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January 2007
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Toughness and Tenderness

First of all, I must start by saying that approximately a year and a half ago I had a sleepless night because my poor old doggy was scared our of her little mind due to thunderstorms that passed through in the wee hours of the morning.  At the time, I was inspired to write this post.  What a difference time makes.  Tonight, we had some stronger storms than those pass through the Kansas City metro area, complete with hail, thunder & lightning, heavy rains and tornadoes in some parts, and my same dog was oblivious to everything.  Why?  Because she has lost some of her hearing and eyesight since that last storm that so inspired me.   It is kind of sad, really, as I watch her deteriorate.

So tonight as I see and hear the storms once again I am reminded of how small I am in the whole scheme of things.  I'm reminded of God's incredible power and I do want to sing praise for it as the Psalmist says in Psalm 21:13:

Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power. 

What does it take to send "buckets" of rain down from the sky?  What does it take to send down balls of ice the size of baseballs down from the sky?  What does it take to send a lightning bolt from heaven to earth?  Power.  Awesome power.  Terrible power.

Do you "hear" and "see" God in this way, in His incredible power?  Or are you like my hard-of-hearing and half blind furball who has become desensitized to His majesty?  Seeing a glimpse of God in His potential destructiveness  is what produces true reverance in the believer.  It is this view that instills in us the fear of a Holy God that is the beginning of wisdom.  For when we understand His magnificence, it is then that we totally understand the meaning of grace.   We deserve His wrath, but throught Christ, we can have His love.

So, tonight when I turn off the lights I am going to rejoice in two things.  First, that my dog won't hear or see the lightning and thunder so I can get a good night's sleep.  Last but most surely not least, I will rejoice in God's mercy to me, a sinner deserving of His wrath, whom He gave the gift of eternal life through His son Jesus who bled and died for me.


Trading Slick for Simple

If I'd abandon all that seeks to make my faith informed and chic, could You, would You, show Yourself to me?
- Nichole Nordman

I'd been thinking about this quote since Friday when I walked into the local Christian bookstore yesterday afternoon.  I saw shelf after shelf of books, bible studies and bibles, what you would typically find in a Christian bookstore.  But as I was walking and looking, I was thinking to myself, "This is part of what is seeking to make my faith 'informed and chic', isn't it?".

All of the beautifully written books in the world except for the bible, will not help me to see God.  Prettily packaged video bible study kits won't even help me to really see Him.  Oh, they may give me a glimpse of Him, but without my wholehearted interaction in the study through prayer and bible reading, I will strain to see even that glimpse.  Without applying God's word to my life as I learn it through the study, I might not even get the glimpse.   

So what about all of the other "bible studies" in the bookstore?   As I stood there in the bible study section of the store, I was not surprised but rather deeply saddened at where Christianity has gone.  Since when did a study on a book that maybe contained 1% scripture throughout its pages become a bible study?   These things do seek to make our faith "informed and chic" while emptying our pocketbooks, but do they really  show us God?

Am I saying that reading books or other Christian media (blogs, magazines, etc.) rather than the bible is always a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  There are lots of good writers out there that can lead us to see views of God.  I'm merely saying that the bible is the one sure thing that is guaranteed by God Himself to make a difference in our lives.

10 “ For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
      And do not return there,
      But water the earth,
      And make it bring forth and bud,
      That it may give seed to the sower
      And bread to the eater,
       11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
      It shall not return to Me void,
      But it shall accomplish what I please,
      And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
       12 “ For you shall go out with joy,
      And be led out with peace;
      The mountains and the hills
      Shall break forth into singing before you,
      And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  (Isaiah 55:10-12 NKJV)

If  let the word of God permeate our hearts and minds enough so that we cannot help but to live out our faith through a holy life, we will see God and His glory working through us.  We will begin to learn and see who He is through the pages of His word, our bibles.  Other books and slick stage productions only seek to make us truly informed.  And I believe that when compared with the bible, they do a less than adequate job of helping us to see God.  We do not need to be chic.  We need more than to be informed.  We need His undiluted Word in our hearts so God can do His work.  Let's get back to what should be our first love and put the bible first. 


