Archive for June, 2013

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartOur society doesn’t breed compassion. Compassion requires connecting with the pain of others and sacrificing to help alleviate that pain. It requires that we be outwardly-focused – seeing the needs of others more than we see our own needs. Compassion requires margin in our lives – that is, “white space” in which to see, feel and do for others. When we have no margin – when our schedules are overflowing and our stress levels are spiking, the white space in our lives is crowded out and we become focused on only our own needs. When that continues too long, life becomes all about us instead of all about others.

Read these verses about the compassion of Jesus:

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 (NLT)

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20:34 (NIV)

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
Mark 1:41 (NIV)

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Luke 7:13 (NASB)

Do you feel the compassionate, loving heart of Jesus in these verses? As I read them, all together, not separated by circumstances and other stories, I see Jesus’ loving and compassionate heart more clearly. I see Him with His hand reached out to touch, heal, wipe a tear and comfort. I see His extreme care for those who are harassed and helpless, for those who are sick or hungry, and for those who need to be made clean or be comforted. I see His extreme care for people like me.

Jesus’ heart of compassion stepped into the hurting experience of others and did something practical to alleviate their suffering. Joni Eareckson-Tada talked about compassion and suffering in an address at Westmont College. I was moved by these words:

Helping somebody like me [that is, someone suffering with a severe disability] – God asks us to hook our veins up to that person who is hemorrhaging human strength – because we show Christian love when we pour our heart out into another’s life as though giving a spiritual transfusion. Warm and personal, reviving and life giving. That’s what Christian compassion means.

When we reach out in compassion to somebody, we’re reaching out into their suffering.

The world has so much suffering in it today – it is bleeding out of control.

When people are hurting, His church – and who else is there, it’s just you and me – His church is the agent of comfort and mercy and grace and encouragement, showing, not just telling, but showing His love. Not just proclaiming it, but portraying it. Helping them to experience it.

Jesus had crowds and crowds of people pressing in for attention from Him. He knew the pressures of too much to do and too little time. Yet He kept His outward focus. He saw the suffering of others, was moved with compassion and took action. He wasn’t too busy or too poor or too tired, although surely he had too much to do, too little money and too little sleep. He found His margin – that is the white space within the noise – by spending time with His Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35 (NIV)

It’s in the Father’s presence where we find our margin for the day. It might seem like adding an appointment with God to our already full schedule would take away even more of our white space, but it doesn’t. Somehow it expands the white space, giving us margin and purpose at the same time. It allows us to hear God’s heart – that heart of love and compassion toward us and others – and enables us to show that heart to others.

The passage in Mark goes on to say that when His disciples found Jesus they said something like “Come on! Everyone’s waiting for you!” Jesus didn’t let them steal the peace and purpose He’d just received from being with the Lord. “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” (Mark 1:38, NIV)

Jesus had a full schedule. He had little money. He had others pressing in on Him. But He allowed the Lord to work through Him, showing compassion to people who are harassed and helpless, sick or hungry. He showed His compassion to us so that we might show His heart of compassion to others.

Last summer I met a woman who was widowed at a young age. Undoubtedly she and her young children suffered a great loss. One of the things she told me is that she doesn’t let a day go by without doing something good for someone in need. It might be as small as helping an elderly woman reach an item on an upper shelf at the grocery store or buy a burger for a man living on the street. The key is that she does something. Every day. Developing a habit like my new friend changes the way we think. Little by little, act by act, it builds God’s heart of compassion into us.

What about you? Are you showing God’s heart of compassion to those around you? Do you see the pain, suffering, loneliness and hunger in the eyes, the walk and the behavior of others? If not, perhaps it’s because there is no margin in your life. Perhaps your own needs are crowding out the needs of others. Follow Jesus’ example so you can follow His behavior. Get alone with God so He can pour His heart into you and then you can pour it into others. Pray for a compassionate heart like His – then live it!

You can watch Joni’s entire message at Westmont College here:

 

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Phil and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about four months. Tonight is our first recital! Yes, I thought only children had dance recitals. Guess I was wrong about that. We’ll be dancing the rhumba and the waltz. Earlier this week I wrote about lessons from the battlefield and how they can be applied to our spiritual life. In honor of our dance recital tonight, I thought I’d share some lessons from the ballroom.

