Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I can't get "no" satisfaction, Part II

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:

the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

We are still exploring our verses, Proverbs 30:15-16.
Today let's look at the second thing that "is never satisfied" -- the barren womb.
I believe that God gave us (women) something down deep in our souls that prepares us for our role as mothers. In most women there is a yearning to have a child. Many of us have experienced the joys (and sorrows) of giving birth to and raising children. Those who have not experienced it often desire it above all else.
Remember Samuel's mom? Her name was Hannah, and she implored the Almighty to bless her with a child. Let me refresh your memory of the story, for it is a poignant one:
Hannah was one of two wives of a man of Israel -- she was actually the one that he loved best. And he showed it by always giving her the choicest food, and doting on her. Now, obviously that didn't set well with the other wife, for though she had borne him children, she was not favored as much, and she resented it! So she picked and needled and irritated Hannah, and caused her much anguish and many tears. Her hubby encouraged her, but still her heart was heavy and she couldn't eat.
One day at worship, Hannah was overcome and prayed, weeping bitterly. She promised the Lord that if He would bless her with a son, she would dedicate him to His service. The rest of the story is a wonderful example of answered prayer: Hannah conceived and took her young son to live, work, and worship in the temple, and then to be a prophet of God and trusted advisor to kings.

I wrote all of that to give an example of the fierce longing of many women to bear children. In the same way, for most new Christians, there is a overwhelming desire to tell others of Christ's love -- to see others born again, as we have been. You see, a saved person wants to see others saved!

But how many of us have forgotten all about the Great Commission?
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
How long has it been since we witnessed to the power of the Lord in our lives? Have we prayed like Hannah and pleaded for the opportunity to share Him with others?
How long has it been since we told others of His love and His compassion? Our soul will be barren unless we obey His command and tell others about Him. I believe this ties in with the spiritual death that we spoke of yesterday. There are some Christians and some churches that seem dead. There is so little life and joy in them that they seem to have already "given up the ghost." Gone are the outreach efforts . . . missing in action are the sincere words to an unbeliever. I truly believe that an earnest desire to tell others about Him will breathe a spark of life where there is none!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Proverbs 30:15-16 I can't get "no" satisfaction, Part I

“The leech has two daughters.
‘Give! Give!’ they cry.
“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:

the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

I guess that all of us has known someone who never seems to be satisfied. We can't do enough for them; they can't get enough. There is always something else that they are so sure will satisfy them . . . They see what other people have, and they want to have it, too. It doesn't matter in the least that those people have worked, saved, and sacrificed to get those things --- the unsatisfied person wants them now!
Dissatisfied people always have a negative outlook: they are always looking for what is wrong in their life, or what they want and don't have, etc. They seem to thrive (sometimes even enjoy) having a problem that they can talk about. They are happiest being a victim. And if you advise them how their problem can be solved? Oh, boy, are they aggravated with you!
We see this a lot in kids, but adults are not immune. With some people, the more you do for them, the more they take you for granted, and want even more!

Our verses today and tomorrow list four things that are never, ever satisfied. Let's get down to our study!

First, the grave . . . this is speaking about death. Despite the title of the (very) old movie, death never really takes a holiday.  No one has found a way yet, to escape. It is in all of our futures, unless Christ's return happens before we pass. We see in Ecclesiastes 3:3 that there is a "time to be born and a time to die."
I recall years ago traveling to Charleston, SC, and walking through the quiet graveyard beside St. Michael's Church there. There were all sizes and shapes of graves and stones between the cobbled paths -- some were so tiny, and decorated with cherubs, for babes and children who had died so long ago. Others were large; some even looked like buildings, for adults that were prominent in the community when they died.
Death doesn't care our age, or our importance. It's never satisfied, crying out "more, more."
This verse could be talking about spiritual death, too. Of individuals, or even churches. There is a lot to think about in these verses . . . more tomorrow.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday slowdown

I hope that this week's study has been beneficial for you -- I know my own heart has been blessed by the Word, and I know that the application of the verses will help me have that peace that only He can give to us.
I mentioned this hymn in our study, and I thought it might be a good one to share for our Friday Slowdown.
Blessings to all.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nailed to the Cross, Part III

As we continue with our study, I'd like to move on to exploring how we can limit our stress . . .

