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September 2006
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November 2006

Who Me?

Trekking along through the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, we come to the story of Saul and how he became God's chosen King over the people of Israel who wanted to be like all of the surrounding countries.  They had tired of living under the judges rule and God's "Kingship" but they didn't realize that they already had the best "King"of all time.  As I write this, I wonder what things I'm taking for granted, wishing I had something different, where I already have something good.  What about you?

But I'm not going to write a post about why we thing the grass is always greener in someone else's pasture.  The dye has already been cast in our story in 1 Samuel 10, as Saul, the man head and shoulders above the rest (1 Samuel 9:22, 10:23) had been chosen by God to be the first king of Israel.  God did it up right and gave the people exactly what they wanted - a good looking king.  I wonder if the people even cared about character?  That is a study for another day. 

Do you wonder what Saul thought as he was being asked by Samuel to be king?  Saul didn't think he was anything special.  Remember that Saul was just walking along one day looking for his lost donkeys when he crossed paths with the prophet Samuel.  (1 Sam 9:16)  He wasn't looking for more responsibility.  Look at Saul's first response to Samuel:

1 Samuel 9:21 And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?  wherefore then speakest thou so to me?

Remember, Saul was just looking for his donkeys, not an inheritance of a country. However, God had other plans for his life and had already told Samuel all about it.  Isn't it funny how God works in the people and circumstances around us while we are not even aware of what is going on?  God's sovereignty, his control over every detail in the world, never ceases to amaze me.

Life took Saul by surprise.  Tomorrow I'll post about how God equipped Saul to serve him.  But for today, I'd like you to ponder the following questions: 

1) Am I paying attention to God's work in my life and the world around me?

2) Am I like Samuel, trusting in God's word to me to do something more for His Kingdom? (Samuel trusted the prophecy of God to bring Saul to him)

3) Am I like Saul, willing to take a big leap of faith for God and attempt something for Him that I don't think I'm capable of?

Trust Fund Babies

trust fund baby: Person who is living the life of leisure off of someone else's money, hopefully in an effort to be somewhat of a productive member of society. 

No, I am not Webster, but the above is my definition of a TFB, the Trust Fund Baby.  I don't know how many times in the past few years that I've said I wouldn't mind being a Trust Fund Baby. No, I'm not obsessed with material things, mainly I just think it would be cool to not have to work (at all) so I could have more time to devote to ministry and of course, I have to admit, play more golf.  :)  Actually, my comments about being a TFB were most likely spurred on by the fact that I belong to a golf club where a lot of wealthy people belong.  I believe that my husband and I are at the bottom end of the "food chain" there and as I see how many women don't work at all and play tons of golf, I dream my little dream of living the same non-working life, but substituting volunteer work for God's kingdom in place of much of the golf.  Therefore, I think I'd be a good TFB.  I know I wouldn't be bored and would probably be quite the socialite, as long as my friends didn't make me go shopping.  Lunch I can do, shopping is another story.

But I'm not just writing about this to confess my secret desire to the world.  Did you realize that we Christians are TFB's?  We are heirs to all of the riches of heaven through our relationship with Christ.  I don't believe that we focus enough on our future home as Christians because we are too caught up in all of the goings on down here.  God has big plans for each of us, both down here on earth and for our future in heaven.  He says so in His word:

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

In context, Jeremiah is speaking the words of God to Israel, telling them that they will have a future after their exile; that they will be brought back together as a people.  Applying that to our lives, we know that by God's good nature, He has the same thoughts toward you and me.   He wants the best for us, now and in eternity.   Friends, if you are in the midst of turmoil or uncertainty, trust in God's love for you and the truth of His sovereignty.  God is in control of everything and He has great plans for you!

Going farther into the future is where we can really see how we Christians are Trust Fund Babies.  Jesus said that there are mansions prepared for us in heaven (John 14:1:3).  We will all have our big house someday!  Remember that we are children of the King of heaven and earth.  The bible says the he who overcomes shall inherit all things (Rev 21:7).The new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem will be more beautiful than anything we can ever imagine. 

