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2006 Blog of Beauty Awards

2006bobfinalist

The 2006 Blog of Beauty Awards are in progress over at the blog "A Gracious Home".  And guess what?  I'm a finalist in the "Best Biblical Exhortation" category!  Thank you to whoever nominated me and to everyone who stops by to read! :)

Please go check out the other nominated blogs and finalists  here and vote for your favorite blog in each category.  You have until 8:00 p.m. EST, Monday, July 17, 2006 to send your votes in.  Instructions for voting are at Gracious Home's site as well.  This is such a great way to find interesting blogs that you might have never seen before.  I've already found a new read.  Happy reading and voting!


Paying Attention

Once upon a time a well-known greedy fortune teller was called upon to curse another country.  He pretended to have an intimate relationship with that country's god so that he would be looked upon favorably by his lord.  That country's God got mad and sent an angel to visit the greedy fortune teller.  The greedy fortune teller did not see the angel, but his donkey did...and then the donkey started to speak. Finally, our greedy fortune teller saw the Lord.


Anyone who thinks that that the bible is boring apparently hasn't taken much time to read through its pages.  Fortune telling, angels appearing, greed and talking animals are all within its pages.  The story above is another "Janna's paraphrase" of a portion of Numbers 22.  It is the story of how Balaam, a well-renowned pagan prophet, had an encounter with the one true God.

You see, Balak, the king of Moab, was scared of Israel because Israel, through God's hand, had just begun defeating some of its enemies on their journey to possess their promised land.  Because of Balak's fear, he called up Balaam, the best pagan prophet in town,  to talk to the God of Israel and turn God's blessing on them into a curse.  Balak would do anything for a price and accepted the challenge.  Little did Balaam know, but he would later see the Angel of the Lord, the one true God, face to face, and be asked to go work for Him!

Things don't often turn out as we plan, do they?  We have our own motives and go our own ways for a time until we run into obstacles that we don't understand.  We continue to press through the obstacles in our own power, not realizing at the time that they were put there by God.  We don't realize that the obstacles in our path were placed there by God to protect us from future pain, until in our pain, we start to seek God's guidance with our whole hearts.  Even we are often like Balaam.  Balaam's donkey saw God's warnings before he did! 

Father, please open our eyes so that we may see you face to face for the truth that You are.  Remove the blinders of pride, greed and self from our eyes so that we can know Your will for our lives.  Help us to be obedient to Your will.  Amen.

Stay tuned until next time... for more on Balaam & King Balak.


High Expectations

One act of disobedience cost Moses his chance to set foot in the promised land he had waited for so long to find.  Unbelievable.  The story of Moses' error at Kadesh always makes me cry out "That is so unfair!".   In case someone out there doesn't know the story, I'll give you my readers' digest version.

Moses & his often rebellious thousands of followers were in the wilderness at this time probably about the end of their 40th year of wandering around.  Once again, the people cried out - oh, I feel Moses' pain just thinking about it! -complaining that they had no water.  Aggh.

Now there was no water for the congregation, so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.  And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: "If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!  Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?  And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink."  (Numbers 20:2-5 NKJV)

How many times must these people complain?  How quickly they forgot that they were SLAVES in Egypt.  They weren't having a good time in captivity.  How quickly they forgot that God had been feeding them manna and providing them water all of these years of wandering when they really should have died from starvation.  This makes me think of the complaining I've done in my own life about certain situations and how quickly I forget that God has brought me through a wilderness to a better place.

Poor Moses.  This was finally the breaking point for him.  Immediately after hearing the complaints, like a good boy, he did go directly to God in prayer.  (20:6).  And once again, God came through.  God told Moses to speak to a rock before the congregation and the rock would bring forth water before their very eyes, once again proving that God was God.  Moses gathered the congregation together before the rock as he was told...and then it happened.  Moses got mad, hit the rock, and sealed his fate to die in the wilderness, never to enter the promised land.  (Nu 20:10-11)

I suppose that Moses should be glad that God caused water to come out of the rock in spite of his disobedience.  Apparently God was pretty upset with Moses.  This whole situation conjures up a lot of thoughts for me. 

