Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wearin' Me Out

I read an interesting quote this morning, again from the writings of Watchman Nee. He says, "The tactic of Satan is to wear out the Saints." He referred the reader to Daniel 7:25 where the word "persecute" literally means "wear out." Do you feel like the enemy is wearing you out in a particular area of your life? Just flat wearing you out?!

Nee continues, "Wearing out has in it the idea of reducing--a little here, a little there--thus, the wearing out is virtually imperceptible (difficult to perceive). We must ask God to open our eyes so that we may discern how Satan desires to wear us out and how we should combat this tactic."

I felt worn out last night. The tactic of the enemy? The whining of three children for much of the day. There is something about a whiny, negative spirit that just gets into my ears and makes me crazy. Maybe I am alone on this one but by the end of the day it can wear me out. I am not saying that my children are pawns of the enemy--I do not fully understand how the spiritual realm works--but it truly wore me out, and I did finally explode. No, no one was hurt but I did look like an idiot.

We are not at the mercy of the enemy's schemes. We as children of God have been given weapons, mighty in Him. I can tell when I ride the waves of my emotions because they inevitably lead to a crashing experience for everyone. So what are our weapons? Prayer and the Word of God! In the very first moments of sensing that "wearing out" we have to bring our thoughts into obedience to truth. Speak His truths out loud so the enemy will flee. Intercede on behalf of those you love. Otherwise there is a good chance that we will look ridiculous at some point, and our witness may be affected.

How is he wearing you out? I pray this day we would have wisdom to identify the enemy's schemes and strength to submit fully to the Spirit of God. Our Lord came and died that you and I could walk these days free and victorious over the power of sin.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Unseen War

To any of you reading who are unsure about this "Christian thing," I don't mean to freak you out. But there is something very evident throughout the pages of Scripture. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. In fact Paul tells us in Ephesians that we ultimately are not battling flesh and blood--your spouse, your coworker--we are battling principalities of darkness. Wow. Thinking in those terms really sheds light on the topic of conflict.

It makes me ask, does the enemy know who I am?

There are a number of times where God reveals in the Bible some of the happenings in the spiritual realm. And it seems that the enemy of God makes requests to God to attack certain children of God. Did you catch that? He has to ask. And it appears that he attacks those who may be a threat to his agenda. So again, does he know who I am? Or does my witness not cause from him a second glance?

In Luke 22 Jesus actually tells Simon Peter, "Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." The flip side to the enemy's request is that God sometimes allows his sifting--but not without purpose!

Trials and tribulations in this life, whether self-imposed or a product of spiritual attack, hold with them the ability to grow your and my faith. But we have to keep our gaze upon God. In some ways, to truly experience "victory through trials," we have to allow God to "show off" in our lives. Trust Him and allow Him to work through your situation. Seek Him and His ways. Let Him prove Himself faithful to His Word.

Though there is a spiritual battle, we know the Victor. The enemy may try to distract us or even ruin our witness, but ultimately God can use all things for His good. If you call yourself His child--meaning you have accepted the sacrifice of Christ as your own--then you can trust that He will only allow that to come into your life that has passed through His hands. The result of deeper intimacy with your Creator will be worth the fight.

So keep at it, friend. Fight this fight of faith.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Know They Hear

Do all kids have some circuits blocked that prevent a move from hearing to doing? I know they hear. How? Because I can whisper chocolate, TV, or pizza and they come running from the other side of the house. But ask them to get their shoes on, brush their teeth, or clean up toys and it seems as if I am speaking in Chinese.

Just yesterday, as I was feverishly preparing for us to leave, I said to my daughter--who had been playing princess dress-up--"Baby, we have to be in the car in 5 minutes. Go change clothes so you will be ready." I watched her leave the room and then heard her little feet scamper up the stairs. "Wow, she obeyed so well," I thought with a touch of pride in my heart over my parenting skills.

After I finished my preparations--including bags, drinks, dinner, diapers, clothes, and more--I ran upstairs to announce our departure. She was sitting on her brother's floor helping him "thread" a necklace. Yep. That is where she had been for the last 7 minutes. Now I was "behind schedule"--if there is such a thing with three kids under age 5--and a bit irritated that she was still dressed like Sleeping Beauty.

Everyone finally had their tushes in their respective car seats approximately 20 minutes after my first announcement of our exit. WHY??? Primarily because I feel like I am herding cats at times--like they each have their own agenda and zero time awareness. And I can get so frustrated when I actually have a commitment!

I tried to explain to all three while I pulled out of the driveway with raised blood pressure, "Do you guys understand that half-obedience is still disobedience? Hailey, when I said go upstairs and get dressed, you disobeyed. You did go upstairs but did not get dressed." "But I was helping my brother!" she defended. "Yes, and that was very kind, but still disobedient."

Then I realized something. They are just like I can be in my own natural self--disobedient, self-focused, and stubborn. The truth is that I can just hide it better because I don't walk around whining and pitching fits--at least on good days. But ultimately my heart, left to itself, rebels from this loving, holy, gracious God.

