"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Chase the Lion"

I love this!

I read a short article in a Charles Stanley publication the other day. Author Mark Batterson wrote about the "risk of taking no risks," and stated that social psychologists have said "over the short term, we tent to regret actions -- things we did that we wish we hadn't. But over the long haul, we tend to bemoan inactions -- things we didn't do but wish we had."


He encourages us to remember there are sins of omission and we should do some things in obedience and faith. He pointed out that Jesus didn't get in trouble with the people of His day because He did nothing. By contrast, Jesus was "too dynamic to be safe." He was gutsy!

And Mark Batterson challenged us by asking "what lion is God calling you to chase?" Hmmm.

Great timing for me and Andrew.

And then I got an e-mail from my friend Leslie who mentioned in her devotions ... well, I'll just copy it here:

My devotions are in Exodus right now, and God says in Ex. 14:14,
"The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." And He did! Great,
miraculous victories, won by God, not man. But at the same time (and this is where
I got so excited this morning : ) in the next verse He says, "Why do you cry to Me?
Tell (them) to go forward..." God wants us to move forward in faith.
Yes, we need to walk with Him and talk with Him, but also, we need to have faith,
and MOVE FORWARD. Don't sit around waiting for a sign: when we know it's God's
will, go for it! Trust Him to work!

Another wow for me! I am often most fearful of DOING something! Ahh! It's like I want God to send me an e-mail with instructions on what to do! So Mark's article and Leslie's e-mail were a wake-up call for me.

I remember being at church one Wednesday night listening to my preacher speak on Ecclesiastes where Solomon talks about the vanity of a life lived for self. How that one day you get to the end of life and think, "What did I do that is of any value? What did I do for God?" I was so sad. I thought, "Oh my goodness, that is going to be me! I am going to have good intentions all my life, but DO absolutely nothing." Instead of being encouraged by Brian's message, I felt so much sadness.

So I need to do something and, Lord willing, I'm going act in faith and chase that lion!

(By the way, we ordered Mark's book.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapters 12-15

These chapters were fantastic! I jotted down many things I simply wanted to quote from the book. GREAT stuff!

Chapter 12 - God Speaks Through the Bible

Some thoughts that stood out to me:

"A person cannot understand spiritual truth unless the Spirit of God reveals it. In fact the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17). When you come to understand the spiritual meaning and application of a Scripture passage, God's Spirit has been at work. . . . When God speaks to you through the Bible, He is relating to you in a personal and real way." (pg. 103)

"The Spirit of God knows the mind of God. He knows what God is ready to do in my life. The Spirit of God then begins to open my understanding about God and His purposes and His ways." (pg. 104) -- This happens through reading the Scriptures. When the Spirit reveals truth to you, adjust yourself to God's revelation and obey. Also watch to see how God may use that revealed truth in your life during the day.

Chapter 13 - God Speaks Through Prayer

"The Holy Spirit reveals truth. Truth is not just some concept to be studied. Truth is a Person. Jesus did not say, "I will teach you the truth." He said, 'I am . . . the truth' (John 14:6). . . . [The Holy Spirit] is leading you into a relationship with a Person. He is your life! When God gives you eternal life, He gives you a Person. When you became a Christian, Jesus didn't give you some thing; He gave you Himself." (pg. 109)

"Prayer is two-way fellowship and communication with God. You speak to God and He speaks to you. It is not a one-way conversation. ... Prayer includes listening as well. In fact, what God says in prayer is far more important than what you say. Prayer is a relationship, not just a religious activity. Prayer is designed more to adjust you to God than to adjust God to you." (pg. 109)

"You have to decide whether you are going to do what you want and ask God to bless it, or go to work where He is working." (pg. 113)

Spiritual concentration -- "Our problem is that we pray and then never relate anything that happens to our praying. After you pray, the single greatest thing you need to do is turn on your spiritual concentration. When you pray in a direction, immediately anticipate the activity of God in answer to your prayer. I find this all the way through Scripture; when God's people prayed, He responded. Here's what happens if you pray and then forget about what you have prayed. Things start to happen during the day that are not normal for your day. You see them all as distractions and try to get rid of them. You fail to connect them with what you have just prayed." (pg. 113) Pray and immediately watch for God to work. Prepare to make adjustments to what God brings into my life.

