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Sleep On It

Alternate title: Even Prophets Need Time to Process

Who says there aren't principles for our lives that can be gleaned from Chronicles?   I'm seeing myself right in its pages today, as well as some of my friends! :)   Today's story is a tale of unsolicited advice and a tale of saving the best advice for last.  King David was hanging out at his house one day and got to thinking: "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent."   (1 Chr 17:1 NIV) That was a good observation, don't you think?  After all, why should God be "living" in a place of less stature than an earthly king.  I like how it showed a) David's deep thinking side and b) His respect, love and concern for God.   However, was it a question?  Nathan, the resident prophet, apparently thought so.

Upon hearing David's thought regarding God's housing provisions, Nathan spoke up and said to David:

"Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you." (1 Chr 17:2 NIV)

David sure must have had a good testimony for a prophet to say that God was with him.  Could the same be said of us? Oh, but I digress.  There are more principles here than I thought!  :)  Back to the point I'm trying to make...  I'm interested not in Nathan's first response but his second, after some time had passed and God had a chance to speak to Nathan.  Had Nathan never spoke up a second time, I wonder if David would have wound up building the magnificent temple instead of Solomon.   Our bibles might have read a bit different. In short, Nathan went back to David some time later to tell him what God had said - that David should not build a temple for Him, but his son Solomon would after David's death.  This is quite different than Nathan's first response of basically telling David to do whatever he wished.  Do you see the difference?  God had the final and most definitive say.

So how does this apply to us?  Can you ever think of a time when someone asked your advice about an important predicament in their life?  Let me ask this.  Did you give them an "off the cuff" response, or did you prayerfully consider your reply before voicing it?  I've done both.  While I can't recall the exact details of a specific situation - after all, it is getting to be my bedtime here - I would venture to guess that the times I slept on the issue and waited for God to give me some wisdom, that my advice turned out to be the best.

God tells us to ask for wisdom when we need it.  He granted it abundantly to Solomon so many years ago (1 Kings 3:9-12) and He promises in His word that He will grant it to us.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding falut, and it will be given to him.

Wisdom will be given to us.  God's word doesn't say it will be given to us if we catch God in a good mood, now does it?  If we ask for it, God will give it.  I just love God, don't you?  He is so perfect and so consistent and so good.  What would we do without Him in our lives? 

So friends, don't be afraid to give advice or to ask for it.  Just give God a chance to give you the answers before you come up with your own.  I guarantee God's thoughts will be better.  Let's give out His thoughts, not ours. 


Interdependence

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.   - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I love this passage contained in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.  In those times when I am at my weakest, in those times when I know the task before me is greater than myself, through these words I am assured that this place of weakness is exactly where God wants me to be.  Can you hear his words to you too? God's grace is sufficient. It's doesn't just provide a part of what you need.  It is sufficiency defined.  If we can manage to get ourselves out of God's way, His power will prevail in our lives.  As Paul says, it will "rest" upon us.

What should we know then about this "grace" from God that provides us all that we need?  I heard an interesting perspective on this verse this morning by pastor Steve Archie of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Kansas City.  To quote him:

Grace helps us understand that we all have a weakness that can only be addressed through unity.

The unity he speaks of is the unity of the body of Christ.  Pastor Archie emphasized that God has other people come into our lives to take care of our incompleteness and that  God solves our problems not in our dependence but in our interdependence.   Does that speak to anyone out there?  Have you ever seen God move in your life to put just the right people in it at just the right time?  I know I have.  I feel like I was directly spoken to today in this, the only part of the sermon I remember!  :)   I'm one of the most independent people I know, but every day I learn more about how I must lose some of my stubbornness/pride  independence to achieve all that God has in store for my life.  I have come to recognize that there is nothing more satisfying to work together with other believers to achieve God's plan. 

So, Christian, what is it that you rely on?  What are your strengths? What are your weakness? All of us have weaknesses.  However, all of us have also been endowed with different gifts and abilities.   When we use them together, God creates a master work.   How's that for grace?

Dear Father,  I thank You for my infirmities so that You can show Your grace to me through the other people You have placed in my life.  I thank You that You have also given me Your Holy Spirit to guide me, teach me, befriend me and complete me as well.  Help me to always come to You first for wisdom, strength and help.  Grant me the eyes to see You and the heart to desire to know You more each and every day.  Amen.

For the deep thinkers:

1) How are you using your state of "interdependence" for God's glory?

