Archive for November, 2012

Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

It’s the month we celebrate our Savior’s birth! Let’s not grow slack in our reading. I have often been doubly blessed during my December reading. It’s almost as if His Spirit ignites the Word in a special way. Stick with it friends. You may not complete the Bible reading for the year, but don’t let that be your excuse for not continuing to read. Better to have read 75% of this year’s readings than 74%. If you’re at 75%, aim for 85% before the end of the month! I know things get busy. Don’t let the urgent muscle out the truly important.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the half-page PDF you can download here or the November/December Bookmark you can download here.

To God be the glory as you read this month! Share your blessings with us as you read this month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Word of God, speak to us again this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the November/December 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the December Reading Plan here

Here’s the December reading plan:

RARE December 2012 Reading Plan JPG

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I laid in bed for more than half an hour before getting up this morning. I was frustrated with someone. Frustrated at what they were doing. Frustrated at what they were not doing. They just weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing!

Oh, my, that sounds so arrogant when I actually put it on paper! It didn’t sound so arrogant in my mind earlier this morning. It sounded right! But of course it wasn’t right – it was arrogant. And even if what I think should be done is correct, I am wrong in my response to the situation.

That’s not to say I wasn’t praying in the midst of my frustration fretting…but each sentence prayer led to more frustrated fretting. I’m guessing you’ve been in my situation before. Ten minutes of frustrated fretting, a sentence prayer – maybe even two sentences – and I’m back to fretting.

I’ve been dealing with this issue for awhile and I’ve been trusting God…but this morning frustration was getting the best of me.

Finally I got out of bed and sat with my cup of tea and piece of toast and began to read my Bible. Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule has us in Revelations and I was enjoying it so much a read a head a few chapters. (I love it when that happens.) I came to these verses:

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
Revelation 5:13-14 (NLT)

Oh, Lord! Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to You! “And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.”

I spent more than half an hour fretting in frustration this morning when I could have been worshiping the Lamb! What a waste of precious time!

I serve a God who is infinitely worthy of my worship. All blessing and honor and glory and power belong to Him. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. He existed before anything else existed. He created all things. He holds them together. He will exist when all that I know (except Him) has passed away. He is the eternal, all loving, all knowing, all powerful God. And still He is my friend. I spend time fretting in frustration. And He is my friend. I make wrong choices. And He is my friend. Whether I have a great day or a horrible one…He is still my friend. My Friend who loves and saves and empowers. My Savior who gives peace and joy and healing. My God who is worthy of all my worship. My God who is worth more than I can ever pay.

In our early marriage, I found a card to give to my husband (or maybe he gave it to me – I’m not really sure anymore). “I love you…” was written on the front; on the inside it read “More than I could ever say, more than you could ever know.” Isn’t that the absolute perfect card? It said (and says) everything about our love. We’ve been married more than thirty years (thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!) and we still quote the card to one another.

The card’s message is even more appropriate between my God and me. He loves me more than He could ever say, more than I could ever know. Is anything impossible for God? Does He love more than He could ever say? Well, I won’t contradict Scripture…but… He can say it and He has, but we won’t fully comprehend that love until we are in eternity with Him. So perhaps the message changes for Him “I love you…More than I can say to you while you are in this physical body; more than you will know until you are in eternity with Me.” But that’s a bit awkward. (You think?) I’m OK with the shorthand version, knowing that my God loves me more…

And I love Him more than I could ever say (in this life) and more than He’ll ever know – but He does know! He knows how much I love Him more than I know and can express! OK, the sappy card doesn’t apply in this situation either. But again, I’m OK with the sentiment – He loves me and I love Him more than can be adequately expressed, more than can be accurately perceived. More…

Worshiping the One who is worthy, loving the One who is worthy – it’s way better than fretting.

