Monday, August 30, 2010

Staying Focused

Last Friday, I wrote about God's ability to qualify you when He calls you. But with that calling comes quite a bit of change. Sometimes God calls us to be ruthless in severing any ties that could hinder you from qualifying as He wants you and I to get caught up in the things of Him. Many times we get caught up in the little things when we need to get focused on what God is focused on.

Someone who understood what spiritual tenacity is all about was Nehemiah. The Bible says God put in Nehemiah's heart to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah examined the walls one night, which had been burned previously in 568 B.C. by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem was in ruins and was no longer protected, but God pricked Nehemiah's heart to change that. When Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem all heard about Nehemiah's plans, they mocked him and ridiculed him. Nehemiah 2:19 quotes them as saying, "What is this you are doing?" These men were trying to get Nehemiah's focus off what God wanted him to do. In verse 20, Nehemiah responded, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding."

Your enemy is anyone or anything that causes you to break your focus on what God has called you to do; those who the devil has planted in your life to insult your vision. Anything or anything that has the ability to keep your attention off what God has for you has mastered you. Conversely, a friend is anyone who helps keep you focused on what God has called you to do. Remember, Satan hates a loud voice for God.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Classifieds of Life

In breezing through the newspaper, I noticed the classified section. Just for kicks, I read over a few job listings. Most of the available jobs had qualifications you could read to determine if you were qualified to apply for an open position.

In Matthew 16, Jesus predicted his death to his disciples and told them all of the sufferings he would have to endure. Jesus knew what God was calling him to do and he knew where God was leading him. But Peter became angry when he heard Jesus talking about his death. Matthew 16:22 says, "Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall not happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'" Jesus told Peter he would not be deflected in what he needed to do.

Do you see how the devil will use people to get you from your post of duty? Just like a snake shedding its old skin, we need to shed anything and anyone who tries to prohibit us from doing what God is telling us to do.

Unlike the job listings in the newspaper, God does not always call the qualified, but He does qualify the called. And when God calls you to do something specific, it is imperative that you not lose your focus on what God has set before you. The devil dreads the day when you begin to see yourself becoming qualified to do what God is qualifying you to do!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Divine Appoinments

I traveled to Summit over the weekend to speak at the WINGS banquet, a fundraiser for a battered women's shelter. It was a wonderful occasion and everyone was so kind and cordial in gathering for a needy cause in southwest Mississippi.

To those in attendance, I talked about the importance of them being a divine appointment for the women at the WINGS shelter. Sure, we think of divine appointments as opportunities for US to benefit from someone's encouragement, their hope, their finances, friendship, talents, you name it. I'd like for us to focus on how God can use you and I as someone's heavenly connection.

Although we don't know the name of the woman at the well, we know she had a divine appointment. John 4 talks about her meeting with Jesus. This meeting was substantial because the Jews of that time treated Samaritans like outcasts. They were thought to be nasty, good-for-nothing people. For Jesus to talk to a woman alone was considered improper in itself and because she was a Samaritan only doubled the offense.

Jesus and the disciples were going from Judea back to Galilee and had to pass through Samaria. When they came to Jacob's well, Jesus was tired and sat down while the disciples went into the city to get food. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she argued at first that he was a Jew and shouldn't have anything to do with her. In John 4:10 Jesus told her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." Jesus reveals to the woman that he knows about the life she's been living. She told Jesus she had heard the Messiah would come and know all things. It's at that time Jesus admits to her that he is the Messiah. But the story doesn't stop there. In John 4:28, the woman left her water jar, went back into town and told the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"

Did you notice after the woman at the well had her encounter, she went and told others about the love of Jesus? Isn't that what divine appointments are all about anyway? We can call them coincidences or happen stance, but when you have one yourself, you know who orchestrated it as it can only be described as God inspired.

The Holy Spirit is constantly scheduling people and things to come your way. It's time for you and I to be used by the hand of God to be someone else's divine appointment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Getting Rid of the Dead Pieces

I enjoy working in my flower beds. My merigolds have been thriving in this Mississippi heat! They are as big as bushes and add so much color to the landscape. A trick I learned a few years ago in growing healthy merigolds is to snap off the dead flower heads. Now, I'm no horticulturalist, but apparently when dead flowers remain on the plant, it expends some of it's energy and growth on trying to sustain those dead flowers. But when the dead flowers are removed from the plant, the plant can then use it's energy to produce more buds which will then become beautiful orange and yellow merigolds. Every few days, I walk around my flower beds and look for those dead flowers to snip off and throw them away. Having dead flowers mixed in with bountiful flowers just doesn't look pretty anyway!

