MOODS

The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'”  I Kings 20:28

 

Have you ever awakened feeling glum?  And the day hasn’t even begun.  For no reason, it’s a “blue Monday.”

Oswald Chambers says that when we’re experiencing that sort of mood, we’re to kick it out.  That may be well and good for Mr. Chambers, but I’ve discovered I have more success when I wait it out.  Essentially, remembering that we can cast any care on our Father, praising and thanking him, his peace will surely fill our hearts in his time.  Rather than fretting, waiting in trust for him to appear always works.

In the story mentioned above, the Arameans had mistakenly thought that God only brought deliverance in the mountains.  Typically, we are already joyful in him when we’re on a mountaintop, but the Arameans didn’t realize that God is still there when we’re down in a valley.  In fact, he’s everywhere and waiting brings the peace that he’s promised.

 

Lord, remind us to keep our focus on you so that we’re not dominated by our emotions or moods.  You ARE the God of our ecstasies and even of our low moments.  Thank you.  AMEN.

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THANKSGIVING

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18

 

 

I’m so glad that the verse in I Thessalonians doesn’t say “for all things give thanks.”  That would be a pretty tall order.

Once again my sweet mother has spoken to me even though she’s been with the great Cloud of Witnesses for a few years now.  I picked up one of her journals and was thumbing through her collection of thoughts and submissions.  I was happy to find the recipe for zucchini bread that I lost years ago and quickly purchased all the ingredients needed to bake up that family favorite.

But the entry that brought joy was a list she had made.  At the top of the page, Momo had written, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One.”  Momo mentioned our country, her Christian parents and family, her children, and her friends and neighbors.  And then she went on to mention their little dog and “the privilege of summer vacations” [in various places].  She even mentions their home location “with all the conveniences close.”  Momo lived with a heart full of thanksgiving so that it was easy to be grateful for the obvious as well as the small things of life.

My parents remain two of my heroes—not because they were perfect or I always agreed with them.  I admire them because they followed Jesus to the fullest of their understanding of his teachings and ways.  Even when it went against personal preferences or opinions, they followed Jesus.  Perhaps that’s why Momo lived with a heart of thanksgiving.

This year I cannot begin to list all the things for which I am thankful, but at the top of the list I would have to write, “my parents and my family.”

 

Lord, I have a godly heritage, and I thank you that I was led to you at a young age.  Thank you for the genuine examples of godliness that blessed my formative years, and help me to bless the little ones in my family that they may grow and love and serve you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

TRUE RELIGION

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:20

 

The Sermon on the Mount is the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the Gospel.  Many of the religionists of Jesus’ day found him annoying because he took the Law and applied it in uncomfortable ways.  Through the 1500 or so years since the Law had been given, the religionists had managed to twist and compromise the Law so that it would be easier to obey and more complimentary to their comfortable lifestyle.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The Law focused on the outside—acts that could be admired as righteous or those acts that could be condemned as wicked and which rendered their perpetrators as outcasts.  Jesus made everything more difficult by interpreting the Law to encompass the motivation and the heart condition of its adherents.

For example, in Matthew 5:21-42, Jesus begins each new topic with something like, “You’ve heard it said [in the Law]…but I say…”  Where the Law says don’t commit murder, Jesus says don’t even be angry with someone or call him demeaning names.  Where the Law says don’t commit adultery, Jesus says don’t even think wrong thoughts about a woman.  Jesus is looking at the heart condition that initiates the sinful behavior.

Sometimes we’re not far removed from those hypocritical Pharisees who seemed right on the outside but were filled with unrighteousness on the inside.  We have to be convinced that the thing of most concern to our Father is our personal relationship with him by which everything else is determined.  If our heart is right, our attitudes, our words, and our behavior will be right.  We will act out of who we are and not who we pretend to be.

Remember that old metaphor about the cup of tea?  When the cup is agitated, only what’s inside will come out.  When Jesus fills us, any bumps along the way allow him to spill over and saturate whatever and whomever is around.  No pretense necessary.