2) Look around at the people God has placed in your life.  Is there a way that you can connect with any of them to achieve a greater purpose for God's kingdom?


Cardiac Care

20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  (1 John 3:20 NKJV)

I started attending a Beth Moore bible study a few weeks ago on the life of David (A Heart Like His).  It never ceases to amaze me how the Bible touches me in these studies in just the right places at just the right times.  God's timing is so incredible.

The video this week spoke of how our lives as Christians paralled King David's because just like David, we did not choose our enemy (David's unchosen enemy was Saul, ours is Satan).  Because we become children of God when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, Satan automically hates us because he just loves to upset God by causing His children to sin.   Because of this parallel, Beth focused on how we can be armed against spiritual welfare as taught in Ephesians 6.

I've heard teaching about the Christian "soldier's" armor before, but I really enjoyed her teaching on  the "breastplate of righteousness" in Ephesians 6:14.  Beth explained that the purpose of a breastplate as a piece of armor was to protect our hearts.   To be exact, she defines it as such:

The "breastplate of righteousness":  Protection  for our hearts when our feelings are in conflict with our callings."

Dear friends, we need to guard our hearts, for what goes on in our hearts so often determines our actions.  Can you think of a time when your feelings about someone or something did not agree to what God's Word says you should feel about your situation?  I know I can.  It takes discipline to not let our feelings/emotions rule our lives.  However, if we keep our hearts and minds focused on God's Word, with a little discipline we can overcome the temptation to let our emotions rule.

1 John 4:4 says with regard to temptation and the evil spirits of this world that "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."  God, through the Holy Spirit, is dwelling in us as Christians and He is greater than anything in this world, including Satan.  Isn't that good news? 

Not only is God greater than Satan, but He is greater than our hearts, as stated in 1 John 3:20 shown above.  If our feelings condemn us, we can know that God is also bigger than those.  God can change our hearts to love our husbands, to love our jobs and to even love God.  He can cause our hearts to be in tune with His word, living in obedience to His will for our lives.  That is good news for me.  What about you?  Can you trust in God and His promises to care for your heart?  All you have to do is put on the armor. 


Content or Complacent?

After I wrote this post about a week ago on finding contentment, I've been thinking alot about the difference between being content with my life versus being complacent in my life.   Honestly, I want more.  I want more from my job, my marriage and my ministry.  (Note: I know I don't have an "official" ministry currently because I've just started attending a new church, but I know God has plans for me somewhere - and do we ever stop "working" for Him?).

But is wanting more a bad thing?  That depends.  Don't you love that answer?  Think about this statement for a minute: We should be content with where we are, not who we are.  Now let's take a look at some Webster definitions, shall we?

content:  happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different; satisfied.

Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that he has learned in whatever "state" he was in, to be content.  (Phil 4:11-12) In the context of the passage, Paul is talking about his physical surroundings and what he physically has, not his mental state of being.  Paul has learned to be content whether he was hungry or full, in a prison or in a palace.  Not that I think he will find he was ever in a palace, but you get the illustration.   Paul is satisfied wherever he is because he was in the constant practice of letting go of his situation and giving it over to God's control so he could have that peace that passes all human understanding.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  - Philippians 4:6-7

Remember, Paul did not learn or find contentment in his own strength.  He found it through God and His Word.

But just because Paul was content wherever he was in life doesn't mean that he was smug with his own 'bad' self.  Paul knew that he needed to continually work towards becoming more like his Savior.  In other words, Paul was content without being complacent.  Paul was not into smugness.   Let's look at a couple more definitions.

complacent: satisfied; esp., self-satisfied, or smug

smug: narrowly contented with one's own accomplishments, beliefs, morality, etc.; self-satisfied to an annoying degree; complacent.

I had to throw out the definition of smug, didn't I?   I think I like it more than the word complacent.  Smug.  Has as nasty little ring to it, doesn't it?  I don't want to be smug.  Smugness and complacency both have one thing in common that isn't mentioned in the definition of  the "content".  Did you notice it?  Self.   They both imply an element of pride.  Herein lies the distinction between contentment and complacency. 