1) Leaders are held to a higher standard in God's eyes because people follow them. 

2) God takes respect seriously.  The most serious infraction was not his anger, but the fact that he disobeyed God in front of the people.

3) A lifetime of a good testimony can be damaged in seconds.  For forty years Moses was obedient to God, doing exactly as God told him to do.  In one fit of rage, Moses let his emotions control his mind and he lost the game, big time.

4) The actions of subordinates have a profound impact on leaders.  As followers, we really do have a lot of power.  Our attitudes and actions can provoke stress on our leaders. We need to remember that most of them are doing the best that they can.

There are lots of things to think about from this passage, aren't there?   We are all followers of God and probably all are submitting to someone else's authority in our ministries, homes or jobs.  We are all leaders in one way or another too and people are watching us. Lord, help us to keep our thoughts and actions captive to what you would have us to think or do.  Show us how to obey You completely, in spite of ourselves or the actions of others, so that we can be glorifying to Your name.  Amen.


Life Without Regrets

How many times do you look back at your life and wish you had made different choices along the way?  All of us do this from time to time.  In fact, as I reflect on my latest adventure (the CLASS seminar which I've posted about recently), I think of the fact that I'm 39, for real, and that I've spent so many years early in my faith walk (my 20's) just getting by.  However, there is no time like the present, no matter where we are in life to start with a new plan of action.  I would like to share a devotion written by Becky Kinney, Director of Womens Ministries at KC/FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes).  My favorite phrase was at the end where she states "The key to living a satisfying life without regrets is in recognizing the eternal value of the little things you do."  I wholeheartedly agree.  Happy reading!

Life Without Regrets-by Becky Kinney

Jane was in the winter of her life and had many regrets. She spent much of her time reflecting over her many years and the things that she wished she would have done differently if only she could do it all over again. She would have been a more compassionate mother, allowing her children to see her softer side more often. She would have taken more risks instead of always making the safe and predictable choice. Change would have been an adventure instead of a struggle. Daily thinking about what might have been brought her great sadness and robbed her of the joy she should feel over the wonderful life she had lived. It also took a toll on her relationship with her family and friends.

I do not believe that there is a life without any regrets. However, regrets can become either burdens that interfere with your present happiness and restrict your future, or a motivation to move forward with hope. Many of us become overcome by regrets. Monica, a nurse, said: “Not the cancers, not the bedsores, not the death and dying…What bothers me the most is when a dying person verbalizes their regrets about what they ‘shoulda done’ or ‘coulda done’ in life. Life should be lived so that there are no regrets in the end…no missed opportunities.”

It is important to determine what your regret really is. Is it something you did? Something you didn’t do? Something someone else did or did not do? A circumstance beyond your control? Is it based on facts? Was it a situation that you assume would have happened if you had chosen differently? Holding on to regret will produce consequences. When we hold on we experience feelings of sadness, possibly anger, and then bitterness may work its way into our lives. Here are just a few steps to help us look to the future and not dwell on the past.

  • Write down the truth from the past. Writing about your regrets, feelings, and frustrations can help a lot. Putting your thoughts into written words can clarify them in ways that will astonish you.
  • Talking to a trusted friend or family member can also help you identify any false thinking and help you sort through your feelings instead of keeping them internalized. Forgive and make amends. If there is something you can do now, do it!!  Ask God for courage, strength and insight.
  • Recognize what God has taught you and the growth you experienced even though your life has turned out differently than you imagined. See the opportunities that are now yours, instead of focusing on the “what might have beens.”
  • Live today like it matters for eternity.
  • Decide the kind of person you want to be---and do something today to make it true.
  • Focus on what you want to give, not what you want to get. Set your goals for living significantly, rather than looking at the reward you want to get. The key to living a satisfying life without regrets is in recognizing the eternal value of the little things you do.

