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Archive for January, 2012

Watching God Work

Can you imagine what it was like for the Israelites as they left Egypt following Moses?  The people that left with him had known no life but what they had serving the Egyptians and living in the squalor there.  Suddenly this man that was a known murderer says God called him to lead them out of Egypt into a land of their own.  And they left to face the unknown.

It’s easy to sit in judgment and shake our heads at them for their doubts.  I can’t help but wonder sometimes how in the world they could question God when they’d just walked through a sea on dry land with the water walled up on both sides, falling back into place just in time to drown the Egyptians who were following after the last Israelite walked out onto the shore.  How could they doubt when a cloud led them all day and a pillar of fire protected and led them at night?  How could they complain when God sent manna from heaven every day to feed them?  What would cause them to be so faithless when Moses went up into the mountain to talk to God that they would build an image and worship a hunk of metal?

And then I look at my own life.  I look at how many, MANY times God has miraculously answered prayer for me; when He has gone ahead of us and worked wonders that were unheard of and amazing;  of the wondrous ways he has calmed the storms in my life and given obvious direction.  How could I ever doubt Him?  How could I ever fear?

These past few weeks have been weeks of intense searching and praying as Rick and I anticipate some changes in our lives in the near future.  What does God want for us?  What does He expect us to do for ourselves and what does He want us to keep our hands off of and just trust Him?  When is God actually speaking and leading and when is it me getting in His way?

Rick and I have this little saying that we say to one another and have done so for years.  When worries prickle, when doubts knock at the door of our hearts, when wisdom is not obvious, we always pray first and then calm our fears with one simple thought:  “God’s always been with us and guided us before.  Why in the world would He stop now?”

One verse that I cling to in tumultuous times is found in Joshua 1:5 and goes like this:  “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Yes, I don’t have Allstate Insurance, but I’m definitely in GOOD HANDS!  All I have to do is sit back and watch God work.  And that’s always amazing and fun.

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Motives

Last weekend Rick and I went to a gospel concert with some friends.  It was a fun evening and the group had great harmony and good pitch and entertaining personalities.  We enjoyed being with our friends and we enjoyed the entertainment.  But partway through the evening I realized something about the music that bothered me a bit.  Then at the end, a comment was made that bothered me even more.

 

This group writes a lot of music, and I think most of what they sang they’d written themselves.  What bothered me a bit was that it was all about what they got out of walking with Christ; out of their commitment to serve Christ.  There’s nothing wrong with that in a way—we do get SO very much benefit from following Christ.  But having an opportunity to truly worship—to focus on Christ and His amazing glory—was twisted into worshipping what we get out of that relationship.  Then, at the end, a statement was made that really twisted the dagger even further.  The lady that was doing most of the talking made this statement:  “If you are not following Christ yourself, why don’t you give Him a try?”

 

Now the alarm bells were going off full force in my own heart!  This is wrong teaching and it is still a niggling thing in my mind.  Jesus Christ is not something we can ‘try’.  Following Him is not a contract we can make and break at will.  And most of all, it is not something we should commit to in order to see what we get out of it.  Galations 6:7 says:  “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.”  Do they think He’s foolish enough to not know when someone is just going through the motions to see what they can get out of it?  Do they not know that God is God Almighty?  He is the Beginning and the End.  He is the Creator of the universe and that includes each one of us.  He knows our thoughts—even before we do!  Psalm 139 says it so well:

 

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.  You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  (verses 1-12)

 

God has no time or patience with those who would ‘try’ Him to see what they can get out of the relationship.  He wants our hearts.  He wants our lives.  He wants commitment.  Only then does He pour His richness into our lives.  Only then do we have access to the understanding of His Word.  He wants the commitment that says:  ‘Whatever happens to me, I will serve the Living God.  All that I am, all that I ever could be I give to You entirely, Lord God.  Use me as You will, in whatever way You want.”  God sees our hearts and knows when our trust is really in Him.

 

This past Sunday at our church we closed the service with an old hymn that was new to me, but was actually written in 1850.   The words were so very poignant and sweet.  And today as I write this, I realize how well it is stated in that old hymn.  (Though I’m very tempted to update the wordage a bit, I will leave the dated language as is for sake of rhyme.) It is entitled “Father, I Know That All My Life”

 

“Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me;

The changes that are sure to come, I do not fear to see:

I ask thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing thee.

 

I would not have the restless will that hurries to and fro,

Seeking for some great thing to do, or secret thing to know;

I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.

 

I ask thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,

A mind to blend with outward life, while keeping at thy side,

Content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.

 

In service which thy will appoints there are no bonds for me;

My secret heart is taught the truth that makes thy children free;

A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.”

 

That last line says it all:  A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.  It’s true.  It’s just so very true!

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Stay Focused

Staying focused seems to be more difficult for some than for others.  For instance my husband asked me again this morning to help him get organized so that he can stay focused and see things accomplished instead of working hard all day and yet not seeing anything completed like he’d like.

Some of us have more organized ways of doing things and even thinking than others, but I think ALL people must admit that to be organized we MUST stay focused.  We must discipline ourselves against distractions.

Today in my regular Bible reading time I discovered that ‘stay focused’ is actually a Bible verse!  Yes, it is!  It is found in Proverbs 4:25 which reads like this:  “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”  Rephrased in 2012 lingo it is simply saying ‘stay focused’.

It’s a discipline that can be learned.  One of the best ways of staying focused for me is by writing down what I need to do.  I make a list at the beginning of each day so that as soon as I’m finished with my quiet time I can focus on accomplishing what must be done that day.  Now Rick used to tease me a bit about my lists, but when he asked me today to help him get organized I said simply, “Make a list!”  I recommended to him to make a list of the things that actually needed to be finished today.  If there was room, add the things he’d like to get done today.  Beside it lay a blank sheet of paper.  When schools call and professors interrupt what he’s doing, list their requests on the blank sheet of paper.  ­After  he has accomplished his goals for the day, start with the requests that have come in and do them in order—even if it takes several days to get it all done.

The list serves several purposes.  It helps one to be more realistic in their expectations of themselves.  When you see what all needs accomplished you can determine if it’s even possible to complete in a day (or whatever increment of time you have to work).  Secondly, it helps you to prioritize.  Thirdly, it helps you to stay focused if you don’t allow yourself to check something off until it is finished.  And when you see the other things that need to be done, it’s easier to keep pressing on rather than taking breaks or slacking off.  And the best part?  At the end of the day, you can feel successful!  You can actually see what you’ve accomplished and be proud of yourself!

Another way lists help me is that some things give you the opportunity to multi-task.  When I’m baking bread, I can get some vacuuming or dusting done during the intervals when the bread is rising.  Or when I’m doing laundry, I can also start other chores during the washer/dryer cycles.  I also fold/iron clothes immediately from the dryer.  It’s amazing how quickly the chore is finished when the clothing is not wadded together in a basket, but fresh and wrinkle-free from the dryer.  During a dryer load I can usually wipe out a bathtub, a sink, and a toilet before it is ready to be folded.  Then I can put a new load into the dryer, fold the load that came out and put them away, and usually still vacuum and wash the floor of the bathroom before the next load is ready.  When the laundry is done, I can not only check it off my list, but usually a good number of other chores as well.  Talk about a sense of accomplishment!

Distractions come in all sizes, and sometimes they can’t be helped.  A sick baby definitely needs to take preference over other chores, etc.  But most distractions are simply our lack of self-discipline—and that’s nothing short of a choice.  For me, a list helps me keep in mind how many more things I must do before allowing myself time for distractions.  And now that I’ve seen it in the Bible, I’m even more determined than ever to just “Stay focused!”

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