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When God Smiles

My post today is an article I just finished for the October issue of our Grace Church Women's ministry newsletter.   This is literally hot off the "press".  Actually, our "publisher" hasn't even seen it yet! :)  Happy reading!

WHEN GOD SMILES

Dear Ladies,

Last spring I attended a piano recital of a friend’s daughter.  I wanted to go hear her play, but I never would have imagined the joy it brought me to see all of the kids from ages 5-17 or so playing their selections for their families.  It brought back lots of memories of my childhood and all of the piano recitals in which I had participated.  As I sat there listening, to my mind came the memories of good performances, not-so-good performances and the many hours of practice beforehand. 

In addition to the memories, though, I was really moved by how much enjoyment the parents got out of watching their kids.  These performances weren’t perfect, but I believe that in the eyes of moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and even friends like me, they were priceless - priceless displays of effort for their entire “world” to see. 

Do you think that God enjoys watching His little children do things for Him?  Do you think He smiles as He watches us take one wobbly baby step at a time down this road of life with all our might?  I bet He does, while all the while thinking to Himself “Come on, my child, you can make it!”. 

I love thinking about my relationship with God in this way.  My dad still says that I am his little girl.  Do you realize that you are God’s “little girl”?  When we accept His Son, Jesus, we are adopted into His family forever (Ro 8:15).  He loves us so much because after all, He chose us (John 15:16) and being the perfect Father that He is, He wants to do things for us (Mt. 7:11). 

What are you not doing in your life for God because you are afraid of making a mistake?  If you find yourself here, I assure you that you are not alone. I think that sometimes all of us are like that little child who when on stage forgets her place, finds her fingers not working as she had planned, and wishes secretly for the experience to be over.

Friends, our heavenly Father does not expect perfection from us, just that we do our best where we are with what we have.  Remember that “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7 NKJV).  When we take that step forward, He will be there right beside us, ready to take our small hand in His…smiling.

In Him,

Janna


Re-Reads

To my fellow bloggers, faithful readers and welcomed guests -

Question:  Have you ever gone back to read what you have written in the past and had any of the following thoughts?

1) Did I have a ghost writer for this post?

2) What frame of mind was I in?

3) God must have done this, because those words didn't seem like mine!

4) I must have been REALLY tired when I wrote this.  :)

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!  Your comments are welcomed.


Open the Eyes of My Heart

Well, it has been awhile since I've posted my last song reflection.   Tomorrow we are singing one of the first "modern" praise songs we did with our church band, a very familiar song entitled "Open the Eyes of My Heart".  A vertical song to God, it serves as a prayer from those who sing it as such for God to enlighten them to a greater understanding of who He is and to see Him.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see you high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

As I reflect on these song lyrics, I think of what it takes to really see and know God. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, prays for them to know God:

Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

If we all could see God, in all of His glory and majesty, what a place this world could be!  However, there are so many things that keep us from seeing and understanding God.

  1. Do we really want to see Him?  Seeing God fully means that we need to take hard looks at ourselves, and sometimes that is hard to do.
  2. Do our schedules allow us to see Him? Admit it.  How many times during the day do you stop,even for 30 seconds to be still and know that He is God.
  3. Do our attitudes hinder us from seeing Him?  Thinking on my own experience, if I have an issue with someone or something (which usually manifests itself in pride), I am too focused on ME to get to HIM.

So, my question is once again: "What percentage of people attending service tomorrow will really be worshiping when they are singing?"  I sure hope that I am.  May prayers be going up to God! :)

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.


I Cannot Go Alone

"God does not need us.  He wants us. To fear is to take our eyes off Jesus.

(from Casting Crowns, Lifesong CD jacket)  I Cor 1:24-28, 2 Cor 12:9, I Cor 4:20; 2 Tim 1:7

As I've been reading through the last few chapters of Daniel, I've been thinking alot about how little I am really in control of my life and how little of a difference I can make in my world when I do it in my own strength.  I guess it all goes back to humility - losing myself more every day so that God gets the glory.  To keep that focus 24/7 takes a lot of work.  Looking at my days and the hours in my day, I wonder how much I REALLY concentrate on letting every thought, action and word that I speak glorify God.   Lord, forgive me when I fail you.

Last night I bought the new Casting Crowns CD, Lifesong, and from what I can tell so far, I think I like it better than their first one.  And I loved that one!  Following are the song lyrics to the song "In Me", a song about how God doesn't need us, but wants us, and how the only way we truly get by is by relying on Him.  Enjoy.

In Me - by Casting Crowns

If You ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to a lost world that Jesus saves

I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
‘Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

‘Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
‘Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that You want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me.

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory


From Pride to Insanity-Part 2

And now, the rest of the story.... Daniel 4 (continued)...

Twelve months have gone by since  the dream and Daniel's advice to Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways (4:29).  At the end of the year, Neb was walking about the palace in Babylon speaking about how great he was when...

While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kindgom has departed from you!  And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass oer you until you know that  the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." (Daniel 4:31-32 NKJV)

I wonder what was going through Nebuchadnezzar's mind when he heard the voice from heaven declaring to be true what Daniel prophesied twelve months before?  Fear? Regret? Humiliation? That very hour, the word of prophesy was fulfilled and he was eating grass in the field. 

