Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ode to Joy

Sitting still in God's presence for a moment, an hour or however long cannot be mistaken for any other experience in life. There is nothing quite like it and it is never the same twice.
Yesterday I sat in awe of the God who loves me. My spirit soared at the things I was shown and I think I was grinning for the rest of the day. Today I thought my heart would break. I sat and cried and poured my heart out to God as I watched in my mind as child after small child was beheaded by ISIS.
Not only that, but the crying faces of the other innocent children being forced to watch made my heart wrench in agony. My stomach knotted and I grieved as if they were my own grandchildren.
Up until today it has been far off in another land, and though sad, was nothing I had to do more than pray about. Today I must do more. So I asked God what I can do. I can pray AND give. I can give to the one Christian organization I know about that is fighting in the front lines to stop this monstrosity (ISIS)– the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice).
Some would say here that God is mean and/or evil to allow these horrors to take place. It is quite easy to do as it takes blame off man, which is what we really want. Blaming God is a facade. We know in our heart of hearts that man is the sinner and full of evil until and unless he turns his heart and life over to the One who gave His life in our place so that sacrifices could end. God was not just redeeming mankind through Jesus, but all creation.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 (NLT)
Animal sacrifices could cease. God does not desire the sacrifice of life in any form. He only ordained animal sacrifice as a means to redeem mankind until the day of Jesus. Then all blood sacrifice would come to an end as the ultimate sacrifice would be given.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. Psalm 51:6 (NLT)
And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 (NIV)
And indeed that sacrifice was made at the cost of God becoming man and offering Himself in our place. (Colossians 1:19 above)
Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. Galatians 1:4 (NLT)
As hard as it is to admit, Jesus died for those who are members of ISIS as much as He did for me. we must differentiate between the individuals and the organization.  It is easy to be swept up into an organization, even one you don't really want to be part of.  Just watch a fight on the playground.  Children who would never desire to hurt another can be found in the crowd chanting, all in order to "fit in." God loves those who have joined ISIS and wants to see them set free. So I did something I never dreamed possible. I prayed for them; that they would begin to actually see the atrocities they were committing; see the innocence and trust in the eyes and hearts of the children and how it was being ripped from their beings. I asked that in seeing they might repent and get on their faces before God in understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus that has already been made and that they no longer have to fight for. I asked for forgiveness – for them and for me for hating them.
Father, it is very difficult to love our enemies, but not impossible, for You have instructed us to do so. (Matthew 5:44) You have made this possible by dwelling in Your children through Your Holy Spirit. He gives us the strength to do so. May Your children come to the realization that in hating those who belong to ISIS, we are murderers ourselves. (I John 3:15) Help us to remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities and rulers of the air. (Ephesians 6:12) Help us to remember the words of Your man David from so many years ago: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Help us to live the words found in I John 3:18 [My] Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. May our prayers be filled with truth, our tongues speak words of peace and our actions be overflowing in love.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Be Still and Know....

This morning, early: Me: "God I need a Bible Study to go by.  I am floundering." God: "Go online to free online printable Bible studies."  So I did.  What I find truly amazing is how specific God can be.  He wasn't just telling me to type those words into the address, but to actually go to the site called "Online printable Bible Studies - Thoughts about God."
As I scrolled down the list of studies, my eyes fell on one entitled "Be Still, My Daughter."
I felt drawn to it, so I clicked.  Fully expecting a study that would last a week at least, I was really surprised that it was a simple devotion...but what a devotion.  It was exactly what I needed.  I read the whole thing in less than two minutes, including the list of verses given.
One paragraph really hit home and I quote: As I sat there trying to catch my breath, it hit me. "This is what your life is like. You're wrapped up in getting things accomplished, even good things, and you're relying on your flesh and power most of the time for insignificant victories, all the while missing what's important."
At the end of the study a challenge of spending 15 minutes alone in the quiet with God was given.  I jumped at this, went downstairs and out into my flowers in the backyard.  I knew that I knew I was supposed to read the book of Ruth.  I prayed as John Piper did years ago, "Lord, help me read slowly, understand what You want me to know and grant me wisdom."
God always goes above and beyond what we ask.  As I sat there, fully expecting to hear from my heavenly Father, an astounding thing happened.  A hummingbird (I love hummingbirds) flew right next to me and hovered not five feet away.  At one point it flew very close, so close I ducked a bit.  As I did so, the bird stopped in its place, about two feet from my face  and looked at me for about three seconds, as if it were trying to decide if I were anything to be bothered about, then flew off. Three seconds may seem fleeting, but when you are looking into the eye of a hummingbird, it seems like a forever moment.  A thrill ran down my spine at the joy I was experiencing.  I could see every detail of that bird.  I believe it was a female, as its colors were duller than usual, yet I could see the emerald greens of its wings and ruby reds of its throat, the white  collar it sported and the black head.  I think I noticed more about that hummingbird in a breath than I have noticed about them in a lifetime, and I have actually been privileged to have my husband save one stuck in our garage and hold it in front of me as it gained back its breath.  That time I was too caught up in the excitement of knowing he had actually caught one and was holding it open palmed before me.  The little thing seemed to sense he would not hurt it.  It just sat there until he finally decided to give it some help and tossed it up.  It flew high into the sky and away.  Today was better.  This hummingbird seemed to come to me to check me out.  What a thrill!!  I stopped and thanked God for that wonderful blessing of sharing a heartbeat with a hummingbird.  I could feel God whispering that this is the kind of thing that happens when we just get still before Him.
I went back to reading Ruth and these words jumped out at me: And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not...Ruth 2:15
God wants to pour out his understanding and wisdom on us (James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (NIV))
In this little verse hidden in the book of Ruth I discovered God directing me to glean ONLY in His fields and not simply to glean, but to go deep into the fields of learning and understanding in order to gain wisdom that only comes from Him.
This invitation is extended to all of us, but so often we are are content to glean not only in God's fields, but the fields of the world as well.  We figure that a little bit here and there won't hurt us, and wasn't it Paul that said all things were allowed? (Yes, but he also said not all things are profitable.)  I know I will be tempted and sometimes give in to my flesh and step foot in a wrong field, either out of ignorance, thinking I am in the right place or deliberately in rebellion.  I don't like to admit this about myself, but my flesh is so very much weaker than my spirit.  I am extremely grateful to know that my Father will always be there to point the way back to His fields where I will begin to glean again until the day I boldly walk into the actual sheaves and allow myself to be enveloped there by His word.
This gives new meaning to the song:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves.
We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Rejoicing indeed!!
Father, thank You for this invitation to know You better.  Thank You for guiding my steps today to spend time simply being quiet before we.  We are trained from early childhood that we need to be busy all the time or we are being lazy.  Lord, help us remember the story of Martha and Mary and all the cautioning of the Psalms to "Be still" so we can know You are God.  I thank You too that You will not rest until You have completed all Your good work in me that You have planned for me from the beginning.  I love You Lord!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Child Talent

Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable Jesus told regarding talents. I have read and reread this parable many times over, each time gleaning a small amount more. This morning I didn't even read it, but as I sat and prayed regarding a conversation I had last evening with one of our children regarding their children, a very quick and extremely informative thought flashed through my mind regarding it. “Children are a form of talents.” Verse 14 says:
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. ( ESV)
For it is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. (AMP)
For it is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (ASV)
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. (NIV)
 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (KJV)
No matter which translation is used, it is His property (or goods in old English terminology) that is entrusted to the servants. Psalm 24:1 says:
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. (NLT)
The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.
We are all God's goods or property, even as the animals, plants, air, earth, etc. The passage then goes on to tell us that He gave to one man five talents, another two and to another one according to their personal ability. (vs15 AMP) However many children we have, we must admit first of all that they are not our own, but God's and secondly that, even though they are His, they are our responsibility. This should instill enough fear in our hearts to get us moving in the right direction, but as can be seen with the third servant, all too often causes us to do the opposite. In fear of making a mistake, we give in to the false doctrine of allowing our children to choose if they will attend church, choose if they will participate in giving of themselves, etc. We think we are giving our children “freedom” and “blessings” when in effect we are placing them in bondage to the things of this world by giving them what they want rather than what they need.
The question then arises in my heart, “How well have I invested the children God has given me? Have I invested them in the Kingdom or the world? Did I teach them all they needed to know in order to continue the growth in talents by investing the children God entrusts to their care? Have I shown them how to go about it?” The answer that arises in my heart is that I gave it my best. I could have done better had I known how, but I did what I believed best at the time and have to trust God to bring about the increase. (I Corinthians 3:6) It would be easy for me to fall into a pit here, because I have grown much since my children were little. I can look back and see now what I could have done differently. This would not change a thing and God tells me not to dwell on negativity. (Philippians 4:8) So what can be done then to continue helping the investment grow as much as possible?
But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren ...Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT)
Sharing with our children and grandchildren the things we have learned and witnessed about God in life is the answer. Sometimes this is difficult to say the least. We may have to point out an error they are making in the investments of their little talents. However, we must count the cost! Do we want our children and grandchildren to continue the investment or do we sit by and watch as the profits dwindle?
Ultimately it is our personal choice.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
20 And he who had received the five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more.
21 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [b]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [c]blessedness) which your master enjoys.
22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more.
23 His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, [d]admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the [e]blessedness) which your master enjoys.
24 He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed [the grain].
25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own.
26 But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather [grain] where I have not winnowed?
27 Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. (Matthew 25 AMP)
In my heart verse 27 could cry out to us, “Then you should have at least taken your children to Sunday School and/or Children's Worship where they could learn about me from someone else!”
What God really wants though is for us to make the investment of our children by example, teaching and living for Jesus by not only taking them to church, but going and being the Church ourselves.
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 (NAS)
Father, I am doing the best I know to do. Continue to reveal to me the things necessary to continue investing our children and grandchildren so they can become wonderful stewards of the children You entrust to them. May our entire family grow in wisdom, understanding, and all the luscious fruit of the Spirit, that our legacy might bring honor and glory to Your most holy name rather than our own.  Reveal to Your children the need to not only invest our children wisely, but to make right and godly choices that influence our children and grandchildren to invest of themselves for Your kingdom as well.