I don't want to halfway obey, because that is just disobedience often disguised in niceties. If God directs me to do something then I want to do it completely. When He instructs me to forgive fully, love unconditionally, speak only words that bless, and be slow to anger, then for me to be obedient I have to fully obey. Wow. That is why He sent His Spirit to indwell believers--we cannot do those things on our own. It has to be Him working through us, by His power. We must let go of the reins and allow Him to live.

I learn so much from my kids--sometimes it is the innocence of faith and other times the depravity of my own heart. God is so very faithful to teach if we are willing to learn.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rain or Shine

My prayer life has been challenged over the past year. I realized it recently when someone asked me to fervently pray for her as she was going to the beach, "Lara, will you please pray that we have sunny weather. Please." I said, "OK" but then pondered the conversation. You see, I know this person is struggling in her faith. I know her marriage is on the rocks. Honestly my most prominent prayer for her is that she meet with God at the beach--rain or shine. That she would have a time of renewal in her relationship with Him, rather than a few days "away from everything." I have been reluctant to break the news to her. I am praying that I myself would be bold when she mentions it again--that with love I could share my heart's desire for her.

I am not saying we should not pray for comfort and blessings--Lord knows I do! But I have reevaluated the motives in many of my prayers. For example I ask, why do I really want "this person" to change? Is it because it would make my life a lot more bearable if they would just straighten up!? Or is it because I love them and desire that they walk in victory and freedom? Ouch.

Then recently we faced some financial challenges. Do I simply pray for God to provide? Or do I pray for wisdom--God show us if you want us to sell our home, sell our car, sell our children (though I am kidding that is a devastating reality for some)--and then strength to be obedient? I mean, if we are not being faithful in some area of our lives then how can He rightfully pour out His provision and blessing? (By the way, He is faithfully spilling forth both wisdom and provisions. Thank you, Lord!)

Ultimately He wants us as His children to experience the life that Jesus died to give--freedom from the sin and weight that entangles. There will be seasons of trial--meant to be a refiner's fire. There will be times of wanting--meant to push us further into Him. I pray for you today--that whatever your circumstance, you would allow God to use it for His great glory. And that if He allows the rain to fall, you would remember that He is faithful. So dance and splash--the sun will shine again.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spit Me Out?

My local church is finishing up the "E100 challenge." We have spent the last 20 weeks reading 100 key passages from the Bible. We are now closing with excerpts from the book of Revelation. The truth is that much of Revelation is veiled in mystery as it is prophecy of what is to come. But there is one thing I do understand, Jesus shows His pleasure with some and His contempt with others.

To two of the "churches" He says,
  • (Continue) being faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
  • Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial...

To the five other "churches" He declares,

  • I know your works, your labor, your patience...nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love (namely Christ)
  • I know you hold fast to my name...but (you) commit sexual immorality. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight
  • I know your works, love, service, faith, and patience...nevertheless you allow (one who blatantly walks in sin) to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality...(Repent or judgement will come upon you)
  • I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead...Hold fast and repent.
  • I know your works that they are neither cold nor hot...because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth...Therefore be zealous and repent.

So what is the bottom line? What's the point? To explain every single symbol from the book--every unfamiliar description? Not so much. Ultimately it reinforces my desire to spend these short days being zealous for the things that really matter. I don't want to waste the brief stay I have on this dirt. I want my life to reflect the love of God first in my home and then beyond its walls. I want to be one to whom Jesus says, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." (See Matthew 25:14ff)

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Monday, May 25, 2009

They Immediately Followed

Is my life compelling? Does it draw people in and ultimately point them to God? No, I am not referring to the mounds of laundry, frustrating moments of meeting the needs of three children, or endless hours spent on my feet in the kitchen. Does my life, my countenance, my peace compel others?

My 2 year old is stuck on the Bible story of Jesus choosing His helpers. In his little Bible there is one page where all of the disciples, drawn in cartoon characters, are lined up with their names written above their heads. It is so funny to hear him say, "Thaddeus..." And to be honest he likes us to make up funny names as we go down the line. But what still sticks out to me from this story is how compelled these men were to follow Christ.

In the pages of my own Bible it says, for example, "Jesus...saw two brothers...casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him." (Matthew 4:18-20) And this wasn't the only time this happened. The next few verses show two other fishermen brothers, approached by Jesus in the same way, "and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." (Matthew 4:21-22)

They immediately followed? That just amazes me. What was it about Jesus that caused them to leave their entire livelihood behind and immediately follow Him? The truth? God compels--He, in and of Himself, causes man to drop to their face. These men were captivated by the Spirit of Christ. And to be honest, if we call ourselves Christ followers, we should have a similar affect on this world.