But to me, the greatest treasure of all is not all of the material things and the beauty in heaven we will see, it is the treasure of finally being where God intended us to be.   With Him.  Without Sin.  Without sadness or tears. He makes all things new. I can't wait to be there. 

Revelation 21:1-5

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth wre passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for here husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

God is not a Magic Charm

If I pray today, God will be with me.  If I read my bible today, God will protect me.  If I take my bible with me in the car, I will really be spiritual and God will really smile on my day!  :)   I'm sure with just reading these statements, you have no idea where I am going with this.  However, I do have a point to make.  Yes, prayer and bible reading are great things to be doing and you know that I am a huge proponent of both.  However, as always, our motives for doing such must be pure in order for our methods to prove fruitful.  Our motives must be ones of seeking God for the sake of knowing Him and for becoming more like Him each day.  We must be truly desiring what God wants for us rather than using good things to achieve our own ends.

We are no different really from the Israelites so many years ago back in Samuel's day as we seek the quick fix for success.  In 1 Samuel 4, we once again find the children of Israel in a state of panic.  They had not been faithful to God, and those nasty Philistines had once again picked a fight with them.  Israel was scared and realized that they had a "good luck charm" with which to fight:

1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies."

Is anyone else having Raiders of the Lost Ark flashbacks?  What were the Israelites trusting in?  Superstition?  Their hearts were not right.  I didn't see that they prayed to God for guidance in this matter.  They merely wanted a victory the easiest way they could get one...through the power of God inside the Ark.  But God saw through them, didn't He?  God allowed the Philistines to defeat them anyway like He did before  because their hearts were not pure.  As this post is named, God is not a magic charm.

What is my "magic charm"?  More bible knowledge without application?  More ministry for justification?  Do you have a "charm"?  Sometimes I wonder if I haven't fallen into this trap while avoiding what God truly wants for me.  My obedience in all areas of life.  Following God with a pure heart takes work, doesn't it?

How is Your Prayer Life?

How is your prayer life?  Are there things in your world that you have stopped praying for because you've grown weary of your situation?  Did you ever really pray at all?  I've spent a lot of time seeking God for direction lately, but as I read through 1 Samuel 1 and the story of our childless Hannah, I began to think of those things that I've been prayerless about of late. 

It is only through pouring our hearts out to God continually that we can achieve that perfect peace in our lives. I know many of you remember the verse about obtaining the peace that passes all understanding now don't you?  (Philippians 4:6-7) .  In Isaiah 26:3, God's Word says that if we keep our minds fixed on Him, He will give us perfect peace.  What better way to keep our minds focused on our Lord than by talking to Him in prayer and listening carefully through His response to us in His Word and in the situations of our daily lives so carefully crafted for His purpose.

Hannah knew God and completely understood that letting God take hold of her problems was the only way she could make it through her trying situation.  She was married to a man, Elkanah, who also had another wife named Peninnah.  We find Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 barren and tormented by Peninnah because of it.  Because of the constant provocation by Peninnah and the reality of her situation, Hannah was depressed - crying and not eating (1 Sam 1:7).  But Hannah knew the Lord and was faithful to Him.  She went to the tabernacle in Shiloh  while on an annual pilgrimage there with her husband and there fervently prayed and poured her heart out to God.

And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.  Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.  (1 Samuel 1:10-11)

Can anyone else sense the emotion in her voice? Have you ever prayed like that?  Should you be praying like that for something in your life right now?  These are the kind of prayers that break God's heart...that move Him to action.  When a righteous man or woman of God fervently prays, God is moved to action (James 5:16), albeit in His time.   