We need to be content with the things around us that we cannot change by giving them over to God in prayer.  Since the only thing we can change is ourselves, we need not be content with who we are.  Paul says

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

We need to renew our minds daily (2 Cor 4:16) by taking time to wash ourselves in God's Word.  We need to press on towards the mark for the prize of God's high calling for us.   (Philippians 3:13-14).  Remember, the bible is not saying that we need to constantly beat ourselves up for not being like someone else (that is another post all together).  We need to be forward-looking.  What's past is past.  Our future is what is before us now.  Let's look for ways we can be obedient to God so He can make those positive changes in us for His glory.    Let's be content but not be complacent.

Dear God,

Thank You once again for being so faithful to speak to us from Your word the truths about how to live our lives better for You.  Show us ways we can be content in our situations, no matter what they are.  Help us to see the blessings around us rather than the "curses".  Be with us and guide us into becoming more like You every day.  Protect us from Satan's attacks of insecurity as we press toward Your mark for the calling You've placed on our lives.   In Your Son's precious name we pray.  Amen.


Contagious Christianity

You are contagious.  It is the time of year when we all worry about germs and catching the latest cold or flu virus going around (or maybe it is only me who concerns herself with this in my rare adventures helping out the children's ministry).  Being contagious though, can also be a good thing.   Remember, we all have an influence on someone around us, no matter who we are.  And, keep in mind that if we have an influence on others, they also have an influence on us.

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (NIV)

What kind of contagious influence are you?  Good or bad?  Ezra, a scribe in the time of Jewish exile as well as the time of the Jews' return to Jerusalem, was a good influence on the people around him.  He was a "ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6) and his heart was ever prepared to not only seek and understand God's word, but to do and to teach it.  (Ezra 7:10). 

A prepared leader will always get opportunities to lead.  There came a day in Ezra's life that I believe was one of Ezra's finest moments in his influencial existence.   The temple was now functional and the exiles had just sacrificed  burnt offerings to God  in the temple, when the leaders came to Ezra  with a confession that the people had been disobedient to God by intermarrying with peoples of foreign lands.   The bible says that the leaders and officials led the way in this unfaithfulness. (Ez 9:2)  Look at Ezra's words upon hearing the news:

When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled...until the evening sacrifice.  Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: (Ezra 9:3-5 NIV).

I could write on and on about this and wish that everyone would read Ezra's prayer of confession.  This outward expression of contriteness had a huge impact on his people - a positive one. His grief over sin was contageous and encouraged a change in the behavior of his people.  You can read about that in Ezra 10.  People were weeping.  A proclamation was made.  The exiles repented.  What a powerful story of the influence one person with a heart for God can have.

So are you infectious in a good way?  How can you use your influence to impact others in a positive way?  Are you allowing your friends' attitudes to rub off on you?  If so, I hope you have some godly good friends! :)  We must never underestimate the power of our lives to influence others.  Let's just make sure that we are spreading God and not germs. 

Until next time,

Janna


WWJD?

UPDATE: At the bottom of this post I've attached the .pdf file for this online book.

A dear friend of mine recently asked me if I had ever read the book In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon.  Have any of you ever heard of the book?  I had never heard of this timeless book that is now in the public domain.  It was written over 100 years ago and is the original start of what we've all seen in our time in the form of bracelets, necklaces and the like touting the letters "WWJD" standing for "What Would Jesus Do?"

Upon my friend's suggestion, I obtained a copy of the book and began to read.  It is a fictional story of how a pastor of a small town church challenged his congregation to pledge to do nothing in their lives without first asking the question of themselves "What Would Jesus Do?" if Jesus Himself were in their specific situation.  They were then to act in their situations how Jesus would act, regardless of the outcome to them personally.    As I read the story of how the various church members reacted to their pastor's challenge, I was deeply convicted of my sometimes thoughtless approach to following in the steps of my Savior.  What about you? If you were faced with a pledge such as this, could you say "yes" to the challenge?

Consider the words of the apostle Paul as he lived a life of self-sacrifice.  I love his attitude.   It is our challenge to have the same.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (NIV) 

I urge every Christian to read that book and examine in their own lives how Jesus would respond in their lives.  The big questions are obvious.  What job would He pursue with my talents and abilities?  What ministry would He pursue if He were me in my church?  How would He treat the people in my life - even the difficult ones?

But as we all know, life isn't always about the big decisions, but about the itsy bitsy choices we make every step along the way...

