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February 2006
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April 2006

Free At Last - LBY Week 1

Whenever I participate in a bible study it is always amazing to me how God can give me something specific for my life at the exact moment of the study as well as give things to other people.   It is unimagineable to me how God can keep track of everything going on as well as everyone's thoughts in a way that He can make all of it work together for good.  The commencement of this study was no different. 

You see, our church is starting a new phase in its life cycle.  We are having our first ever service in a church building that is our own this coming Sunday.  We've been told that typically when a church movies into a building from a temporary facility that attendance doubles almost overnight.  So...when I, as the director of Women's Ministry at said church, start a study entitled "Living Beyond Yourself", I feel that I'm about to learn and live doing just that.  I, as well as the rest of our church leadership, are just waiting for the ride to begin.

What spoke to me the most in this weeks study revolved around the topic of leadership.  To quote Beth Moore about the foundational truth of this study, she says: "Christ in us not only guarantees life in Heaven but also Christ in us grants the astounding invitation to live beyond ourselves on earth."   As I live out the upcoming months, I will remember that "through the inflitrating power of the Holy Spirit, I can do things I couldn't, feel things I didn't and know things I wouldn't.  Lord, thank You for being with me and working through me!

Regarding influence and its power, is it any coincidence that I'm preparing in the next few weeks to take a group of women in our church through "Called To Influence", a leadership "training" program?  I don't think so.  God apparently know when I'd start both this study (LBY) and "Called to Influence" because in week 1 of LBY we saw the power of influence.   As Beth says on p. 9,  "For reasons we may never know, God entrusted to womankind a most wonderful and terrible gift:  the power of influence."

Finally, of the things that impacted me the most from this week's study, I was reminded about how I need to concentrate on pleasing my "Audience of One" rather than anyone else.  Being in a position of leadership is a wonderful thing to be entrusted with but comes with a price.  We can't ever please everyone around us with our decisions, but we can try to please our Father in heaven.  This was a great reminder to me once again.  With everything I do, I will try to think as Paul from Galatians 1:10 :

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men , or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Lord, help me to be Your servant.  Help me to fully trust in You and only You so that I can live beyond my capabilities.   Let me seek out a life fully consecrated to You. 

Addie Heather* Carol
M Rach Jeana
Jenn Amanda MamaB
GiBee Boomama Maria
Blair Heather Nancy
Janna Flipflop Robin
Sherry Patricia Tara
Lauren HolyMama! Faith
Christy Eph2810 Karin
Leann Rachel Janice
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm - Saturday 8am. Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of His word.

Who Am I?

For those of you who aren't familiar with Beth Moore, she has a bible study entitled "Living Beyond Yourself", of which she has an online bible study.  A group of women bloggers, spearheaded by Lauren, are participating in this study together.   Our study together officially started this past Monday, and I must say that I've already discovered the true meaning of living beyond myself.  This post is living proof that I am challenged.  Here is my discovery:

To me, living beyond myself, is a blogger who can't wait to put her thoughts down in writing for the "world" to see, that is able to do a Beth Moore bible study for four days without posting on it until she is officially supposed to.  (Note: We're planning on posting about our study consistently on Friday).

So, I've "failed" in the first week because today's post is inspired by my study homework.   I couldn't live beyond my natural tendencies and wait.  I hope everyone else finds this as humorous as I.  Don't worry, fellow LBY bloggers, I will still post tomorrow or Friday with y'all.  For now, on with my post...

This morning I read the following passage from Matthew regarding th suffering He went through for me and I still can't get it out of my mind:

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.  28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.  29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.  31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Thinking of this makes the best of my accomplishments seem pitiful next to His sacrifice.  My thoughts then kept going to the song "Who Am I?" by Casting Crowns.  First of all, because I'm going to their concert here in April, but mainly because when I hear that song, I always marvel at the magnitude of how a huge God could sacrifice His Son for a little undeserving person like me.  I'm glad that He loves me.    I wish I could repay Him.   

Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours


Sherry
Tara
Heather HolyMama! Eph2810
Christy Jenn Karin
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published weekly, between Friday 8pm - Saturday 8am. Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of His word.

