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December 2005
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February 2006

My Strength

Romans 5:1-6

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Isn't it interesting how God works through our lives?  There are so many incredible truths in the bible, the one above being one of the most difficult because we can only learn it by experience - and that experience is not always fun.  Do you thank God for your hard times?  Until the last few years, I don't think I thanked Him, but I do now because it is only through the trials that our faith will grow.  No pain, no gain!

A dear friend and I were discussing this very thing last night. How interesting that the verse came up in my reading today.  God is good.  Without Him, I am truly nothing.  He is my light, my strength , my song.   I can't believe that it has taken me 38 years to really grasp the concept.  Oh, the dangers of being a self-sufficient, educated individual!

I'm going to leave with this today because I'm running out of time and will be away from the computer all day.  I decided last night (or maybe it was this morning at 12:15am) that my "theme" for the year - I've never done this but I know others that do - is going to be "In Christ Alone".  One of my favorite contemporary Christian bands, Phillips Craig & Dean, includes these verses in a medley of "In Christ Alone" and they will be my focus this year:

In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope
Is Christ alone.

Have a blessed day!


Talk to Me

Have you ever been looking forward to someone's phone call and been disappointed that the phone never rings?  Have you ever felt like you weren't needed in someone else's life whom you genuinely care for?  I'm sure we've all been there at some time or other.  But have you ever turned that same situation around on yourself to see how God might feel when we do these things to Him?   If not, I'm giving us all a chance today to put ourselves in God's "shoes" when we don't seem to talk to Him as often as we should.

Dear Child,

As you got up this morning, I watched you, and hoped that you would talk to me ... even if it was just a few words, asking my opinion, or thanking me for something good that happened in your life yesterday.  I noticed that you were frustrated trying to find the right outfit to wear to work.  I was disappointed that you had to hurry.

I waited. When you ran around the house getting things ready, I knew there would be a few minutes for you to stop and say hello, but you were too busy.  At one point , you sat down in a chair.  I thought you wanted to talk to me but instead, you went to the phone and called a friend to share the latest gossip.

I watched as you went to work and I waited patiently for you to speak to me.  With all your activities, I could see that you did not have time to talk to me.

I observed you at lunchtime.  You looked around.  Maybe you felt embarrassed to talk to me in public.  Possibly, that's why you didn't bow your head.

You glanced three or four tables over, and noticed that some of your friends were talking to me briefly before they ate, but you still didn't spend time with me.  That's alright, there's still time left.  I'm sure that you will find time to talk to me, yet.

After you arrived home, it seemed as though you had a lot of things to do.  After you accomplished several tasks, you sat down and turned on the TV.  I don't know if you really enjoy TV or not.  You spend a lot of time each day in front of it.  Often times you're not really thinking about anything, however; you seem to enjoy it even when you have seen the program before.  I waited again, patiently, as you watched TV and at your meal.  Again, you made the choice not to talk to me.

At bedtime, I guess you are very tired.  After you said goodnight to your family, you plopped into bed and fell asleep in no time.  I understand because you may not realize that I am always there for you.  I have more patience than you will ever know.  I love you so much that I wait every day for a nod, a prayer or thought, or a thankful part of your heart.  It is SO hard to have a one-sided conversation.

Well, you are getting up again, and once again I will wait with nothing but love for you, hoping that today, you will be able to spend some time with me.

Have a wonderful day!

Love,
God

(Author unknown)


Miracles!

Missouri Tigers       89     FINAL OT
Kansas Jayhawks    86 

As you know, I hardly ever make "fluff" entries.  However, when my alma mater beats its archrival in college basketball I can't help but celebrate!! This one was truly a miracle!!  :)


Rationalization

This morning I read through a few chapters of Romans, and have to admit that I am struggling what to write here.  Admittedly, when I started this whole blogging idea, I really didn't think it was something that I would be praying over, but I do.  It seems that every verse could be expanded upon!  So, here I am again, faithful readers, to share what I hope is what God would have me put down in this space.

Romans 3. I really get a kick out of Paul when he starts talking in questions to logically explain his point.  He does such a good job of getting to the real issue - usually that of the heart.  In this chapter, Paul is defending God's honor.  He is defending that age old question "If God is a such a loving God, why would He send people to hell?".  Okay, actually, I don't think that Paul is defending that EXACT question, but He does make a good argument that can help us answer that question for a skeptic.

Look at the following passage from the NKJV (Ro 3:5-7):

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not!  For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?  8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come? - as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say.  Their condemnation is just.

