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November 2006
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January 2007

Got Wisdom?

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (NKJV)

What is wisdom anyway?  To me, one of the best definitions without going to the dictionary I've heard is that wisdom is knowledge applied.  Knowledge applied.  Now that is easier said than done, huh?  Especially when third parties (i.e. our spouses, children, family & friends, co-workers)  come into play to challenge our emotions, etc.

How do we get wisdom?  How do we gain the understanding and discernment that is of God and that allows us to proceed through our daily lives with confidence and peace?  We get true wisdom from God.  We can gain knowledge through our experiences, but to apply lessons learned from past experiences to current circumstances takes God to change our hearts for a lasting effect to take place.

King Solomon wasn't afraid to ask for wisdom.  When he was just starting out in his kingship, he was a humble man.  Through his humility, he approached God for help.  Hmmm...wouldn't we all be wise to do the same in every circumstance?  Here's what Solomon said:

1 Kings 3:7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.

8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

10And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.

God was pleased that Solomon asked.  When was the last time you asked for wisdom from God?  The bible says that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.   Have you ever thought about why this is so?  I believe the reason is because it takes a humble heart, coming to God in reverant fear of His awesome power, to truly seek God's ways and not our own.  If we truly feared God - what He thought, how He is in control of everything - we would come crawling to Him seeking forgiveness and direction in our lives more often. 

Things to think about:

1) What things in my life am I still insisting on doing my way?

2) Who in my life could I treat with more lovingkindness if I asked God for wisdom in doing so?

3) How am I to proceed down the path of life God has chosen for me?


Don't Look Back

I thought I would post this poem I received from an email subscription service back in early October after I had made the decision to leave my church.  I had not yet left at the time, as I was still in the process of planning our annual Women's Retreat/Conference, and I was struggling not with the decision per se, but the grief over leaving so many people and the ministry I loved behind.  This was one of many confirmations that God was in control and that my decision was the right one.

No matter what situation you are in, I encourage you, dear readers to take a step of faith in the direction you believe God is calling you to go.   The unknown is scary and unnerving at times, but with God it can also be exciting and fun.  May God bless you today with this poem.

DON'T LOOK BACK

As you travel through life there are always those times
When decisions just have to be made,
When the choices are hard, and solutions seem scarce,
And the rain seems to soak your parade.

There are some situations where all you can do
Is simply let go and move on,
Gather your courage and choose a direction
That carries you toward a new dawn.

So pack up your troubles and take a step forward -
The process of change can be tough,
But think about all the excitement ahead
If you can be stalwart enough!

There might be adventures you never imagined
Just waiting around the next bend,
And wishes and dreams just about to come true
In ways you can't yet comprehend!

Perhaps you'll find friendships that spring from new things
As you challenge your status quo,
And learn there are so many options in life,
And so many ways you can grow!

Perhaps you'll go places you never expected
And see things that you've never seen,
Or travel to fabulous, faraway worlds
And wonderful spots in between!

Perhaps you'll find warmth and affection and caring
And somebody special who's there
To help you stay centered and listen with interest
To stories and feelings you share.

Perhaps you'll find comfort in knowing your friends
Are supportive of all that you do,
And believe that whatever decisions you make,
They'll be the right choices for you.

So keep putting one foot in front of the other,
And taking your life day by day...
There's a brighter tomorrow that's just down the road -
Don't look back! You're not going that way!

-- Author Unknown


Diggin' Deep

I wonder how many times I zip through passages in my bible reading without digging out the true meaning of a passage. I hope I'm not the only one who does this! :)  How many times do you have questions about what you've just read, only to put the question out of your mind and go on to the next familiar passage?

These days I'm trying to dig deeper into what I'm reading during my daily quiet time with God.  Consequently, I've had to get up a little earlier to accomodate my new quest.  However it has been rewarding.  Last night's reading was interesting.  As I finished up 2 Samuel I came to the following passage:

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.   2 Samuel 24:1

I had lots of questions here.  First, why was God's anger kindled again against Israel?  Hard telling.  I supposed that Israel might have been up to no good again.  Next, I was confused about it appearing that God caused David to sin by causing him to go number Israel and Judah?'.  I knew that God doesn't tempt people to sin (James 1:5) so there must have been another answer.  The answer here can't be found unless we go digging, which for once, I decided to do.  In the cross-reference of my bible, I checked out the following passage in 1  Chronicles 21:1 which further elaborated on my passage in question:

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Interesting, huh?  Satan is everywhere in the bible.  While God is in control of everything, God still allowed Satan to tempt David, just as He allowed Satan to harass Job (Job 1:6-9).  Unfortunately, David succombed to the temptation, probably due to pride  and counted the people.  God's judgment on the people ensued, and David was in a way God's instrument of punishment on a nation He was angry against anyway.  Why didn't God just punish Israel instead of getting poor old David involved?  Maybe God wanted to humble David just a wee bit more.  Who knows.  But the story is interesting nonetheless.