Hannah brought her problems to God and she received peace in the process.  Take a look at the final verse of the chapter.  It appears that Eli the priest had heard her prayer and sent her away with wishes that God would grant her request.  I would consider his statement to her an intercessory prayer.  Here was her response:

And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:18)

She ate and her face was no longer sad.  There is the proof that prayer can change our lives and our attitudes.  I'm thankful that God consistently provides us proof of that in the examples throughout His word.   As I mentioned before, what should you be praying for today?  Take some time now to pour out your heart to Him because He cares so much for you.  Won't you do that?

Its All Good

Are you familiar with the story of Ruth in the bible?  It is a wonderful story tucked in between Judges, the Samuels and the Kings.  It was a good change of pace for me.  I wonder as I write this whether or not the book of Ruth touches men or women more.  It is a story of friendship, loyalty, love and redemption all woven into just four short chapters.

Does anything come to your mind when you think of the story of Ruth?  A lot of women love the love story in its pages as Ruth, a young widow, is pursued by Boaz, the man of any woman's dreams.  However, whenever I read this story, I can't help but center on the picture of true friendship portrayed therein.  For this reason, I will concentrate on just the first chapter of Ruth.

To set the stage for you, here is my reader's digest of the story.  Naomi, her husband and two sons went to the country of Moab to live.  The sons married Moabite women (Ruth & Orpah).   They lived there about 10 years and then Naomi's husband and two sons died, leaving Naomi with only her daughters-in-law.  Pretty tragic, huh?  Naomi tells her DIL's to go back home to their mothers.  Orpah leaves and Ruth remains. 

Simple story so far.  So why do I get stuck on the friendship thing?  Because of the loyal friendship of Ruth to Naomi.  Even in the hard times, Ruth does not leave her.  Naomi begs Ruth to leave, but look at Ruth's response:

Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.
Ruth 1:16-17 (NKJV)

After hearing this declaration from Ruth, Naomi still begs Ruth to leave her and proclaims how empty her life is (Ruth 1:20-21).  I want to shout out to Naomi, "Count your blessings!  You've got a loyal friend...hang on to her!"   I know that Naomi is grieving, and I can't imagine the despair of losing your husband and children.  A friendship certainly could not compare to that.  However, my point here is that in the midst of the trials we are in, there is sure to be an overlooked blessing in our lives somewhere.  I wholeheartedly believe that if we look hard enough we will find some treasure in our rubble. 

It reminds me of the verse about being content in Hebrews 13:5

Let your conduct be without coveteousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

To give Naomi a bit of grace, I suppose she was too caught up in the raw emotion to be thinking about all of her blessings and check her scriptures for a verse on contentment and peace to hold on to.  However, the principle still remains for us.  Naomi was not alone.  She still had a friend.  No matter how bad our lives seem, we still have a Friend.  Jesus is His name.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  Jesus himself said it.  We just need to put our emotions aside and rest in the facts of God's word.  It is not always easy to do and sometimes we all just need our good cry.  However, we must not stay down, but pick ourselves back up, remember all of the blessings that we do have, and move forward. 

Buying Favor

I read through the latter part of the book of Judges a few days ago and could have sworn I was reading literature about contemporary times rather than biblical times.  After all, I really don't think people are that different now in their makeup than they were back then anyway.  I shake my head as I read the story of Micah in Judges 17 and how he thinks that he can buy favor with God just by having all of the right pieces in their right spiritual places.  Outward appearances though, do not impress God ever or others for long.

So the story of Micah goes something like this.  Micah was from the hill country living of Ephraim and at first glance from the text appeared to have all of a sudden gotten a conscience as he returned to his mother some silver that he stole from her.  Micah stole from his own mother.  Already, he has won no points with me.  Then, to see that he is only returning the money out of fear of the curse that he overheard his mother put on the money.  My, oh my. 

Mom was more gracious than I would have been for sure as she had the silver made into an idol and gave it back to Micah for the shrine in his house.  Micah had a shrine and had installed one of his sons as a priest, even though he wasn't a Levite.  Remember, only Levites could be priests.  But never fear.  Micah found a priest for hire and thus figured he was right with God.