Nebuchadnezzar got a real dose of humility in the form of living out his nightmare of a dream.  He could have been in his insane state for seven years!  (see v 25 - seven times.  In other instances, scholars have equated "times" with years).    He had to stay there until he recognized that God was the one in control and not himself.  Neb was restored both physically and mentally (kingdom and mind) immediately after He praised God and realized his place in the world:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice.  And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.  (v37 NKJV)

And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.  That phrase was definitely worth repeating.  God is SO in control.  Not only is He in control and able to work all things for good tobethose who love Him, but He is also willing to take us down a notch for our own good when we think we have "arrived".   The good thing though, is that once we regain our senses, we will be restored.  Praise God for His mercy!  :)


From Pride to Insanity - Part 1

I don't really know how to start writing about what I just read.  No, I'm not the one who is crazy (but do crazy people know they are crazy?), but there is just so much to discuss from the 4th chapter of Daniel.

Question: If you had a weird dream in the past that was interpreted correctly, wouldn't you take heed to that same interpreter's warnings when he advised you about your 2nd weird dream?  Would you listen if he told you that you would lose your kingdom because of your pride?

Answer: If you were Nebuchadnezzar, your answer would be "No" because you might already be crazy for not listening!!

In Daniel 4, we learn of Nebuchadnezzar's second dream.  Boy am I thankful I don't have dreams like his! Neb praises God, our God, in verses 1-3, which to me is interesting because while he praises God, he still doesn't listen to God.  (I think we are all guilty of this at times-sad to say).   Neb has Daniel interpret the dream again and basically told Neb the following:

  1. That God would take away his kingdom.
  2. That God would take away his sanity (he would be dwelling and eating grass with the beasts of the field (v25).
  3. That this situation would remain until he recognized that the "Most High" rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses (v 25)

David advised Neb the following in Ch 4:27:

"Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.  Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity."

Stay tuned tomorrow for Neb's reaction!  :)

Questions to think about: 

1) Can we change a known future by changing our behavior?

2) When you hear from God, do you always do what He says?


Don't Forget God

      20 Daniel answered and said:
      “ Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
      For wisdom and might are His.
       21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
      He removes kings and raises up kings;
      He gives wisdom to the wise
      And knowledge to those who have understanding.
       22 He reveals deep and secret things;
      He knows what is in the darkness,
      And light dwells with Him.
       23 “ I thank You and praise You,
      O God of my fathers;
      You have given me wisdom and might,
      And have now made known to me what we asked of You,
      For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”

                        - Daniel 2:20-23 (NKJV)

Daniel was really thankful to God that He gave Daniel the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  Oh, how history would have been changed had it not been for God's intervention!  :)  Daniel and friends would have been killed before we got to see them in the fiery furnace and the lion's den.  Thank God for intercessory prayer.

Daniel was definitely not so caught up in his successes (education, good looks, lineage) that he did not seek God.  If he was,  when asked by Nebuchadnezzar to interpret the dream, he might have relied upon his own skill set to provide the answer.  Instead of giving the king a quick answer, he asked for some time, went back to his house and asked his companions to pray.

Daniel 2:17-19  Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:  That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.  Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Oh, the power of intercessory prayer and the power of praying with someone else for our needs.  I know that some of my best and most fervent prayer times have occurred when praying with my sisters in Christ.


Our Unchanging, Loving God

I recently heard someone make a comment about how they didn't see God as being very loving until we saw Jesus in the New Testament of our Bibles.  If you've been following my trek through the old testament prophets, I hope you have seen as well as I that God's love can be seen throughout the Bible equally.

Tonight I read about the story of Hagar and Ishmael and how they were cast out of their homes because Sarah couldn't handle the fact that Ishmael was a joint heir of Abraham's along with Isaac.  Sarah forces Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness of Beersheba and in Chapter 21 verse 16 we find the "castaways" out of water, lost and alone and near death.  The good news is that they weren't really alone.  God was there.

Over the sobs of Hagar, God heard the crying (v 17) of  a dying teenage boy (Ishmael) and comforted Hagar via the angel of God by calling out of heaven.   I wonder what God was feeling when He heard the distress down on earth?  Did he feel sad too for these two victims of circumstance?  I like to think so.  God provided them water and saved them both.

What a lesson to be learned here.  I believe that God cares about us, no matter where we are, more than we can comprehend.  As Hagar wasn't alone even though it appeared to her that she was, neither are we. 

Thoughts I think about: 1) When I feel alone, do I seek God?  2) How can I help others realize that God is always there for them?


Control

Do you think you are in control of your life?  Think again.  I got the reminder today in Daniel 1.  In this chapter we hear of a group of four young men  from Judah (one of them being Daniel) - good looking, talented, smart , kin of the king - who got "relocated"  due to circumstances beyond their control. Think about this for a minute: God gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, over to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  (Daniel 1:2)  Daniel and friends just happened to be caught in the middle.   I really doubt that Daniel did anything to cause God to judge Judah in this way.

So...I wonder, how many times my plans have changed without my knowing it due to the actions of others.  Conversely, how many lives do I affect because of my actions, good or bad?

Really, the only thing we can control is our own actions.   I  enjoyed reading about how Daniel "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies" (Daniel 1:8 NKJV).  Apparently, the king's meat was probably either forbidden by the Law or dedicated to idols.  Daniel even had enough of a positive influence that his friends chose not to eat the king's delicacies as well.   They chose to do what was right, even in a difficult situation. 

I can learn from Daniel.  That no matter what situation I find myself in or what anyone else is doing around me, I do have control over a couple of things - my attitudes and my actions.