I was reading some compilations of the writings of Watchman Nee this morning. Paraphrased by Sentinel Kulp, Nee says, "The distinctive feature of true Christianity is that it compels people to receive." So again the question becomes, does my life and my faith compel others to look to God?

As we die to ourselves this day and allow His Spirit to flow freely through us, the curiosity of others will be aroused. The key? Dying to self. Oh, the days and hours can be so challenging. But amazingly God can use our little lives to point others to Him--the Giver of peace and joy. Now if only my kids will be compelled to immediately directives, that is.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Color for Jesus

I am trying to remember how the topic came up between my 4 year old and I yesterday afternoon. For some reason Jesus' second coming arose in conversation--you know I am always looking for opportunity to talk theology, even with my preschooler. So I said, "Yes, Jesus came the first time as a baby but He will come the second time as a powerful King. Then there will be no more sadness or tears." I resisted the urge to discuss death and eternality--I know you are so proud.

Her little face was graced with a slight grin. "And we will all live with Him...together?" "Yep, everyone who loves God will all be with Him." I could tell her little wheels were just turning. Later that evening she brought two pictures to me while I was cooking dinner, "Mommy, I colored these for Jesus. I am going to give them to Him when He comes. Will it be soon?" Aren't kids precious?

This morning I read a statement by John Piper--yes, he is a regular in my devotion time. He says, "Hope and love do not come from nowhere. They grow out of ideas--views of reality." Isn't this so true? I am writing a chapter right now discussing the absolute influence that our thoughts have over our attitudes and eventually our words and actions. So the question becomes, what are we filling our minds with--distorted beliefs from our culture or the truth of God? Hope and love grow out of "ideas revealed in the Scriptures and applied in the power of God's Spirit."

If we want a life of hope, peace, and love then we have to know God's truth. He is the Creator of your life, my life, this world, "evryfing" as my kids would say. He knows all. I know I harp on this point but it has proved ever-faithful in my own pursuit of peace and hope: we must be in His Word. His truths bring life to our weary bones. Though there will be times where He instructs us to do things in complete opposition to our feelings, obedience will lead to blessing. It just will.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

My dad always said, "When you see a 'therefore' ask what it is there for." The reason Paul encouraged believers to be steadfast and immovable was because of the hope found in the resurrection of Christ--He has conquered death and one of these days we will rejoice, "Death is swallowed up in victory."

So go ahead, marinate in His truth. Take on His views. Ask for His wisdom. Then color Him a picture. One day He will return.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Poor Will Be Rich

How would most in your church respond if a homeless person walked in and sat down? What would the faces say? What would the hearts ponder? Really.

I can honestly say that I believe my church would accept anyone into its doors--and I love that. But I would also venture to say that there would be some--maybe even myself for at least a split second--who pass judgment and avoid embrace. Oh how I hope that would not be me.

People, in general, judge by appearance, but God looks at the heart. In Him there is no partiality--none. In fact James reminds us in 2:5 that God has actually chosen "the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him." Why? Because riches deceive. Money itself is not evil but we as humans tend to worship it and depend upon it for our peace.

My dad had such a compassionate heart for those with nothing material. He would travel to India on a regular basis preaching to the most desolate, impoverished of peoples with such a tenderness for revival--and thousands upon thousands would come to repentance. I remember him giving to the "least of these" through our church doors of downtown Tampa. Even now as I write in remembrance, tears flow with thanksgiving for his witness. Though he enjoyed nice things--who wouldn't--I never sensed from him a love for the material world. I hope to carry on that legacy.

"Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." (James 2:1) Let us guard ourselves--satiated with stuff--from loving the things by which we are surrounded and judging those who cross our paths. May we ask God to give us His eyes--His heart--for the people in which our hands could touch today.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I have not personally experienced adoption in my fleshly relationships. I have had dear friends and family over the years who have either been adopted or adopted a child as their own. But at this point in my life that has not been my personal experience here on this earth. But there is something so precious about it.

God says that He has adopted us as His own, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out 'Abba, Father.'" (Romans 8:15) That word adoption is a compound word in the Greek that means "placing as a son." According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (I'm not that smart I just know where to look), "it signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong."

Do you catch the significance? In essence, God plucks us up--non-son and non-daughter--by His great grace and declares us now His child. It is nothing we have done to deserve the title of "child." He is just gracious and abounding in love.

I would imagine an earthly parent who adopts feels the same. You would not adopt because of the achievements of a little one; you adopt because you want to give your love--freely and abundantly. It is here that we collide with the concept of election.

Volumes have been written about God's "election" of believers. So this short blog entry could never address the many facets. But one thing is sure. Salvation is not dependent on humans. It is a complete work of God from start to finish--a complete gift of love and grace.

If you call yourself His child then revel in the fact that you were chosen by Him to be His own, "you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9, emphasis mine)

Go this day and proclaim His praises. He who called you is faithful.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Plain Mean

We had an interesting interaction at our local farmer's market this weekend. It was packed--people were everywhere. In my own clan were three adults, seven children under age 5, and two strollers. You can imagine the sight--we were a big glob. Much of our time was spent corralling the children, giving continual instruction of what could and could not be touched.