The Responsibility of Influence

It is always fun to be smacked in the face with my bible reading.  To be gently - or not so gently - reminded about how seriously God takes leadership always makes me stop and think, especially when I'm reminded just before I have a planning meeting of some sort or prepare to teach a bible study.  You dear readers, have been along with me for lots of "smacks", even though it appears sometimes that I'm presenting the topics to you.  :)  Please remember that before I write, I've already been challenged myself.  So...you say, what now?  Let's look at James 3:1 in a few different translations:

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (KJV)

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  (NIV)

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (NKJV)

Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.  (MSG)

Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. (ASV)

Well, now that I've scared you all away from any kind of leadership, I should probably just sign off.  Just kidding.  The bottom line here is that the greater our influence over others, the greater responsiblity we have.  (Matthew 5:19, Luke 12:48, Romans 14:10-12)  Because of our greater influence, we must hold ourselves to higher standards because people are watching us.  So, what can we do to help ourselves?

1) Remember who you serve (Galatians 1:10).  We are here to please God and not our best friends, our spouses, or our fellow church members.  Do the right thing because it is right not because it is popular, remembering that you will never please everyone. 

2) Keep your "cup" filled to overflowing.  As a leader, 15-30 minutes of quiet time per day with God just won't cut it for the long haul. If that is really all you can get, it will have to do because that is definitely better than nothing.  However, we can only give out what we have taken in.  We must abide in the "vine" of Jesus lest we lose our strength. (John 15:4-6)

3) Pray, Pray, Pray.   Perhaps the most neglected part of our spiritual walk is the most powerful weapon we have against failing as leaders.  We should never cease to ask for wisdom and guidance in our endeavors (James 1:5).   Prayer keeps us humble because by praying we openly depend on God for our successes.

These are just a few thoughts to keep us strong as leaders.  There are so many truths, it is hard to boil them down to a few to put in a blog space.   My prayer is that we will all grow stronger in the grace and knowledge of God and that we will be all that He wants us to be.  And one more thing...the next time you hold your church leader to a higher standard, give them a little grace, and remember that people are looking at you too. Just a thought.


Preconceived Notions

Have you ever passed judgment on someone based on their appearance, perceived intellect or social status?  Be honest here.  I think that we do it all of the time to one extent or another.  We might not approach someone for friendship who is extremely beautiful or whom we know has a lot of money because, after all, they are probably snobby, right?  Or what about the reverse...the poorly dressed person just might not have what it takes for our ministry or group, right?  What about a person without a formal education?  Surely that person wouldn't be capable of teaching a bible study.  That Harvard MBA surely wouldn't want to serve in the soup kitchen, would she?  Please remember that I'm only giving examples here and some of them may be extreme, but I think we can all see the point.  These judgments are not godly when we make them.

In the New Testament book of James we find James telling his brethren of all the things they should and shouldn't be doing as Christians.  I read somewhere once that it was the "How To" book of the bible.  In James 2:1-13, we are told that we sin when we show partiality.

James 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (NKJV)

Here we see it again...the love thing.  Remember how 1 Timothy 1:5 says that "the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart.."?  Fulfilling the whole law, not just the parts that make us feel better about ourselves, means that we need to show mercy and grace to everyone - not just to those people who we decide are good because of whatever reason we concoct in our little minds.

So are we ever to judge?  Absolutely.  There is a time and place for righteous judgment.  But the key here is righteous.  We have to know more about a person before we pass judgment.  And then we need to be very careful because we may be guilty ourselves.  So the next time you want to determine who a person is without getting to know them and their entire situation completely, consider whether you are being godly or just "playing God".

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.  (1 Samual 16:7)


How Great Is Our God?

So just how great is our God anyway?  Can we really even fathom his majesty?  Try as I might, I know that I can't even come close, but it is fun trying nonetheless.  In my head of late I keep singing the song "How Great is Our God" by Chris Tomlin.  It is a simple yet powerful song if we really delve into thinking about God's majesty.  So guess what?  I'm going to write about it today.

In heaven as described in the book of Revelation we find lots of creatures singing to God, among them the angels.  Taking a look in Revelation 5:3-4 we see the angels singing the song of Moses:

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.  Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

God is the same now and forever.  The same song that Moses sang about God's majesty is fitting for the angels in heaven in the future to come.  Now on to Chris Tomlin's version of the Moses song in "How Great is Our God":

The splendor of the King,
Clothed in majesty;
Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice.

He wraps Himself in light,
And darkness tries to hide,
And trembles at his voice, and trembles at His voice.

Can darkness hide our dear Lord, our powerful Lion who is also as gentle as a Lamb?  I think not.  His judgments are true.  He is worthy to be praised, adored and feared.  His works are marvelous and beyond description.  And get this --- darkness cannot hide Him because He is light!

Revelation 22:5 And there shall be not night there; and they need no candle, neither the light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. 

