Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Good Spiritual RX

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
For the director of music.
On my stringed instruments.
Habakkuk 3:16-19
Too many of us have too many reasons for our hearts to pound, our lips to quiver, and our knees to knock. And how many times lately have we heard, "It's only going to get worse?" But please don't be dismayed. Remember how God provided Paul and Silas with a song in the night when they were in the deepest darkest dungeon (Acts 16)? I may have found the song they were singing this morning in the verses above from Habakkuk. Habakkuk sings his prayer in chapter 3 with the accompaniment of stringed instruments. A closer look at this chapter, particularly verses 16-19, reveals how Paul and Silas could sing, even without a guitar, despite their hard place. That means we can, too.

I especially am encouraged that GOD will make us walk (not to stand in terror but to walk) and move forward in spiritual growth upon our high places, which are our troubles, suffering, or responsibility. Each of us has our own mix of heartache, suffering and responsibility. God is telling us here that we make the most progress when being thankful for our salvation is on the top of our prayer list. Even though things are going on that make our "hearts pound and legs tremble," (vs 16) there is no reason to fear. Our Sovereign LORD is our our strength, our own personal bravery, and invincible army. God does his best work amidst chaos. And the nation invading us--Satan and his team of demons--has a day of calamity coming soon. The best is yet to come. I love you all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

God's Pattern for Living

Christmas is really
God's pattern for living
to be followed all year
by unselfish giving -
For in giving to others
and in being kind
We may discover
true peace of mind -
And peace on earth
will come to stay
When we all live Christmas
every day.
Helen Steiner Rice
I pray the hope found in celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior will fill your listening heart with love, joy, and peace now and forever more. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Respecting our Husbands

Respect yourself and others will respect you.
--Confucius (551 BC to 479 BC)

Respect a man, he will do the more.
--James Howell

Ephesians 5: 33 says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” This verse brought up one of life’s big questions in Sunday school yesterday. How does a wife obey this command and respect a husband who does not fulfill his duties and makes decisions that hurt his family? This question inspired my blog today.

Respect is something everyone wants, not many have, and few want to give. Most husbands would appreciate receiving a little bit of respect from their wives, and most wives should make efforts to show some more respect. For the most part respect is not clearly understood. What does the word reverence mean here? To know what something means in the New Testament we have to look up the word and see what it is in Greek. For reverence the Greek word is phobeo—to frighten, to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, i.e. revere. You probably recognize this is where we get our word “phobia” from, which means an irrational or excessive fear of something. This is where the meaning of reverence gets confusing—this combination of fear and awe. The Webster’s definition of reverence is: a feeling or attitude of deep respect; love, and awe, as for something sacred; veneration. The Webster’s definition of respect is: a) to feel or show honor or esteem for; hold in high regard b) to consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard.

Jesus died for husbands and wives; this makes husbands and wives sacred. And since reverence is a feeling and an attitude, we should start by loving the way Christ loves us—unconditionally. And for ways to show honor and esteem for our husbands requires wisdom. If we lack wisdom, God promises in James 1:5-6 to give it to us if we ask without doubting.

But before we can figure out ways to obey God’s command to respect our husbands, the definition of submission needs to be cleared up, too. Submission has nothing to do with the order of authority, but rather governs the operation of authority. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, he taught them that the greatest is the person who uses his authority to build up people and not, like the Pharisees, to build up his authority and make himself important. We are to esteem others above ourselves (Phil. 2:1-4). By nature, we want to promote ourselves, but the Holy Spirit enables us to submit ourselves. The root of most marital problems is sin, and the root of all sin is selfishness. Submission to Christ and to one another is the only way to overcome selfishness, for when we submit, the Holy Spirit can fill us and enable us to love one another in a sacrificial, sanctifying, satisfying way—the way Christ loves the church. (from Warren Wiersbe's Be Rich)

I say we should K.I.S.S. the challenge of showing reverence to our husbands (Keep It Simple Sister). And since reverence has to do mostly with feelings and attitudes, we can start by changing our mindset. Changing the way we think will naturally move us into Christ honoring action. We also need to remember that husbands can read us like a book, even when we don’t say a word. Here are a few questions we can prayerfully ask ourselves to begin improving our feelings and attitudes towards reverencing our husbands (inspiration from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13):

What kind thing can I do for my husband today?
How can I lay aside my pride today?
How can I communicate without nagging?
Can I be a help with running our household without a reward or requiring something in return?
Can I point out a good quality in him and praise him for it, while keeping no record of wrongs?
How can I use my Christ given authority to build him up?
Can I think of ways to act selfless and actually do them?
How can I protect my marriage?
Do I trust God in my marriage, always hoping and persevering?
Have I submitted to Christ by spending time alone listening through prayer and Bible Study so he can guide me in my marriage (true listening requires obeying what you learn during study)?