So what lessons can we learn here in the midst of all my fun and babbling about this?

1) Sometimes bible study involves not being lazy.

2) Satan was present in Job's day.  Satan was present in David's day.  And Satan is present in our day.  Be on the lookout for his wiley ways.

3) While the bible may have apparent contradictions, there are no real contradictions.  Dig a little deeper to find the truth.

4) God is still in control.

Until next time...


Broken Light

For the past several weeks now I've been obsessed with cleaning and organizing my house.   It is funny to think that it took leaving my church and ministry to find the time to dedicate to cleaning up all of the messes took me years to create.  You know the kind -  the paper piles, the junk drawers, the junk closets...all safely hidden away so that daily life is not totally impacted by the hidden clutter and any company that comes calling isn't really wise to "what lies beneath".  :)   I'm slowly getting unburdened by the clutter 15 to 30 minutes at a time.

This post is not going to focus on my clutter though, but a blessing that came to me from the clutter.  As I was cleaning through some office papers, I found among some old sermon notes the following sentence:

Light, when it is broken, makes a rainbow.

We all know how beautiful rainbows are, don't we?  To me, I'm not sure if they are that beautiful in and of themselves or if it is what they symbolize that presents the true beauty.  The colors are pretty, however, and occur because light from the sun passing through raindrops in the sky breaks up the light into the spectrum of colors that we see.

We can also apply this physical principle to our lives in a spiritual context.   Think about this:

Sun = Jesus

Light = you and me

Rainbow = beauty caused by Jesus shining into lives that have been broken by Him

Just think.  If we are the light of the world (Phi 2:15), we can be so beautiful if we allow ourselves to be broken by God and molded into the individuals He intended us to be - like the rainbow in the sky after a storm.  I want to be the rainbow, don't you?  We just need to let God's will be done with us, no matter what that is, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. 

"Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."  Luke 22:42

Jesus knew what it was like to let God's will be done and it resulted in both the offensiveness and the beauty of the cross.   The brokenness created a "rainbow".   And I'm so thankful for it.  Are you ready to be a rainbow too?


And behold, it was very good

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good... (Genesis 1:31)

Yesterday was an unseasonably warm day here in Kansas City.  Had it not been for the tell-tale signs of winter such as leaves being gone from the trees and some ice on the ponds and creeks, one might have thought it was spring.  The air was moist, the temperature was mild, and the birds were even singing.  On afternoon such as yesterdays, I couldn't resist taking a walk through my local park, even though it was slightly windy and just a touch under 60 degrees.

I was blessed by God as I walked through the woods and thought and prayed, noticing God's handiwork all around me. I thought of my reading from 2 Samuel yesterday as David offered up his song of thanksgiving to God and I offered my own prayers of thanks.  As I walked and prayed I made the following observations:

1) The birds just seemed happy.  I saw a couple of bluebirds, some robins, sparrows, chickadees, a cardinal and a big blue heron that resides at this park near the pond within.  Speaking of the pond, the mallard duck family was still swimming, even in December, on the unfrozen area. 

2) The squirrels still seemed ornery. Do animals think? Do they wonder where they will get their next meal or their next source of happiness?  I don't think so.  Needless to say, the little wild animals in the park are still around in December.

3) Moving water does not freeze...will moving people never freeze? As I looked at the different water bodies in the park I noticed that there were certain areas in the pond and the creek around the park that had not yet frozen.  Whynot?  After all, we recently had 6 inches of snow here and below freezing temperatures.  Because moving water does not freeze.  I think people are the same way.  When we stop "moving", we stop growing and begin to get set in our ways and lose our ability to impact others in a positive way.  Something to think about.

4) Even in winter, things are still alive.  Some of the bushes and trees had lingering berries on them.  Every blade of grass had not yet gone dormant as some retained their green color.  All of the water had not yet frozen.  The squirrels were still playing.  And the birds were still singing.  Are you in a winter season of life?  It will pass, just like our physical winter always does, and things will start to bloom again.  Why?  Because while we are still walking on this earth, the life inside us never totally dies, even though we sometimes think it has. It has just gone dormant, waiting for a spark to warm things up again.