“At the annual sand-sculpting contest near the ocean in Newport Beach,California, talented artists create incredible art out of sand. However, a few days later, those works of art have been washed away by the elements. Our lives don’t have to be washed away and forgotten; they can be significant.”

God’s purpose for your life is to trust Jesus Christ.

“Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” I Thessalonians 5:28


Sobering Statistics for a Shepherd

Dear Readers,

I came across some statistics in an article this week that were pretty sobering to me as an individual who is passionate about establishing the Word of God in the lives of others.  The article said that only 34 percent of American Christians read God's Word on their own during the week and of those 34 percent, 14 percent (less than 5% of Christians) claim to read it daily.  Less than 5% of Christians claim to read the bible daily.  That is so sad.

Why do I think it is so sad?  I think it is sad because the statistic says to me that 95% of Christians are leading lives less victoriously than God intended for them.   I think it is sad because I wholeheartedly believe that if this 95% knew what they were missing they would rarely miss a day of opening their bibles again. God wrote a love letter to us in His Word that should be food and water to our souls.  God’s Word is food and water to my soul and as important to me as the air that I breathe.  And the thing is, I only discovered this truth by starting with a daily discipline of 15 minutes of bible reading because someone who cared about me told me I should do it.

Dear readers, I don’t know each of you personally, but I do wish the best that God has to offer each one of you. My deepest desire for each of you is that you become all that God wants you to be – and He wants so many good things for you.  By taking in God’s Word, you can be renewed day by day and start living a life empowered by the Lover of your soul.  If you haven’t started a routine of getting your daily bread of God’s Word, won’t you start today?  And if you don’t know where to start, I would be thrilled to help you get started.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)


Time

I had an interesting time (pun intended) today as I took a bunch of watches to the mall's "Jewelry Doctor" to get the batteries replaced.  Yes, I suffer from the "Its-easier-to-quit-wearing-the-watch-and-buy-another-or-look-at-someone-else's-watch-or-a-cell-phone-for-the-time-instead-of-simply-replacing-the-battery" disease.  Thankfully, I know of at least one other person suffering from a form of this ailment.  :)  After all, it is always good to know we're not alone.

So, where was I anyway? There is a point to this story after all.  As I was sitting in my car before I went into the mall, I got a bright idea to write down the times frozen on each of the watch faces.  Here is what I wrote down:

7/8/2006.  10:41AM
Black band, silver watch, time 4:05
Sieko MU watch, 9:45 and 3rd of some month, some year
Swiss Army watch, 11:13 and 17th of some month, some year
Silver Citizen watch, 3:23
Gold/Silver Seiko watch, 9:09, Sun 25th of some month, some year
Gold Seiko watch, 6:53, Sat 26 of some month, some year
So I started thinking about what this whole list signifies.  Does anything come to your mind?  I'll list below some of the things I thought of from this list:
1) I wonder what I was doing when these watches stopped?  Did it make me late?
2) There is a time and a season for everything.  (Ecc 3:1-11)
3) I waste too much time.  Once it is gone, we can never get it back.  Redeem it.
4) Why did I wait so long to get new batteries when it was so easy to do?
5) Second chances.
Second chances.  This is the one to dwell on once we've beaten ourselves up for not making the most of our days.  After the batteries were replaced in my watches, I reset them and they all started running again back on track.  45 minutes after I dropped them off at the "doctor" and $82.14 later, I have more watches than I can possibly wear and they all are in working order.  Do you realize that our lives are like those watches?  We lose our power and get off track but we can also easily get back on track by  just replacing our "batteries".  We can plug in to the power of God in our lives.  And God has a never ending power supply for us. 
Are the hands on your "watch" stopped because of a lack of power?  If they are, then dig into God's Word.  Seek Him and He will come to you.  He'll give you that new start.  Just start today.

Shut Your Mouth or the Earth Might Open Its Mouth For You

and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. (Numbers 16:32)

There are a lot of morals to the story I read last night in the book of Numbers 16.  To set the stage, once again poor Moses, our faithful leader, is being challenged by a group of people wishing things were different with their lives.  This time, Korah the son of Izhar, Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, along with 250 renowned leaders of the congregation and some of the children of Israel, decided that Moses and Aaron shouldn't be the only individuals exalted by God. (Nu 16:1-3).