Marriage problems do not improve overnight, but God is great at cleaning up our messes. He needs our cooperative obedience, however, to work his miracles. If we do our part, he will bless us and take care of us even if our husbands refuse to obey God. It is interesting to note that obedience is a synonym of respect. So let's revere God and our husbands by working hard at applying God's commands to everyday life. Application of God’s word is not an easy endeavor, but the rewards are priceless.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Does Anything Really Happen by Chance?

"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense" (Luke 1:5-9).

We know from the rest of the story that the exact time Zechariah was chosen by lot to serve inside the temple at the altar of incense, an angel showed up and told him he would have a son. Their son, who they were told to name John would be a joy and delight to them. He would be great and filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, bring back many to the Lord and most importantly, "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." This confirms what God speaks through his word in Proverbs 16:33: "The lot is cast into the lap, buts its every decision is from the LORD." Chance had nothing to do with Zechariah's call to duty on that special day.

But even though luck is not in God's dictionary, it's listed as a noun in ours. For us, this means each chance happening in our lives represents a decision from the Lord and learning to deal with it in positive ways can be a challenge.

With that said, how should we approach our good luck? By understanding all good and perfect gifts come from above (James 1:17). Acknowledge God with a grateful heart. Sometimes, I feel like I am casting lots when I choose my check-out line at the grocery store. If the line moves fast and I get out quick, I can thank God.

And what about bad luck? Zechariah and Elizabeth lived during the time of a horrible king, Herod king of Judea. We too, are living in the time of bad leaders and getting worse. I love the way Proverbs 16:33 goes in "The Message" translation: "Make your motions and cast your votes; but God has the final say." Living with bad luck requires trusting in God's Sovereignty in our lives--a lesson I have to learn daily no matter how long I have been listening to and walking with Him. For it is written:

" The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world" (1 Samuel 2:6-9).

"He's got the whole world in his hands." It's truly mind-boggling, but there's something good about knowing "every decision is from the LORD." His truth brings freedom and relief from stress. We don't have to worry so much about doing it right or even doing it wrong. We need just to live for him with a song of thanksgiving in our hearts and the word of God in our mouths, with a goal of bringing glory to his name in whatever we do--mundane or marvelous. Mother Theresa agrees because she once said, "Let none glory in her success but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness; on the other hand, no failure should dishearten her as long as she has done her best." Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

About the Listening Heart Bible Study

Tired of hamster wheel days? Feeling like there has got to be more in this life? Christians today know that time alone with God is crucial, but we find it increasingly difficult to schedule this time. We know that only by spending part of our day with God, will we hear direction on the satisfying life he intends for us and receive the healing which listening brings. We live in troubled times, the need to discern his voice has become stronger than ever. The truth, however, awaits us all—soul satisfaction can be found listening to the magnificent voice of God.

But how do we listen? Why do so many of us solely depend on what popular Bible teachers and pastors have heard from God instead of listening for ourselves? A reliable resource for today’s busy men and women, The Listening Heart provides readers with the inspiration and mentoring they need to spend quality time with God hearing his voice with confidence, despite busy and demanding lifestyles. Readers will experience a study deep enough to grab their attention and simple enough to understand at any level. Once they learn to study God’s word on their own, their life-supporting listening stays active year round. In turn, their ability to hear is never again tied to scheduled studies at church, which can ebb and flow with the seasons.

The Listening Heart also expands the readers’ thoughts on obedience to the greatest commandment—to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37-38). But the greatest commandment sparks more questions. What does it mean to love God? Why are we commanded to love God three different ways? How can we learn to love God with all of our hearts? With all our souls? With all our minds?

After years of spending time alone in God’s word listening, I've uncovered answers to these questions. I also found a more fulfilling life—life beyond my wildest imagination. Now God’s message burns in my heart like a fire, I cannot hold it in. I live to share my discoveries with others so they, too, can find soul satisfaction. The Listening Heart benefits all readers, spiritually and in every area of life. They gain relief from burnout and stress and much more by consistent biblical study and listening for the magnificent voice of God.