There are a few lessons our instructor, Michael, has been working on with us every single week. We’ve taken about twelve lessons and I don’t think a week’s gone by that he hasn’t mentioned all three of these things. And like our battlefield lessons, I find them applicable to my spiritual life. In fact, since I have someone harping on me about these lessons each week and we practice a couple of other times a week, these lessons are in the front of my mind and are serving as reminders of how I ought to live.

Lesson 1: Stand Tall

When you stand tall you command authority. You think and act differently.

Do you know who you are in Christ? We are many things, but I like the description in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

We are chosen by God, he has made us a part of His royal priesthood, and he’s given us a calling. What a privileged position we hold! Cherished by the creator of the universe! Knowing that ought to make us stand tall. There’s no slouching from insecurity in the King’s Kingdom. Yet when we are tempted to be downhearted, we can remember King David’s words:

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

We may be as Paul described – hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). Why? Because God is the lifter of our head. He is the one who holds our head high. I ought to be living as that royal priesthood, as a person for God’s own possession.

A person who lives like that doesn’t slouch. That person has a regalness about them. Not an arrogance, but a regalness.

And it’s not all about how we walk, there is a spiritual application of this that goes deeper. Spiritually, we ought to be standing up. When we face the enemy, we’re not to be worn down, defeated, expecting to lose, afraid of being seen.

No, we should be standing tall in confidence and command because we are God’s holy nation, we are His ambassador. We’ve been called out of darkness, given the assignment of proclaiming His excellencies, His supremacy, and His great love.

We ought to stand tall. Because God is the lifter of our heads.

Lesson 2: Follow the Leader

Oh, I’m not always good at this one. Phil lifts his arm indicating that I’m supposed to go under it for an underarm turn and I just keep dancing my little box step. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t recognize his lead. I just didn’t feel like doing it. I needed a break from the last step we did.

Except for the fact that sometimes Phil’s leads are a bit indefinite and Gods leads are always perfect, the rest is about the same. Sometimes I miss the lead. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to stay in my routine. I wasn’t paying attention to Him and missed the lead. Or I wanted to take a break from the last battle he put me in.

I did a search in the Bible on the phrase “Follow me.” One of the things that jumped out at me was Jesus’ calling his Disciples. He met Peter and said “Follow me.” He met Matthew and said “Follow me.”

He said this as he called another disciple:

21  Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”    
22  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 8:21-22 (NIV)

And His message was the same to the rich young ruler:

21  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

Follow me. That’s what God says.

If we move this command into the battlefield, there’s a good reason to follow Him. There’s a good reason not to take the lead away from Him – because it is His battle to win, not ours.

David knew this when he fought Goliath. He met Goliath with these words

“Today, all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV)

When we stop following, we put the battle into our own hands. When we stop following, we take the plan for the day and put it into our own hands. It doesn’t belong in our hands. It belongs in the Lord’s hands and He will give the victory

Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork

You know, I want it to be all about the footwork. Because I can get the footwork down. Slow, quick, quick. Slow, quick, quick. The footwork is the easy part. Michael is always telling us that the reason we take lessons isn’t to learn the footwork, we could get that from a video. The reason we take lessons is to learn style – to put the polish on the footwork.

What he’s talking about is adding passion to dance. Putting our feet in the right place at the right time is just a small part of dancing. An important one, but still a small one.

When we translate that into our walk with the Lord, we say that it’s not all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are important – reading our Bibles daily, praying, serving, being thankful, worshipping, tithing, and many other things – they’re the fundamentals – they’re getting our feet in the right place at the right time. They’re very important, but it’s not all about the footwork – it’s not all about the fundamentals. It’s about the passion of the dance – it’s loving the Lord with our whole heart. It’s serving Him whole heartedly.

King David gave this advice to his son Solomon as he was handing over the plans for building the Lord’s temple:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9a (NLT)

That’s more than footwork. Learn to know your God intimately.

Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

We’re taking lessons because we want to know how to dance well. I’m shocked that we’ve spent the bulk of our lessons learning one dance. I would have guessed we could learn the rhumba in about three weeks. Yet here we are at week ten and we’re still learning the rhumba. The more we practice, the better we get.