Can you imagine the sight of this?  Poor Moses once again knew what to do.  He fell on his face before God in prayer.  (Nu 16:4).    These people challenging after all, were already special in the sight of God, but they wanted more.  They wanted to be priests. How many of us are never satisfied with the place God has us in our lives?   Moses charged them that they had come against the Lord, not him, in their rebellion (16:11).  Then, another argument ensued.  Poor Moses, I say, but woe on the individuals who argue with Moses.  Moses prayed for judgment, God delivered with a bang.  The earth opened up its mouth and swallowed up the tents and the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and if that wasn't enough, fire came down from heaven and consumed the other 250 leaders.

Hmm...I think there are several morals to this story that can even be applied to our lives today:

1) Submit to those in authority over you as you submit to God.  In our jobs, in our ministries and in our homes, we have most likely been placed under the "rule" of someone else.   After all, God tells us to and they are the ones accountable to God for our souls.  (He 13:17)

2) Let God place you in leadership in His time, not yours.  God knows what He is doing after all.  He knows when we are ready to handle more responsibility and He knows when we have more to learn. Just because someone else has the authority we want, do we really want to be somewhere that God has not yet willed for us?  (1 Peter 5:6)  Let's not get swallowed up!


Run to God

It is late, or early, depending upon how you look at it.  No matter how I look at it though, the alarm clock is going to go off too soon, considering it is 1:00AM and I'm not sleeping!  The sleeplessness is a good thing though, as it is an indicator of a renewed passion for the ministry God has entrusted me with. I am once again amazed at how God puts people and circumstances into our lives at just the right times to give us direction - if we are truly seeking His guidance, that is.

For instance, a bible study I'm currently involved in (Walking By Faith-Jennifer Rothschild), hit me right where I am tonight.  God's timing is so perfect.  As I was doing my homework tonight, the following verse popped right out at me:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God's will.  Then you will receive all that he has promised.  (Hebrews 10:36 NLT)

Patient endurance is exactly what I need right now.  Exactly.  Funny thing is, that I'm sure I've NEVER read this verse in this particular translation before but the words were exactly what I needed to hear.  Only God could be so perfect.  After CLASS, which I've mentioned in the last few posts, I've got so many things that I want to get done and so many "places" that I want to go. However, I know that I must take my time, spend my energy like I'm running a marathon rather than a sprint, and wait on God for direction.  Can anyone out there relate?

Quoting Jennifer Rothschild in p. 62 of the Walking By Faith study guide:

Remember that after you've run a while, the race begins to feel long.  You pound the pavement, winded and weary, and can easily get discouraged or feel like dropping out before the finish...Staying in the race requires something more substantial than not quitting or wishing our needs were met.  It takes something more gratifying than yearning for the goal.  It takes a deep desire for God.

Fellow Christians, the race is long but it is worth it, even if we sometimes forget the purpose for which we are running.  As Jennifer says above, it takes more to stay in the race than just a resolve not to quit.  We need to rely on God completely, understanding that His plans for us are more wonderful than we can ever imagine.  What is your race? What is motivating you to stay in the race? 

Father, I thank You for the strength that only You can provide in this marathon of Christian service.  I pray not only for myself, but for all of the Christian leaders in Your Church, that we will wholeheartedly seek Your face and Your direction for our lives and our ministries.  Thank You, Lord, for enabling us, counting us faithful and putting us into the ministry for Your glory.  May we give our best efforts to please You.  Amen.


Spying Out the Land

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I recently just attended a seminar for potential and current Christian leaders, authors and speakers.  While I'm not a published author, except for this blog and some church newsletters, and I'm not a frequent speaker, I attended this seminar in an attempt to follow the cloud of God's guidance.   