Do you see what Paul is doing here? I contend that Paul has a pretty good grasp on how humanity thinks.  We try to take any circumstance where we are probably wrong and outwardly try to fool others (and ourselves) into thinking we are okay with our thoughts or actions.  In this case, Paul is shooting down the argument that it is okay to sin -and therefore not be called a sinner- because our sin only shows how good and perfect God really is. As a result, we should not be judged because we are indirectly showing God's glory in contrast to our pitiful nature.   Did you get that?  If not, read it again.  I know I've thrown in a lot of words here.

To me, I feel that the bottom line is this: If I have to concoct a lengthy explanation for why an action or thought is okay, perhaps I need to examine my heart and re-evaluate my "plan".  Usually, things that are right are easily explained, aren't they?


Breathe

How much do you value God and His word's spoken to you?  Are you truly desperate for and lost without God?  These questions are ones that are asked of us by the song "Breathe", by Mary Barnett.  I love the song "Breathe".  The first time I heard it, I was listening to it on a Michael W. Smith worship CD and the music and lyrics brought tears to my eyes.  What a powerful song!  However, it is not an easy song for me to sing.

BREATHE
by Mary Barnett

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very Word spoken to me

And I'm desperate for You
And I'm lost without You

Why is this song so hard for me to sing?  Because for me to sing a song like this in worship to God, I need to have a totally pure heart for Him.  On a day that I am running late to get to work and put off my devotional time with God until when I get home, is He like the "air I breathe"?  When I eat breakfast before I spend time with God, is He my daily bread?  At those times I'm surely not treasuring God's words more than my food like Job says he does and surely not I think I should.  Actions speak louder than words, don't they?

Honestly, I am seeking God and I do feel like I am drawing closer to Him each and every day.  Have I arrived?  Absolutely not.  But today I can say this and mean it wholeheartedly:

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. (Ps 63:1 NKJV)

Today, after much soul searching, I can sing the song "Breathe".  I'm praying that tomorrow at church when we sing the song, I'll have the same heart.  One day at a time!  What about you?


I Told You So

The phrase "I told you so" is probably  one of the most self indulging things we could possibly say.  After all, it explicity tells the person spoken to that we were right and they were wrong.  Doesn't the phrase give you some sort of satisfaction?  Not that it is right.  I would bet that most of you are tracking with me here, even though the feelings aren't necessarily the most mature and are mostly prideful.

As a leader or an "older and wiser" individual it takes discipline of the heart and mind (and mouth to be sure) to gently counsel someone who refused to listen to good advice and is consequently suffering because of their poor decision.  It is hard to say "I told you so" without an attitude. 

We find Paul in a similar situation in Acts 27 on his way to Rome.  Paul, an experienced shipwrecker, warned the crew that sailing was too dangereous at this time and that they would meet with disaster if they tried to press on (v9-12).  The helmsman didn't listen to Paul, but to his crew and lo and behold, they ended up in a storm, off course and fearing for their lives.  So...what did Paul say?

But after long abstinence of food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss." (Acts 27:21 NKJV)

There it is.  The "I told you so".   Paul seized the teachable moment.  However, please take notice here that it doesn't appear that Paul was arrogant (at least I hope he wasn't).  He didn't go on and on and on about his being right.  In fact, in his next sentence, he encouraged them that they would be okay, despite their poor decision. 

"And I now urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'  Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me." (Acts 27:22-25 NKJV)

What an example for us to follow.  When we can take the "I told you so" and turn it into a credit to God and a teaching on faith without the pride in our hearts, that is really saying something.  I wonder how much faith was built that day in the hearts of the crew members that Paul's God was real! 

APPLICATION:  The older I get physically and the more spiritually mature I get each day, I will get more and more opportunities to help the "young".  They will not always listen to my advice, and when they don't and fall on their little faces, I should be ready to pick them back up again, dust them off and provide a teachable faith moment ... without the prideful attitude.  Lord, protect me from pride. 


Almost Persuaded

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." - Acts 26:28

You almost persuade me...  How many times have you either heard this type of response when approaching someone for a volunteer role at your church?  How many times have you said this response when approached for a volunteer role at your church?   What do you think provokes this type of response?

In our story of Paul as we find him in Acts 26, he has been sitting in jail for probably a couple of years, waiting to present his case to the Roman government.  Knowing Paul and how he loved to persuade people for Christ, I'm sure he was just waiting for an opportunity to witness to a Roman ruler.  He got his chance in this chapter.  Prior to verse 28, we once again see Paul give his testimony, this time to King Agrippa, and apparently as marked by King Agrippa's statement in verse 28, Agrippa realized that Paul was attempting to "sell" him the idea of Christ.

