Browsing Category "Convictions & Resolutions"
6 Oct
2013

Mercy, not Sacrifice

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This morning I was praying that God would receive my sacrifice. I have been working around the house, getting stuff ready to sell online; I hope to offer much of that income for ministry to the poor in other third world countries.

I have noticed though, that my closeness with the Lord sometimes suffers a bit, because I am so busy with the extra work. Being a finite thing, my mind only has the capacity for so much at one time. While I’m driving the kids to their events, if I’m thinking about what I’m going to try to get ready to sell next, I’m not thinking about praying to The Lord, as I usually would have.

So this morning, I was praying that the Lord would receive my sacrifice, and He answered with a rebuke. (The image of the rusty bowl is supposed to symbolize my rusty sacrifice).

Immediately after thoroughly praying about this, I opened Scripture (upside down accidentally), to Matthew, and read only three verses before realizing the Lord had already spoken in a powerful way. It was as if Jesus were looking me straight in the eyes and speaking directly to me. The verses were Matthew 9:10-13.

“But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Having just asked the Lord to receive my sacrifice, of course, reading that He desires “mercy and not sacrifice” meant a great deal to me, and so I prayed for understanding.

– I believe the Lord was rebuking me for setting my close relationship with Him aside, even though it be only momentarily such as a quick car ride, to further my work of sacrifice.

– I believe He also asks that I must remember the people around me, especially my family, as my first priority, and the hungry people overseas as a priority under that.

– And finally, I also believe that Jesus was directing me to continue selling online, but with less vigor, less time & thought invested, to make room for continuing the street ministry I began last year, because His focus was on bringing sinners to repentance, not the righteous.

Scripture Reveals How to Surrender the ‘Pride of Life’

Jesus, what must I still lay on the alter to surrender to your Lordship?  What is in me that is dulling the power of my prayers?

And the Lord provided 1 John 2:16, “for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  And the Lord highlighted “the pride of life” for a number of minutes.  What is this “pride of life”?  

If the “lust of the flesh” concern sinful indulgences of the body, and the “lust of the eyes” are the things one can see and covet.  So the “pride of life” is the indulgence of the ears, the thirst for applause, the hunger for a name of high regard.   As Matthew Henry comments, “A vain mind craves all the grandeur, equipage, and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this is ambition, and thirst after honour and applause. This is, in part, the disease of the ear; it must be flattered with admiration and praise.”      

I confess, Lord, this “pride of a life” is a temptation which has daily overcome me.  Like fingernails running down a chalkboard, it is repulsive.  But Lord, how do get rid of this prideful sound? 

And in answer, the Lord provided Romans 8:13, “for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”Stained Cross

How to Put Pride to Death

But how do I put to death my pride, Lord?  How is that possible? 

And the Lord answered again, this time with John 19: 1-30.  I just read this chapter to my 6-yr-old the day before, except I was using a different bible.  I did not intend to go here again today, but the Lord providentially used it again, perhaps as a way of cementing His voice into my soul. 

“And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.  Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands.” John 19:2,3

Jesus, God of entirety cloaked in human flesh, beaten, scorned and mocked.  Jesus, Creator of the bird and fox, Provider of the bird’s nest and the fox’s hole, had Himself no place to lay His head.  “Hail, King of the Jews!”.  At this point, the fate of the Teacher came to a crown of thorns and a purple robe stained red, with no place to lay His head. 

Room for Only One Voice

The path is so narrow, without room for empty praise, and there is only one Voice ahead.  When I deceive myself with vain glory, bring to mind the praise You endured, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and replay that terrible scene in my head, Jesus.  Mortify my elevated self with these words, ‘a servant is not greater than his master’.

I ask something of a miracle, Lord, that praise would fall on me in the same way as rejection.  That both praise and rejection would only bring to mind the scorn of the cross lifted up; God Almighty in designed subjection to the dust of the earth and flesh, the blood, the thorns, and the hard wood.  Increase, Lord, as I decrease.