NOTE: For other ladies' thoughts on this quote, visit this week's host of "In Other Words", Fruit in Season.

      


From Good to Bad

What is it about success that is so hard for we humans to handle appropriately?  Once again through the trek of my daily reading, the bible is proved to be timeless as God's word points out the pitfalls of pride.  Rehoboam, one of the successors to Solomon (remember, the kingdom had just divided at this juncture)  hadn't been king of Judah for very long when good things started to happen for him.  The kingdom was growing, Rehoboam was listening to God and sacrifices were being made.  And then what happened?  Once Rehoboam started realizing he was the king, he decided he didn't need to listen to THE King.

And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.   - 2 Chronicles 12:1

Confidence is a funny thing.  We need to have it, but we shouldn't desire too much of it.  Too little, and we'll never do a thing.  Too much, and God just might not do His "thing".     If we get too cocky, God just might teach us a little lesson.  Take a further look at the plight of Rehoboam.  In just the fifth year of his reign, God allowed the Egyptians and their friends to come against Jerusalem, because of their sin.  Fortunately, there remained a fragment of humility within Jerusalem that softened God's heart and caused Him to show once again His mercy to His wayward people.

And when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance;  (2 Chronicles 12:7a)

Friends, we need to constantly be examining the states of our heart.   I believe that all of us at some time or other become too self-reliant, especially those of us in leadership positions.  Self-reliance leads to pride.    And we know what pride leads to - resistance from God.

...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  (James 4:6)

Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

Rather than placing our confidence in God, we plan and plan without waiting for God to take the reigns of  our jobs, ministries and homes.  Do we really want to rely on our own strength when we have the power and wisdom of the Creator of the Universe at our disposal?  The solution seems simple, doesn't it?  Who wouldn't want to have God on their side?  But in reality it takes effort to place our confidence in God and wait on Him rather than to take care of things ourselves, doesn't it?  Our culture makes it hard. We have so many abilities. We have so many resources.   And we can do things so fast.  Like Rehoboam, we too can go from good to bad in God's eyes if we aren't careful.  All it takes is a little prosperity to lessen our perceived need for God.

Pondering Points:

1) How prosperous or "strong" am I?   Am I in a dangerous place of being over-confident?

2) Do I realize how much I need God?

3) What am I doing on a daily basis to ensure that I realize my proper place in this world in relation to God's marvelous majesty?   

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:17-19


Parched but Persevering

I could start this post in a couple of ways.  First, I could tell you how my poor houseplants only get watered when I can tell that they are on death's door.  Or rather, I could tell you of how an email from a close friend inspired me today to write a shorter post, because of the busyness of my life this last week.  Shorter - because I need to spend some quality time with God in His word this afternoon. 

I cannot describe how blessed I feel to have a friend who not only shares her heart with me, but also shares with me truth from the bible as it applies to her life.  Once again, her shared truth hit home with me as well.   I received in an email the text of Psalm 42 as I've given you below.  Like the deer in the psalm, I too, am thirsty for the Living Water.  I am parched.  I have been sipping, but not drinking this week as I've been absorbed in too much work, too much TV (American Idol & MU Basketball) , and too much life.  How have you been?  Are you thirsty too?  Take some extended time this weekend to refresh and refuel.  Don't end up like my houseplants because they can't help but wait for someone to water them.  You'll be glad you did.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
       so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
       When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
       day and night,
       while men say to me all day long,
       "Where is your God?"

4 These things I remember
       as I pour out my soul:
       how I used to go with the multitude,
       leading the procession to the house of God,
       with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
       among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
       Why so disturbed within me?
       Put your hope in God,
       for I will yet praise him,
       my Savior and
6 my God.
       My soul is downcast within me;
       therefore I will remember you…


Healing Prayer

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

In my opinion, this is one of the most power-packed verses in all the bible regarding prayer.   How much more could we ask for from God but for Him to forgive us, hear us and heal us?  These are God's direct words to Solomon in response to Solomon's prayer for Israel at the dedication of the temple.  It was as if Solomon knew ahead of time that his people - and even he - would turn away from God at some point.  I suppose that is always a given for all of us, huh?