For further help listening, please contact me.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Staying in Touch

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you
great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
When first introduced to this verse, a missionary speaking to my church dubbed it as "God's phone number." Ever since, God's phone number remains top on my contact list. With all of this garbage bombarding us on a daily basis like the wacky economy, unemployment, election chaos, cancer and illness (to name a few), we need someone to call, someone who will listen to our woes.
God has provided us with a hot-line and it comes in the form of prayer, but we have to step off the merry-go-round of daily living, sit still for a few minutes and listen. If all we do is call and never listen to the voice at the other end of the line, we won't be able to hear him telling us great and unsearchable things we do not know. I take it God is talking about the future here. We all desire security during troubled times, so I trust finding out what we don't know will give us strength to face any future here on earth, whether bleak or promising.
I'm asking God again to open the ears of our hearts. Please join me in doing our part by taking some time out of our day to sit still and wait for him to tell us some great stuff. One simple way I have found to listen is to do a media fast--turn off the radio in the car when I am by myself. Silence while driving works. Be creative, I'm sure there are plenty of other things we can turn off or refuse to do to make time for listening.
Stay in touch and always listen!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Information Update

Hello Listening Hearts!
I realized that I had asked you to be praying for the Queen family on the September 22 blog entry, but did not let you know the result of your prayers. Yes, Sandra Queen is perfectly healed. She went home to heaven on Thursday, September 25, 2008. Thank you for praying. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Little Miracles

I'm using a book in my prayer time called, "Loving Your Spouse Through Prayer" by Cheri Fuller. While praying and reading one morning, God did one of his little miracles in my life that I wanted to share with all of you. For me, God's little miracles tend to be just as exciting as the big ones.

I laid my concerns at God's feet for my husband (esp. his work) and our nation. We are in difficult times so the chapter on a future and a hope (based on Jeremiah 29:11) was just what the Master Physician ordered that morning as my spiritual RX. Anyhow, after I finished reading the chapter I opened my journal, that just so happens to have a verse or a quote at the top of every page, and guess what verse was there? Jeremiah 29:11!!! Can you believe it? I bet you can. God was saying loud and clear. "This book is exactly where I want you right now, praying for your husband, despite all of this garbage going on around you." And "Yes, I do have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, (no matter who I allow to become president of the USA or if your husband gets laid off again). I have plans to give you a hope and a future."

Yes, this promise is open to us all, but there is one thing about it that we should not forget. The Israelites were in exile when God gave them this promise. If we are to take hold of our promise, we need to understand that our future and hope is in God, not in homes, money, or even government.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation come from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2
May God bless your day with the miracle of hearing his magnificent voice. There is nothing like it in this world. Amen!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pray Big

Teresa of Avila said, "You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him." This quote made me ask myself, "When was the last time I asked great things of God?" My thoughts went to a precious family in my church. The mom has a horrible case of rare bone cancer. Her family has an Internet journal (Caring Bridge) that keeps friends and family apprised of her condition. When her husband writes his beautiful, God-honoring journal entries he encourages me to take Teresa of Avila's advice. His writings reveal that he is positive God will heal his wife from this cancer. But today she is very weak and on a ventilator. God may choose to heal her completely and perfectly by bringing her home to heaven. Please join me in praying for the Queen family.

Despite his wife's dire condition, his closing remark on today's entry was, "Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave and strong. Your every action must be done with love. 1 Cor 16:13-14" I'm inspired by his faith. He compliments God every day by asking Him to do great things. My plan is to pray bigger than I ever have before. What about you? Have you sent any accolades to heaven lately?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Renewed by a Psalm

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:1-5
These few verses say it all, don't they? They give us everything we need to live in this fallen world. They rejuvenate us and give us strength. I am sad to say, however, that I could not look at this Psalm for a long time. It hurt me deeply not to be able to look at a part of God's precious word. And this all because of a person in ministry who stole from me and hurt me terribly in the name of Jesus. This Psalm was her ministry motto, so every time I ran across it I thought of the horrible time I went through as a result of being involved with her. This happened the first time I became serious about serving God.
But God renewed my youth. He took away the cynicism that often comes after growing up and having to deal with not-so-nice people. It took a while, but God healed my heart from the damage betrayal causes. Today I am able to return to these awesome promises and experience the renewal God's Psalms bring.
I can now tell you that I wouldn't trade that hard place in my life for a pot of gold. During that time, I started to attend Bible Study Fellowship International, an incredible, intense 7-year study. While there I witnessed a ministry that is obviously ran by the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. It was like hearing God say, "You have experienced a ministry that is not run on my power, but now you see how it should be done." The lessons I learned put me on the fast track of training how to serve God in a way that pleases him, which was and is the desire of my heart. The promises above tell me that God satisfies our desires with good things and he has surely done that.
I pray you can see the same valuable lessons in the trials and tribulations you are experiencing. That God will redeem your life from the pit and fill your crown with the jewels of his love and compassion. May your youth be renewed like the valiant eagle's so you can fly high above the clouds of stress and strife, closer to the SON.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Walking the Old Path