Friends, the "they" is WE who are saved.  No wonder all the earth will be rejoicing in God's splendor and majesty.  With no more dying, no more crying - look out, I'm going to break into a rendition of "Soon and Very Soon" - He is definitely worthy of our praise.  Sing with me...

How great is our God!
Sing with me:
How great is our God!
And all will see
How great, how great is our God!

Are you having fun yet? I sure am with you and I can't even see your faces. :)  Now think about God's never changing nature.   God is good...all the time!   He has always been and He will always be.  After all, our God who cannot lie, says it Himself in Revelation 1:8: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."

Age to age He stands,
And time is in His hands;
Beginning and the End, Beginning and the End.

The Godhead, three in one,
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb, the Lion and the Lamb

One day every one will see that Jesus is God and Lord over all (Ph 2:9-11).  I just love happy endings, don't you?  No more pain, no more suffering, and Jesus finally gets all of the worship He so richly deserves.

Philippans 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  10 That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Well, our singing is almost over as we have one last stanza.  As you read it or sing it with me, think about all you've just read.  Jesus is God and God is definitely great and worthy to be praised.  Let your heart sing.  How great is Your God?

Name above all names,
Worthy of all praise.
My heart will sing: How great is our God!

NOTE: If you feel like shouting to the Lord, click here.


Hall of Faith

What have you given up for your faith?  Think about that for a minute.  As I finished Beth Moore's Patriarchs study last night with my small group I was reminded once again of how much the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave up to follow God.  Abraham gave up his life as he knew it for a God he really didn't know very well at the time in order to play a part in a grand story of which he would never see the ending.  Abraham never saw the promises of God fulfilled in his lifetime.  Now that is faith.

So was it a coincidence that upon finishing the Beth Moore study that I came to the Hebrews "hall of faith" in my daily reading?  In my bible I have notes taken from a sermon years ago that mention what each of the main "hall" members gave up for their faith.  But first of all, what is faith?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Now that is a sentence worth mulling over, isn't it?  I find it interesting that in order to have real faith, we must give up something in our lives. Let's look at the famous ones, shall we?

Abel (v4) - Gave up the best of his flock. 
Enoch - Gave up his life. (v 5)
Noah - Gave up pride and reputation.  (v 7) How foolish must he have looked to his fellow man?
Abraham - Gave up his family and security to just go. (v 8)
Sara - Gave up doubts of not being able to have a child. (v 11)
Isaac - Gave up control of his life. (v 20)
Jacob - Gave up deception. (v 21)
Joseph - Gave up anger and revenge. (v 22)
Moses - Gave up law, government, riches and his profession (v 23-24)
Joshua - Gave up fear (v 30)
Rahab - Gave up her sins (v 31)

That is quite a list isn't it?  Quite a list of sacrifices as well. 

So my question for us today is: What am I hanging on to for dear life that if I gave it up might change my life in the way I live it for God?


Is It In You?

So much to say, so little time.  I have so many topics that I would like to discuss here today.   I don't want to preach or teach at this moment, however I would love to look each of you, dear readers in the eyes, and tell each you individually of God's love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, power, strength and tenderness.  How can I cover all of that - with scriptures included, of course - in the time that I have to write and the time that you have to read?

So what do I say then?  I was watching Barry Manilow coach the young "American Idol" hopefuls last night and the thing he kept telling them was that they weren't just singing words but telling a story and that they needed to get into the story.   They needed to make the song a part of themselves.   Who would you prefer to listen to?  A mechanical perfect singer or one who is close to perfect but sings with such emotion and conviction that you just know they have lived what they are singing?  I bet most of us would be drawn in to the emotion.  There is something about looking into the eyes of someone who really believes in what they say or do that takes us into their world.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience and of faith unfeigned: (1 Timothy 1:5)

So is it in you?  No, not the gatorade, but God's love?  Not just the words of God, but the love of God that can burn in you to reach out to others in need to share His love with the life-changing power of His Word.  Is it in you?  Is your faith real beyond the faith that saved you from a literal hell?  Or is your faith a pretend faith, lacking in the power of God's Spirit in you to do change you in marvelous ways? Is it in you?

If you find that you don't have as much of God's love in you as you would like or if you think that your faith is less than it should or could be, you are probably not alone.  Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Am I spending daily time alone with God and His Words to me?
2) How is my prayer life...really?