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Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…
Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

I have been delaying starting several things for the Lord. In one case it’s simply a matter of not wanting to add something to my calendar. In another case, I’m not sure what the first step should be. In yet another case, I just haven’t blocked time into my schedule for it. In all cases, they are projects I believe the Lord initiated. (Do I really want to admit to you that I’m pausing at taking steps on projects the Lord initiated? I’m guessing you’ve done that too – sometimes we all need a bit of encouragement to follow the Lord’s promptings!)

Zechariah has been providing that encouragement to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book over the last couple of weeks.

I have been asking the Lord a question in my special holiday getaways with Him“Lord, what in my life brings you joy?” Here’s one of the answers to my questions: “The Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” (Zechariah 4:10) My goal is to please the Lord – to bring Him joy because He gives such joy to me. Beginning these tasks is one way to bring Him joy.

I’m not climbing on a merry-go-round of beginnings (because we’ll see in future posts that the Lord is also pleased with continuing the effort begun). Nor am I overloading my schedule with things God is not calling me to. I am being encouraged, however, to begin those things that He’s prompted me to. And I don’t have to have a grand plan for the full accomplishment of them. Yes, I need a plan because without one, the projects are likely to die on the vine. But the full Scripture is this: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” God doesn’t diss small beginnings. Rather, He rejoices that the project has begun.

I love that about God – He is such an encourager! I think I’ll go add something to my calendar and block some time into my schedule! But first…I get to finish decorating a Christmas tree that’s half covered in lights. Let the Christmas season begin!

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See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”
Isaiah 12:2 (NLT)

God has come to save me! How can we not grab the hand of the One who has come to save us? How can we not?

I am afraid of heights. I remember sitting on the roof of my garage once crying for half an hour because I was too afraid to move to the edge, take my foot off the secure (?) surface of the roof and put it on a rung of the ladder. Then there was the whole issue of turning around. That was about twenty years ago. (Why was I on the roof? I would have to chalk that one up to curiosity and foolish pride…but that’s another blog.)

I love water slides. I remember getting three-quarters of the way up the highest slide at Cedar Point’s Soak City and having a melt down. I sat on the platform breathing deeply (trying very hard not to cry) while deciding if I had the courage to go to the top and slide down or walk down the stairs hanging on to the railings for dear life. Both required courage I didn’t have. This was about six years ago! (I opted to walk down the steps instead of climb up and slide down. I love the slides but hate the trip to the top of them.)

In neither case was I facing certain death. I wonder if someone had come in to rescue me – someone offering a hand to save me – would I have grabbed onto it for dear life and let them? Or would I have hung onto the seemingly secure roof or platform frozen in fear?

The point is GOD has come to save me! In the case of someone saving me, they might lose their grip on my hand. The rope from the helicopter they’re hanging out of might break. The fire engine bucket they want me to step into might collapse and spill its contents (i.e., me) onto the ground. But GOD – His grip cannot be loosened and He’s not using equipment that might fail.

God has saved me! I will choose to trust in Him and not be afraid.

What is trying to paralyze you with fear? Is it the economy? The safety of a son or daughter in the military? Health issues? Facing the holiday season alone? Choose to trust in the One who has saved you.

God has saved me! I will choose to trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.

Holding onto the knowledge that I have been saved, living in that choice of trusting God and not being afraid, knowing that He has given me victory – that is where my strength comes from; that is what enables me to sing.

Let Him be your strength and your song. Focus on the victory He has given you and trust in Him.

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My guess is that you’re planning your Thanksgiving weekend, and perhaps your holiday season. Don’t forget Jesus. Purposefully write in your calendar some time over the long Thanksgiving weekend during which you will sit with Jesus giving thanks. Use a small portion of that time to plan out times to spend with God during the month of December. Purpose to lay the world aside and spend time with the Jesus. Purpose to do the most important things this season, not just the urgent ones.

While I strongly encourage you not to plan a full schedule of things to do during those times with the Lord, a simple plan can be a good thing.