This is what the LORD says:

"Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' "

Jeremiah 6:16

When I heard God's voice while reading this verse I wanted to know more about these crossroads and ancient paths. I took my Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance off the shelf and looked up the original Hebrew. I found out to stand at the crossroads and look, God is asking me to examine the pathways of my life, my modes of action. The word ancient or old (in the KJV) is olam. This word describes the span of time in which God is to be obeyed and praised. It also means a very long time. God wants me to ask for this path of obedience and praise. He also promises a reward for doing so--rest for my soul.

Now that I understand exactly what God is saying to me, walking God's good path must mean regular self examination, asking myself why I do the things I do. That takes time and reflection. Deep down I really want to walk the old path, but before I realize it, my body has stepped off the trail. Old paths are well worn and safe, so when I do leave the main road, I usually run into the briers of stress and worry. When I worry I am being disobedient, for Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life" . . . (see Matthew 6:25-34).

Despite my mess-ups, I have still managed to figure out that obedience and praise do bring rest to my soul, just like God promises. But, the longer I stay on the old path, the more help I need. In God's Kingdom things are often opposite than the way it works in the world. Usually, practice makes you better, but with God, it makes us more and more dependent and this is where we find the abundant life Jesus promises (John 10:10). The more we listen, the more dependent we are, the more dependent we are, the better our life gets.

So I pray, "Oh Lord, may it never be said of me that I will not walk on your old path. I am asking you where the good way is. I now know that I need to ask you for the ancient paths regularly. Thank you for the rest you give my soul and all you will give in the future. I love you Lord, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Keep me on your old path. In your precious name I ask all of these things. Amen."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Prayer God Always Answers

"Father, glorify your name!"
John 12:28
“In this brief exchange we learn everything we will need to know about prayer and what it means to follow God in this life. For in every situation you’ll encounter you will be offered two options in prayer: “Father, save me,” or “Father, glorify your name!” One will lead you to frustration and disillusionment; the other to the greatest wonders in God’s heart.”

From He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father's Affection by Wayne Jacobsen

Jesus had a choice between two prayers: "Father, save me from this hour" (John 12:27) or "Father, glorify your name!" We have the same choice. We can constantly beg to be saved from our trials and pain or we can purposefully pray, "Father, glorify your name!"

When I read the statement above by Mr. Jacobsen, it struck a chord in my heart. I immediately began to count the many times I prayed to God and asked him to take away the troubles set before me--"Oh Father, save me from this hour--this week--this month!" No wonder I have been so frustrated. I couldn't count them. I had prayed "Father, save me" way too many times.

Today, I want to avoid frustration and disillusionment completely. To do that I have to change my mindset. To pray, "Father, glorify your name!" requires trust. Jesus had perfect confidence in and dependence on his Father. By his choice to pray, "Father, glorify your name!" and die on the cross for all mankind he made it possible for me and you to have complete trust, too. We just have to hold on tight on not let go of his promises. Oh, the unspeakable joy we can experience as we discover the greatest wonders in God's heart.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9

Father, glorify your name! Amen!