Lord, Make Me Rich

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” 1 Tim 6:9

What does ‘desire’ mean here?   The transliteration for this Greek word is ‘boulomai’ and can be described as:

1) to will deliberately, have a purpose, be minded     2) of willing as an affection, to desire

Heavenly Father, lead me not into temptation.  Keep me from riches, keep me from any possibility of living ‘comfortably’ without depending on You for my provision.  I confess I am weak and prone to straying from your good way.  I long to be closer to you, that my every thought and desire would be about the work of Your kingdom and Your purposes.  Deliver me from evil, from anything that would compete with my affection for You, from anything that would cloud my sight of the path you have chosen for me.  

bread from heavenJesus, give me this day, my daily bread.  As you fed the children of Isreal in the desert their daily manna from heaven, might I also gather only for this day, for if I store more it will surely rot.  Give me the blessing of waiting on you for my provision.  I greatly desire the experience of praising your hallowed name for answering my prayers, and knowing I can trust in You for tomorrow.  I want You to be my Storehouse and my Strong Fortress, my Bread and my Cup.  May I gain the peace that comes with contentment and trust. 

Holy Spirit, I humbly request you would work mightily in me, that I would follow after righteousness and godliness, seeking first the Kingdom of God.   Make me rich in faith and patience and good works, like the first believers who fought the good fight of faith in the firey trials, looking always ahead toward the substance of things hoped for, seeing clearly the evidence of things unseen.  Amen.

Lord, What Do I Write? Holy Spirit Led SEO

I had just read Luke 11:33, “No man, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place,” so I prayed that the Spirit would teach me how to light this prayer journal, this blog, since it is one way I proclaim God’s goodness to me.  In other words, I was asking God to teach me how to get internet traffic to this site so it could truly be a ‘lampstand”.  Right now I don’t think anyone reads it because I haven’t spent much time at all on Search Engine Optimization, or on link building, or any such thing, so I hardly get any traffic.  

 Whose Keywords Should I Use?

What am I listening to?

At one point I did spend a couple of hours looking up what the SEO people call “long-tail keywords”.  SEO people say to find the longer phrases that people are typing into the search engines which other websites are ignoring because they are so long.  I found plenty but I had a very difficult time trying to fit these keyword phrases into what I have already written.  I don’t write what people want to hear, I mostly just record answered prayer, so it was very laborious to try to fit the phrases into what I already wrote, and it also didn’t sound natural.  I realized I’d have to write by becoming inspired by the phrases themselves if I really wanted to incorporate them.  That didn’t sit well.

Anyway, as I was asking the Lord how to glorify Him, how to light this lamp and proclaim His goodness, I glanced back down at my bible directly at Luke 12:11 and 12.  As if in direct answer to my inquiry, these words popped out loud and clear, “take no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say; For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say”. 

“Take No Thought” Recording A Prayer Journal

By definition, recording answered prayer is a form of writing which requires exclusive submission to the Spirit, and so every word is essential to the whole.  God isn’t interested in my keyword phrases; that’s just not how He wants me to do things for this blog.  Prayerfully led link building is good enough for me to build traffic. 

The Lord wants each word typed to be owned entirely by Him, “take no thought” about what I am to write, be taught by the Holy Spirit alone.  Spend no time desperately inserting man-inspired phrases but instead use that time for eternity, seeking first the Kingdom, and it will turn out just the way He intended it to, traffic or no traffic.  The best prayers and praises are not words chosen for their popularity, but groans and thanksgiving formed into words from the Spirit alone.  “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

Study to Show Thyself Approved

Last night I asked the Lord in prayer if He would give me a fresh hunger and love for His word and for truth.  Immediately after my petition, without any desire to find this or that, but with only the desire to read scripture before falling asleep for the night, my eyes rested squarely on 2 Timothy 2:15, 

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. 

The Lord speaks through His word, many times in mysterious ways. The more we believe He is near, the more we hear.

I read chunks and pieces of scripture daily, without it I would be a mess, but I am no studious workman rightly dividing the word of truth.  George Muller read the bible through over 100 times in his lifetime; he was a studious workman of the bible.   I would never give up reading and meditating on chunks and pieces of scripture throughout the day as needed, but I can testify that the Lord is convicting me to also become a student of the bible.