Three Reasons Why You Should l Have a Basic Plan for Your Time With God

  1. It can help you transition from full speed ahead in the world to peaceful worship and rest during your time with the Lord (without such a plan sometimes it feels like a crash landing instead of a spirit-led transition). Sometimes when we’ve rushed to our appointment with God it can be hard to settle into His presence.
  2. It can help you transition from servant to friend. If simply sitting at God’s feet isn’t something you do regularly, having a plan may help you adjust from a mode of serving God to enjoying Him.
  3. It can help you transition from purpose-driven thinking to presence thinking. If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting time or being selfish when you are resting in His presence (forgive me, Lord). Having a plan gets me over the initial hump because I am doing something – I’m following my list of things to do. Don’t read this the wrong way. I’m not saying we approach our time with God as an item to check off our To-Do lists. What I’m saying is that having the basic plan helps me resist the feeling that I’m wasting time at the beginning of my time with the Lord. It helps me engage. Once I’ve engaged, I’m no longer working the plan, I’m enjoying God.

Here are some ideas for your time with God. Don’t do all these things each time you meet Him. Plan the number of things you’re going to do according to the time you have. If I only had fifteen minutes, I would only do one, maybe two of these things. If I scheduled fifteen minutes every other day, I’d focus on different activities each time, cycling through them and then returning to those I found most helpful.

Worship – Whether through song or prayer or activity, let worship take you into the presence of God. Don’t rush from song to song or prayer topic to prayer topic. Linger. Play the same song several times. Pray different things about the same awesome character trait of God. (For example, “Lord, your love is incredible. It covers my sin. It surrounds me like a comforting blanket, protecting me, shielding me and healing me. Your love brings peace. Your love – how can I know the depth, breadth, height and width of it? I can’t, and knowing that it is bigger than me reminds me of how awesome you are. Lord, your love is incredible. It is by your love that your purposes are accomplished in my life. It is by your love that I can sit here with you at peace. It is in your love that I can do all things. Lord, your love is incredible.” Remember, don’t rush the prayer, linger over each phrase.)

Thanksgiving and praise – Scripture says that we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). That’s what I want to do during my time with God – enter His inner sanctuary to meet with Him. Doing it His way only makes sense.

Prayer – Don’t pray your laundry list of needs (whether for yourself or others), but have a conversation with God. Have you ever asked God “Lord, what gave you pleasure today? What blessed you?” I never have! The idea just came to me as I was writing this, and it seems like a good one. I’m going to incorporate this into my times with Him! I’m looking forward to “hearing” His answers. (I put the word “hearing” in quotes because I don’t anticipate hearing an audible voice. But I do anticipate receiving an impression from God that will bring me joy as I get to know Him better.)

Read Scripture meditatively – If fifteen minutes is all you have, spend ten of them on one or two verses. Pray it back to God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you through the verse. Then sit and listen for His response.

Express yourself creatively – Journal, paint, write a song or poem – Express yourself to God in some tangible way. It may feel awkward at first, but just go with it. He won’t be a critical judge of it any more than you were when your children drew their first picture of mom and dad.

The point is, schedule some time with God. Time just to be with Him. If you don’t schedule it, it’s unlikely that it will happen. (Although God’s been known to force the issue – it’s generally much better to put Him first than to have Him bring it to your attention that you haven’t been.)

Enjoy your time with God during this Christmas season and I am confident that you will enjoy the season.

Enjoy!

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I was running late on Thursday. Getting ready for the Bible study Phil and I lead at a local nursing home, everything went wrong. We’re studying Acts and I was modifying a map of Paul’s second journey to make the lines more visible to residents with eyes that don’t see nearly as well as they used to (I can identify with that!). The modification too much longer than I anticipated. Then the printer jammed. I broke a part off the printer while trying to clear the paper jam. So I reconciled myself to only taking half as many copies as I needed. (For this I spent the last hour?) Ten minutes till Bible study is supposed to start. On a good day it’s a 9 minute trip, but there’s construction on Main Street so I have to take the long way. And I hate running in at the last minute. The members of the study are understanding and gracious, but I don’t like the subtle message it sends. Rushing in at the last minute makes them feel like they’re an interruption in our day filled with more important things. Better to get there early and chat a bit.