Monday, July 21, 2008

True Confession Part 2

. . . for we have made a lie our refuge
and falsehood our hiding place.
Isaiah 28:15
Since confession is agreeing with God that we are not living or thinking right, I get the feeling God desires us to get to the root of our problems. Most of us don't set out in the morning saying, I am going to sin today, so searching for the reason we do the things we do will help us find the solution to our dilemma. The verse above reveals one of the main reasons we mess up. When we believe lies they become our refuge and hiding place in place our loving God.
Let me explain. Since the beginning of time Satan has tried to convince us that our worth is dependent on what we do and what other people think about us. Satan's lie has a ripple affect on our lives and messes up our thinking. This false belief convinces us that:
1. We must meet certain standards to feel good about ourselves (this leads to fear of failure, perfectionism).
2. We must be approved by certain others to feel good about ourselves, otherwise know as the performance trap (this leads to fear of rejection and attempts to please others at any cost).
3. Those who fail (including ourselves) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished, otherwise known as the blame game (this leads to fear of punishment and propensity to punish others).
4. We are hopeless and incapable of change (this leads to feelings of shame and hopelessness).
This totally wrong belief system holds within it the root of most of our problems as Christians and ultimately leads us into withdrawal from the genuine living God intends and loving others (even ourselves).
God counteracts these lies with his truth-Our worth equals what God says about us. What does God say about us?
1. He says that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2). This makes us completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God. We no longer have to fear failure, manipulate others or strive for perfection.
2. He says that we are reconciled by Christ's physical body through death to present us holy in his sight, without blemish and free of accusation (Colossians 1:21-22). We no longer have fear rejection or please others at any cost.
3. He says that he loves us so much that he made atonement for our sin (I John 4:9-10). We no longer have to fear punishment or punish others.
4. He says that we are brand new, changed forever and complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We no longer have to experience the pain of shame.
When we think about why we do the things we do and agree with (confess to) God when we have done them, He will then teach us how to exchange lies for his truth. This great exchange brings liberty and godly richness into our lives. Praise the LORD! Let freedom ring!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Listening Heart Learns About True Confession

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for your sins have brought you down.
Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.
Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us,
so that we may offer you our praises.
Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses.
Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’
No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.”
Hosea 14:1-3
Confession means to agree with. This tells us that with God, confession cannot mean making a comprehensive list of our sins and reading them off to him, the way we usually think it should be done. Confession must mean then that we are to agree with God about a certain sin his Holy Spirit has convicted us about. The verses from Hosea above show that we agree with God in three simple ways: 1) Agreeing with God (our sins have brought us down) 2) Claiming his forgiveness (forgive our sins and graciously receive us) 3) Turning to God--repentance (Assyria cannot save us . . . never again will we say to the idols we have made, 'You are our gods')

In my reading and studies, I have been profoundly affected by the book, The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth through God's Eyes by Robert S. McGee. I'm not the only one. Billy Graham said that every Christian should read this book. Mr. McGee describes confession best, he wrote:

Confession does not make us forgiven. We have forgiveness because Christ
died to pay for our sins. Confession is a means for us to experience our
forgiveness, not a means to obtain it. Confession should be done with
an attitude of repentance, which involves turning away from sin and
turning to God. Repentance is not a matter of feeling sorry just because
we got caught. True Confession causes us to reject sin because it grieves
the Lord. Confession enables us to experience our forgiveness and enjoy
our fellowship with God.
In turn agreeing with God can look like this--Turning to the LORD and taking with us words along these lines:
Lord, You are the Potter, I am the clay. I sinned when I ________________. I understand that I am completely forgiven through your precious Son's death on the cross. From your word I know and agree with you that I am deeply loved, complete, accepted and pleasing to you, even though I don't act like it sometimes. I now choose to act like the child of the King that I am. I will turn away from falsehood and turn towards the truth for you are the way and the truth and the life. I will honor your holy name by ______________________.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stand in Awe of God

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.

Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools,

who do not know that they do wrong.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.

Therefore stand in awe of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:1, 7

You probably won't be surprised that whenever I read the word listen in God's word, I always linger a while and mark my Bible in some way. The passage written above is no different. We are to guard our steps when we go to church. Why would we need to watch the way we walk on the way to God's house? After looking closely at the first seven verses of Ecclesiastes 5, I see that they deal mostly with words of advice on proper worship. And since listening in the Old Testament is closely connected with obedience, God must be asking us to check ourselves before we worship. Are you and I walking in obedience or as a fool who worships God without even realizing that he or she has done anything wrong?
In these seven verses on worship we receive simple ways to improve our worship like not being quick with our mouths and keeping it simple--if we make a vow keep it. God is in heaven and we are on earth so let our words be few. So our hearing must be improved when we check our worship, check our mouths and check our steps. That way I hear it, we need to make our best effort to be purposeful when we head to church, not haphazard (like the fool who talks too much and thinks he or she always does it right).
Therefore may we all stand in awe in awe of our incredible God! He deserves pure worship with our ears open and our mouths shut. And maybe we should take off our shoes, too, while we are there (Exodus 3:5).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Little More on Warfare Praying

The Apostle Paul often uses the language of warfare. When he does, we should pay attention and listen to God's voice through his word because this is where we learn. This morning in my quiet time God laid out three major ways to improve our battle tactics, some new, some old, some re-discovered.

1. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:11-14)
2. Put on the full Armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
3. Follow God's instructions in 1st and 2nd Timothy. Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:18) and endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4), desiring to please our commanding officer.

Stand strong. We are more than conquerors through him who loves us.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Warfare Praying

Recently, while studying I ran across the phrase, “warfare praying,” in Warren Wiersbe’s BE (Bible Expository) Commentary. God used that phrase to send me on a new adventure in learning. In Dr. Wiersbe's teaching on 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 he wrote about how he met weekly with three pastor friends and together they united in “warfare praying.” They claimed God’s promise to cast down the wrong thinking that was keeping people from surrendering to God; and God did great things in the lives of many people for whom they interceded. Once the walls in the mind have been town down, the door to the heart can be opened.

I am asking God to teach me all about effective warfare praying. I desire to learn about this for all of you, my family (including my church family), and ultimately for all of the unsaved people who may read this blog, so the doors of many hearts will be opened. This caused me to go on a google adventure to find Dr. Wiersbe and ask him about the way he prayed. I found him at the Sherwood Baptist Chuch in Albany, GA of all places and wrote to him. They have a ministry there to pastors called 2ProphetU (www.warrenwiersbe.org) and have an online bookstore (www.SherwoodBaptist.net). Michael Catt, the editor of 2ProphetU, wrote me back and said Mr. Wiersbe is 79 years old and retired and does not e-mail, but is still writing and would forward my letter to him. He advised me to order the book by Warren Wiersbe called, The Strategies of Satan, which I plan to do.

After I found Dr. Wiersbe at his 2ProphetU Online Ministry, I was led to Sherwood Baptist's Book store that features a lot of his books. He has a new one which I ordered even before Mr. Catt wrote me back. It's called Life Sentences: Discover the KEY THEMES of 63 Bible Characters. What sentence will sum up your life? He spends about 4-5 pages on each character that ranges from The LORD GOD himself to Phoebe (Old and New Testament Characters). He even writes about his own life sentence. He is number 64. He wrote that he is not worthy to be classed with the Bible greats mentioned in his book.

Anyhow, back to my adventure. Within a day of praying to God and asking him to teach me about warfare praying, I received an answer. While reading in the Psalms, God made a promise in Psalm 144:1: “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” I like that he is trains our fingers, because this is how most of God’s ministry is done—through writing sermons, lessons, letters, studies, books (especially the world’s greatest book, The Holy Bible) and online ministries like Dr. Wiersbe’s. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world”(2 Corinthians 10:4).

I will keep you posted on what I learn about fighting with weapons that are out of this world. Mostly, what he has shown me so far is what I already know: 1. Keep my armor of God in place. 2. Stay alert at all times. 3. Pray without ceasing. I have also found out that you can pray even while Jazzercising. While dancing and jumping around we often do boxing moves, punching and uppercuts. Whenever I punch, I punch out the devil and all of his team--in my life and those I pray for. That would be YOU.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Finding Strength for Today, Receiving Hope for Tomorrow

Struggling with "Blue Mondays" and the issues of life, I went to Sunday School to teach a lesson on crisis that leads to contrition. As God often does, the teacher learned more than the students. As we continued our study on Jacob wrestling with God found in Genesis 32 and compared his challenges with our own, God repeated one of his messages. Last Sunday morning I heard, again, how God desires to show us the "path of life" (see May 13, 2008 blog entry).

When I thought about the many who have gone before, I asked myself, "How does knowing that many have gone before us help us stay on the path? By doing what they did, of course. The Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 12:1-3 that tells what they did. The New Living Version does a great job bringing it all together.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd
of witnesses to the life of faith (all found in Hebrews 11), let us
strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin
that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the
race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our
eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our
faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross,
disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor
beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from
sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up."
So what is it that we have to do to stay on the path?
1. Strip off every weight that slows us down.
2. Let us run the race God has set before us.
3. Keep our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith.
4. Think about all Jesus went through--survey the wondrous cross.
If you and I do these things we have the guarantee from God that we will find the strength to overcome weariness and not give up. This promise holds the gift of hope for tomorrow. Can you hear him? He is standing on the sidelines shouting: "I know you can stay on the path!" "Don't ever give up!" "I'm here with you and will never leave you."
". . . He has given us his very great and precious promises"
2 Peter 1:4

Have a powerful day! Amen!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blue Monday

Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob.
Psalm 84:8

Have you ever had one of those days where you went from stress to stress instead of from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7)? Going from stress to stress described my day yesterday. It started out with a lot of little things and then ended up with a big thing that just blows my mind.
God has kept me in Psalm 84 for weeks now, which helped me through my blue Monday.