Stress is not always a bad thing. Some stresses are good for us. Going on vacation is a positive stress that relieves negative stress. Getting a promotion at work is a positive stress. Becoming a parent is a positive stress.

We can limit negative stress by applying the counsel of Jesus.
Matt. 6:25-34, "25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
When we put the Lord first, we limit many of our negative stresses, because He has promised to meet all of our needs; He is the Rock of Ages; He is there for us in time of trouble; and He is the refuge from the storm.
The Bible does have an antidote for stress. It is called faith. Often when we are worried, it’s because we are worried about something that might happen. Many of our fears never come true. Anxiety is worry about what might happen. I think many people fear what is on the other side of the wall. We cloud our minds with so much of the darkness of doubt, that we prevent the sunshine of hope from coming into view.
Heb. 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Heb. 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
The Bible also encourages us to be cheerful.
Ps. 51:12 "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."
I'm sure that you can point to many other verses about joy and cheerfulness.

So, we can limit worry, anxiety, and stress. But here is where the rubber meets the road....many of us will take our burdens to the cross, and lay them there. But as we turn to go, one hand will slip out and grab it up! We must leave our troubles with Him!
Our title for this study is "Nail it to the Cross." I want to encourage each of us to visualize taking our burden to the foot of Christ's cross. Then I want you to pick it up and hold it against the cross, as high up as you can. Take a hammer, and nail that worry, that anxiety, that stress, to His cross.
You see, it takes a lot more to take back your burden if you have put it there more permanently. You will need to get your hammer back out, and slip the clawfoot portion under the nail and pry, and pry, and pry.
Let's leave our burdens with Him -- He is powerful, and compassionate; He cares for us; He is able to handle anything we nail onto the Cross.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nailed to the cross, Part II

We're focusing our thoughts this week on a verse from the New Testament; we'll be back to Proverbs next week. We're talking about stress, worry, anxieties, and gray hair.
Seriously, here is our verse:
Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:7
Not to go too far down a rabbit trail, but we live today in an extremely fast-paced world, no? Yes.

You can be driving down the interstate just a smidge over the speed limit, trying to get to your destination on time, and a car or truck will blow by you like you are standing still!
We have UPS and FedX and other companies who scurry around getting packages to somewhere very, very quickly, and we all know of kids that want to grow up even more quickly!
We must be careful when we grocery shop, for we may collide with someone who is in a big hurry to collect their purchases and scamper home, and we must be careful at the gas station or we may bump into (literally) someone who is anxious to fill and go as fast as humanly possible!
Meals must be prepared, and then eaten, in a hurry. It seems that everyone and everything is rushing, hurrying, scurrying....
Did you know that our bodies respond to stress in many ways? Every system in our body (heart and blood vessels, immune system, lungs, brain, sensory organs) are "at the ready" for the perceived need. Keeping our bodies at such a fever pitch can have long-lasting effects . . .
Do we approach our worship and prayer time with our Father in the same rushed way that we do other situations in our lives? That's an important question -- maybe we should pause to consider that before we go any further?

What advice does the Word give for stress?
Do you recall the words of an old hymn, "What a Friend we have in Jesus"? 
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

There is a boatload of good theology in that hymn:
No matter what our problem is, we have a high priest that understands our weaknesses:
Heb. 4:14-16, "14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Not only that, but our God can solve our hardest problems:
Matt. 19:26, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
And why is it that we carry our burdens so long? In the words of the hymn, "what peace we often forfeit" by not turning them over to Him:
Matthew 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We'll continue with our study tomorrow. I hope you'll join me again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our prayer requests

We are studying how to get a handle on our worries, stress and anxieties, and this is a perfect day for us to share our prayer requests.