Those are my reflections on my walk yesterday.   As I said, God gave me many blessings as I walked and  prayed.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6)


Newness of Life

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  - Romans 6:4

Do you feel forgiven by God? Totally?  As I read 2 Samuel 22, I noticed the freedom that King David had to speak to God the words of a song of thanksgiving for all of the good that God had done for him through the years.  We all know that David did not live a perfect life, but David kept moving forward

through his folly of sin
through his fear of death
through his faithlessness  in God.

Not once in David's song in this chapter do we see evidence of God's remembrance of David's sin with Bathsheba or David's forgetfulness to consult God on occasion throughout his life.  God rewarded David not because he was perfect, but because he tried wholeheartedly through the ups and downs of life to follow God's direction.  I don't know about anyone else, but that is a comfort to me as I travel down my own journey of life. 

Have you asked Jesus to personally come into your life to deliver you from the consequences of your sin?  Do you believe that Jesus was sent by God as payment for your sin through His physical death on the cross?  Do you believe that He rose again to life in victory and still lives today so that we can walk in newness of life, forgiven, free and worthy before God to gain entrance into heaven rather than suffer the wrath of hell?  Jesus is truth, and He will set us free from all of those heavy burdens we carry around with us, just as David was set free so many years ago.  If you want to get to know Him on a personal level, click here for answers.


Making Comparisons

2 Cor 10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  (NKJV)

Is the Christmas season stressing anyone out yet?  Do you spend time worrying about what other families are doing to commemorate Jesus' birth?  What about Christmas decorations?  Do you wish you had what others had?  I know I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing what I'm doing to other people and honestly, what good does it do?

Comparing ourselves to others causes more harm than good in more than one way.  I suppose that is why the bible tells us not to compare, huh?  In 2 Samuel 17:23, we see a suicide as a result of feelings of inadequacy over this issue.

Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb.  (NKJV)

For a little background on the story, Ahithophel was the trusted advisor of King David but was called on by Absalom, David's rebellious son, to give advice regarding how Absalom could overtake David's throne.  Little did Ahithophel know, but the fact that his counsel was not taken by Absalom over Hushai's counsel (a man sent by David to Absalom to confuse things a little) was an answer to prayer.

Poor Ahithophel.  I wonder if his pride got the best of him because his advice was not taken.  His advice was not taken because of preference toward another, Hushai, a man sent by David to confuse Absalom. After all, Hushai was a "nobody" and he was a "somebody".  I believe that pride led to his untimely demise at his own hand.

So can you see how this might relate to us?  Comparing ourselves to others rarely gets us anywhere that God wants us to be.   It can make us complacent in our walk and service to God if we think we are doing better than others but it can also depress us into a state of paralysis because of low self esteem.  Either way, the art of comparison gets us nowhere.  For our own well-being, we need to just keep our eyes looking upward and onward to the job that God has us to do right where we are. 

Things to think about:

1) How am I comparing myself to others around me?

2) If I feel good or bad about myself when comparing, why is that so?

3) What is it that I sense God would have me to do in my situation, today?


A Familiar Song Revisited

I decided just now that rather than post on my gleanings from 2 Samuel 17, which I will post on tomorrow, I wanted to take a moment to think about the reason for our Christmas season, Jesus, our Savior, Counsellor and Prince of Peace. 

I'm sure a lot of us are bustling around with our Christmas lists in hand trying to get all of our Christmas duties done while still trying to maintain the normalcy of our already busy lives.  I haven't yet begun my Christmas shopping, but now just thinking about dealing with the crowds and all is starting to stress me out.  So while we're all out and about, since we're bound to be hearing Christmas songs on the radio and on the overhead speakers in the stores, I thought we could revisit a post I made last year on my favorite Christmas carol/hymn "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

Please take some time to visit this post and may you shop today with lightness in your step as you think about why the angels were singing.


In Light of the Crystal Ball

I wonder how I would live my life if I knew that something bad was going to happen to me in the future.  Now, I'm not talking about an unreal fear that is merely a result of worry that has taken on the form of a mental parade towards disaster.   I'm speaking of hearing God's words through a prophet telling me of the doom and gloom to come. 

I doubt that many of us in this day and age will ever hear from a true prophet of God in this way or any other way for that matter.  However, back in King David's time, he did.  Do you remember after the whole Bathsheba-adultery-murder incident, that time in David's life I'm sure he wished never happened, how Nathan the prophet told David that the Lord would raise up evil against him out of his own house? (2 Sam 12:11)  I'm sure that David remembered.  I wonder if he lived in fear each day, waiting for a sign of the evil to come to pass.