In closing today, I would like to insert a poem that I found while I was cleaning my office last week.  The poem was written about friendship, but I read it in a whole new way this time around.  So as you read the poem, read it as if you were praying it to your Best Friend EVER...the One that loves you no matter what and who will never leave your side...Jesus. (Note: I have included the caps to reference the "friend" as God, not the author)


The Greatest of Gifts by Andrew Tawney

There are many stars in the sky of friendship
but there are none that shine as brightly for me...as You.
You are the dearest of all, shining high above the rest,
lighting up my life and giving me a wonderful knowledge.
I've got a Friend.

Knowing that You are my friend and always will be, keeps my faith in happiness alive.
Whether You know it or not, You have gotten me over many rough times.
For me, I know that things may go wrong
and the world may treat me unfairly every now and then, but I'll be okay.
I've got a Friend who understands.

Your friendship is one of the things I treasure most in life,
for it gives to me a value beyond wealth, and a wealth beyond words.
I've wanted to express my heart's thanks,
and if the words could be found,
I would tell You this...

...that come what may,
     I will always consider Your friendship
            as the greatest of gifts.


The Sovereignty of God

Good morning, everyone!  I have once again participated in the "Carnival of Beauty".  Today's topic is "The Sovereignty of God".  So....if you like, please check out this link to this week's carnival hostess where you will find links to lots more blog posts regarding God's sovereignty.  Oh, and don't forget to check out mine that I posted yesterday.  :)

Carnivallogo


Are You Resting in God's Hand?

I love flying.  Especially the part where I am looking down on the clouds and am reminded of the beauty and vastness of God's creation.  In that moment, however, I'm also reminded of how little control I really have over my life and just how much higher God's thoughts and ways are than mine.  (Isaiah 56:8-9).

Why is it then that oftentimes I still try to rely on my own strength and "wisdom" rather than relying solely on God?  After all, God sees the big picture of our lives as we cannot - that's why He has "the view" and ours is the "point of view - and works everything in our lives for good if we love Him (Romans 8:28). 

How many of us really surrender total control of our lives to God, just as we do to the airline pilot each time we fly?  Do we rest in the palm of God's hand as He upholds us through our lives (Isaiah 40:10) or do we insist on charting our own course?  My guess is that if we truly realized how big God is and how small we are in the scheme of things, we would be more willing to surrender. 

Lord, please teach me to rest in the palm of your sovereign hand no matter what problems this life brings my way.  Help me to not ask why bad things, even terrible things, happen, but to ask how I can use my situation to bring you glory.  Help me to know You so well that I can fully place my trust in You, my Creator and the Love of my life, knowing that You love me more than I can imagine and have great things planned for me.  Amen.

NOTE: For more of my thoughts on God's Sovereignty, please visit the following:

The Crosses We Bear
God is on the Throne
God of Wonders
For Such a Time as This


Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV)

************

Ah, my favorite verse regarding friendship in all of the bible.  Friendships have always been extremely important to me.  We are born into our families, but we are chosen by our friends.  They can fix us up but can also break our hearts.  Whatever the case, life wouldn't be as fulfilling and overall would be more difficult without them.    I think that is why I like this verse so much.   

But how many of us find it hard to let our friends in on the most difficult times of our lives?  And why do we shut people out?  After all, the bible says that we are to not be alone, right?

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)

So, I ask again.   Why is it so hard to ask a friend for help? They are our friends, aren't they? I can't speak for everyone, but I know that it took me a long time to let my self-sufficient-I-can-manage-anything-and-everything self ask for help.  I learned early on as a young girl that we didn't ask for favors from others.  It has taken a long time for me to realize that self-sufficiency at its extreme is really just a fancy word for pride.  We wouldn't want to show any weakness, would we?  Trusting others with our deepest fears and weaknesses isn't easy, but if we can find that person who is safe place to share and pray with, it sure makes the burdens seem lighter.  In addition we let others in on the blessings of coming to our assistance for whatever the need - emotional or physical.

In closing, I would like to share with you a devotional I received today written by Paula Moldenhauer over at her blog "Grace Reign".  It really spoke to me because I have been thinking about the subject of friendship lately and it so timely came over the email, not to mention, it referenced the original movie of one of my favorite movie remakes.  Please visit "An Affair to Remember" here.

Lord, I thank You for the friends You have put in my life, both current and past.  Thank You for the past memories with them and the ones yet to be made.  You have truly blessed me more than I deserve.  Please help me to be selfless in caring for the needs of my loved ones, help me to let them share my own burdens, while at the same time keeping the proper boundaries and priorities and remembering that You are the best Friend of all. Amen.