The same is true in our spiritual life. Somehow we have the expectation that we ought to be good at it immediately. After all, we love the Lord – shouldn’t the rest come naturally. Uh – no. It didn’t for the Apostle Paul:

15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7:15-23 (NLT)

Yes, I don’t really understand it – I want my feet and my body to go one direction, but they repeatedly go the other way. Well, on the dance floor, it’s not that big a deal. But in life, much more so. Yet living the life God wants us to live doesn’t come naturally. Sinning comes naturally. Living in holiness takes practice and requires listening to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t get it right the first time. Keep practicing!

4 Lessons from the Ballroom:

Lesson 1: Stand Tall
Lesson 2: Follow the Leader
Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork
Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

Let me encourage you, friends, to live out my ballroom lessons in your spiritual life. God is worth it.

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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We’ve had extraordinarily high expenses this year. Thousands of dollars in car repairs. Unexpected medical bills.

We’ve had extraordinarily low income this year. Being self-employed means fluctuating income, but this year there’s been no fluctuation, it’s been consistently down.

We’ve had extraordinary pulls on our time and lifestyle this year. We’ve had many requirements that have eaten our time and gas money to provide unexpected support. We took a business trip (quite an expensive business trip) and got exceedingly sick essentially losing more than half of the benefit of the trip.

I’m not complaining. For the first five months, I just considered it life. A bit unusual life, perhaps, but life none-the-less. This past month I’ve wondered if there’s an extraordinary spiritual component to it. Are we being targeted by the enemy? I’m not one to blame every bad thing that happens on the enemy working against me. Lots of bad things are simply a result of living in a fallen world and/or my own bad or sinful choices. But when extraordinary things happen, I look to the spiritual realm. Yesterday, when yet another extraordinary expense hit shortly after news of continued low income, I began to more seriously consider a spiritual element. (OK, some would say I’m coming to the party a bit late. That’s probably true.)

But last night I began asking “What’s happening, Lord?” And even more to the point “How should I be responding to these issues, Lord?” I’m already remaining positive, hopeful and trusting. OK, I admit it, worry is beginning to creep in (which, of course, is the antithesis of trusting). Still, I know that I am a blessed woman. An extraordinarily blessed woman.

Well, I don’t have an answer to my questions yet. But this morning’s Scripture came at just the right time. I love serving a “just at the right time” God.

1God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)

I am so encouraged.

God is ALWAYS ready to help. Lord, I need your help! Come quickly.

So we won’t fear – I WON’T FEAR – when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

And then I love the defiant – confidently defiant – tone of verse 3:

Let the oceans roar and foam – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge – because God is my refuge and strength; because MY God is always ready to help.

Lord, help me.

Afterward:
Of course my husband is in the midst of all this with me. Last night was the first time we talked about this year’s occurrences having a spiritual source. This morning he saw that I was a bit off-kilter and we prayed. (I thank and praise God for my husband.)

As I just finished writing this blog – right up to the line “Lord, help me” – he came down from getting ready for the day in our bedroom upstairs. Always quick to share the goodness of God with him, I said “Want to know what my first verses were today?” I then read Psalm 46:1-3 to him.

Then he said “Want to know what my last verses were ? The last thing I heard on TV before I came downstairs was this:

“Don’t you worry about a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”

I guess God speaks through Bob Marley, too. (No, I’m not endorsing his life or life message. God speaks through the ungodly.) Yes, every little thing is gonna be all right. Enjoy!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWhen our hearts are full of faith, one of the things that is at the forefront of our minds is how very much God has done for us. We know the price Jesus paid to bring us near to God. We know how much God loves us to have sent His Son to die in our place. A faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where we find mercy and grace. It’s also where we find – experience is perhaps a better word – the tremendous, unimaginable, indescribable love of God. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

OK, Paul is the master of the run-on sentence. I’ve been so blessed by a study we’re doing on the book of Ephesians that I’m preparing a series of blogs that will publish in July. For now I only want to deal with one point from this powerful prayer. Paul is praying that being strengthened in their faith, and rooted and established in love, the Ephesians would have the power to understand – to grasp, to apprehend – how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is. A faith-filled heart becomes a heart that is overwhelmed with an understanding God’s love.

The love of God is not dependent on my performance. The love of God is compassionate. The love of God is uplifting. The love of God forgives. The love of God chooses not to remember my sins once they are under the blood of Christ.

Faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where God’s love was and is poured out. That love isn’t poured upon and into our hearts only so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is so that our hearts can be filled with the same love to show to others. A faith-filled heart becomes a loving heart.