The "sign" finally did come.  "A messenger came and told David 'The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom." (2 Sam 15:13 NIV).  Absalom, David's son, was conspiring to take over David's kingdom.  I was surprised in a way at David's reaction to this news.  Rather than immediately praying to God for advice as we've seen him do time and time again, David gathered up his men and fled Jerusalem. My question then is, was David acting out of fear and panic or out of wisdom and discernment of God's will?  I'm betting on the panic attack.

So how does this story apply to you and to me?  After all, as I alluded to earlier, I doubt that we will ever have the crystal ball shown to us accurately depicting future doom and gloom over our lives.  But haven't you ever "figured out" what was going to happen in your life based on a set of circumstances and then took matters into your own hands to "fix" things?  I know I have.  And I have been wrong before too.  I look at this passage and realize how much like me King David really was.  Yes, I believe that he sought God most of the time more faithfully than I, but even he sometimes reacted to situations before he prayed.  We should all have some comfort in this...that even the best of us sometimes lack faith.  Just as David should have been able to trust in God's many promises for Him, so should we.  We just need to discipline ourselves to come to God in prayer when troubles show their ugly heads rather than react in panic.


A Proper Fast

Have you ever thought you were striving to do what God wants you to do, and thought you were eager to be with Him, only to find that God was nowhere to be found in your life?  Maybe you are there right now as the people of Israel were back in Isaiah's day.

In Isaiah 58, God, through our prophet Isaiah, clearly points out the religious hypocrisy of the nation of Israel. 

Isaiah 58:1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
       Raise your voice like a trumpet.
       Declare to my people their rebellion
       and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
       they seem eager to know my ways,
       as if they were a nation that does what is right
       and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
       They ask me for just decisions
       and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
       'and you have not seen it?
       Why have we humbled ourselves,
       and you have not noticed?'
       "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
       and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
       and in striking each other with wicked fists.
       You cannot fast as you do today
       and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
       only a day for a man to humble himself?
       Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
       and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
       Is that what you call a fast,
       a day acceptable to the LORD ?  (NIV)

They were fasting but God did not hear them.  They must have been fasting for "show" to appear that they were holy when in fact they were still in their sin.   If they were fasting to change their attitudes or for direction, I don't believe that God would have given them the rebuke He did.  If they were fasting for the right reasons - to diligently seek God for direction or to change an attitude or remove sin - wouldn't their fasts  have ended in an inner peace, at least with each other, instead of the quarreling and strife (v.4)?

God wants us to truly seek Him and I believe that seeking Him through fasting is a viable option but should not be taken lightly.  For me personally, I can't imagine someone going without food to fast for the wrong reasons! :)  Look at what God says about the fast that He prefers, still from Isaiah 58:

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (NIV)

Look at the examples of things to fast for, according to God.  The nation of Israel In Isaiah's day was doing all sorts of fasting for all of the wrong reasons.  They were fasting mostly to mourn and "commemorate" all of the bad tidings that happened around the time when they were taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar (See Zech 8:19, 2 Kings 25).   Rather than fasting to simply lament the days gone by, they should have been seeking God for future change, as shown in verses 6 & 7 above.

Have you ever fasted for change?  I have on a couple of different occasions, both for a change in attitude and for direction.  It does make a difference.  But remember, that fasting is not merely just doing without food or a favorite hobby, etc.  It is doing without the "thing" and replacing it with extended times of prayer and reading of God's word for direction.  Without that, a food fast is nothing more than a painful diet! 

The benefits of a fast can definitely change an outlook on life.  Look at what God says about the rewards of a fast with the right heart behind it, continuing in Isaiah 58:

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
       "If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
       with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
       then your light will rise in the darkness,
       and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
       he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
       and will strengthen your frame.
       You will be like a well-watered garden,
       like a spring whose waters never fail.

I want my "light" to break forth like the dawn, I want "healing" and I want God to answer my cries for help.  These things are the rewards of seeking God with a pure heart and cannot be accomplished by fasting and praying with the wrong motives.  These rewards come because of our hearts changing inside us and they cannot be faked.  We can't fake out God and if we are true to ourselves, we should be able to fake ourselves out either.  Are you ready to seek God with all of your heart?

Lord, please help me, help us, to search for Your wisdom and Your ways with pure hearts.  We don't want to be Christians who live our lives for outward appearances.  Change us from the inside out and make us into the men and women You want us to be.  Amen.