But I digress. I am sure you’ve had lots of mornings like mine was on Thursday. Maybe every morning is a Thursday morning for you. Before you’re out of the house you’ve experienced failure, frustration and maybe even financial setbacks. Ugh. It doesn’t make for a Christ-centered day. It doesn’t have us carrying the peace of God and joy of living with Him into every situation we find ourselves. I was acutely aware that I was headed into a Bible study feeling less than spiritually ready for it.

God is so Good! On Wednesday evening, we’d had our small group meeting. Phil and I had driven separately (I hate that). On the way home, I had a CD playing louder than usual. I remember thinking as I turned the car off “That’s going to be too loud when you turn the car on tomorrow.” I made a conscious decision not to turn the volume down. That’s very unusual for me.

Thursday morning, then, I got into my car, and plopped my Bible and my maps on the seat next to me, wishing I could deposit my frustration somewhere just as easily. Now for the record, I could have (as you could each time you find yourself in my situation), but I wasn’t thinking about taking every thought captive or rejoicing in the Lord or casting my cares upon Him. I was thinking about too few maps and too little time and hoping Phil had prepared for the actual lesson better than I had.

Then I started my car. Immediately, the words washed over me “Thank You for the way that You love us. How you love us!” Whew! It was like someone had doused me in “relaxation lotion” or something. Instantly every part of me went from wired a bit too tight to no tension at all. Instantly I was at peace. As the song continued “Jesus, Faithful King, Lord with grateful hearts we sing – How great is the love, how great is the love of our Savior” my heart swelled and my faith grew. (Thank you, Paul Baloche, the writer of the song. It’s available on his album Glorious.)

I was still running late, I still had only half the number of copies I needed, and I still had a jammed, broken printer. And all was right with the world!

Thank You, Lord, for the way You love us!

It’s a lesson I need to learn often because this world pulls the lesson away from me every chance it gets – a moment stolen from the world to spend with the Lord makes all the difference. Stopping what I’m doing to worship Him never ruins our day.

Take a worship break:

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When everything seems to be going wrong, we don’t like to think it might be our fault. “You did your best” a well-meaning friend might say. Or “sometimes things just happen.” Or perhaps they look at your circumstances with you and commiserate “it is what it is.” Well, yes, that’s obviously true – it is what it is. But why is it what it is? Sometimes it is what it is because we’re outside God’s will. The wise person steps back when everything seems to be going wrong and asks the Holy Spirit to lead them in examining their life.

The book of Haggai reminds us that our actions have consequences and sometimes it really is our fault.

The Israelites just couldn’t seem to get ahead:

5This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! 6You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!
Haggai 1:5-6 (NLT)

Been there, done that! Didn’t have money to buy a T-shirt.

“Let me explain further”, God says:

3Then the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: 4“Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? … 7“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! … 9You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. 10It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. 11I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.”
Haggai 1:3-4, 7, 9-11 (NLT)

God is very gracious. He doesn’t point out a problem without giving a solution.

8aNow go up in to the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house.
Haggai 1:8b (NLT)

He also promises blessings for obedience.

8bThen I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. … 18“Think about this eighteenth day of December, the day when the rebuilding of the LORD’s Temple began. Think carefully. 19I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”
Haggai 1:8b, 2:18-19 (NLT)

Is your life a mess because of your own actions? Maybe you’re using all your money for your own benefit and not giving to God the tithe (tenth) that belongs to Him. Or perhaps you’re using all your time to pursue your career or leisure instead of spending an appropriate amount of it to get to know God better? Or just maybe you’re allowing things into your life that you clearly know are inconsistent with God’s plan for your abundant life.

God used the prophet Haggai to point the Israelites in the right direction. The Holy Spirit will do the same in our lives. The question is “will we listen and respond.” It’s up to each of us to choose God.