 

 

Lord, change our hearts constantly; fill us with your Spirit; and cause us to glorify you in all we think, say, and do.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:5  (NIV)

 

 

Who doesn’t want to love and be loved?  But sometimes we find ourselves working with people we don’t even like.  They’re unpleasant or disagreeable or—worst of all—don’t do things our way.  We know that God has called us to love and has, in fact, made provision for those times when we can’t find in ourselves the ability to love.  That’s when we discover that we truly are “poor in spirit” and desperately need God in us to love the way we know we should.

We’re tempted to think that this time he’s really given us more than we can bear.  He’s asked us to do something we can’t do.  And yet, he stretches us so that he will be glorified, and we can be changed.  We must acknowledge our spiritual poverty and cry out to him for what he’s already deposited in us through the person of his Son.  God isn’t looking for just a lovely character.  He’s looking for the image of Jesus in his children.

God has already given us everything we need to manifest Jesus in every circumstance.  Our task is to abandon our commitment to self-sufficiency and receive his grace to be manifested in and through us. His love has already been poured into our hearts.  We must choose to ignore the attitude that causes us to shut out the one with whom we have no affinity or who may even cause us grief.  Instead, we access God’s love and by faith live out his supernatural love.  What a perfect opportunity to die to the selfish nature that seeks to control and impoverish us.

In loving the unlovable (Aren’t we sometimes in that category?), we glorify God and recognize his sovereignty:  He put me here; He is in control; He has a good plan; all things [eventually] work together for good.  A loving God will never abandon us to environments where he can’t be glorified and where we can’t manifest him.  In all things, we trust to his love and his perfect will.  God does all things well.

God is bringing many sons (and daughters) to glory, but we occasionally find ourselves kicking against the vehicle he has chosen to get us there.  If we embrace the people and circumstances he has brought into our lives, we find the love, the grace, and every single attribute of the life of Christ available for us.  And often we discover that he sent the very person or thing that we most needed.

 

Father, we are your children.  Live and love through us that we may glorify you and that we may learn more of your ways.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  AMEN.

LEADERS

And a little child shall lead them.  Isaiah 11:6

 

 

Have you learned to be careful what you say around children?  Their hearing is remarkable, and their memory is even more astonishing.

I have two friends who are faithful ministers of the Word in another country.  They have taught their two boys by example to love the Lord and to be obedient to his teachings.   And now they have two little disciples who diligently live out the Gospel in their daily routines.

Matthew is seven years old and is enrolled with his brother in a local public school.  One day during the lesson, his teacher became frustrated with one of the students and finally said to him, “You are stupid.”  At this, Matthew stood and told the teacher that she had said a bad word when speaking to his friend and that she could no longer be his teacher.  I imagine the teacher, already distressed, was further upset when Matthew continued.  “You must apologize to this boy and ask his forgiveness for saying this bad word.”

When the teacher saw Matthew’s intensity, she asked the student to forgive her.  She said that he was right and then suggested to the class that this event not be repeated to anyone.  Of course, that was not to be with a group of second-graders.  Matthew went home and told his parents about the disturbance in his classroom, and the following day, my friends went to visit the teacher.  They explained that they were entrusting their sons to the teachers for the majority of the day and expected the teachers to be examples.  They knew the teacher had asked forgiveness, and they assured her that they, also, had forgiven her but reinforced the importance of her role modeling to all her students.

When I heard the story, and knowing Matthew and his brother as I do, I reflected on my own parenting, even my own personal witness.  How bold am I, how bold are my children and grandchildren in standing for truth?  Is truth so important that I confront error when I see it or do I tolerate unkindness or bad language or injustice rather than making a scene?  And how consistent is my life that my words reinforce what I live out every day?  Matthew was respectful when he stood up to denounce what he saw was hurtful and “bad,” but he was also willing to take the consequences for his public witness.

What can, what will I do when faced with abusive language and behavior?