Silences of God -- "Sometimes God is silent as He prepares to bring you into a deeper understanding of Himself. Whenever a silence comes, continue doing the last thing God told you and watch and wait for a fresh encounter with Him." (pg. 115)

Chapter 14 - God Speaks Through Circumstances

The author uses this summary of how to respond when we face difficult or confusing circumstances:

  • Settle in your own mind that God has forever demonstrated His absolute love for you on the cross. That love will never change.
  • Do not try to understand what God is like from the middle of your circumstances.
  • Go to God and ask Him to help you see His perspective on your situation.
  • Wait on the Holy Spirit. He may take the Word of God and help you understand your circumstances.
  • Adjust your life to God and what you see Him doing in your circumstances.
  • Do all He tells you to do.
  • Experience God working in and through you to accomplish His purposes.
"Remember God is sovereign. You may face a situation like Job experienced where God does not tell you what He is doing. In those instances acknowledge God's love and sovereignty and depend on His sustaining grace to see you through the situation." (pg. 121)

"The most difficult part of your relationship to God is being God-centered. If you were to record a whole day in your life you might find that your prayers, your attitudes, your thoughts, everything about that day is radically self-centered. You may not be seeing things from God's perspective. You may try to explain to God what your perspective is. When He becomes the Lord of your life, He alone has the right to be:

  • the Focus in your life
  • the Initiator of your life
  • the Director of your life.

That is what is means for Him to be Lord." (pg. 122)

Remember that Truth is a Person! "You never know the truth of any situation until you have heard from Jesus." (pg. 123)

Chapter 15 - God Speaks Through the Church

We are interdependent on fellow believers just as the head, ears and feet are interdependent on each other in the physical body. "All the members of the body belong to each other, and they need each other. You can and should depend on God to speak through other believers and the church to help you know what assignment you are to carry out in the ministry of the kingdom." (pg. 132)

By sharing what God is doing in our lives, we may help others encounter God in meaningful ways. I can vouch for that. God often speaks to me through Christian authors, publications and friends. That has happened to me a couple times this week while reading things others have written. One was from my friend, Leslie, about moving forward with faith and the other was from a Charles Stanley magazine where an author wrote about sins of omission. He challenged us to "chase the lion," and what a needed lesson that was to me and Andrew both this week! (We liked this guy's challenge so much, we ordered the book. :-) )

Interesting thing from this chapter: "One of the problems evangelical churches face today is that they have so emphasized the doctrine of the priesthood of believers they have lost their sense of corporate identity. . . . Christians think they stand alone before God and that they are not accountable to anyone else, including the church." (pg. 129) Hmmmm.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapters 10 & 11

Chapter 10 -- God Speaks to His People

I will quote from the summary the author provides at that chapter's end.

God has always been speaking to His people. Today, He speaks by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will use the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and other believers to speak to you. The method, however, is not the key to knowing God's voice. You learn to know the voice of God through an intimate love relationship that He has initiated. God may choose to speak to you in a way that is unique to you. You can be assured, though, that He will be able to convince you that you have heard a word from Him.

When God speaks to you, He will do so with a purpose. When He speaks is God's timing for you to begin adjusting your life and your thinking to Him. He will be working in you to develop your character for the assignment He has for you. Let God take all the time He needs to prepare you (pg. 96).

Chapter 11 -- God Reveals Himself, His Purpose and His Ways

From the author:

"His goal always is to reveal Himself to people to draw them into a love relationship with Himself. His ways are redemptive. He acts in such a way to reveal Himself and His love. He does not simply wait around in order to help us achieve our goals for Him! He comes to accomplish His own goals through us - and in His own way" (pg. 100).

Lesson I've learned -- The love relationship with God is important! It's the key to everything else. It's like the roots of a plant. I need strong roots - the love relationship - so I can be pleasing to God and used by Him. Instead of focusing on doing something for the Lord and trying to figure out what that is, I should focus on Him, fall in love with Him, abide in Him. Let Him accomplish what He wants to do through me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapters 8 & 9

God Takes the Initiative -- The author gives examples of those who lived God-centered (Joshua and Caleb) vs. self-centered lives (the ten spies), and urged us to focus our lives on God's purposes not our own plans. We should see things from God's perspective instead of our own distorted ones. When God wants to do something in the world, HE takes the initiative and comes to talk to somebody. Look at the examples of Noah and Moses, Gideon and Paul. "You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him." This is helpful to me: I don't have to figure out what to do for God. I can abide in Him and wait for HIM to instruct me if He chooses. Since God is God and we are not, we should adjust our plans to suit Him instead of thinking that God is going to adjust Himself to suit our desires. We will only be fulfilled when we get this straight and follow His ways.