What would Jesus do if he was in my slippers reclined comfortably on my sofa and heard my little old dog bark in her annoying fashion because she either wanted outside, off or on the sofa, or wanted food?  Would he yell at her to stop barking because he was too busy finishing up his blog post?  Somehow I don't think so.  I believe that He would have compassion for my furry friend and take care of her needs  regardless of His own comfort.   Sigh.  I've got a lot of work to do and a lot of selfishness to overcome.  Good thing He is there to help me too.  What about you?

To obtain your copy of this book, click here:  Download ihsteps.pdf


Getting the Most Out of Your Bible

As most of you know and can hopefully see my heart from this blog, I love to read & study the bible as well teach others how they can do the same and apply God's truths to their lives.  (Yes, I try to apply God's Word to my life as well, and it is difficult sometimes!)

This morning I found a wonderful post by Steven Camp over at "Camp on This" that gives some very practical tips - complete with biblical references for each - from old time Theologan, Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686) on how we can get the most out of God's Word.  Please take the time to check it out.  I for one, will be printing out the list and studying through it.

Happy Reading!


Share the Love Blog Awards

Thank you, Sissy, for letting me know that I was nominated for "Most Thought-Provoking Blog" at the "Share the Love Blog Awards.  I'm honored that someone would think of including me there. 

Share_the_love_nominee

Stop here for more details about the award, for voting procedures, and to check out all of the other wonderful nominees!

You can vote here until February 6.

From Heather's site, here's the quick and dirty regarding voting dates, etc.:

Voting Stage 1: Feb 1-Feb 6
*We will have one week of voting on these nominees to determine five finalists in each category. *Voting will be handled through voting software. Voting will close at midnight on Feb 6th.

*You may only vote once in each category.
*You are encouraged to vote in every category.
*Voting will be closed at midnight on February 6, 2006

Voting Stage 2:
*Finalists will be announced on the morning of February 7, 2006.
*Final voting will then go from the 7th until midnight on the 13th.
*Winners and runners up will be announced on February 14, 2006.


Good versus Best

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for your unchanging, unfailing Word today.  Thank you that in the middle of all of the genealogies presented in 1 Chronicles, you have given me personally as you do so often, a word that I can apply to my life today.  Speak through me and show whoever stops by this little place on the internet today a glimpse of your presence. 

Amen.

Pretty soon, my reading in 1 Chronicles is going to get exciting.  I just know it.  I read through lots of  "sons of so and so's" today.  I kept reading and reading hoping to get to the end of it and to the good stuff.  Does anyone else ever zoom past the names no one can pronounce, just thinking of them as S and J and M and G and L?  :)  I sure hope so or else I really better get my heart right. 

After I finished reading, I kept thinking about what I read the other day in 1 Chronicles 5.  Let me share.

And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand, and all that were with them: for they cried to God in the battle, and he was intreated of them; because they put their trust in him.  (1 Chronicles 5:20)

For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God.  And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity.  1 Chronicles 5:22

To be short and sweet about the setting, the Reubenites went to war against some of the pagans in their land.  They trusted God and God helped them because it was His battle and they lived happily ever after. 

So how does this apply to you and I?

How many "battles" must you face every day?  For me personally, and for this moment in my life, I am thinking of the battle or war as various ministries or causes I could be a part of.   What do you do when you have choices to make and all of them are good choices?  I'm learning to wait on God to guide me as to the best choice rather than just accepting a good choice as "God's plan" just because I can rationalize the idea into my skillset and my current discretionary time.  We have only a certain amount of discretionary time to allot to things outside of our homes and our jobs and we must choose wisely.   We must pick the "war" that God has set aside to fight for us. 

Do you have a decision to make about getting involved in a ministry activity?  Consider the following questions before you take a step forward.  After considering the answers to the questions, you can take a step forward in confidence and trust in God to equip you in that "best" battle.  Like God equipped the Reubenites to achieve victory, he can also equip you in your charge.

Questions to ask yourself to help determine if an activity is right for you:
1) Do you have the ability/skills/time to do this?  Hopefully this one is self explanatory.
2) Do feel "called" to do this?  Is this ministry an area that you've been thinking about for a long time?  Do you lose sleep over thinking about it? 
 
3) What would your family/friends say about your doing this?  This question is a sanity check for those of us who either try to accomplish too much, over or under estimate our own abilities or can't say "No" when asked to help.  Your friends/family (hopefully they are wise, godly counsel) can help provide a little reality to your world. 
NOTE:  I have forgotten the speaker's name, but I want to let you know these questions were not my creation.  I heard about these suggested questions at a women's ministry  seminar a few years ago.