Our life is like that. Over time, you and I have parts of our lives that become dead and unfruitful. Someone may have broken your spirit with an unkind comment or discouraged you or spoken untruths about you. Maybe those dead parts of your life are an attitude toward someone else or unforgiveness. Those dead parts of our life begin to suck out the hope and growth we once had and the love of Christ can't be shown because it is all being wasted on the parts of you that aren't producing fruit.

Jesus admonished the religions leaders at the time who were so consumed with how things looked in their lives. These men were caught up in appearances, yet had no clue they had parts of their lives that weren't showing Jesus. Matthew 23:27 says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." It is obvious to me what Christ thinks when we say one thing about our life but act another way.

It's time to snip off the dead flower heads so the rest of you can bloom!
Will and Lilly Faith watch as I pull off the dead flowers in the merigolds.

Monday, August 16, 2010

God Has Your Back!

If your family is like mine, this past week has ushered in change. I've managed to survive the first week of homeschooling two children. I was a bit apprehensive about adding Will into the mix of learning a K4 curriculum plus trying to teach Gracie in the second grade. Just knowing how Will is more interested in playing cars and tractors, I was afraid of how he would react to a structured learning environment. I prepared for how I was going to discipline him and get his focus back because I just knew he was going to give me fits. Much to my surprise, Will has been eager to learn something new every day!

Yesterday was advancement day at church which meant Will had his first Sunday to sit in '"big church". I prepared as best as I could. I put a coloring book in his backpack, his juice cup and anything else that would entertain him and keep him quiet during the preaching. I was on pins and needles the whole time, saying prayers of Lord, please keep Will still so he won't embarrass us! each time I thought about it. Once again, my worries never materialized. Will was quiet up until the invitation and the service was almost over then he said out loud, "I'm hungry!"

Have you ever found that Satan will get you all worked up, worrying about something that might or could happen? You plan and prepare for the worst, just in case God doesn't come through, and then you seem surprised when He provides and everything falls into place! Worry and faith cannot co-exist; they cancel either other out. Isaiah 41:10 should be our answer to worry and fear, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

When I was in school, one thing we would say to a friend who we were supporting was, "I've got your back!" When we said that, it meant we were behind our friend 100% and wouldn't let them down. They could trust us, no matter what.

Isn't it good to know that God has already prepared for and figured out all of "mights, coulds, and what ifs" in our life? So go forward today with what God has given you to do. God's got your back!

Friday, August 13, 2010

God's Will Often Unfolds

Have you ever had your world coming tumbling down on you? Maybe something happened you didn't expect or see coming, then....boom! You find yourself in a tizzy and wonder how things are going to get better? I've been in that spot just this week.

In reading in I Samuel 9, Saul had one of those 'out of the blue' moments. When a teenager, Saul's father sent him to look for the family's donkeys. Saul thought it would be an easy trip. After all, donkeys aren't known for being intelligent so this couldn't take long, right? Wrong. Saul was gone long enough that he was worried his father may start looking for him. Saul never dreamed his long trip looking for the family livestock was orchestrated by the Lord to lead him to the prophet Samuel. When the two finally met, Samuel anointed Saul king over Israel, then proceeded to tell Saul other opportunities that would be coming his way. In in verse 7, Samuel tells him "And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you."

I love to plant flowers. Although I would enjoy having a yard full of immediately blooming tiger lillies, tulips and jonquils, I must plant the bulbs first and wait for the rest to happen. Through seasonal changes, rain, wind, harsh Mississippi summers and dramatic cold spells, the bulbs finally burst open and the stems shoot forth to produce a beautiful display in my flower beds.