We should look around and see where God is working. When He opens our spiritual eyes to recognize this, we should assume God wants us to join Him. Don't start getting self-centered, but ask God to reveal what HE wants you to do. Be careful to distinguish God's initiative from our selfish desires. "A selfish life will have a tendency to confuse its selfish desire with God's will. . . . In seeking God's direction, check to see that prayer, the Scripture, and circumstances agree in the direction you sense God leading you." Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit's leading will never be contrary to the Word of God.

From George Mueller we learn things that helped him distinguish God's will: sincerely seeking God's direction, waiting patiently on God until he had a word from God in the Bible and looking to the Holy Spirit to teach him through the Bible. The things that lead him to mistakes in knowing God's will were lack of honesty of heart and uprightness before God, impatience in waiting for God and preferring the counsel of men over the teaching of Scripture.

The author suggests we should get our hearts into such a state "that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the knowledge of what His will is." Next he doesn't "leave the result to feeling or simple impression," but seeks the will of God in connection with the Bible and takes into account providential circumstances.

God Invites You To Join Him -- The author reminded us that God is at work around us and reveals Himself to us when He is ready for us to join Him in His work. He tells us not to fret because sometimes God takes years preparing our character and developing our love relationship with Him. Because we often want to DO something, we get impatient, but God is not in a hurry. I have a hard time waiting so this was a good reminder.

We should remember things that only God can do and identify those things happening as God working around us.

Things Only God Can Do -- draw people to Himself, cause people to seek after Him, reveal spiritual truth, convict the world of guilt regarding sin, convict the world of righteousness and judgment.

Remember what God initiates, He completes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some Thoughts

Experiencing God has been around a number of years, and I remember when it was wildly popular as a Bible study, but I never bothered reading the book ... until now. Andrew had a copy at his parents' house so he brought it home knowing I'd been reading a number of spiritual books the last few months and more recently been wondering out loud to him what - if anything - God wanted me (us) to do in life. Was this all there was to it? Or was there something more? I wanted to be content, and I am, but I also felt this longing for something more. So, I saw the book lying around the other week and thought, "Eh, maybe I should read this one so I can let Andrew take it back to his mom's house." I wasn't overly-enthusiastic, but willing.

WOW! Has it ever spoken to my heart! First off the thing about spiritual gifts from the other day was awesome because I never have really been able to identify mine and I felt kind of inadequate because of that. It seemed most everyone else KNEW they were gifted to teach or preach or help or whatever. I never quite fit any of the molds. And I felt some underlying frustration from that ... what was I supposed to do??

Recently at church my pastor talked about Ecclesiastes and how Solomon came to the end of his life and talked about how life apart from God was vanity. Brian told us that if we didn't use our lives wisely then one day we would look back and realize how we wasted our time doing nothing for our Lord. I remember how sad I felt because I could see ME being that way. Always having a desire to do something, but never knowing WHAT exactly. I feel as if I am willing to go somewhere, do something for the Lord, but WHAT? and WHERE? I want to have faith like Abraham and just leave home not knowing where to travel, but, unfortunately, I have neither Abraham's faith or freedom to go since I AM married and since flying requires purchasing tickets and sometimes visas!

When I read the chapter the other day about our spiritual gift being God Himself working through us for the task, I felt liberated from having to identify my gift so I could find work that fit it. Instead I need to simply abide in Him, yield to Him and allow Him to work through me! He will supply whatever "gift" I need for whatever task He chooses for me. Quite possibly my spiritual "gift" then could change! He may want me as a teacher at one point and as a minister or administrator at another time. I love the example of Moses. God called him to do a task and Moses said his speech wasn't good enough. But GOD worked through Moses so that GOD got the glory. If Moses had been a brilliant speaker, people may have credited Moses for talking Pharaoh into freeing the children of Israel. As it happened, God used the "weak" things -- Moses' lack of good communication skills -- and worked through Moses to accomplish His will. The Bible tells us clearly that God uses the foolish things to confound the wise and He uses the weak and despised things so that He will get the glory.

This really spoke to my heart, and I have found it to be true just within this past week when God called me to disciple someone. I've never had much discipling experience ... probably none actually, and I really felt inadequate for this task! (Still do quite often, to be honest.) But God showed me that if I submit to Him, that HE will teach through me. He will give me the words to say and lead me in what to teach about Himself. Wow, how wonderful and freeing is that?!

And then I read this chapter on love, and how God pursues that love relationship with us. It spoke to another need I'd had lately of feeling useless and without purpose. Now I know to focus on abiding in and strengthening that love relationship with my Father to find fulfillment.