 

 

Lord, make me and all my family such lovers of Jesus who is the Truth, that our lives reflect truth and that our mouths respectfully confront error.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

LEGALISM

…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  II Corinthians 3:6  (NIV)

 

 

I have a friend who’s been struggling.  She had the good sense to enlist the help of a Christian counselor and poured her heart out.  In one of the sessions, the counselor asked her to describe her devotional life, the practices she follows to feed her spirit and to connect with the Lord.  My friend talked about the little religious routine she observes:  Read the Bible passages recommended in her Prayer Book; read a popular devotional book; and pray.  The counselor then asked how that helped, and my friend responded that it was just a custom that she followed.  It was another task of the day that had to be checked off before dressing for work.  What had started as a time of spiritual refreshing had gotten to be a habit so that there was no life in the practice.  The counselor told her to stop that deadly list-checking and instead get out and walk and talk with God.

I remember times when my children were small that I would sometimes get annoyed if they demanded attention while I was “having my Quiet Time.”  That sacred Time that no one was to interrupt.  Instead, I, too, found that my devotional time had evolved into what Oswald Chambers called “my time with my habit.”

Of course, this is not to discredit a secret time each day that we set aside to be with the Lord.  The whole point of devotional time is relationship.  We put ourselves in a place of sitting and being with our Father and listening to him, talking with him, and waiting on him.  The Psalmist tells us that “in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

None of this checking off the list.  Having my Quiet Time.  We are speaking of a refreshing, life-giving, intimate meeting with our precious Father.  It becomes as necessary as breathing and eating, and it is not burdensome.  It’s not dead time, and we wouldn’t miss it.

If your Quiet Time has gotten “lame” (as my children might say) and dry, put away your books and begin to seek God with all your heart, asking him to give you a hunger and thirst for him and his righteousness.  And stay with it until he appears.  He will not disappoint—but please put away those habits that masquerade as fellowship with him.

 

Father, sometimes we get caught up with our religious practices and mistake them for reality.  Move us back into your presence so that we rediscover our joy.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

REFLECTIONS

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  II Timothy 2:13

 

 

In speaking with my son recently about estate matters, he said, “Mom, I don’t want anything from you except some of your books and your journals.”

That gave me pause.  I have forty-two years of journals, and, although I have general memories, I certainly don’t recall everything I’ve said (or done) throughout those years.  I thought it would probably be a good idea to begin a review.  What I read left me awed.

The first journal was initiated during a particular year with lots of breakings and disappointments.  There were records of occurrences and then reflections on God’s presence.  Over and over I saw God’s presence through the darkest of times.  And they were times I would never wish on anyone…

When unexpected expenses arose, God had unanticipated resources.  Friends seemed to rally from nowhere, and my family encouraged me in the Lord.  Even with a limited budget, the children had invitations to camps, to parties and recreational events, and we were even treated to a family vacation that year.  Needs that had never arisen before were addressed in seemingly supernatural ways.  A job opening I’d not anticipated was perfect for my skills and schedule; a scholarship provided access to further education; and renters brought in needed income.

Things I had forgotten through the years stood out sharply from this present vantage point.  Of course, there were frequent references to the grief we were experiencing, but God’s grace brought comfort and assurance that he did have good plans for us, plans for a future and a hope.  He was always pointing me forward.

God’s provision was and has been remarkable.  But that was not what struck me so forcefully.  In those numerous journal pages, over and over I saw the faithfulness of God.  Through many painful days, it seemed almost impossible to go on.  So many nights seemed to have no horizons to anticipate.  And yet, even when I was faithless, he remained faithful. 

He didn’t get tired of my sorrow, my frustration, my finger-pointing, my “what-ifs,” my impatience, my weakness, and my self-orientation.  In fact, he was a friend who stuck closer than a brother and never left or forsook me.  He didn’t toss me out—he just kept working in me.

And that’s only in the first of the journals.  I don’t really remember, as I’ve already said, what’s between all the following pages, but I am confident of the ending.  And I think it will be okay for the children to read the journals.

 

Father, there is no way any of us can detail all your goodness toward us, your children.  Thank you for giving us eternity to express our gratitude.  AMEN.