We slowly migrated through the aisle and came to a stop in front of a plant vendor--one of many. He had a beautiful display of exotic plants in an antique wagon. My two year old loves wagons. So he went over and pulled down the handle ready to go for a walk. "No, sir," I said, "Put the handle back up. We can only touch that with one finger (my little catch phrase)." He reluctantly obeyed but did put the handle back and proceeded to touch the plants gently. His little friend joined him and together they were "admiring" the display.

The owner then abruptly came over with a white handkerchief and began slapping them on the hands while rudely barking orders, "No, no, DO - NOT - TOUCH - THIS!" I stood in complete shock. For a brief moment I thought he had to be kidding--they were not even hurting anything. Then I quickly realized that he was very serious--and so did the two boys. We all walked away, stunned and with slight emotional trauma. What just happened?

As the following moments progressed my mother's furry was aroused. "Did he really just hit my son with that cloth? Really? I need to go say something," I thought. Then my little guy, sitting quietly in the stroller--not his normal, lively self--said, "Mommy, tell that man not to do that anymore. He slapped us with a napkin." My heart sank. "He did not make a good choice," I assured.

So then I began thinking. God must "feel" that same fury when His own are mistreated by this world. Sometimes I think the temptation is to think that He is indifferent--maybe because His timing and ways are so far above our own. But the truth is that He sees our every tear and hears our every cry. Our "job" is to trust His heart and have faith in His judgment, rather than necessarily seeking our own retaliation. And then one step further is to forgive those who have treated us wrong--praying that God would have mercy upon them.

I must admit that my first inclination was to go over to that man and slap him with something myself. But then my heart softened. "He must be a pretty miserable person to slap cute little children. Lord, I pray that you would minister to his heart--soften him so that he may come to know the joy of life found in you." God is not indifferent. He does care when we are mistreated. But let us leave judgment to Him and obey His command to love and forgive others--even our enemies. This is right and good.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Them's Fightin' Words"

Be diligent
Hold fast
Do not waver
Stand firm

These are the words I read in the pages of the Bible--very different from the image of a "hippie Jesus picking daisies." This life is a battle--a battle for truth. We live in a world that entices the passions to stray from the truth of God--believe me, I have been an active part of this world in my past. A world which calls good evil and evil good. A world that sells people, kills babies, prostitutes sex, demands rights, numbs the senses, worships wealth, and mocks the name of Christ. This is the world in which we live.

Yet God is gracious. I was reminded last night through a sermon of John Piper (visit his archives at that God still makes the sun rise and the rain fall on His enemies--those who reject His love. He pursued me even when I opposed Him. He is a gracious God.

He has given us all this life--one chance to choose our heart's devotion. Are we going to spend our days lazily consuming more to appease our cravings, focused on my needs, my desires, my wants? Or are we going to make these brief moments count for something greater?

"Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest (the rest found only in Christ), lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:11-13)

If you and I call ourselves children of God--living under the great love of the Father--then we must be diligent to enter His rest. But in a deceptive, self-focused world, how do we persevere? We get into the word and meditate on His promises. Soak in His truths. He has chosen us in spite of ourselves. Keep at it, friend.

Be diligent
Hold fast
Do not waver
Stand firm

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Friday, May 15, 2009

A Time Not to Clean

Yesterday afternoon I had a moment. The house was quiet as all were napping--except me of course--and I had a choice of how to spend my time. Usually my routine includes about an hour of straightening, cleaning, and organizing my quickly ransacked home. But not this day.

I started pondering what the "great cloud of witnesses" would be cheering me to do. You know--all of those who have gone on before us. I imagined Paul--who told us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Would he be cheering me to do more cleaning? Or would he be shouting for something more eternal in value?

So I made the commitment never to clean again. Just kidding. But I did say to myself, "You know, there is a time to clean and a time not to clean--or a time to sit at the computer, watch TV, read a magazine, etc, and most moments not to. God show me how to be faithful with this moment." I realized it was not the time to clean--it was the time to meditate upon His word and write encouragement to others.

This life is but a flicker. We have each been given a limited number of moments--oh how I want to be faithful with my little handful. The daily demands of life do call, but I pray today--when you and I have choice--that we would choose that which has eternal significance.

Let us not waste our time--rather spend it ministering to those closest to us, working our way outward. Our God is worth the fight, friend. Get to know Him deeply.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Wife's Arena

Yesterday I mused over the concept of being a blessing to others--a giver. And an interesting challenge arose for me as a wife. Why is it easier to give to strangers, acquaintances, and friends rather than to my husband? Maybe I am alone in this but it seems like when it comes to my spouse I can be consumed with my needs and my wants--rather than sacrificing me-ness and being selfless. But why?