I am really joyful when I remember these things and live close to God. I am so happy He pursued me and loved me enough to show me these things. He has made me glad.

Experiencing God -- chapter 7

God Pursues A Love Relationship With You

This chapter focused on the love relationship that God pursues with us. He is always the initiator since none of us seek after God on our own. This chapter made me stop and ask if I really love God. I want to love Him, but how do I do it?

The author points out that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength. Everything else in my Christian life really goes back to this love relationship with the Father. This relationship will satisfy and fulfill our longings to DO something for Him. As we nurture this love relationship with Him, He will call us to obey whatever He has for us to do. If our relationship is strong, we will trust Him and obey without question just as we trust our earthly parents will not give us something to do that will harm us. I really liked this:

We are a "doing people. We feel worthless or useless if we are not busy doing something. The Scripture leads us to understand that God is saying, "I want you to love me above everything else. When you are in a relationship of love with Me, you have everything there is." To be loved by God is the highest relationship, the highest achievement, and the highest position in life.

That does not mean you will never do anything as an expression of your love for Him. God will call you to obey Him and do whatever He asks of you. However, you do not need to be doing something to feel fulfilled. You are fulfilled completely in a relationship with God. When you are filled with Him, what else do you need?

In the Biblical examples of Adam and Eve, the prophets, the Apostle Paul -- God always took the initiative. He sought out these people for fellowship and to use them.

I think I may write a post now of some ways these last couple of chapters have spoken to recent situations.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

He turned my tears into joy ... just like He said He would!

Sunrise in my neighborhood
December 2007

I wanted to offer this post to God since my joy is overflowing! I thank Him for answering prayer this week. He gave me those verses mentioned in my Tears post, and was gracious and kind to turn my tears into rejoicing! I never expected this, but He is faithful and good. Even when we doubt, He is loving to provide encouragement which He did through His Word.

Thank You, Father, for this great gift!

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 94:19

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:3,5-6

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

But 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

Unshackled & Growing -- book review

This book was sent to me by the author Nabeel Jabbour, an Arab Christian who has become a helpful friend in recent months. I "met" him after "happening upon" his book, The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross, at a local Christian bookstore and reading the book and the e-mail addendum. Incredible stuff and was just what I needed at the time!

Unshackled & Growing is for "Muslims and Christians on the journey to freedom." There were many good things in this book, but one of my favorites was the reminder that the Gospel is Jesus Christ, no more and no less. Dr. Jabbour reminded us that often we wrap the gospel with other things whether they be rules or preferences or traditions, but the Gospel is Christ alone.

Another great thing was the reminder from Ephesians 1 that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing so instead of praying, '"Father, bless me," it is more accurate to pray, 'Father, open my eyes so I will see how you have already blessed me . . . '"

One chapter reminds us that we are strategically positioned: we are saints, ambassadors and victors in Christ.

About thanksgiving the author stated: "When we thank God and accept our circumstances, we tune into His wavelength. We become aware that He is in full control of current events in the world and in our lives. ... Giving thanks is more than what we do during our quiet times. It is an attitude we carry throughout the day."

Great book for discipling and helping people grow in their Christian walks.

Experiencing God - chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5 -- Seven Realities of Experiencing God provides a summary of what the author will speak of in the next chapters. I won't say much about this chapter since it will be covered more thoroughly later. One thing worth mentioning is the three similarities noted concerning the men and women God used in the Bible.

1. When God spoke, they knew it was God.

2. They knew what God was saying.

3. They knew what they were to do in response.

Chapter 6 -- God Is At Work Around You

I absolutely love how God is speaking to my heart through this book! The author reminds us that God didn't create the world and then leave it alone never involving Himself. I didn't doubt that as I see it evidenced in the Bible and in my own life. God is at work redeeming the world, and His desires is to use His people to do that task. He wants us to be His hands and feet, so to speak. What a privilege to work with the Father in such a glorious task! He doesn't send us off alone to do this job because He knows more than we do that we accomplish nothing on our own! He works through us and equips us with the gift of Himself ... wow!

Jesus recognized this when He stated in John 5 that He did nothing on His own, and that the Father worked through Him. He even summed it up by saying "I and my Father are one."

Instead of trying to do a task that seems good to us and then pray that God will bless it, we should see where God is working, where He is blessing and yield to Him as He works through us.

Another wonderful thing -- God is working all around me and in my life, but, sadly, God's people don't always recognize it. We may have a deep longing to experience Him, but we don't recognize that we are already experiencing Him day after day. I hope to learn how to recognize God at work in my life! The author reminds us to make the love relationship with God our priority. We often look for an assignment and bypass the love relationship. It is only by abiding in Jesus that we have the power and ability to do the assignment!