Tabitha’s Funeral

Designed & stitched by Beks (left) & Ana (right)

Today the Lord graciously gave me Acts 9:36-39, the life of Tabitha, that dear saint.

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.  About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room.  Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”  Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. ”

What I find so exciting here, I think, is that the Lord uses and honors this woman who is just like you and I.  She has no means to go writing big checks to poor orphanages.  She can not change governments, or save people groups, or invent great inventions, or preach to the nations.  Tabitha was truly a woman who bloomed where she was planted.  She simply applied herself for Jesus, caring for those around her, with a special compassion for those thankful believers that couldn’t do what she could do for them.

She made garments for widows.  She is now eternally honored, her life story etched in the tablets of Scripture.  She practiced Titus 3:8 daily by maintaining good works till her end, “…those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.”  How did she maintain this life of servitude unto the Lord, always doing good and helping the poor?

Tabitha saw a need, and met it with a thread and needle, and a heart for the Lord.  She could have invested herself in so many other things; the arts, education, socializing… all good things.  She found the thread and needle a far more worthy investment of her time.  “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.” Isaiah 32:8

And how often do I see the list of sick believers on the back of the church bulletin (those with cancer, those in the hospital, those bedridden) and sit comfortably in my pew, unmoved?  When it crosses my mind, such as now, when the Lord places these passages in my heart, I think about how I have no time to make meals for other people.  I am homeschooling and I have four kids, and a house to keep, etc.!  How could I possibly fit in the needs of others?  And yet, the Lord calls.  The Lord reminds me that Tabitha had only 24 hours in her day, just like me.  It is likely that Tabitha trimmed many of her activities after the Lord called her to serve in this way.

Looking again at my kitchen, God shows me the potential, and it is so simple in concept.  I have three daughters that love baking and cooking, and we have a heart for the Lord.  I examine my schedule and see places that could be trimmed or even entirely thrown out, believing the Lord will ensure that my children are raised right even if I don’t focus all my energy on them alone.  In fact, the Lord reminds me they’ll turn out even more stable if I don’t fret about providing cutesy craft activities daily or excessive socialization or constant educational stimulation.  Tabitha would have concerned herself with teaching her children the names in the back of the church bulletin far more than the names of all the Presidents.

If Peter wasn’t around, and Tabitha lived in this day and age, I imagine our pastor conducting Tabitha’s funeral.  What would be said of her and who would be there?  “She was always doing good, and helping the poor.”  I bet it would be many people from the back of the church bulletin; the sick believers and widows whom she comforted with visitations and gifts.  I can picture this list of people from my bulletin, surrounding her grave, holding up her own works, be it coats or casseroles, praising the God she so fervently served.

And this sweet scene in my head inspires me to do likewise, laying what I have to give: my schedule, my kitchen, my daughters at the feet of Jesus.

P.S.  If you’re interested,  Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses about Tabitha is incredibly inspiring.  He weaves together Scripture and speaks with such volume of soul, you simply must take a moment to indulge.

2 Sep
2012

Following Christ By Fulfilling Unspoken Promises

I have always marveled at my husband’s ability to let his ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and his ‘no’ be ‘no’.   When the particular situation would tempt anyone else to promise he will do this or that, my husband seems to always choose, instead, silence, and then resolves in his mind that he will do this or that and when he will do it.  Watching him over the years, and seeing the fruit that comes by following Christ in this way, has helped to convict me to do likewise.

The backyard playground has always had a large beam of wood at the top of the ladder, requiring the children to duck under it when they reach the top.  Sometimes that necessary step is forgotten and a child will get a head bonk, the poor dears.  The other day, while my husband was standing by, my little 5-yr-old climbed to the top of the ladder and, forgetting about the beam, knocked her noggin on it.  She then worked very hard at holding back tears, and, though she rarely complains, being especially exasperated she asserted, “I hate that thing!”

I can see myself in this situation, telling my hurt little girl that we will surely get that awful beam cut off so it doesn’t happen again.  Not my husband.  He simply consoled her.  Though he knew he was just about to fix the problem, he still said nothing, keeping the principle of Matthew 5:33-37 in his heart.  After some love from her daddy, she was once again a happy little girl and ran to play in the house.  My husband set to work right away, getting out his circular saw and extension cords.