Let's break down the verse a bit, just for fun (okay, my fun) and application to our own lives. 

If my people which are called by my name ...  -  Just as the Israelites were God's chosen ones, we are also God's chosen people.   (John 15:16)  God wants us to be prosperous so we can give glory to His kingdom.

shall humble themselves, and pray ... I haven't been here in awhile on this blog.  The "H" word - humility.  It takes humility to come to our knees before God in prayer and admit we can't do it all or can't do anything, doesn't it?  (1 Peter 5:5-6)

and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways ...  If we seek God's face we will have no choice but to turn from our wicked ways because the light of His face will expose those ways so that we have no choice but to loathe them before a Holy God.  We must pray for this exposure so we know what to change.  (Psalm 139:23-24)  God will hear our prayers when our hearts are pure. (Psalm 66:18)

then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land... Now there is a promise.    God will hear us.  God will forgive us.  And God will heal our land.  Folks, God isn't saying he may.  God says He will.

Have you gotten enough to think about?  enough verses to ponder?  Remember, these aren't just my thoughts.  I'm merely trying to share my interpretation of what God is saying through His word the best way I can.   I've done enough talking.  Please join me in praying...

Father, I want to seek Your face in all that I do.  I want to humbly submit my will to You, only doing what You would have me to do with my life.  But, my pride and my perceptions and my plans get in the way.   Forgive me for the times where I know I've failed you, and show me the areas hidden to me now where you don't approve.  Heal my "land".  Show me Your face.  Help me to live for Your glory.  Amen.


Search, Don't Skim

"Those who read fast reap no more advantage than a bee would by only skimming over the surface of the flower, instead of waiting to penetrate into it, and extract its sweets."
~
Madame Jeanne Guyon ~

The quote above is referring to how a person reads the bible.  How do you read through your bibles?  Do you read it at all?  After all, most Christians don't read their bibles daily.  So, assuming we are all reading our bibles - every day - are we really getting the most out of God's word to us? 

I remember the last time I really tried to stick to a  bible reading plan.  It was probably about five years ago.  I had the list of all of my bible chapters laid out by day.  I was ready!  But do you know what happened to me?  I found myself more concerned with just getting done with my assignment for the day than I did really diving into the treasures packed deep inside the scriptures.  I'm sure it is just a personality flaw.  :)  In December of that year, just to get done, I found myself reading 10 or more chapters a day.  Yes, I finished reading through the bible that year.  Was God pleased with my accomplishment?  I don't know for sure.  If I was Him, I would have said as I lit a match to my "work" made of wood, hay or stubble: "My child, your heart was not right as you read through My Book.  Why did you read so much?  Do you even remember what you read?  I'm glad that you at least saw a glimpse of what I have for You, but next year, just stick with digging for the treasure rather than panning for gold."

Needless to say, I have not started a specific one-year bible reading plan since.  Do I read the equivalent of the whole bible in a year?  Maybe.  Most days I read a couple of chapters a day.  Some days I read just one.  Sometimes I may read more than two.  But every day, I journal or blog about what I've read, trying to go deeper through the cross references in my bible.   And almost every day I do some kind of additional bible study from a current bible study I particate in.

In conclusion, I feel like I've been that bee before,  just skimming the surface but never really landing to take in the sweets.  I don't want to skim anymore.  Just let me dive in real deep for the treasure.   Lord, give me more knowledge of You.

If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.  (Proverbs 2:4-5)


Are You a Disciple?

I started this blog on June 30, 2005, as a result of peer pressure and God's calling.  The peer pressure was from other ladies at my church to add more estrogen to our church family's blogosphere.   God's calling on me came a month after the "pressure" when I couldn't stop thinking about the silly blog.   I think that He must have known that I would be forced to blog about my bible reading because of a) my love for God's word,  b) I love to share what I learn with others, and c) I had to blog about God's word because I didn't have time to blog about anything else and keep up with my bible reading.  :)  Hence, Bread Crumbs was born.