Instead of trying to identify our spiritual gifts so we can find suitable assignments, we should ask God for the assignment and then wait for HIM to do the task through us. So, in essence, the spiritual gift is the Holy Spirit. This is shown in the life of Moses. God gave him an assignment. Moses thought, "I don't have the gift of speaking," but what did God say, "Have I not created your mouth...I will speak for you!" Praise the Lord! What He asks me to do, He will equip me to do it. I don't have to go about wondering what is my spiritual gift and then find my own tasks to do in order to build the kingdom of God. I just need to focus on abiding in the Vine and the Vine will bear much fruit through my life!

Wow! How true it is ... where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapter 4

Being God's Servant

Jesus is our example and He came to serve others and to give His life for our salvation. To be involved in God's work, we must be servants. Our human idea of a servant is that the servant asks, "Master, what do you want me to do?" And then the servant goes off by himself and does the assigned tasks. Being a servant of God is different. Instead of working for a master, God works through His servants. Remember Jesus' words were "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men," not "go there by yourself and see how many men you can get to follow me." God works through us and with us.

The author likes to think of us as the Potter and clay illustrated in Jeremiah 18. "To be useful the clay has to be moldable, and once made into a vessel it has to remain in the hand of the potter to be used." If we aren't moldable and flexible, we are useless clay. If we are formed into a cup for instance, but then do not remain in the Potter's hand and Him to use us (the cup) as He pleases, what good are we and what purpose do we have?

God uses ordinary people. Elijah was an ordinary person, but he humbled himself and was moldable and God used him greatly. Anyone who will take the time to enter into an intimate relationship with God can see God do ordinary things through his or her life. (see Acts 4:13 -- the people marveled because they realized Peter and John had been with Jesus.)

"When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have said about yourself. You have said that God is not capable of doing anything significant through you. The truth is, He is able to do anything He pleases with one ordinary person fully consecrated to Him." ---- WOW!!!!!!! What a wonderful thought!

"If you feel weak, limited, ordinary, you are the best material through which God can work!" -- see I Corinthians 1:26-31 -- God uses the weak and despised things because it is from them that He can get the greatest glory.)

I recognize that I can do nothing, but God can do anything. I want to be an ordinary person used by God to accomplish whatever He wants to do for His glory.

What a wonderful lesson!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Experiencing God -- chapter 3

This was the best picture I had of a branch bearing fruit. :-)

Doing God's Will -- Incredible chapter that spoke directly to some current questions that I have!

Instead of concerning myself with "What is God's will for my life?" which focuses the attention on myself, I need to ask "What is God's will?" God is doing things in the world, and I need to become involved in what HE is doing.

In reviewing examples from the Bible, we see that God does not always provide detailed instructions initially on what He wants people to do. (See Abram's story in Genesis 12:1-5 as an example.) Instead He wants us to walk with Him in a relationship -- day by day, hour by hour. Jesus simply told His disciples "Follow me" and He made those fishermen into "fishers of men."

The relationship with God must come first. Jesus said in John 15,

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

a·bide [uh-bahyd]

1.to remain; continue; stay: Abide with me.
2.to have one's abode; dwell; reside: to abide in a small Scottish village.
3.to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; last.

So really all I need to do is abide in Him ... every day, every hour.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

Instead of trying to figure out what to do, where to go and what steps to take, I should abide in Jesus and let Him produce fruit in me in His timing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Experiencing God - chapters 1 & 2

This year I have been posting a bit about books I have read in order to remember what each of them taught me. Last night I started a book that has been around for several years, but one that I never chose to read until now. It's called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. It says "How to live the full adventure of knowing and doing the will of God." Sounds like exactly what I need!

Instead of waiting until I read the entire book to post lessons learned, I may post after every chapter or two so I can keep straight some of the things that stood out to me. I finished the first two chapters and wanted to reflect on them now.

Chapter 1

Knowing God By Experience

The authors say that we don't come to know God until He reveals Himself to us. Just as God was not called "The Lord Will Provide" until He provided a ram for Abraham so he wouldn't have to sacrifice Isaac, we don't really know God as "Comforter in sorrow" until He has comforted us in times of grief. In other words, we know God in a relationship, not just a name. He's not some abstract name, but REAL to us. He "reveals Himself with purpose," and "The Scripture is a record of God's revelation of Himself to man. Each of the many names of God is a part of that revelation."