As always, I ask that you look over the requests on our Prayer page, and scroll down through the comments on that page for updates and changes.

Also take a peek at any comments left on this post. Feel free to add requests for prayer on either page, and if you have had an answer to prayer, leave us a note to encourage us all.

Blessings to all of you as we pray together today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nailed to the Cross

I'm going a little off base here today....the Lord laid something on my heart that I wanted to share. We'll resume in Proverbs soon.

Many of us have heard the wise counsel "hand over your burdens to the Lord" and "lay your worries at His feet" and other such sayings. These are all very true and very wise. They are even scriptural; for example, Peter tells us to cast our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.

Then why do we, as Christians, and especially as Christian women, have so much trouble with worry and anxiety?  I think this is a topic that we need to explore, and I hope to take a day or two and look at it with you, my friends in Christ.

You'll see, in time, the reason for my title. For now, let's start our study:

"Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." I Peter 5:7

Do you notice that instead of "cast" in the verse, it says "casting"? In my studies for this series, I read that there's a reason for that. The "ing" on the end makes it a participle (I probably should have paid a lot more attention to that grammar professor) and it means that it's dependent on the premise from verse six --- that had to do with humbling ourselves.
Here is how both verses look together:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

"Casting" is not a command, but a way of humbling ourselves. We humble ourselves by realizing that we must hand over our cares, anxieties and worries to God. His care, then, comes to us when we depend on His grace.
Sometimes I tell you about the Hebrew words and their meanings -- today we need to look at the Greek. Casting means to "throw upon, roll onto, deposit with." The secular Greek language used "casting" to draw a picture of a man who carried a heavy burden and threw it onto a camel's back.  God wants us to roll our burdens onto Him. Instead of anxiety that causes us to panic, to lose focus, God wants us to have a target for those worries -- that target is Him.
God doesn't design the circumstances and situations of our lives to break us, but to "make" us. We need to move from trusting in our own strength and in our own strategies, to resting in God, and in His resources.
He is willing and able to carry the heaviest burden for us.
When you are under pressure from worry, stop and take a breath. Remember you are His child, and relax in His grace.

“Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! Selah” (Psalm 68:19).
We'll talk more about this in the next few days. I hope you'll join me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday slowdown

This is almost a companion piece to the hymn that we enjoyed last week; in fact, when I searched for a video, this song popped up first!
I hope that you enjoy this one.
The lyrics are simple, but true!

May we all experience the peace of God this week!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Proverbs 30:11-14 Cleanser needed, Part II

11 "There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers;
12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful;
14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.

Yesterday we studied the need for being cleansed, the person Who could cleanse us, and the process by which we could experience cleansing.
Today we'll look at these four things that Agur mentions, that are stains on us, like spots on a counter top. 
First, not showing respect for our parents. This doesn't just cover the outward things, like talking back and being disrespectful. It covers the sneaky, insidious things, too. The disrespectful thoughts, or (God forbid) the cheating of elderly and incapacitated parents. Many today think nothing of that, and while I don't think any of our study friends would do that, it may be that our thought lives are not as kind or gracious as they should be. And granted, as our parents age, it may be difficult to have grace in the situations that are presented to us, but the Word does tell us in the Old Testament it was serious business:
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. Exodus 21:17
Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching,  Proverbs 1:8
And in the New Testament:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3
Next we are warned not to have a wrong attitude about sin. "Pure in their own eyes" is the way it's put in verse 12. We covered this pretty well yesterday -- all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of our Father.
Verse 13 talks about being "high and mighty" as my grandma would have said. Pride and arrogance are contrary to our walk; if we follow Christ's example and strive to be godly, these need to be rooted out.
"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. I Samuel 2:3
Are our eyes "haughty" or our glances "disdainful"? Or do we humble ourselves and ask God how we can serve others?
Lastly, verse 14 speaks of cruelty, specifically the cruelty meted out by our mouths -- it mentions teeth and jaws . . . ever heard the phrase, "chewed him (or her) up and spit 'em out"? Rather graphic, but it denotes a severe and harsh treatment; it speaks of a cruelty that should not be part of our lives.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29
The last two days' study have caused some of us to get out the bandaids, haven't they? God's Word truly is "for reproof, for correction, and for training . . ." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Proverbs 30:11-14 Cleanser needed, Part I

11 "There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers;
12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful;
14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.