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If you’ve been reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plans, for the past week or so you’ve read about Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meschach and Abnego facing death a number of times. Have you noticed the results of those situations? I knew that in each case they were unharmed, but there’s more to the story. Let’s look closer.

Daniel Faces Execution (Daniel 2)
King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream. “He called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed.” (verse 2, NLT) Notice that the king didn’t tell them his dream and ask for an interpretation. He expected the one who would interpret the dream to first reveal that they new the dream without being told it. That would be his confirmation that their interpretation was from God.

Then he went a step further: Any of these “wise men” (as he defined the term “wise” – as believers in the One True God, we would not apply the word “wise” to magicians, enchanters, sourcers and astrologers) any of these “wise men” who could not tell him the dream and its interpretation would be “torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into heaps of rubble!” (verse 5, NLT) That’s not good.

Of course none of them could tell King Nebuchadnezzar what his dream was. That made the king “furious” and he “ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be executed.” (verse 12, NLT)

That would include Daniel and his friends, even though they hadn’t been asked to interpret the king’s dream. When Daniel learned why he was going to be executed, he went to the king, requested more time to interpret the dream, and then gathered his friends to pray and seek the Lord. The Lord gave Daniel the dream and its interpretation. Daniel then told the king what he had dreamed and its interpretation.

The result? The Lord saved not only Daniel’s life, but also the lives of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers. But that’s not all.

46Then King Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the LORD over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.” 48Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court.
Daniel 2:46-49 (NLT)

Daniel was instantly snatched from the threat of execution to being appointed ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief over all his wise men (that would be the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers who served false gods). In addition, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given positions of authority.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Face the Fire (Daniel 3)
King Nebuchadnezzar became taken with his own importance. He made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and required all people to bow to the ground and worship his statue. Anyone who refused would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whom I’ll call the three amigos, defied the king’s command. When brought before the king, they confirmed their defiance saying “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (verses 17 and 18, NLT)

Kings generally don’t respond well to being defied. King Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and then had the three amigos thrown into it. Moments later, however, when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fire, he “jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, ‘Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?… I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (verses 24 and 25, NLT)

(Woohoo! This is shouting material!)

The Lord not only saved the lives of the three amigos, He danced with them in the fire! And when the were taken from the fire, they weren’t singed and they didn’t smell of smoke! But that’s not all.

28Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” 30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
Daniel 3:28-30 (NLT)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were instantly snatched from certain death to being given even higher positions of authority in Babylon.

We see the following progression of events in both of these situations:

  • God’s servants faced certain death
  • God’s servants gave testimony – in advance – that God was their source
  • God visited His servants – Daniel through a dream and the three amigos through a physical manifestation of His presence
  • God rescued His servants
  • King Nebuchadnezzar privately and publicly proclaimed God as above all other gods
  • God’s servants were promoted

Did you notice that were it not for the dire circumstances – that is facing certain death – God would not have been glorified and the servants would not have been promoted.

Let me put it another way: the dire circumstances were the vehicle God used to bring glory to Himself and promotion to His servants.

That sure raises some questions worth our attention:

How do you view your dire (and not so dire) circumstances?

  • Are they opportunities to give testimony to others that God is your source?
  • Do you recognize them as opportunities for God to receive glory?
  • Do you have the positive expectation that they are opportunities for God to promote you?

My confession is that my faith is not as great as I would like it to be. I get stuck in my circumstances sometimes and forget that they are the vehicle God wants to use to promote me. I want to change my thinking – I want to expect God to be God! That’s what Daniel and his three amigos did! They expected God to be God in each circumstance, and the result was that He received glory and they were promoted. I want to face and experience the challenges in life as an opportunities for God to receive glory and for me to receive benefit. Living with that perspective isn’t living for personal or selfish gain, it’s expecting God to be God. Let’s do it!

What challenge are you facing right now in which you need to expect God to be God? He wants to be God in your life. Trust Him. Give testimony to His faithfulness. And wait for Him to rescue. Then rejoice in the glory He receives and enjoy your promotion!