A lot has changed in my life since then - new friendships gained, old friendships lost, a new church home - but the one thing that has remained constant is my desire to partner with others to help them grow closer to God through His word and to equip them to be able to teach others how to have a daily walk with their Savior.  In simple terms, I am a disciple of Jesus, and desire to fulfill Jesus' commandment to us when He said:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in  the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We are to be disciples of Jesus and we are to make disciples of Jesus.  So what is a disciple, anyway?  Webster's definition of  a disciple is the following:

disciple n.  1 a pupil or follower of any teacher or school of religion, learning, art, etc. 2 an early follower of Jesus, esp. one of the Apostles.

Okay.  Simple enough, right?  I found a more complete definition in a book entitled The Adventure of Discipling Others by Ron Bennett and John Purvis.  From p. 54, I'll quote:

"The simplest definition of a disciple is found in Matthew 4:19 when Jesus said, 'Follow me,  and I will make you fishers of men.'  A disciple is one who follows and consequently becomes like the One being followed.  Discipleship was more than adhering to a set of teachings or principles: it was a relationship of transformation."

Indeed, discipleship is a process of transformation.  It is a process of continual renewing of our minds and hearts so that we can become more like Jesus with every new day.  Is every believer a disciple of Jesus?  Unfortunately, no.    Being a disciple has a cost.   Being a disciple takes discipline and courage to not worry about what someone else thinks about you becoming a "fanatic".  Being a disciple means that you are serious about conforming your life to what the bible says rather than trying to make what the bible says agree to what your life "says". Are you a disciple of Jesus? I counted the cost of becoming a disciple 10 years ago and I've never regretted it.   We had a discipleship program at our church where we were matched one-on-one with a more mature believer who shared with us how to develop a walk with God, how to study our bibles and how to approach life with a biblical worldview.   What a blessing it was.  I encourage anyone I meet to get involved in an opportunity for one-on-one mentoring of this nature.

I've come to realize that I was rather spoiled to have had a mentor early in my "serious" Christian walk. (Note: I have been a Christian since age 13, but didn't get serious about my faith and service until I was 23).   If only I could be so fortunate to find another mentor today! I just spoke with a woman today who had been a Christian and attending church for more than 30 years who had never been discipled but was longing for the opportunity.  My heart goes out to her and others like her.  I wish I could "disciple" everybody!

So in closing, I have some questions for you, dear readers.   Would you be so kind as to leave a comment behind?  I'd really appreciate it, and I'm sure others would too. :)

1) Does your church have a discipleship program?

2) Have you ever been discipled/mentored?

3) What would you say has been a key ingredient during your greatest periods of spiritual growth?


Royal Priesthood

In 1 Chronicles 23-24, King David  assembled all of the princes of Israel with the priests and the Levites for the primary purpose of dividing up the work to do in the service of the house of the Lord.  Four times in 1 Chronicles 23 (KJV) we see the phrase "service in the house" of the Lord or of God.  When we see repetition like this in the bible, God is trying to tell us something.

Did you know that there were 38,000 men over age 30 able to do this service? (1 Ch 23:3)  Of those men there were specifically 24,000 designated to do the work in God's house.  Now, that is some ministry!  I learned that not every Levite could be a high priests, ministering directly to God, only the direct descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, could do that.  God is very specific in who He allows to meet Him in His holy place, isn't He?

That is why it should be so special to us that we can have direct access to God through prayer because of God's son Jesus.  Through Him, believers can come directly to God's throne room. (He 4:14-16).  Did you know that God has "ordained" us as "priests"?  In 1 Peter 2:9, God's word says to believers:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  - 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

We belong to God.  We belong to God not to just hang out and do whatever we want whenever we want.  We belong to God so that we can declare His praises because He has called us out of our darkness into the marvelous light of His love and truth.  We belong to God so that we too, can perform "service in the house of the Lord."   God has given us our very own priestly garments, not arrayed in magnificent colors and ornamentation as shown in Exodus 28, but garment of white linen, cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ as He paid the penalty of our sins.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  (Rev 19:7-8)

We have the pedigree, we have the clothes.  Are we ready for service?  That's what priests do, after all.  I want to leave you with a quote from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest, that underscores the whole purpose of our lives as the royal priesthood of believers.  I read this on February 15, the same day I read through 1 Chronicles 23-24.  Please take the time to read it and I pray that it encourages you as it did me to remain steadfast in your service in the house of our Lord.