Awhile later, my little girl was on her way outside to play but stopped in sudden disbelief when she saw that the beam had disappeared.  She gasped audibly, and with love & gratitude in her shaky voice she quietly cried, “Oh Daddy….”.

This whole scene made me think of our Lord, right down to the carpenter cutting the wood.  Moved with compassion, Christ would have consoled the child, then, without empty words, the Great Carpenter would have cut the wood, performing the deed out of abundant love and concern for the child’s little need.

What an example our Heavenly Father sets for us.  The King of Heaven, having never uttered one vain word, continues to perform mighty deeds of compassion, even tending to the littlest of needs.  Certainly, the wise realize it is best to hold the tongue, thereby avoiding any possibility to sin by producing empty words, for there is very little we control, we “cannot make even one hair white or black.” Matthew 5:36b

 

Give Us This Day…

“But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit [it to be so] now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.” Matthew 3:15

This verse is easy to pass by to get to the actual baptism of Christ, but I linger here this morning, it’s beauty striking me; the Spirit holding me captive to it.   What is it about this verse that is so rich?  What is the Spirit saying?

Do you I know what is proper and when it is proper to ‘fulfill all righteousness’?

Jesus knew precisely what He should be doing and precisely when He should be doing it.  Like the earth knows when and where to spin in it’s orbit, allowing for just the proper distance for life to thrive on earth.  Jesus knows what is proper and when it is proper to ‘fulfill all righteousness”.   There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.

Perhaps another time wouldn’t have been proper, perhaps another place or another person other than John, perhaps Christ would not have said these words.  Christ humbled Himself not only to be baptized by a man, but also by subjecting Himself to time and space, God’s natural contraints upon man.

I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of my various activities throughout the day as ‘necessary to fulfill all righteousness’.   Yet, each one, at the proper time, is just that.

Yesterday my dear husband was sweating up a storm working on our rotting garage.  The foundation of our 1915 garage has been completely covered by years of built up ground, buring the foundation which has the effect of rotting the wood wherever the dirt touches.  My husband has been digging a massive trench around the garage to expose the foundation, and it is truly hard work.

He kept telling me not to help him but to do what I need to do in the house with the kids.  Two days ago, I did as he wanted and stayed inside doing my regular duties, but I can testify that though I was not idle, it still didn’t feel right or good.  It felt improper.

In retrospect, I am sure that I should have said something like this to my hardworking man when he told me not to help him,

“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then, I should have gathered the kids and we could have all helped.

It is 8:45 a.m. right now and I have finished my devotions and I have finished my response.  Though I didn’t get to the day’s entire prayer list, I know I can continue to come before the Lord throughout the day while driving or cleaning, or for a quick 5-minute Scripture pick-me-up.  I can now confidently move ahead with the duties the day offers.  The Spirit has shown me what is fitting and proper.  I am to spend an hour or two on that garage, blessing my husband.

If I choose to ignore this knowledge, choosing instead my own spinning thoughts of ‘but this, and I need to do that’, I will lose my step with the Spirit, my conscience pricking me each minute I do not turn, and eventually, as the day dwindles, my mind will be ever more racing and anxious, having accomplished only my own agenda while ignoring the Spirit’s promptings, resulting in anxious thoughts, bitterness toward the constraints of time and duty, and a sense of meaninglessness of what I did accomplish.

No.  Not today.  Today is my opportunity to capture each moment of the day, by asking, ‘What now Holy Spirit?’  ‘What’s next?’.   If it is not terribly obvious, then to my knees in stillness and prayer, and I know the Spirit will guide.  What is fitting and proper for this moment and this place, to fulfill all righteousness, Lord?

A Thousand More Smiles Than Yesterday

Today my 7-year-old Ana said something to me that shot right to my heart,

“If I went away from you, what I would miss is your smile, that one smile.”  She sweetly said to me while I was helping her wash her hair.

“Sometimes I actually cry because I think about how much I would miss your smile if you were gone.  Like if I were living at my friend’s house, I think of how much I would miss your smile and I actually cry!”

I was very touched by her tender words, and, of course, smiled at her. “Yeah, that smile!” she reinforced.