When I began to study these verses the second part of verse 12 really stood out -- "not cleansed of their filth."  It was apparent to me that all four of these verses were noting things that we do need to be cleansed of; these are sins that we need to ask forgiveness for, and turn away from.

When these are in our lives we need a cleanser, like a kitchen counter top that needs to be cleaned and left spotless and shining.  God wants to use us in service, but He can’t effectively use us until we are cleansed from sin and filled with His Spirit. Many people don’t even recognize themselves as sinners. They may think they occasionally do something wrong -- but they don’t see it as a sin against God. Of course, if a person doesn’t believe in God, then they definitely don’t think they have sinned. They may think they have made a mistake but they have certainly don't think they've sinned against anyone.

The Bible has something to say about that, though. Let's look at Romans 3:9-12:
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
As Christians, we know the Person who can help us with this cleansing. Not only do we know Him, but we know that He is willing to help us:
“When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.” Matthew 8:1-3
Just as He healed the leper of his disease, He is willing and able to heal us and cleanse us of our sin.
No matter how we have sinned, He loves us and will cleanse us!
We also know the process of cleansing. Initially, we are cleansed from our sins when we confess Christ and surrender to Him in faith and obedience. But what if we sin after we confess Christ and start that new life? What can we do then?
 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
You see, if we needed to go through the whole process again, some of us (me included) would be constantly needing to confess faith and be baptized, and I guess for me it would seem like there was a pool party every day -- I have to ask Him to forgive me for so many things! But all we have to do whenever we recognize that we've sinned, is bow our heads and confess to Him; we must repent (turn away) from the sin, and move forward from there. Satan has an impressive toolkit, you know, and one of his tools is to get us to think that we are not forgiven, not worthy to be a child of the King. So it's important not to wallow in it -- but to accept that He can forgive us and purify us, like in the verse above!
Why all this talk about cleansing? Why is cleansing necessary? Hmmm, I think Paul tells us, or actually we can listen in to his words to Timothy long ago:
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. II Timothy 2:20-21

Do we long to be used of God? To do a work for His kingdom? Then we need to be certain that we are cleansed and ready for the Holy Spirit to guide us . . . then we can be holy, and useful to the Master!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Proverbs 30:10 That "judgy" look

Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.

Slander . . . to make a judgement about someone, and to spread the word about them; to disparage and defame them.

Have you heard the expression, a "judgy" look? Or the expression "bunny disapproval"? I never will forget when I overheard a young person describing some people as "sitting there with such judgy looks on their faces." (Grin) Kinda made me glad that she was not describing me!

Sometimes we Christians can get pretty "judgy" about each other, can't we? Not a good thing.

I have heard some folks that judge other Christians about their salvation --- they say they know the exact time and day and who was around and what they were wearing . . . other Christians may not know the date and time, but they remember being at summer camp and they know that they were unsaved before, and that they were sure of their salvation after that. I don't think it's quite fair for those who say they know the date and time, to be judgmental of those who don't. It's really between that person and their Lord, right? In Acts 16:31, and in Romans 10, we can see that salvation is based on belief in Christ . . . it doesn't say "and if you can note the date and time then you truly are saved."