"Ye shall be my witnesses."  How many of us are willing to spend every ounce of nervous energy, of mental, moral and spiritual energy we have for Jesus Christ?  That is the meaning of a witness in God's sense of the word.  It takes time, be patient with yourself.  God has left us on the earth.  What for? to be saved and sanctified?  No, to be at it for Him.  Am I willing to be broken bread and poured out for Him?  To be spoilt for this age, for this life, to be spoilt from every standpoint but one - saving as I can disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ." - Oswald Chambers, February 15, My Utmost for His Highest


Further Still

I was all excited about the post I was going to make today regarding how we are of the royal priesthood of believers, contrasting us with the Levitical priesthood.  However, that will have to wait for another day.  You see, once again, I went to my Thursday night Beth Moore bible study and came away very emotionally impacted.

In week 4 of  A Heart Like His, the video presentation was about Christ and how we could see 5 priority relationships in His life.  Beth noted that for sound spiritual health we also need to be a part of these 5 groups.  Christ interacted with...

1.  The multitudes - (Mt 14:13-14, Acts 1:8).  Where Jesus bore witness of God's power in His life.

2.  The 72 - (Luke 10:1).  These are those we serve.  Those in our local body of believers.

3.  The 12 - (Matt 20:17).  The disciples. The place were we can grow spiritually.

4.  The 3 (Matt 26:36-38).  Christ's inner circle.  These friends know us better than any others, just like "the 3" knew Jesus more intimately than the others.

5.  The 1 (Matt. 26:38-39) - Beth says "These are times of intensive care when God beckons that we come to Him all by ourselves."

She elaborated on "the 1" and called this "A Place of 'Further Still.'"   This is the place that our inner circle friends cannot come with us.  This is the place that we may wrestle with God's will and where we go when we are overwhelmed or maybe surrounded with grief.  This is the place that the most serious matters our lives are settled and a place from which we must emerge changed.  Beth states that if God calls us to the place of "Further Still", don't stay with "the 3" because they will disappoint you.  God wants to call us to the place where only He can sustain us - where only He can supply our deepest need. 

Have you been to the place of "Further Still"?  I have been there too many times in the past several years.  I think this is why the video struck me so.  While Beth said that this place is the place we must go for healing where our inner circle friends cannot come with us, I have learned this is the place we also go when those same friends are ripped from our lives for whatever reason and we have no other place to go.   We must learn to encourage ourselves in Him (1 Sam 30:6) because our loved ones might not always be there.   

I have emerged from the place of "Further Still" a changed woman.  My inner circle has changed.  My reliance on God has changed.  Change, though painful at times, is not always a bad thing.

To contemplate:

1)  What does it look like to solely rely on God for my happiness, rather than on someone else?

2)  Am I interacting with people on all of the levels that Christ did?  If not, what can I do to become a part of these relationships?  Am I a part of a small group of believers that I can grow with spiritually?

3) How is my relationship with "The 1"? 


Looking Up

2 Cor 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (NKJV)

I was driving to work yesterday in the aftermath of another winter storm, concentrating on the road in front of me and maintaining the proper speed and braking distance when I took my eyes off of the road and looked up.   Instead of seeing the mushy brown slush that I had been so intent on seeing, I saw a tree-lined street complete with snow-covered trees and grass.  Can you picture the sight?  What I saw could have been on a Christmas postcard.  I wish I would have had my camera.    I immediately thanked God for the beauty He showed me and pondered the thought that had I not taken my eyes off the road, I wouldn't have seen the beauty in the trees.

We are like that so often with our lives.  We focus on the mud and the muck and become so intent on merely surviving that we neglect to notice the good things on our lives.  I know that I am guilty.  Today, let's meditate on 2 Corinthians 4:17 (above) and concentrate not only on the good that God has placed in our lives today, but the great things He will do in our lives in the future.  Let's look up.