I think because it is the most real. It is where we are the most vulnerable. This person knows our every fault--and we theirs. But ultimately this relationship has the greatest potential to reflect the love of Christ--in the midst of mess and weakness, dying to self and choosing to bless. This will be an area of great stretching when it comes to selfless love--where dependence on the Spirit of God proves necessary. But as I have said before, blessing will follow obedience.

I pray that we as wives keep our priorities straight--believe me, I am once again preaching to myself. That our attitude of giving will begin in our home, towards this man with whom we have vowed. If we are going to love like Christ, then we must get our eyes off of our "needs" and onto the needs of those closest to us--reflecting a true servant's heart. Then hopefully the words of Janet Jackson--"What have you done for me lately?"--will fade into the background of distorted thinking.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Be a Blessing

I want my kids to be givers. But for them to be givers then I must be a giver.

After my post yesterday morning I pondered what God had laid upon my heart. "Lord, show me ways in the moments today how I can get my eyes off of myself and onto others." I was then confronted by the words of Joyce Meyers--no not personally, though I would love to meet her for a "Jesus praise fest." She reinforced what God had been stirring in my own spirit.

In essence she said, "We as Christians shouldn't have to have a 4 hour prayer meeting over whether or not to part with $10 that someone else needs." She qualified her statement by explaining that she isn't saying that so we would send her money. "Just do something. Just give to someone." She continued, "I have a new deal going with God--if someone crosses my path with a need then I will meet it unless God tells me not to. This should just be what we do as Christians."

A little while later I proceeded to explain to the three little faces in the back of my vehicle--with passionate inflection--why we need to be givers. "Let's ask God to show us someone we can help today," I insisted. With blank stares they all agreed--well my little guy didn't know what was going on but I could tell he was all in.

Would you know that an opportunity arose--God is cool. My daughter and I were dropping off some old baby clothes to a consignment shop when we were approached by a woman. She asked how much I would take for the box of 12-month girl clothes. Everything I had been meditating upon flooded my spirit, "Take it," I said. "What? No I can pay you something," she responded. "No, I insist. Take it. I am a Christian. I love Jesus. And He would want me to give this to you because He loves you. So take it. Here, you want this box too? Take it also."

After she loaded her car, my daughter and I proceeded to take the rest of our things inside the store. One of the owners said, "We really do not condone selling in front of our shop." I said, "Oh, I understand. I actually just gave those things to her." Silence.

As I walked away from the checkout, I overheard the shop workers talking about that lady, "I think she had been trying to shoplift. Did she ever show you her baby?" "No," said the other, "I asked her how old her baby was, if I could peak in her carrier, and she avoided the question." It was at this moment that I had a choice--do I let the enemy steal the joy of giving or trust God to work in this woman's heart?

When we got in the car I said to my daughter, "You know, we should pray that that lady will see the love of God by our giving to her; and that she would come to make good choices because God cares for her."

Maybe we were scammed. But honestly that is not our place to judge. I want to teach my kids to be givers--open to give when a need presents itself. I don't want to teach them to be a judge--wise, yes; discerning, absolutely; but not a judge. I tell you all of that not to give myself a pat on the back--please hear my heart. It has nothing to do with me. My point is that God will show us how we can give--of our time, our resources--so that others may be blessed. When they see the goodness of God, they may just turn to Him--Giver of life and love.

Ask God to show you how to be a blessing this day--to your husband, your children, a friend, or a lost world. He will faithfully reveal.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pride Exposed

Why would we as humans--short-sighted, easily distracted, too often deceived--battle pride? It disgusts my spirit yet often tries to reside in my own being--thoughts that rise declaring my goodness, potentially puffing me up. What in the world? We don't talk about it--that would seem arrogant. But we think it. We feel it. We compare ourselves to others in hopes of coming out on top. Why do we do this?

The answer: we are delusional. We as humans tend toward complete self-focus.

The solution: meditating on Truth.

When I was at the gym yesterday I noticed that everyone there was focused upon themselves--except for the various men scoping out half-dressed women. Glances into the mirror were sizing up one's individual accomplishments--"My rear end really needs a few more squats." "Wow, look how my arms are really shaping up." GAG--and these were my own thoughts that wanted to take up residence. ME, ME, ME. Sometimes I just get tired of thinking about me--what I need, what I want, how I am affected, what I am struggling with, what is on my to-do list. Enough is enough!

A song came on my mp3 by Brandon Heath entitled "No Not One." I was in the midst of battling self-thoughts when I collided with the absolute selflessness of Christ. Absolute Selflessness! He came for us. He gave Himself up for us. He crucified His human "will" and submitted fully to the Father. He loved completely. He died sacrificially. He lived selflessly. Wow. That is the point.

This life is not about me--it is all about Him. Proud thoughts might try to invade, but truth enables us to push them out. Truth guides us to a right understanding of the world in which we live. My life is not my own. I have been bought at a price--the price of Christ's death. I am no longer at the mercy of sinful mindsets. By the power of His Spirit we can humble ourselves and esteem others as higher.