Sometimes Christians can be heard judging others and saying, "Well, I just wonder if Brother Sew and Sew is really saved....I sure don't see much change in his life."  Ouch! Yes, it's true that some folks have a tremendous change when they start their new life in Christ -- almost like old clothes just falling away. Old habits are broken and a new life begins.
Others struggle more with those old habits. And their knowledge of the Word may not be as broad. So they are going to take longer to show the fruits of the Spirit -- but that doesn't make them a fake, and that doesn't mean that they are not saved. They are working at it, just like us, and just like Paul:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am un-spiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:14-25)
Let's take a good look at ourselves, and see -- are we giving our Christian sisters and brothers "judgy" looks? Bunny disapproval? Yes, we are to use our discernment, and our wisdom, but when it comes to judging, let's remember where WE once were . . .
To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, ...Titus 3:2-7

Monday, April 15, 2013

Prov 30:7-9 Only give me what I can handle!

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

When I was little (chronologically, not physically), I was fascinated by the grandfather's clock in the hallway of my grandparents' home.  "Don't touch!" was often repeated to me as I longingly gazed at it. The pendulum swinging back and forth was absolutely mesmerizing.

We can experience pendulum swings in life, too, can't we? They are not nearly so pleasant as those of my childhood, but it appears they happen to everyone. Our writer here is asking God to give him "just enough."
He's afraid that if he has too little; if his bills outstrip his income; if he is below the poverty line, as politicians like to say, that he will find it far too easy to justify his sin. He may cheat and steal, just to fill the bellies of his family. He may fall into other sins as well, and all of these will serve to dishonor the name of his Lord.
On the other hand, if he has wealth, it may be too easy to forget where the blessings came from. He fears the apathy and the nonchalance of "well, I have all these things -- why do I need God?" He knows the human soul and the tendency to think that somehow we deserve all of these things, or that they are ours simply because of us -- not the holy God Who gave them to us.
So Agur is reaching out and trying to stop the pendulum right in the middle . . . not all the way on one side, where the wealth and riches are, but not all the way on the other side, either. That is where the poverty and want are. He is hoping to be right in the middle.
But you know, if we always are in the middle, we'll never, ever grow! It takes times of poverty to test us and allow us to grow in faith. And it takes times of blessing to see if we can respond in wisdom to the wealth God gives us.

Psalm 66:10 For you, oh God, have proved us; You have tried us as silver is tried, refined, and purified.
Hebrews 2:18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
James 1:3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
II Corinthians 8:2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
Yes, "just enough" is a good place to be, but when life's pendulum swings to one extreme or the other, let's try to accept the testing and ask for His wisdom to handle it --- because we know it may swing the other way soon! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday slowdown

This is one of those hymns that has a sincerely wonderful and inspiring story. I was honored to sing this for a funeral some years ago, and researched it at that time....I was impressed and moved by the faith of the author. Here is the story:

This hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford. You might think to write a worship song titled, 'It is well with my soul', you would indeed have to be a rich, successful Chicago lawyer. But the words,
"When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It is well with my soul”, were not written during the happiest period of Spafford's life. On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved
wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's
voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was.

It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under circumstances similar to those
experienced by the Spaffords. But we do know that the God who sustained them would also be with us.No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford...

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul. 

(Story from Biblestudycharts.com)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prov 30:5-6 God's words

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
    or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

After giving these verses some good study time, I think that our guide, Agur, is trying to tell us that we cannot begin to improve on God's Word. And, additionally, he tells us not to even presume to think that we can add anything to His Words. The implication here is that God sort of takes that personally.

Of course, that has never stopped people throughout the ages from doing it anyway, has it?
Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 15:9 for "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
And Paul told the Christians in Galatia that "...some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:7)

Also, Paul warned the Elders at Ephesus to be wary because “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:30)

Ah, so there is the key to the problem. That is what Agur was cautioning us about:  People will distort Scriptures, and add to God's Word because they want other people to pay attention to them.
They want people to follow their teachings, their new (or re-packaged) doctrines.