A loving heart looks outward. A loving heart demonstrates God’s love to others. It reflects God’s nature to others. That means we learn to love others with a love that is not dependent on their performance. That means we are compassionate, uplifting, forgiving, choosing not to remember the sins of others. You know the passage I have to go to here:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

That’s a picture of a loving heart. We can only do that through the power of the Spirit at work in us. We can only do that when we’ve experienced how wide and long, deep and high God’s love is. Knowing that comes from knowing Him. And we find Him at the foot of the cross.

How’s your loving heart doing? Does it need a refill of God’s love? Join me at the foot of the cross. Where Christ died so that we might receive mercy and find grace.

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Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit.

Proverbs 23:4 (NLT)

I worked quite late last night, so this verse got my attention this morning. We have a part-time employee who is moving on to a better opportunity and I’ve been wondering about replacing her or absorbing her responsibilities myself and/or handing them off to the few other employees we have. Business has been exceedingly slow this year, so it’s not an automatic decision.

Do I increase my workload (sigh)? Do I hire someone else when finances are so tight? Would I be able to make more money by offloading these responsibilities to some other person or am I saving money by doing them myself?

I don’t know the answer to those questions yet, but the Holy Spirit has been regularly nudging me to seek God’s wisdom on the issue. I’ve tried…but sometimes seeking God’s wisdom is easier than other times. I suspect you know how that is. His wisdom doesn’t always seem obvious, does it? I suppose if it was always obvious, it wouldn’t be wisdom because wisdom is something we seek out. At least that’s the theme of Proverbs, which we’re reading this month in our Resting at the River’s Edge readings.

So this morning, after I’ve read more chapters than I anticipated reading and when I was really planning on stopping, I thought “well, maybe I’ll read a chapter of Proverbs before I call it quits”…even though my stomach has been telling me to make lunch for about twenty minutes now. I give you this much detail simply as an illustration of how the Holy Spirit leads me. Many people say “I don’t feel led by God.” Often it’s that they don’t recognize God’s leading in everyday life. I am working through an issue and I’ve been praying about it, but I don’t have God’s clear leading. I am finished with my morning Bible reading yet simply feel a desire to read more. That “more” brings me to a verse that touches on the issue I’m working through. That’s God’s leading.

Do I have an answer to my question of whether or not to hire a replacement for our employee who is leaving? No, not yet. But I have a confidence that I have God’s attention on the matter – He’s working on it and He’s working on getting the answer to me. Of course God is always attentive to our prayers and is always at work in answering them and in changing us to conform to His son. It’s just that sometimes, when in the midst of indecision, I need to be reminded of that. That’s what God did for me this morning with this verse.

He’s also reminded me not to fret about it. I’m to do what I can each day and know when to call it quits. That doesn’t mean get it all done, then go home. That means being able to say with peace “I’ve done enough for today. I’ll leave the rest in God’s hands and return tomorrow.”

It reminds me of a line from an old Joni Eareckson-Tada song:

Each mile I put between the past
And the future in Your hand,
I learn more of Your providence
And I find out who I am.
from My Little Tune/Journey’s End by Joni Eareckson

Each step (or mile) that I put in God’s hands gives me the opportunity to learn more of how He cares for me and what my role in this world (and the next) is. Putting unfinished tasks in God’s hands is a tremendous way to learn those things. We tend to think that finishing tasks is how we learn/experience who God is and who we are. No, it’s really more about the journey.

I’m not promoting a laissez-faire or “what will be will be” attitude. Trusting God is much different from that. Trusting God is intentionally putting things in His hands and then resting in the knowledge that He has them under control. It’s an active thing. It’s a placing and resting – a putting life into God’s hands and learning more about Him and ourselves.

What situation do you need to place in God’s hands today? Let me encourage you to do so, then rest while you wait for His wisdom.

Need some help? Check out this video of Joni’s song:

 

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“…all who believe in him are made right with God.”
Romans 10:4b

As I read this passage morning, I was struck by the phrase “made right with God.” It seemed to stir an old memory that is only half there of my mom telling me to “make it right.” It seems that was something she would say after we kids got into an argument. As I said, it’s only what I call a “half memory” – I don’t know if it really happened, but there’s something stirring in my mind.