Jesus explained that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others--everything else hangs on these two laws. This day I pray we more fervently recognize proud thoughts disguised as truth. Let us humble ourselves before this mighty God that He might lift us up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6) It is all for Him.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Words from the Wise

Three sayings that have proved faithful in my walk with God over the years:
  1. From Dr. Charles Stanley: H.A.L.T.--never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Our defenses drop when our physical and emotional senses are challenged; so we should halt and address those issues. Though if you are the parent of young children you may live in a constant state of exhaustion--and God is gracious.
  2. From Dr. Paige Patterson: You cannot coast through a single day. Meaning, we cannot live on yesterday's faith. We need to "die daily" to ourselves, daily "take up our cross," and daily follow Him. This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
  3. From Dr. John Piper: Bleed Bible. When I am pressed by the trials and demands of this life, I want to bleed Bible. I want the truth from God's word to flow from my heart and mouth. This means that my mind and spirit must be saturated with scripture. It gives life to the weary and strength in the journey.

I hope these words encourage you in your own adventure with God this day. Remember, He is faithful and motivated by love. Seek Him with all your heart and He promises to be found.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mommy's Motivation

I am a mommy. Today is mother's day and it has me thinking--imagine that. What is my vision for these kids God has entrusted to me? What really matters? What do I desire for them?

These kids are not mine--well, biologically and socially, yes they are. But ultimately these three kids are God's--entrusted to me for this short season we call childhood. And my primary responsibility is to point their little, chunky faces to their heavenly daddy. It is not about me--it is all about Him. I do not want to make them to be "independent thinkers." I hope to lead them from dependence upon me and their dad, to dependence upon this God who redeems.

Thinking in this way changes my view on discipline. First, it enables me to be more patient--just like when you are babysitting another's child. You know what I mean--you can more easily use the happy-voice with a kid that is not your own. I want to be diligent to remember, especially when my patience is being tried, that these kid's are not my own--they are God's.

Second, it challenges me to reflect the heart of God when my children disobey. I have these moments--hours--where I feel like I am walking around just looking for rebellion--ready to pounce with a consequence. I do not like these times--they do not reflect God's heart towards me, His own child. God wants us to obey simply because He loves us with an abounding love. He knows what is best for us because He is our Creator. That is the attitude I want to reflect--discipline motivated by love.

Third, remembering that they are not my own propels me to give consequences the way God gives consequences. There is grace--praise God! But the Bible teaches that God does discipline His own--sometimes even displaying righteous anger over the sin. When we disobey--stepping outside the "circle of safety" He has created--He faithfully brings us back. Depending on our resistance and level of stubbornness, there are times when His discipline really hurts. But He disciplines out of love and desires that His children walk in the abundant life He intends.

Likewise I want these kids to trust my own words. If I say to stop behavior-A, then I want to be quick to discipline continued behavior-A. Why? Because if I said it then it is out of love for them and their safety that I desire them to stop behavior-A. If I neglect to follow through then I am teaching them that my instructions do not always matter--and in turn that God's instructions do not always matter.

I fail constantly. We are all on this road of learning. But God promises to give wisdom and power. Our faithfulness does please Him, but not because He is on an ego-trip. When we faithfully obey then we will experience the life He created--full of peace, joy, and love. Our kids will mess up continually--some days it feels like that is all they do. But if we could come to see these as opportunities to reflect the heart of God then maybe we wouldn't take it so personally. Believe me, I am preaching to myself.

What do I want for my kids? What is my goal? That they would love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that they would love others as themselves. Is this the attitude I reflect? Something to ponder.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

A Humbled Wife

OK, ladies, do you want to be humbled today? Wow, I was humbled last night. I have mentioned before that I am in the process of writing a book about being a victorious wife in spite of your circumstance. So I should have this all together, right? Not so much. I still struggle. My emotions still lead me astray. My words can leave my mouth before I think, especially by the end of the day when patience has worn thin.

So how was I humbled? I asked my husband if he felt respected in our home. This is it, ladies. This is our primary role towards this man with whom we have vowed our days. Though my husband qualified his statements, he did mention times when he did not sense respect. Ouch.

Don't get me wrong. Thankfully there is grace and forgiveness. But this is the basic goal for a Christian wife: respecting him as the leader of the home. God designed marriage with organization. It has absolutely nothing to do with intrinsic value. Man and woman are equal in worth but different in function. We were created differently and with great purpose. In fact it seems that God progressed throughout creation, getting more and more complex--leaving the woman last. We all know the complexity of our own womanly heart.

But in the home, God has designed roles meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. And as the wife, our God-ordained role is that of a helpmate. Yes our husbands also have a role--loving selflessly and tenderly. But regardless of their actions, we are still living before an audience of One. We are still responsible for our own thoughts, words, and behaviors.