Upon reflecting about my experience this week, combined with my daily reading again today, I feel as if my journey last week was one of spying out my land of Canaan.  In my reading this morning, I came to Numbers 13, the story of how Moses sent out a representative from each of the twelve tribes to check out the promised land and report back as to the condition of that land.  In Numbers13:17-20, Moses asks his spies to check out the people of the land (strong or weak), their living situations (tents or fortresses) and the condition of the land (fruitful or not).   

Here is what I learned from my spying:

1.  I like the land.  Scarey as it is to admit this, I think that the idea of teaching God's word in a large group setting seems like something I would enjoy doing. 

2.  The people in the land are "strong".   I definitely felt like one of the least experienced people out of the 100+ in attendance.  I've had limited speaking experience and am surely not a published author as so many of the attendees were. 

3. The people lived in fortresses.  Looking at the writing and speaking industry from the outside, it would appear that breaking into it would be like breaking into a fortress.   After all, how many people really get published by the major publishing houses and how many people actually make a living by speaking?

So, that is my report.  If indeed I caught a glimpse of my future Land of Canaan, I saw that the land was good but somewhat intimidating.   Facts are facts, after all.  But what each of us do with the facts that are placed before us is what really determines our destiny.  I wonder how many of the attendees at CLASS were like the 10 spies who said "we be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." (Nu 13:31).   How many were like Joshua and Caleb who were confident in God's ability to deliver His will for their lives?

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.  (Nu 14:8-9)

I want to be the Joshua or Caleb.  I may not be as experienced as some of the people there, but if God is on my side then things will work out.  I'm just going to hold on and try to enjoy the ride and follow the cloud of God's direction.  After all, I do enjoy roller coasters.

What is your "promised land"?  Can you see it?  Do you believe that God can accomplish anything in your life?  Don't be afraid to dream big.  You never know what might happen.


Follow the Cloud

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:3-5)

How can you tell if God is leading you in a certain direction? Look for the cloud.   Seek God.  Has someone ever told you "You will just have to seek God on this"?  Do you know how to seek God and hear His answers for your life?   

This topic is so interesting to me and is absolutely fascinating when I actually get confirmation as to God's direction in my life - when I can actually see "the cloud".  So what is this cloud I'm speaking of anyway?  In Moses' day as the nation of Israel was wandering around in the wilderness, God was directing them by way of a cloud.  If the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, the people stayed where they were and if the cloud moved, they picked up everything and moved along with the cloud.  The cloud was a symbol of God's presence among His people.   See, it is not always bad to be living under a cloud!! :) 

Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey.  At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; (Numbers 9:22-23 NKJV)

Are you paying attention to where the "cloud" is in your life?  Are you getting out of your "house" enough and looking up at the sky to see where God may be taking you?  After all, we can't see God if we are so focused inward that we never look upward.  So, how do we see God's direction for our lives?

1) Pray.  First, as Proverbs 3:3-5 above says, we need to involve God in our lives by asking Him for direction.  When we ask, we acknowledge our need for God's sovereignty over our lives.

2) Listen.  This is the most important, but probably the most misunderstood.  We "listen" to God by being careful to observe all of the little things in our lives and how they relate to our prayers for direction.  God will use people, circumstances and our daily reading time to direct our paths and confirm the steps we have already taken.  For example, if you read my previous post, you would notice that I'm seeking direction in my life from God.  He brought me to a seminar through a series of circumstances and individuals that could only be from Him.  In addition, it is interesting to me how in my daily bible reading (I read straight through the bible a few chapters at a time), I read yesterday (in Numbers 9-10) about how God directed the children of Israel on their journey by the cloud.  Remember, while I am seeking God's direction, I did not come back from the seminar randomly looking for a passage in the bible that would speak of God's direction in my life.  God had it planned that I would be reading where I'm reading all along.  This is why a daily trek straight through the scriptures is important.  It takes the "me" out of it.   I hope this makes sense to you, dear readers.

So are you looking for answers?  Are you looking into God's word for them and are you looking up to see God's "cloud" before you?  God will direct your path.  He might not tell you what is miles ahead of you, but I know that He will give you enough light and direction for the step you are on.  What is your next step?