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Seeing Through a LensI woke up today thinking about lenses! I guess that makes sense:

  • I need to have my eyes checked. It seems I have been consistently making text on my screen larger over the past few months and everything looks a bit fuzzier than it used to.
  • A friend of mine has started taking photography classes and it is changing the way she see things.
  • Yesterday I started reading a book about confidence in God. It’s a lot about the way we view life.

I’m reminded this morning that you can only see the shadow when you turn away from the light. Standing facing the sun I am unaware of the long shadow it creates behind me.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James 1:17 (NLT)

He created the lights in the heavens. Doesn’t it make sense to keep our eyes on Him to light our path?

Some manuscripts have the second half of this verse differently. They read “He never changes as a shifting shadow does.” (NLT footnote)

The One who created the lights in the heavens and causes them to move to His consistent rhythm, remains unchanging. “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” Can there be a better lens from which to view our lives?

As I’ve thought about this, the question that comes to me again and again is this: “What lens are you looking through?” Two that seem likely candidates are these:

Self – my abilities – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of my own abilities? If so, I can tell you that I will be overwhelmed with my inadequacies for dealing with the circumstances, challenges and opportunities. At my very best, I’m not enough – not good enough, not smart enough, not energetic enough, not creative enough, not wise enough, not compassionate enough, etc. The list goes on and on. But God is enough. We could find Scripture for each of the “not enoughs” in my list, but let me just share two all-encompassing verses that promise God’s provision

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Other people’s opinions – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of what other people think? Danger, danger, danger. People are fickle. Our opinions change from moment to moment. Look at the crucifixion of Jesus – one moment the people are worshiping Him as the coming King “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and they next they are shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Matthew 26 and 27). When the opinion of others affects the way I approach my life, how can I be anything but like a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”? (Ephesians 4:14, NASB).

Viewing life through either lens leads to a pretty miserable life. With the former, I am overwhelmed and defeated. With the latter, I am thrown this way and that – and again overwhelmed and defeated.

There is a third and better option: Viewing life through the lens of faith – Trusting in His faithfulness and ability to meet all my needs. We have a choice. It doesn’t always seem like it, but we do. In the physical realm, I can choose to put my glasses on so I can read the text in front of me more clearly or I can continue to squint and read fuzzy words. I can turn on a light or sit in a dark room. I can turn toward the sun or stare at the long shadows that hint of dark forces.

If I stay in the world of fuzzy words, dark rooms and long shadows my life suffers. My emotional stability suffers. My ability to live for God’s Kingdom suffers.

If I turn to the world in which God is sovereign, in control and loves me unconditionally my life prospers. My emotional stability remains strong and sure (because it is held together by the One who holds the universe together). And living for (and in) God’s Kingdom is a reality.

Why would I choose any lens other than God’s? Why would you?

An afterthought: Are you looking at the doors God has closed or the ones you don’t see yet – remember, we walk by faith not by sight. (But that’s fodder for another blog.)

For fun:

Old Woman or Young Woman?

Do you see a young woman or and old woman?

  • If you see a young woman, and wish to see the old woman, imagine the ear as an eye, the necklace as a mouth and the chin as a nose.
  • If you see an old woman, and wish to see the young woman, imagine the eye as an ear, the mouth as a necklace and the nose as a chin.
  • Your brain wants to flip to either one or the other image but if you study it long enough you might see both images at once. Can you do it?

From: http://www.nobeliefs.com/puzzles/illusions.htm#checker

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But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

In 605 BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah. Most citizens of Judah were forcibly taken to Babylon. Soon thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar decided to bring some of the Israelites into his service:

3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.

4“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”

5  The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel 1:3-5 (NLT)

Daniel and three others from the family of Judah were taken. (You’ve probably heard of the three others. They were renamed by King Nebuchadnezzar and you mostly likely know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But that’s another story.)