And Micah said, "Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest." (Judges 17:13 NIV)

Does anyone else see the things that are wrong in this picture? I encourage you to read carefully throught the 13 verses of this short chapter.  I believe there are a lot of principles here to apply to our lives.  I'll briefly list what I see and you can feel free to add your own.

1)  Repentance - Micah returned the stolen money, but was he really sorry for what he did?  I don't think so.   He was just afraid he might suffer from a curse.  We must examine our motives for righting a wrong and make sure that they are pure so we truly can be right with God.

2) Forgiveness - Kudos to mom for blessing her son (17:2) when he returned the silver he stole.  He should have gotten a "spanking".

3) Idolatry - It would appear that Israel had gotten comfortable with their idol worship.  How many idols do we have in our  "homes"?   I believe that affluent societies suffer greatly from this one without even realizing it.

4) Anything for a buck - Do you think the young Levite was really a priest of God?  If he was, would he have taken a "job" in a home that had a shrine with idols in it?  Some things just aren't as they appear.

5) Buying favor with God - Micah "bought" a priest who might not have been a priest to preside over an idol-ridden shrine.  Micah really thought he would be gaining favor with God.   In reality, he was fooling himself, but not God.  What are we fooling ourselves with?

As I said, there is a lot to unpack out of this short chapter with lots of applications to our lives.  We must guard ourselves from not allowing the ills of society to affect our perspective.  Remember, Israel was once a godly nation.  Let's keep in touch with God so He can continue to keep us going in the right direction.

Filled with the Fullness

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints  what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  (Eph 3:14-19 NKJ V)

This passage packs quite a punch doesn't it?  As I was praying for a verse to give to a friend, I came across this one.  As I've said before on this blog, my heart's desire is to encourage others to see what God has to offer each one of us in His word, for comfort, strength and guidance.  What treasures lie therein!  The biggest treasure of being a Christian - next to eternal life, of course - is the working of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives to enable us to achieve through Him more than we can possibly imagine.   This verse says alot about the inner strength God gives us through Christ, His son.

Our apostle Paul is praying in this verse for the Christians at the church in Ephesus.  Think about how fervently Paul prayed for his flock.  Can you see him bowing his knees, praying with all of his might for their character?  Notice how Christians get their strength from God.  Paul prays for them...

"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man," (Eph 3:16 NKJV)

We are strengthened by God through the Holy Spirit.  And not just slightly strengthened, but strengthened with might.   Do you realize how much strength God can give you?   According to Webster, might  is defined as follows:

  1. Great or superior strength, power, force or vigor
  2. Strength or power of any degree.

Keep in mind that this is not the physical-I-am-a-great-body-builder kind of strength.  This is internal strength.  The kind that we need to endure the challenges that life throws at us.  The kind that enables us to stand no matter how hard the wind blows in the storms of our lives.

Comprehending all of this takes faith doesn't it? With Christ dwelling in our hearts because of our faith in Him, we can be rooted and grounded in love - God's love.  We can rest in the security of a perfect love from a perfect God that knows no limits with us.  This is the kind of love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18) because if we trust in God's love for us completely, we will trust in His complete sovereignty over our lives.  Consequently, we can have mighty strength.

I wish I could fully comprehend all that God is.  The width, length, depth and height (Eph 3:18) of His majesty is so much more than our small minds can even imagine.  But if we can just understand how much we can't get our arms around, doesn't that help us understand the magnitude of who He is? Shouldn't this help us realize the limitless supply of His power to us to accomplish in us what He pleases?  I think so. 

How can we possess the fullness of God (Eph 3:19) - or be filled with it - if it is too big for us to even comprehend?  Is that "fullness"  the manifestation of joy and peace in our lives?  I doubt that the "fullness" is merely a knowledge of the power to do anything we please because we are so strengthened with might.  That, to me, might lead to a teeny bit of pride.  However, we must have confidence that God can accomplish through us all that He is asking us to do.  That, coupled with understanding God's love, is what I think about having the "fullness" of God. 