And that’s an easy temptation to give in to. Lots of churches have fallen prey to that. Lots of church leaders have been enticed by that.
It's a problem that has been around for a long time, and it will be around much longer. It is even something noted in the prophetic book of Revelation:
I give fair warning to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If you add to the words of this prophecy, God will add to your life the disasters written in this book; if you subtract from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will subtract your part from the Tree of Life and the Holy City that are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
How can we avoid "adding to" or "taking away" from God's Word?
Galatians sums it up when it says “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
If we reflect those attitudes, we’ll never become legalistic or pharisaical.
And if we strive to build our thinking around the Word of God we’ll always have God’s wisdom to guide us in our lives.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Proverbs 30:2-4 Surely you know

Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
    I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!

We so often find ourselves turning to favorite passages in the Word. Sometimes they are verses of comfort; sometimes they are verses that tell us of our redemption; sometimes they are passages that remind us of the privilege of having Christ as our confidant and friend. All of these are wonderful -- they are all a part of our Christian experience, and part of being born again.

At other times we come across verses like those for today. Like a whirlwind, they clear our minds and cause us to focus on who the Father truly is. They remind us of His awesome power and His strength and majesty.

He created the vastness and beauty that we take for granted in our world and in our galaxy.  He literally spoke it into existence!
Look around you and see how vast this universe is that God has made. God is truly all powerful. The power of God is amazing and it has always been a wonder for me. I often  look at the clouds and the sky and am just amazed by God’s power.  
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”  Job 26:14
It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 10:12
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases Psalm 115:3
“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, you made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for you!”  Jeremiah 32:17
Our world is a compelling testimony to the power and majesty of our God. Let's thank Him today, that He has loved us "from the beginning", and has provided a way for us to always be with Him! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday -- Our prayer requests

Last week many of us sang about serving a risen Savior, and I hope that our hope and faith have been renewed. Does that carry over into our prayer life?

Do we thank our Father for His many blessings, and pray expectantly? Do we claim the promises in His word?

Let's share both requests and praises today -- if there is something that you can tell others that will encourage them, something He has done for you, please take a moment and share in a comment.

If you have a request and would like for all of us to pray with you, leave a comment and let us know.

And this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us....I John 5:14

Monday, April 8, 2013

Prov 30:1 The source of my strength

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.
This man’s utterance to Ithiel:
“I am weary, God,
    but I can prevail.  (NIV)

Some of the commentaries say that "Agur" is the name of the writer of this chapter, and others note that the name may denote his vocation --- it means collector, and he could have been a scribe; he may have been one who collected sayings, observations and prophecies and wrote them down before they were forgotten.
They also differ in their interpretation of "Ithiel" . . . it may be that Ithiel was the name of one of his students, to whom he dictated this chapter. Or, it could be that he is referring to one of the names of God, since he addresses God by name. Ithiel means "God with me" which is so very similar to Immanuel, "God with us."
So, after consulting and studying, I came down on the side of this interpretation -- I believe this is a man named Agur, who is speaking to his God, Ithiel, or Immanuel. He tells Him something stunning here: "I am weary, but I can prevail."

Wait a minute. Read that again.

Did that hit you like it hit me?
That floored me.
How many times do we feel tired? Exhausted? Unable to go any further? Do we feel that we simply. Can. Not. Go. On?
I don't know about you, but it happens often to me. To be quite honest, it has happened a lot lately. So many things happening in life that we become overwhelmed. We try so hard to handle things for ourselves and others that we don't do a very good job of handling anything! Our stress levels rise, our tempers flare, our voice becomes a whine, and Satan sits to the side, looking on with glee.

Agur is saying, "Lord, I'm weary." But in the very next breath he says, "but I can prevail." Not just I can survive; I can get by; I can barely make it. I can prevail!
The very first synonym for "prevail" in the dictionary is "triumph." All out victory. That's the kind of thing we can rejoice about!