Oh what a gift that was from above!  I started thinking about the power of something as simple as smiling.  Mothers have it in their power to chose to smile consciously, generously, and sincerely at their children.

Each smile a wordless love poem, reminding them how precious they are, that they are unconditionally loved and accepted.  It is so easy, but smiling generously is not obvious; it must be done consciously or can too easily be neglected.  A mother’s hearty smile can change the atmosphere of the room from dismal to cheerful. “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” Proverbs 15:30   And heartfelt, consistent & sincere smiles give glory to God in a way nothing else can.

I find the smiling women at church far easier to approach than those that do not smile very often.  One can certainly love Jesus without smiling all the time, but some have discovered the power of their contented smiles, and they use this power for the Glory of God.

There is an older woman at our church that really stands out from a crowd.  Wrinkles and white hair serve only to enhance her beauty and elegance.  What is it about her?  It’s her smile: frequent, contented, loving and kind.  Though I do not know her, her smile and twinkling eyes, coupled with her faithful church attendance and beautiful white hair, speak volumes about who she is.  This woman knows God’s faithfulness and is content in Christ.  “A happy heart makes the face cheerful…” Proverbs 15:13a  If I were ever in need of another older Godly woman’s opinion, I am almost certain that I could go to her though I have hardly spoken to her!  Smiling is that powerful!

It has been my conviction for some time now to smile more lovingly, more generously, more consciously, more.  I want my family to feel my adoration and approval and my community to see what overflowing joy results from following Christ.  It comes down to a desire to shine for Jesus with everything I’ve got!  If God is at all praised with my smile, then today might I give a thousand more than yesterday.

:)

The ‘Foolish’ Method To Scripture Memorization That Works

My 17-year-old son just got back from Camp Barakel in Fairview, MI.  He said the preacher was absolutely amazing simply because he had so much Scripture memorized.  The man gave a sermon on the weapons of spiritual warfare and my son said it was mostly Scripture, the man simply tied the passages together logically in his sermon.  The man never had to read the Scripture, it was all in the man’s head; this unnatural ability completely astonished my son and greatly motivated him to listen and take notes.

This preacher said that there was a time he deeply wanted to memorize Scripture, but just couldn’t.  He’d ask his wife to help him study and he’d have a hard time getting the first word out.  Then he prayed hard and much about the matter, for about a month.  The man testified that the ability he now has to so easily memorize came from diligently asking God for it.  We already have it in Christ because we have been enriched in every way when we became His children by His sacrifice on the cross.

“For in Him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all knowledge – ”  1 Corinthians 1:5a

I have a terrible memory.  Truly terrible.  I forget names, I forget places, I forget my purse, all too often for it to be cute.   And yet, about two years ago, I do believe the Lord called me to start learning Arabic.  That is a really crazy idea because, as I said, I’m absolutely terrible at remembering anything at all.  Arabic?  Me?  Nuts.  And yet…

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  Luke 1:45

Arabic, huh?  Well, I’ve been stumbling along in Arabic every since.  It certainly isn’t going swimmingly well, but I have gotten a few things down, I suppose.

I’d also like to memorize Scripture more than I do presently.  I’d like to be able to pick up an appropriate verse for the occasion and toss it about in my head, all through the day.  To really internalize the words, you know?

Am I willing to really plead with God about these desires, like the speaker did?  How much do I want this ability, or perhaps the better question to ask is why do I want this ability?  Do I want it for the glory of God, or just cause it’d be pretty neato?  I’ll be praying about such things.

It pleased the Lord to give this speaker at Barakel an uncanny ability to memorize Scripture, but it would have never happened if the man didn’t first heavily seek the Lord about it.  I bet if I were to do a web search on “how to memorize” I’d get a lot of different techniques and not one of them would say, “get on your knees and hard pray about it, period”.  That would be foolishness to most.

“Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:20

Isn’t God cool?  I love it.  He loves the weak and insignificant things that are humbly brought before Him, He loves to make things new, to stretch out His hand.  I want to bring my inability to Him every time, and acknowledge that He is the King, so if it would please Him to give me the ability, so be it, if not, so be it.  Blessed be the Lord.