Can we alone persuade people to do the right thing, even if it is for their own good?  Rarely.  When I think of my own life, I believe that most of the time, unless my heart is ready to be "persuaded", no one else can really tell me what to do.  I bet that is the same with most people, and most likely, they are probably not as strong-willed as myself!  (that can be good or bad!)  :)  I believe that only God can change a heart to do His will.   He can change the hearts of kings, I can't.  But what I can do is pray and ask Him to change my heart or to work in the hearts of others so that they will be more conformed to God's will and God's plan.

What are you almost persuaded to do? 


What's New With You?

The day before I was preparing my "letter" to the ladies of Grace church for the January newsletter, I was reminded by Tracy in her post of a verse in Isaiah that I'd claimed this fall for some areas in my life.  New beginnings and new things are awesome aren't they? 

It is incredible what God can do with a life once He gets hold of it.  Take Paul for instance.  In Acts 22, he has made it back to Jerusalem and is defending himself to the people as he presents his testimony of a changed life.  Paul is the ultimate example of how God can take anyone's life and use it for good.  After all, remember that God is the God of the second chance.

Below as you read my "letter", think about Paul and remember that if God could change Paul into one of the most influencial people for Christ ever, He can mold you into what He can use as well.


Dear Ladies,

Can you believe that another year has gone by? Each time I reach the end of a year I can’t help but think about the events of the past 12 months, good or bad. Sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief that I actually made it through, other times I just smile as I think about the year gone by. At any rate, a new year gives me a sense of new beginnings. Is it that way for you?

Did you know that God is all about new beginnings? No matter what your past was like, even if it was good, your future can always be better. Consider the following passage from Isaiah:

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV)

God is all about new beginnings because He is the God of Hope (Ro 15:13). If we could embrace the fact that each day we are given is a new day where we can start afresh in our walk with God, we would all be dangerous for His kingdom. If we could trust that God will make that "river" in the desert of our lives, how much different would our lives be?

We cannot change the past, but we can change the here and now. We must take steps of faith in the hope that God will do for us what He has promised – "being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6 NKJV). What will God have you to begin this year in your service to Him?

In Him,

Janna Rust


Wolves Among Sheep

How interesting is it when you are talking to a friend about a churchy topic and the same day it comes up in your daily reading.  Whoa.  That happened to me yesterday.  A friend and I were talking about how the more spiritually mature - notice I said "more", has anyone REALLY reached "maturity"? - should make sure that correct doctrine is being taught in our churches because it is too easy for Satan to slip in.   Guess what?  In my reading last night, I came across something similar.

In Acts 20:28-31, Paul charges the elders of the church of Ephesus the following:

Therefore take heed  to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse thing, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (NKJV)

Paul was seriously burdened with this issue as we should be as well.   Dear Readers, spiritual warfare is real and Satan would like nothing better than to destroy what God is doing.  He will do it by deception from nonbelievers or by pride from believers.   It is all of our duty, leaders especially-but not limited to them, to know what God's word says so that we will not be led astray.   God has entrusted us as leaders with the church that He paid for with His blood.   What a huge responsibility.  Just be aware!


What is the Real Reason?

I am easily entertained by the funny quirks or behavior patterns of people.  Just today, I was having a discussion with a friend regarding the excuses Christians use for not getting involved in or just participating in ministry, not praying or not reading their bibles.  Sometimes the reasons are valid, sometimes they aren't.  The bottom line to consider here is that people can always justify a reason for their actions.

Let's look at Demetrius the silversmith in Acts 19:23-27. Paul was preaching in Ephesus and apparently upset some people. :)  I love understatements.  Paul's preaching incited a riot! (28--35)! (I've probably upset some people before but have never gone this far!)  But why was a riot started?  Because Demetrius stirred up the other silversmiths by telling them that if the people believed Jesus was THE God, then their industry would be shot.  Keep in mind that the city of Ephesus was a big time worshipper of the goddess Diana and that the silversmiths made a lot of money making shrines of the goddess.   Aha.

Can you see my point here?  Demetrius couldn't believe in Jesus because he would have to give up too much to believe.  The thought of losing what he had clouded his mind.  I bet he didn't even give Paul a chance.  What are you holding on to that is hindering your relationship with and service to God?  What would you have to give up to be sold out for God?