My last phone call of the evening was from my crying brother. His best friend in the whole world had shot himself after leaving a note that said he couldn't take the pain any more. My heart began to break again, not only for my brother but for this precious mother who now has to bury the last of her five children. She has been through so much, I can't comprehend how she can bear it all.

Her first son, was an invalid for years from a rare debilitating disease that destroys every muscle in your body. This horrible condition left him blind, unable to hear, speak, or move. Soon after her first child died, her youngest twin daughters were diagnosed with the same disease. But once this hereditary disease showed up in them, doctors began experimenting with bone marrow transplants and other things to no avail. Both of these beautiful girls died within months of each other. Years later her second son shot himself, because his wife left him, leaving her with her third and last son. Recently, her last son got a strange virus that moved to his heart, almost killing him. He had open heart surgery to save his life and seemed to be doing better, but obviously was still in a lot of pain.

I am thankful that she is strong in her faith, despite her life journey. As I lift her up in prayer, I can't imagine how she must feel after losing all five of her children. She is not much different than Job. In these matters we cannot understand, God asks us to lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge him, and he will make our paths straight.
Even though my mind is boggled, I know I have a choice whether to trust God in all these messes this sinful world creates or not to trust him and become bitter. I choose to trust because God's word promises:

O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man (woman) who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:12

Be blessed and please join me in praying for this hurting family.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Path of Life

You will make known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

God is ready and willing to show us the road of life. Are we paying close attention to what he has made known about this path? He has repeatedly shown me this road represents our pilgrimage, many have gone before us. There are times we pass through the Valley of Baca (Psalm 84:5). Baca means weeping. We will cry on the way to our holy place, heaven, but he blesses us with the joy of his presence during our entire journey--bumpy back-roads, potholes, smooth super-highways and all.

It's passing through the Valley of Baca, however, that leads us to contrition. Contrition means to be smitten, maimed, dejected or sad. Jacob experienced being contrite when he wrestled with God all night long. Jacob was so determined, it is written that the man (God) could not overpower him.* Finally, God touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was maimed. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

Jacob's hip represents our human pride. Most of us are downright hard-headed (I know I am), but once we wrestle with God and allow him to show us how to be broken-hearted, dejected and sad over our pride and sin, miracles begin to occur. Like Jacob, we receive a new name and a mission, the path of life becomes clear. This happens when we have the same mindset of Jacob: "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Genesis 32:26). We are less likely to stray off the path, if we hold on tight to God every moment of every day, living totally dependent on him. The good news is he has a firm grip on us, even if we let go and roam off the well worn road.

It doesn't matter if our path leads us through valleys or over mountain-tops, God remains faithful. He dries ours tears, clears our confusion, and protects us fiercely. Nothing can separate us from his love. The path of life consists of total surrender to a totally trustworthy God. Is my listening heart limping? I pray so. Amen

*read story found in Genesis 32:22-32

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Make Listening Your Motto

The Psalmist in Psalm 85:8 wrote:

"I will listen to what God the LORD will say"

Shama is the Hebrew word for listening. It means to hear intelligently. This word takes on the connotation of obedience in certain contexts, especially in Deut. 6:3-4 when God told the Israelites through Moses to Hear, O Israel. He told them to be careful to obey and to love God with all the hearts, with all their souls, and with all their strength.

God has spoken the 66 Books of the Holy Bible into existence. He speaks through his people. He speaks through his creation (Psalm 19). He also says:

"But oh, that my people would listen to me" (Psalm 81:13)

God is talking, but who is listening? He waits ever so patiently for us to hear what he has to say. When we do, he gives us the strength to obey. Why not make listening to God your personal motto? In turn, God will make you like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers (from Psalm 1). God wants to help us obey and bring his promises to life in all of us. I know this from personal experience. Besides, he has been fulfilling his word for eons and won't ever stop. Will you do your part by listening?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Potter's Molding Hands

Pottery making is one of the oldest crafts of civilized man. It should not surprise us then that God uses the illustration of the potter and the clay to demonstrate his power in the destinies of men. Like clay, we are made from the dust of the earth. With his hands God formed the first man, Adam. God chose to breathe into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul. God beamed with pride as he looked at Adam and all that he created, and it was very good.