It is a challenge. I know. But there is great blessing when we obey the commands God gave to the wife. Let us take every thought captive, by the power of His great Spirit, and lavish these men with the respect their inner-beings crave. It will result in blessing.

I'm in there with you, ladies. I will be praying.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Call That Accomplished

I am very proud of myself for two things I did today:
  1. I resisted the urge to go back and "tackle" that Hello Kitty maze that stumped me earlier--I do have a few more pressing things to do.
  2. I discovered the source of my van--are all boys this messy and, to be quite frank, disgusting?

A day's work done.

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Change is a comin'

Do you have anyone in your life that just about makes you "cray-zay"? You know--when it seems like most interactions try your spirit and test your patience. Those are fun. Sadly I think it is easy for us as people to take on a fatalistic mentality. One where we resign ourselves to the thought that others, or even ourselves, will always be that way. We lay aside any hope of change, believing that one's past determines one's future.

But that is not what God says. According to His truth, and by His power, no one is ever outside of His ability to bring a breakthrough.

If it is someone else for whom you have lost hope, then remember two things.
  1. Do not allow the choices and attitudes of others to bring you down. This is easier said than done--especially depending on how much time you spend with this person. But preach truth to your own spirit. And as much as depends upon you, walk faithful.
  2. Pray--intercede on behalf of others. Remember, we are fighting a spiritual battle. You are not at war with a person, there is spiritual opposition and the way to defeat the enemy is in the power of God's might. (See Ephesians 6)

What if it is yourself for whom you have lost hope? Maybe you feel like you can never change this or that because of your upbringing, your circumstance, your past sin, or your poor choices. That is a lie intended to keep you bound to defeat. Friend, the truth is that God is able to bring about change but in many ways it is our own choice whether or not we allow Him to bring change. It may be one of the most difficult things we ever do, but walking in truth rather than riding the waves of our emotions will bring victory.

If you haven't yet realized this from my posts, I love the Bible. God has changed my life through His word. It is living and active, able to penetrate our hearts. But we have to be in it. We have to meditate on it. Sleeping with it under your pillow will not change your thinking. Read it and apply. Dig in and trust His heart. He promises that change will come.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

I want to be happy, don't you? I love laughing until I lose some kind of bodily fluid. Aren't those moments great? Happy. And you know what is cool? God made laughter--our happiness (when pure) does bring Him pleasure.

I was reading John Piper this morning--still slowly progressing through A Godward Life. He referred to Ephesians 2:7 in the portion I read today. It says, "(God made us alive in Christ) that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Consider this, Piper expounds,
  • God has planned the coming ages for the purpose of showing the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. The amount of this grace and kindness is described in terms of riches and wealth and the degree...immeasurable...The whole account (of grace and kindness) will be spent on us (for multiple ages). (p. 292)

Did you get that? God is going to spend ages lavishing us with His great grace and kindness. This is something to be very happy about. And the truth is He has already begun to pour out His grace upon us through Christ. Jesus came so that we could have life--free from the power of sin and death. While we were still enemies of God, He sent His son to die a redeeming death. This is grace. This is immeasurable kindness.

"So why is my life so blankity-blank right now?" you ask, "I am not very happy." There are two basic possibilities:

  1. You have stepped outside of God's will and are now facing consequences of your choices. But here is the amazing part--you are never too far out of God's reach. He wants to bring you back to Him. Seek Him and He promises to be found.
  2. You are experiencing a season of trial and testing. Why? So that you will become more and more like Christ--fully dependent on the sufficiency of God. As James challenges, "count it all joy when you fall into various trials." (1:2) It is through the Refiner's fire that we become free from impurities. He will be gracious. He is forming and purifying your faith. And He is worth it.

There are coming ages of immeasurable riches. But even now, revel in the grace of this God we call Father. He loves you, He loves me, and He desires to give life abundant in spite of our circumstance.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

These "Light" Afflictions

It is so encouraging to see fellow believers "fight their fight of faith" with grace and strength. The Internet makes the world so small. We cannot only see but interact with people from around the globe. And to see children of God walk their difficult days in victory speaks volumes.

One of our pastors once said that God does not give us the grace we will need for a certain struggle until we are in that certain struggle. For instance, He doesn't give cancer grace until we are battling cancer. He doesn't give marital infidelity grace until we face a betraying spouse. He doesn't give wayward child grace until we are having to intercede daily on behalf of our precious son or daughter. But He does promise grace for today. He will never leave or forsake us.

I was reading in Romans this morning. Paul--who wrote the letter--always encourages me with his fiery zeal for the Lord. He continually talks about the hope-of-what-is-to-come outweighing any afflictions we might encounter in this earthly realm. Every struggle we face in our brief moment on this planet is an opportunity to choose trust over fear. As we choose to trust a loving Father, who sees everything from beginning to end, we will experience the victory He intended for His children.