We would go from fussing and fighting about something to saying we were sorry and hugging each other. Now I’m sure that good feelings didn’t abound at the time, but there was a degree to which we were reconciled.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, God brings complete, full and perfect reconciliation between us and Him. He doesn’t harbor those residual ill feelings we had as children toward our siblings (or we have as adult toward those who offend us). No, he promises that He will “never again remember [our] sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34) “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, NLT)

This is not a small thing. We have been made right with God. The Creator of the Universe whose majesty surpasses anything we can imagine, whose justice is perfect and whose righteousness is a standard that none of us can come close to meeting has made us right with Himself.

That reconciliation is made possible through our faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross for us. It’s not made possible simply by believing in God. Let’s look at the verses that lead up to our key verse:

1Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 10:1-4 (NLT)

Paul makes it clear that one can have great zeal for God without knowing Christ. He calls it “misdirected zeal.” He makes it clear that we can pursue God in our own way – cling to the way that we want to be forgiven instead of accepting God’s way – and that it doesn’t lead to our salvation. Accepting God’s way leads to salvation. God’s way is believing and embracing what Christ has already accomplished – accepting His free gift, His substitionary death as fulfilling the payment or penalty required for our sin.

When we do that, we “who believe in Him are made right with God.”
Thank You, Lord. For making me right with You!

The Apostle Paul wanted to make sure everyone understood what he meant by that first paragraphs in Romans 10. A few sentences later he wrote this:

9If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

Have you been made right with God? If not, I urge you to take Paul’s advice – confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Believe it. Make Jesus the Lord of your life. Tell someone about it. Leave a comment on this post or email me – sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com.

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Planning Against the Clock

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.
Proverbs 16:1 (NLT)

Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading for Monday, June 10 is Proverbs 16. I’m a day ahead, but have to share my reading because it is a perfect message to take us into the weekend. Of course, it’s also a perfect message for a Monday, so I’m a bit torn — should I write it and schedule it to post on Monday. Nah…I’m too excited about it today so I’m sharing a bit early. Perhaps God can use it to help us shape our weekend, and then remind us of it on Monday to help us shape our week.

As I woke up this morning, I began making my plans for the day and weekend. You see, we’re behind (aren’t we always – aren’t you always behind in something? Everything?)…My biggest concern right now is that we don’t have our garden in yet (and all of a sudden it’s the end of the first week of June). It seems that the days we could have planted we were too busy with other priorities and the days we had time to plant the weather said “Nope, not gonna let you do it today.” So I woke up, trying to balance my work, ministry and social commitments for today through Sunday with the need to garden. I decided not to take a shower (don’t worry, I work from home) hoping I might be able to sneak in an hour of gardening during lunch. (That’s never happened before, but one can always hope.)

I came downstairs and got my breakfast, then came further downstairs to the basement and sat at my desk to begin my day. I opened my Bible reading program on my computer (I use WordSearch 10), and turned to my next scheduled reading. I noticed the Post-It I put on my monitor last night to remind me of my first work task this morning. I glanced at the time and recognize that I’m running a little late.

Then I began to read. Did you notice that it doesn’t say anywhere in there that I prayed first? I confess. I didn’t. I always try to remember to pray in the morning – often before I get out of bed or when I take a shower. Didn’t happen. I always try to remember to pray in the morning before I begin reading God’s Word. Didn’t happen. I share that just to let you know that we all get it wrong sometimes. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m thanking God for His goodness to me even when I forget to invite Him in. I’ve apologized to God (which is a whole lot like confessing my sin to Him), and know that I’m forgiven.

Back to the reading. I love God’s Word. Here are 6 of the 33 verses in Proverbs 16:

1We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.
2People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.
3Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.

9We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

25There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

33We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.
Proverbs 16:1-33 (NLT)

God is so gracious to remind me – especially when my mind begins to go a bit haywire from the tasks I want to put in my schedule – that I can make all the plans I want, but He will give me the right answers and He will cause them to succeed, and He will determine my steps and He will determine the end results.

The rest of the Proverb is filled with direction on how we should live – fearing God, in humility, in Godliness, honestly, in peace, listening to instructions, with patience and much more. All good stuff to hear, read and live.

Whether you’re reading this before the weekend, at the beginning of the week, or even in the middle of the week – let God make your plans!

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Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

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