There are many names and descriptions of God in the Bible and "to focus your attention on His name is to focus attention on the God of the name." The authors present us with a list of some of God's names, and I want to pick out a few that are real to me about God because He has revealed Himself to me in these ways.

  • Comforter in Sorrow
  • my hope
  • our Father
  • a sure foundation
  • God of all comfort
  • Prince of Peace
  • my stronghold
  • refuge and strength
  • my help
  • my song
  • my salvation

Chapter 2

Knowing God's Nature and His Will
1. God is love; His will is always best.
2. God is all-knowing; His directions are always right.
3. God is all-powerful; He can enable you to accomplish His will.

Things that spoke to me. God's very nature is love. Nothing He does is apart from His love. Even when He disciplines us for disobedience, it is because of His love. I only have to look at the awfulness of the cross to see how much God loves me.

God's commands are for my good. Since I know He loves me, I can safely trust in the plans He has for me. God wants me to have life and have it abundantly! No need to go through life "under the circumstances." I can be more than a conqueror because of God's great love and His will for me!

God enables me to do His will. I don't have to look at myself and see how unqualified I am. God qualifies the called, and He wants to work through me. I am not to do things for me and in my power so it is fine that I am weak and not very talented or knowledgeable. If I am yielded to God, HE can do great things through me. Moses told God that he was not a good enough speaker to go in front of Pharoah. God's reply was that HE made Moses' mouth, HE knew Moses' limitations, but HE would be the One Who spoke through Moses. This gives me hope! Whatever God calls me to do, I can do it through Him.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

I should not lean on my own understanding, but trust in the Lord! I can rest in the fact that He loves me, He calls me according to His will and what He calls me to do, He will enable me to do through Himself.

On the Lighter Side

Here are a few things I wrote to some friends. I thought I'd post them here in order to remember them.

On Tuesday my sister was asked to substitute where my mom works so I was at Michael's house all day. It was fun. I was his teacher and when I said I would leave cursive "b" for his mom to teach him later, he said with enthusiasm "Why, Susie? You're doing a great job!" He was really so sweet that day. We went out in the morning and I walked while he rode his bike beside me. He talked the whole time about various things particularly Indiana Jones. :-)

Monday night one of our church friends had us and 4 other couples over for a Labor Day gathering. We had BBQ, slaw, potato salad, shrimp, chicken, corn on the cob and corn off the cob (for those with braces...Kevin's son), garlic bread and homemade ice cream. It was great! One of the couples is a young, newly-married couple, Amy and Matt. They are about 20 or so and are English-teachers/missionaries in Pakistan. I had a great time hearing stories from them about living there. Amy was so enthusiastic about the people. I could tell she really loved them except for the men who are always staring. She even wears the hijab in order to blend in with the locals, but the men stare. I'm talking coming up to your car while it's stopped in traffic and peering in the window. :-)

Ohhhh, Gina mentioning The Dark Knight reminded me. Last Friday Michael spent the night with his friend from church so Steph and Will took advantage of the free evening and went to see TDK. On Sunday they were telling us a bit about it and Michael piped up, "I'm getting that movie when I'm 18. Dad said he would buy it for me then since it's not suitable for children." Struck me funny that Michael is anticipating owning that movie over 11 years from now when he is 18! Ha!

Also this past week I finished a book that contained short stories and recollections of life and history in Alamance County according to Mary Louise Mason who was born in 1912. It is called Mary Louise's Opus and it was edited by Corinne Bivins and Gail Nelson. I know Gail from the gym, and she gave me a copy of the book. She wrote inside "To Suzanne, my beautiful friend. I hope you enjoy this little history book. Blessings, Gail 8/08." It was an enjoyable book. Mary Louise is definitely witty! I actually laughed out loud at some of her tales! Great "light" reading for the evenings. I especially loved when her grandson went to Cherokee, NC expecting to see the Indians dressed as they are in western movies. He commented with disappointment that the Indians had become too "Americanized." Ha, ha, ha!

Today I woke up to rain and wind from Tropical Storm Hanna. She left us 4.5 inches of rain -- yippee! Last Wednesday, Fay's remnants gave us over 6 inches so we are happy about the much-needed rain! Thank You, God!


What a week! Many joyful hours, but also some sad ones. But isn't that life? Highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like I'm on an emotional rollercoaster...wheeeee! Hang on for the ride!