Fear comes naturally. Fear of the unknown--where we cannot control the outcome--tries a weary spirit. But just as Paul reminded Timothy, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) If we walk our days in fear then we are not abiding in the Spirit of God. It really is that simple--in theory. In actuality it is a battle for the mind--am I going to dwell on these temporal sufferings or am I going to set my mind on things eternal and true?

Let us set our minds on the hope to come--living these days as a testimony to God's goodness and faithful spite of circumstance. Get to know Him from His word. Then let's allow Him to transform us through our afflictions. Seek Him. He promises to be found.

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Monday, May 4, 2009 a child

Three things I do not want to forget:
  • The way my two year old boy gets on his knees to pray--at the dinner table and even in his church Sunday school class. How precious is that!
  • My daughter coming home Sunday and going straight to her piggy bank because she wanted to give money to the "people who need food."
  • The incomprehensible way my 17 month old yells "amen" at the end of any one's prayer.

Oh, the faith of a child.

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Snake Bites

I have been reading of Paul's missionary journeys, found in the book of Acts. I am so encouraged by a portion found in chapter 28. At this point, Paul was a prisoner awaiting trial for preaching Christ. He and others were in the process of being transported by ship to Rome in order that they might appear before Caesar. Paul related God's warning that the voyage would end in disaster. But it took many days, and devastating winds, for the crew to eventually listen. When we reach chapter 28 they have been shipwrecked on the island of Malta with all 276 lives spared.

So try to picture this: for close to a month they have been in the process of sailing to Rome. They have faced weeks of difficulty--winds gusting, waves pounding, cargo lost. Now they have wrecked on an unknown island and swam to shore. They are cold, soaking wet, and lost. Thankfully the natives showed great kindness and helped build a fire for warmth. Do you know what happened next? Paul was attacked by a viper. The snake hung from his hand until he shook the creature off into the flames.

Are you kidding me?! After all of that now he gets bit by a snake?! Come on!

The natives thought he would swell up and die. But when he showed no signs of harm they believed he must be a god. He cleared that one up and pointed them to Jesus.

So what is my point? We should all take up snake charming? No. My point is that we are not at the mercy of snake bites. We as God's children are not at the mercy of this world and the enemy's attempts to destroy. If you have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, then God calls you His own. He has sealed you with His Spirit--giving you power to overcome. As you start pursuing God and His will, proclaiming His goodness and mercy, the enemy will attack. The Bible says that he is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But praise God, we are not at the mercy of snake bites.

Though it might sting a little--even a lot--when we are attacked by various things, our God is bigger. What the enemy intends for evil, God can use for good--for His glory. What is our job? Trust and obey. If you are His, then trust that He is working. Don't live in despair. Preach truth to your spirit and then obey His commands. Believe that He is able to turn a snake bite into an opportunity to bring His name glory. He is worth it, friend. He is good.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

A boy's lunch

I am processing. Today our church service focused upon a desperate cultural situation--sex trafficking and slavery of women and young girls...even in our own American cities. It is not that I am completely naive. Before today I had heard statistics and had even been moved to emotion, but never to the point of action. I hope today proves different.

We can be so consumed with ourselves, can't we? Our schedules, our plans, our children, our homes, our problems. Granted there are short seasons where our attention must and should turn inward, but for the most part the majority of our self-focus reflects our natural tendency as people. I don't have to teach my kids to be selfish. It comes pretty naturally. I guess that is why Jesus tells us to love others like we love ourselves. Yes, sometimes the needs of this world feel daunting. But as the speaker today reminded, Jesus just wants us to give Him what we have, even if it is just five loaves and two fish.

Join me in getting informed. Then let's ask God what He would have us give of our time, resources, or intercession--He can use the smallest lunch to feed thousands.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sin's Deceit

So we have some bugs—computer bugs. It is amazing how one becomes “dependent” on the computer to stay connected. I have ventured to Starbucks, with a borrowed laptop, in order to appease my Internet craving.

I tell you what has been on my mind the past couple of days—the deceptiveness of sin, selfishness, and the enemy’s spirit world. An acquaintance of mine—I see her weekly—poured her heart out to me yesterday regarding her marriage. In essence she said she was “done.” Ultimately it came down to her needs not being met.

I am in the process of writing a book about being a victorious wife—little did she know that I had awoken early that morning, studying in-depth the concept of submission. Though it did sadden me to hear her despair, what actually grieved my spirit was seeing her anger, bitterness, and hardened heart toward this man she calls husband. Yes, I could see that from her perspective he was not being the man she “needed” or even wanted. But I am learning that that is not really the point of marriage.

Believe me, my marriage has faced some potentially devastating circumstances. But God has taught me much and challenged my vantage point. In the end it comes down to me, and you, before a holy God. What am I supposed to do, Lord? How do you want me to respond? We cannot control what other people feel, do, say, or think—have you figured that one out yet? All we can control is our own thoughts and actions—and that is a full-time job.

Remember to dance before an audience of One. Get to know Him from His word. He has faithfully revealed Himself and His promises. Dig deep and live. His blessing will follow obedience.

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