:1-2

This powerful God, continues to be intimately involved in His creation. He lowers Himself to provide food for the bird. He responds to the cry of a young bird. This Being that is beyond our comprehension is also the author of compassion. He watches over it like a young couple about to have their first child. He counts the months with anticipation, waiting for the time He knows they will give birth. (How much He must care for me if He cares for the mountain goats and deer!)

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will he stay by your manger at night? Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness? Will he till the valleys behind you?”
Job 39:9-10

The wild animals agree to serve our mighty God. He is safe with them. We may buck His authority over our lives, but they willingly bow to serve Him.

“The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.”
Job 39:13-18

I love God’s description of the ostrich. It reinforces to me that (1) God has created each of us with our own strengths and weaknesses and (2) He takes great joy in our strengths and our weaknesses don’t detract from them. Some of us have ostrich feathers, and some have stork feathers. Some run like an ostrich and others like a horse. Some have the intelligence of an ostrich (or lack thereof), to others He gives more understanding and wisdom. I love the way that God rejoices in the ostriches joyful flapping of her wings.

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?

Look at the behemoth [translated hippopotamus in the NLT], which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron.”
Job 39:19-27, 40:15-18

Unlike the ungainly ostrich, the horse is a powerful and beautiful animal. Created by God for strength and speed and courage. Contrast that to the wisdom of the hawk and the eagle’s ability to soar. And make a final contrast to the hippopotamus – powerful vegetarian that he is! Do you see the vast variety in God’s creation, even from this limited sample He sights? He hasn’t even touched upon the sea anemone or killer whale (two of my favs).

In these three chapters, we see a God who is immensely – perhaps infinitely is the better word – creative, powerful, intelligent and caring. What an amazing God we serve!

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