Just a few days ago in my post about The Attentive Life, I copied something the author wrote about tears. I only want to post a small portion of that again here because it is something that seems fitting in my life right now. And, hey, this is my blog so I can repeat myself as much as I want, right? ;-)

The old spiritual teachers used to say that it is very important to pay attention to our tears. Athanasius prized "the gift of tears" as the outward sign of God's puncturing of our heart. Deborah Smith Douglas recalls hearing a wise priest say that we should be grateful for whatever breaks our heart: "Reflecting on God's promise to write 'upon' our hearts, rather than 'within' them, he suggested that our own hearts are so hard that all God can do is write upon the surface (Jeremiah 31:33). It is only when our hearts break, that they break open: then the word of God can enter deeply, like a seed in a harrowed field."

Ahhh, I do feel as if God is puncturing my heart, but I have a hard time being grateful for tears. I always seem to cry too easily, but is desiring a harder, not-as-easily-concerned heart better? Hmmm.

Helpful verses this week encouraged me to keep things in proper perspective.

Proverbs 3
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

II Peter 3
9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Mark 16
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

In closing, I want to offer this prayer of thanks to God ...

Thank You for breaking my heart so that You can pour Your love into me. Please use me so You can love others through me. I want to be a willing vessel even if that means more puncturing and more tears. It will be worth it in the end. Thank You for the hope I find in You!

Psalm 126
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
6 He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Faith, Attentive Life, Called to Die (book reviews)

The Faith by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett is a book seeking to answer the questions about "what Christians believe, why they believe it and why it matters. The authors note

"Christians must see that the faith is more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus; the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind's place in it. Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don't know what we believe -- even what Christianity is -- how can we live it and defend it? Our ignorance is crippling us."

Charles Colson argues that the truth "is the faith given once (Jude 3) and shared by all true Christians from the apostolic era to today."

This books covers topics such as God Is, He Has Spoken, Truth, The Invasion (God became flesh and invaded our world), God Above, God Beside, God Within, Exchanging Identities, Reconciliation, Be Holy - Transform the World, The Sanctity of Life, The Joy of Orthodoxy and more. I enjoyed the examples and stories shared including the Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA, Speratus from North Africa in AD 180, the Chinese house church movement, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jesus Amado Sarria, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Mohammed Bouyeri.

A few things that I made note of include the following:

The Trinity "answers the deepest needs of the human heart, offering a depth of spirituality unknown in any other religion." The authors state, "The Creator God of Christianity is not a distant, unapproachable, judging God as in Islam. Neither is God so diffuse within creation as in Eastern religion that God cannot be found. The Father is close beside us in the Son, as we encounter this God in the person of Jesus: 'God with a human face,' as Pope Benedict likes to say. Further, through the power of the Holy Spirit this God comes to dwell within us -- God gives us His life. The Holy Spirit enables us to live out God's will with its heroic demands." (pg. 104)

Concerning time -- "As Christians we do not need to live oppressed by the ticking clock -- the tyranny of the urgent. Life's value doesn't depend upon where we are in time; whether we are young,middle aged or old. We see life, all of life and all of the time that God created for us, as a gift. The greatest time of our life, then, may occur at any point in our lives. Maybe the most important insight we'll ever have or the greatest contribution we'll ever make is in our dying words or in a youthful experience of learning. Maybe it will come during our most productive years. But the point is we are not restricted. Each moment of life is a gift open to the possibility of eternity, and so what we do now matters for eternity. The gift of time enables us to prepare ourselves for an everlasting relationship with God. This is what gives significance to every one of our actions." (pg. 109)

"In Beijing, an American journalist recently encountered one of China's foremost scholars, a man who had spent long years studying the West. His colleagues and he had investigated the reasons for the West's success and preeminence, examining our history, politics, economics and culture. Their first conclusion was the West's success was due to its more advanced military; later they believed it might have been the political system; or perhaps the economic system. But 'in the past twenty years,' one investigator said, 'we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.'" (pg. 215)

"The orthodox Christian faith is the one source that can renew culture because it relies on a wisdom far beyond humankind's own that can yet be known by reason. It constantly calls people to the practice of virtue and charity guided by this greater wisdom." (pg. 224)

"Chesterton explains why Christians are change agents. There are, he says, optimists and pessimists in the world. The optimists are always trying to do good things, and the pessimists are always wringing their hands in despair. But the Christian, he argues, is the only one with a balanced view -- a pessimist because he knows that this is a fallen world and things do need fixing, but an optimist because he knows that God is all powerful and in charge and that all things therefore can be fixed." (pg. 225)

"Christianity does not seek to impose, it proposes. The Gospel is the great proposal: Come to the wedding feast, one and all -- black, white, rich, poor, East, West, Muslim, Jew, Christian -- all are welcome, and it's never too late. God turns no man or woman away, not one. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Father brings us into His Kingdom. This is the promise He holds out to individuals and nations alike, a Kingdom not of eating and drinking or of marching armies and clashing swords, but a Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (pg. 225)

In closing, I want to make note of a verse that the Mr. Colson uses in his prison ministry. It was taken from Jesus' message in the Nazareth synagogue as he read from Isaiah's scroll: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18,19 & Isaiah 61:1,2).