We can't doubt God in the darkness what God has obviously done for us in the light. We can't collapse in fear when faced with adversity. God's will for you isn't always a quick unveiling, but more like an unfolding. He knows the future and will reveal His will for you and me and the choices we need to make, one step at a time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Knowledge of God vs Experience with God

Knowledge and experience are two different things. If you've ever been told not to do something for a specific reason, that's knowledge. If you've gone and done it anyway, that's experience. Last year, my son was sitting on the counter at my parents house watching my mother cook. Although we've told him countless times, "Don't touch the stove because it will burn you", he learned how right we were when he wasn't thinking and accidentally placed his hand on the eye of the stove to prop himself up. Will's knowledge turned to experience in a split second.

Jesus was trying to get this into the heads of the disciples in Mark 8. He had just healed a mute man and a deaf man, not to mention having just fed 4,000 people. Jesus and his disciples had climbed into the boat when in verse 14, we pick up the story. "The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them. 'Be careful,' Jesus warned them. 'Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.'" The disciples were confused and thought Jesus was chastising them for not bringing the extra bread leftover from feeding the masses. Verse 17 says, "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: 'Why are you talking about having no bread?: Do you still not see or understand? Are you hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?'" The disciples said twelve. Verse 20, "'And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?' They answered, 'Seven'. Jesus said to them, 'Do you still not understand?'"

Why was Jesus referring to the Pharisees and Herod as yeast? If you've ever made bread before, you know a little bit of yeast can work its way through a whole batch of dough. Sin operates in the same way and it could be a variety of sins like faithlessness, haughty attitude, fear, name it. Sin keeps us from an intimate relationship with God.

I can just imagine Jesus was about ready to pull his hair out. Allow me to give a Barbie translation to this: "You mean you've seen me (Jesus) provide so many times before and deal with whatever is going wrong and you still don't get it? What's wrong with you people?"

God has provided for you countless times before, even when you didn't think you could handle another minute of it. Just as he did miracles for the deaf, mute and hungry, Jesus has enough because He IS enough! Stop relying on your knowledge and remember your past experience with Him!

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Life Isn't Normal

It's good to be home! We spent a hot week at the Neshoba County Fair, but had such fun visiting with friends and family. After washing some five loads of clothes, I was ready to sleep in my own bed. When I woke the children up Sunday morning for church, the first thing Gracie said was "I'm so glad to have my life back to normal!"

Have you ever felt that way? Troublesome times come and you find yourself begging God for mercy. While we were away, one of the children I teach in my two year old Sunday School class went to be with Jesus. I was heartbroken and it certainly doesn't make sense and nor is it fair. Perhaps bad news seems to roost over your head and you you wonder why God isn't coming through?

I know this may sound a bit harsh, but God didn't come through for the majority of the disciples. All of them suffered horrendous deaths except John, who died peacefully. What do you do when God doesn't come through on your time frame and you have to go through it?

First, we must remember the times He DID come through and proved the dependability of His love. We must remember that God is not accountable to you and me. My husband enjoys making cakes from scratch. But in order to do that, he must add some bitter ingredients in order to make his cake taste sweet. Our life experiences are like that as well. God uses tough times to make us mature in Him.

When God doesn't come through on your time frame, remember the suffering of the grave that His Son took for you and me. I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way of escape so that you can stand up under it." God's 'way of escape' out of the trial may not be a way out like you think, but it will be victory in the middle of it! And the amount of grace God gives is individualized for us because everyone's spiritual threshold is different.

Remember to delight in Him and remember the promise of His tomorrow. He is faithful and He will answer, whether we're alive to see the results of it or not. Just think of Moses and how he was looking for the Promised Land, but never got to see it although the children of Israel did.

Finally, we must remember His purpose. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." What is God's purpose then? His purpose is to make us into the image of Christ just like a sculpture works with his hands to make a piece of clay into the image of something. What is the most un-Christlike characteristic in your life? God will keep working on you and me until that characteristic goes away whether it is faithlessness, racism, prejudice, a bad attitude or anything else.

So while you and I may be longing for relief in a certain area of our life and longing for some normalcy, pray and focus on who God is in the midst of it all. He never changes nor does His love for us. Our spiritual thermometer may go up and down based on what God is doing in our life, but Jesus Christ never changes.

Jesus said it best in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." This means he has overcome whatever trouble I may have. Focus on Him and not the circumstance you're facing.