Put yourself in Daniel’s place. You are part of Judah’s royal family. You are conquered. Your enemy captures you and takes you to his country. Things are looking pretty bad for you. Then the king selects you to be part of his elite counsel of advisors. You’re to be fed the same menu cooked by the same chef as the king and you’re to receive the best training. It’s a lot better than living out your life in a dungeon. But it means serving the king who conquered your land and brought you to his.

Would you be angry or thankful? Would you oppose the king who conquered you or serve him? Would you pretend to be a friend of the king while secretly working against him?

Let’s look at how Daniel responded:

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

Daniel made a firm decision. Various translations make this clear:

“Daniel was determined…” (NLT)
“Daniel made up his mind…” (NASB)
“Daniel purposed in his heart…” (NKJV)
“Daniel resolved…” (NRSV)

Daniel made a firm decision, not a wishy-washy, wishful-thinking decision. He didn’t think “well, maybe it would be best if…” He didn’t think “I’m going to try …” His approach wasn’t “if I can, I’m going to…” He made a take-a-stand, Joshua-like decision – “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Often the first step we need to take is simply to make a firm decision. I have been working toward a healthy weight for more than a year now. I am only successful when I make a firm decision to work toward my goals. When I approach them half-heartedly I fail. Consistently. When I approach them with resolve, with purpose in my heart, with a made-up mind, I am successful.

Daniel decided to honor God by remaining as pure as possible in a pagan culture. Daniel’s first recorded challenge to his decision came when he began receiving meals prepared by the King’s chef. There is little detail here about why Daniel might consider it inappropriate to eat the food, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude from the use of the word “defile” that Daniel had concerns about the type of meat he would be served, how it was prepared, and/or whether it may have been offered to Babylonian idols. Without knowing the details, however, we can identify with Daniel because we live in a culture that is increasingly unfriendly toward Christians. We live in a culture that encourages and celebrates lifestyle choices that are not consistent with serving God.

Every decision we make throughout the day involves a choice between honoring God or living life according to our own rules and wants and wishes. Every decision? Yes, every decision – every piece of food we eat, every television program we watch, every word we say to our coworkers, every assignment we complete for our boss, every look we give our spouses, every traffic law we obey or disobey, and every thought we nurture or kill. Regardless of the situation we face, we can choose to honor God or not honor God. But it’s not just the decisions we make, it’s also how we implement those decisions.

Daniel honored God by living respectfully in a pagan culture. When I read the words of verse 8 – that Daniel was determined and resolved, that he had made up his mind – an image begins to take shape in my mind of a man who is going to stand up boldly to authority and resist it if necessary to accomplish his goals. That image is inconsistent with the second half of the verse: “He [Daniel] asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

Daniel didn’t approach the chief of staff with a demand or refusal – he asked for permission. This caught me by surprise. Having made a firm decision to remain pure, Daniel then seemingly puts his ability to keep that commitment in the hands of his captors. There is an expression that I truly hate: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.” That statement doesn’t honor God in any way. Daniel didn’t subscribe to that statement. Daniel’s approach showed respect for those in authority. It actually went much further than that.

Daniel trusted God to make a way for him to fulfill his commitment. Choosing to ask permission instead of taking matters into his own hands, defying authority and then asking forgiveness, Daniel demonstrated trust in God. Daniel may have made the commitment to honor God, but he also recognized that it would only be by God’s grace that he could keep the commitment.

I realize that Daniel’s humility takes me by surprise in light of his determination because I view determination as strength and deep down inside I view humility as weakness. That would be because I have a flawed view of humility. In God’s economy humility is king:

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NRSV)

And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5b (NRSV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NKJV)

It certainly proved true in Daniel’s case. What was the result of Daniel’s actions? Read it for yourself:

18When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Daniel 1:18-20 (NLT)

Determination and humility – two great qualities that work great together. Who knew?

Do you need to make a firm decision to honor God in a greater way in some area of your life? How’s your humility quotient?

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