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford caused me to ponder many things. In defining attentiveness, he said it "may be just the opposite of ' fixing our attention.' Instead it involves a letting go of our usual need to control, an opening of ourselves to what we are being told or shown. Our instinct is to hold on." This book was one you had to read slowly and with care. Things that stood out to me include the following:

* This quote from French philosopher Emile Caillet's account of his own discovery of the Bible as "the book that understood me." (pg. 73)

* A prayer from the Bible,

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God ...
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:1-2,4-5 NIV)

* This quote from Henri Nouwen about prayer

Prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts -- beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful -- can be thought and expressed in the presence of God ... This requires that we turn all our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is not so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts ... Prayer is an outward, careful attentiveness to the One who invites us to unceasing conversation. (pg. 93)

* Robert Llewelyn wrote about the "'constancy of God's love. No power in heaven or on earth - and that includes sin -- can stop God loving us.' When we fall into sin, said Julian, it may seem that God is angry with us, but actually we are often projecting our own disappointment onto God. The truth is that God is present with his forgiveness whether we choose to take it or not." (pg. 128)

* Something about Mother Teresa: '"We do our work for Jesus and with Jesus and to Jesus,' ... ' and that's what keeps it simple. It's not a matter of praying some times and working others. We pray the work.' She also told us how she and the other sisters sought to see Christ in the face of each one they served." (pg. 132)

* From Hwee Hwee Tan -- "That's the profound truth: you are what your mind looks at. You are what you contemplate." (pg. 199)

* "The destination is Christlikeness. The wonder is not only that we will be like him, but that when we are like him we will most truly be ourselves." (pg. 203)

* "Love is seeking us, the only Love that redeems time, that takes the fragments of what is past and the hope of what is coming and binds them together in the 'love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.' That love is reaching out even now, calling us to our heart's true home." (pg. 204)

* Paying attention to our tears

The old spiritual teachers used to say that it is very important to pay attention to our tears. Athanasius prized ' the gift of tears" as the outward sign of God's puncturing of our heart. Deborah Smith Douglas recalls hearing a wise priest say that we should be grateful for whatever breaks our heart: "Reflecting on God's promise to write 'upon' our hearts, rather than 'within' them, he suggested that our own hearts are so hard that all God can do is write upon the surface (Jeremiah 31:33). It is only when our hearts break, that they break open: then the word of God can enter deeply, like a seed in a harrowed field."

We should prize the gift of tears? What a hard saying that is. Yet I concur with Leon Blum: "Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence." Looking back, I know there are in me "places of the heart" that have opened to God's presence, or to welcome the hurt of others, places that I might never have explored had it not been for the dark passages I have come through. In a very strange and mysterious way the light shone in and opened up the darkness. So when tears come, instead of avoiding them I am trying to learn to pay attention, to pause and ask: What makes these tears come? (pg. 145)

Called to Die by Steve Estes is a book I received from The Voice of the Martyrs and is the story of American linguist Chet Bitterman who died at the hands of a terrorist group in Colombia after being held hostage for many days. The terrorists wanted the linguistics missionaries to leave Colombia because they said the Westerners were trying to destroy the native cultures. When the linguistics institute refused to meet their demands, they killed Chet. I especially enjoyed the talk of called to missions (pg. 83-85-- instead of asking "why go?" it changed to "why not go?"), and the story of how Wycliffe Translators was born (p.89 "if your God is so great, why doesn't He speak our language?" -- from a bilingual Cakchiquel), and also the responses to Chet's murder (pg. 251 -- "The guerrillas had intended to oust the translators; instead, they entrenched them. Almost a decade of negative press gave way to supportive editorials. ... Strangers embraced Al in the streets, tearful and smiling. 'I saw you on television,' they would say. 'We're glad you stayed.'" In the US people stepped up to fill the ranks and applications for overseas service with Wycliffe Bible Translators doubled and this trend has continued.) What M-19 guerrillas meant for evil, God meant for good.

Romans 8:28,
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.