I am thankful that God preserved these words of Paul from so long ago.  They give me hope that no matter where I am in this journey of life, that God will help me through it if I let Him.  Thank You, Lord, for providing us with Your power supply!!

How Can I Keep From Singing

I bought the new Chris Tomlin CD, See the Morning, this past week and I can barely get past the first track on the CD because the song is so powerful to me.  (I am liking the whole CD, by the way).  I am stuck on the song "How Can I Keep From Singing", because it tells of a person so thrilled with the knowledge of being loved by God that they cannot keep from singing.  Do you feel that way?  Do you fully realize the cost and extent of God's love for you?  I feel like singing about God's love for me.  In the midst of the storms He is so faithful to give me a song in my heart and show me that He cares for me.  I have learned to hold on to Him as my "rock", as the first verse says.

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

Psalm 62:5-6 says: My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. 

Are you clinging to the Rock?  If you are and have realized how truly indescribable God's gift of His son Jesus is to you, I bet you have a song in your heart too.  I just can't get the chorus of this song out of my mind:

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Cor 9:15)  My thoughts of Him really do make my heart want to sing.  However, sometimes my "singing" is hindered by the cares of this world - the drama of everyday living that takes our focus off of the eternal and on to the temporal.  Lord, help us all to stop and remember your sacrifice for us no matter what we are going through.  Show us how to unceasingly thank You for Your goodness.  Cause us to take the time to reflect, be still and just bask in Your presence.

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me thorugh
And sing the songs You give

Has God given you a song in your "night"?  He will you know (Ps 40:1-3).  Just as God did for our psalmist, David, when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries, pull us up out of our pits, and put a new song in our mouths.   What a promise! 

Finally, as I finish my thoughts on this song, I love the reasons listed here for singing God's praises.  Can you relate to any of these as I can?

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing ' cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to you in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne.

Quite a list, huh?  I can relate to all of those reasons.  And whether we have problems or not, blessings we can see or not, we all can sing just because He is there.   I am loved by King, and it makes my heart want to sing.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

God's Plan For Us

I just love the way God sends me frequent reminders that He cares for me and that He is in charge of my life, watching out for me.  I hope each one of you, dear readers, realizes that too.  God is concerned about you and actually has glorious things planned for your future.   It is hard to believe sometimes when we are in the midst of life, especially when it appears that uncertain times are ahead.  We must always remember though, that are lives really aren't our own anyway.  After all, God does have plans for us here.  We just need to discern how we are to carry out His wishes.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord; thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  - Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

In God's mysterious ways, I've received this verse from two different sources twice in the last 3 1/2 months.  I won't go into all of the details, but let's just say that seeing the verse yesterday in a bible study meant a lot to me.  In the context of scripture, God is speaking through Jeremiah to the captive Jews in Babylon to give them hope to carry on.  God wants them to know that they will be out of captivity in 70 years and that He has plans for them to prosper.  God has those same plans for us.  For His children, He wants nothing but the best.  However, if we aren't seeking God through our prayers and bible reading, we may never see the great things He has planned for us.  We may never know the thoughts He has for us.

In the New Testament, Paul tells the church at Ephesus something similar.  Read on:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen - Ephesians 4:20-21 (NKJV)

God's thoughts for us are to do more for us and through us than we can imagine.   Our prayers will never be too big for God to fulfill.  And the good thing is, God has given us the power inside us through Jesus to accomplish whatever it is that He has planned.  Yes, to God be the glory!!!

Things to think about:

1) Do I really believe that God cares enough about me to plan my future?

2) Am I seeking God's plan for my life wholeheartedly?

3) What am I holding back from God to keep Him from accomplishing His work through me?