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

What is the source of our strength today? We can take comfort and rejoice in the verses above, and this quote may inspire us, as well:
“Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. That which man doth, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casteth away; He will only reap that corn, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love. God will empty out all that thou hast before He will put His own into thee; He will first clean out thy granaries before He will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength which He Himself imparts. Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give thee victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.” – Charles Spurgeon

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Slowdown -- His Mercy

Some of you may have heard this before, but this was new to me. I found the lyrics moving, and very meaningful.  I try to include many different styles of music on our musical Fridays, so I hope everyone hears something that they like sometimes!

I can't count the broken roads I've been down  
But all I know Something had to give Something had to give
'Cause living my life so wild and free  

Finally caught up Oh it left me broken, left me hopeless  
But that's where I met Jesus
In one moment everything changed  

Who I was got washed away when mercy found me
My Savior's arms were open wide  

And I felt love for the very first time  
When mercy found me  
When mercy found me
All those days, all those doubts  

They don't seem to matter now  
His grace is all I need  
His grace is all I need
And the chains that I was in before  

They don't hold me anymore  
His love has set me free
My mind found peace  

My soul found hope  
My heart found a home
In one moment everything changed  

Who I was got washed away when mercy found me
My Savior's arms were open wide  

And I felt love for the very first time  
When mercy found me 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Proverbs 29:27 Am I upright?

The righteous detest the dishonest;
    the wicked detest the upright. (NIV)

An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and 
he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked. (KJV)

We've studied before, and asked ourselves if we are honest. If we are righteous. If we are godly. Today I found a verse that opened my eyes about the topic, "Am I upright?"

Who is upright? This verse tells us that the honest and righteous person is upright. The verse I found, Job 8:6, gives us another clue:
if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.
If our desire is to be upright, we must be pure. 
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:9-11
If we desire to be upright, we must ask God to help us avoid sins:
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13
If we are upright, we will be rejoicing; we will be glad in the Lord; we will be righteous:
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:11
Are we upright?  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Proverbs 29:26 It all comes from above

Many seek an audience with a ruler,
    but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.

We all try to do the best we can with our lives, right? We try to eat nutritious food, we try to do well in school, well, I'm not choosing very good examples, am I? (Grin)  Sometimes I eat stuff that I know good and well is NOT good for me, and I didn't always give my best in school.

Let's try that again.

We attempt to make the best of our lives, to select a school to go to or a trade to learn, a spouse to marry, a car to drive, a home to live in, and on and on. What we don’t realize is that while we seek a certain conclusion to life’s questions and uncertainties in one direction, the answer comes from the Lord.
Ever heard people talk about God's will? They sometimes talk about His directed will, and His permissive will. His directed will is when He reaches down and directs a person or a situation, to accomplish His purpose. His permissive will is when he permits us to do something, or He permits something to happen in our lives. (Remember Job? The devil only had the ability to do what he did, because God permitted him to do so.)

It's interesting that people can be divided into groups by what they believe on this issue. The first group is the group of people who firmly believe that everything that happens in their lives comes from the hand of God. The second group is certain that they are the captains of their ships, and they are in complete control. The third group has no clue and really doesn't care -- their only interest is in what they can get from the world around them, and they are hoping for a pain-free and stress-free existence.

As Christians, we may be falsely accused and stand before a judge, asking for mercy and understanding. If we get it, it is because God directed it -- it all comes from above. As disciples of Jesus, we may desire a certain job, and want it so badly that we can taste it, as they say. If we are hired, it's because unbeknownst to the employer, God moved in the situation to accomplish His end.

How does He find the time to answer all of these prayers? Don't forget, He has an infinite amount of time, and love, in order to answer our finite prayers and and to direct our finite lives.

Does God permit us to do evil? Yes. We are free will beings, independent agents who should live our lives to glorify Him, but sometimes we experience epic failure due to our sin. Does He offer mercy and forgiveness? Oh, yes.
Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his own steps.
Psalms 86:5 For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you.
Now is the time, and today is the day, to follow Christ, to believe in Him, and acknowledge His hand in our lives.  Seek to obey Him, and be thankful, for He has a purpose for our lives. Frankly, there are too many miracles for us to think that everything happens at random.
It all comes from above!