And then came Jacob, whose name means supplanter. He was more deceptive than an advertisement touting before and after photos. He used his cunning tactics to purchase his firstborn brother’s (Esau’s) birthright for the paltry sum of a pot of stew. Back in those days the firstborn’s birthright was quite valuable. It consisted of a double portion of the father’s inheritance, but for Jacob as one of three main patriarchs it meant so much more. For him the birthright embraced chieftainship, rule over the entire family, and the title of the blessing of promise (Genesis 27:4, 27-29). This promise included future possession of Canaan and of covenant fellowship with Jehovah God.

Even though Jacob lived up to his namesake, God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). This astounds me to no end. Why would God want to be closely associated with liars and deceivers? Author Cecil Murphey put this question in proper perspective when he said, “If I can figure out a reason for God's love, I have the wrong answer.”

But even though Jacob was chosen to rule with God over the nation of Israel, the truth remains that God wants to spend time alone with you and me just as much as he wanted to spend time with Jacob. It doesn’t matter if we rule a nation or just a little house in Georgia, like I do. God loves us and wants a vibrant and growing relationship with each and every one of us. He so wants to speak to us and give us new life. Now that’s nothing short of amazing grace!

Although, most of the time we don’t choose to get alone with God until things get hairy. My grandfather had a saying about those who get into trouble, he said, “She’s done spread her potatoes and got her pan burnt.” We spread our potatoes and when things get burned and Jesus shows up, we wrestle all night long saying things like, “Why am I praying for my addicted loved one when nothing seems to change?” “Why does my child have to suffer with this horrible disease?” Why does every one in the family have to argue about how to care for our Alzheimer’s patient parent? You get the picture. Fill in the blank—“Why___________ ?”

If we would just take some time to spend with Jesus allowing him to mold us as he sees fit, he would answer our questions his way (many times with a question—“Why do you ask my name?” see Jacob's molding in Genesis 32:22-32). He wants us to hold on tight and listen so he can bless us there (Genesis 32:26 & 29).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Listening from Weird Places

Yesterday morning I woke to my husband watching TV out in the living room which is very rare. As I went about my regular morning stuff I couldn't believe my ears. An orchestra on the IFC channel was playing "The Old Rugged Cross." As I peaked out of the kitchen to see who it was on TV playing this old hymn, I saw the camera focused on one member of the orchestra-Woody Allen, a Jew, playing a classic Christian hymn of the faith on a clarinet.

That was really weird so I thought I better pay attention to what God was saying. Ever since, the tune has been stuck in my head so I went to my book shelf and pulled down my hymn book and prayed this hymn (listening hearts often use their hymn books to pray).
The cool thing about listening to God in weird places is that hearing this song answered prayers. As I begin to write the follow-up study to “The Listening Heart,” I ask God which hymns he wants to use for each week of study (each one of my chapters has a hymn of prayer at the end of it). I actually have three follow-up books. Each one deals with listening to a personality of the trinity. The one I am working on now is called, “Hearts Who Listen for the Potter’s Voice: Recognizing the Molding Hands of God the Father.” It is based on Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob’s wrestling with God. This hymn is perfect for Chapter Three: Hands Thoroughly Acquainted with Clay: Clinging to God.

May this old hymn get stuck in your head and heart this week like it did in mine. As we listen to the message from God found in it, we can learn what it means to be ever true to that "Old Rugged Cross."


George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
Such a wonderful beauty I see;
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it someday for a crown.

Clinging to God with You, Susan

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Answer to prayer

I asked God to establish a stronghold of truth in our hearts as I wrote the entry on Monday, April 14th. He answered that prayer by having the following quote right at the top of the page of the journal I wrote in today:

If I can think of myself as loved, I can love and accept others.
If I see myself as forgiven, I can be gracious toward others.
If I see myself as powerful, I can do what I know is right.
If I see myself as full, I can give myself freely to others.
-Kathy Peel

So my sweet friends, live loved, completely forgiven, totally accepted, and as the new creation you are and watch what God can do through you to change the world.

I love you all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Establishing a Stronghold of Truth

I have been inspired by a recent study I have done with my Sunday School class called, "The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God's Eyes" by Robert S. McGee. I am not the only one inspired by this book, on the cover, Billy Graham wrote, "The Search for Significance should be read by every Christian."

The theme of the book is to teach us how to replace Satan's lie: Your Worth=Your Performance+Others' Opinions with God's Truth: Your Worth=What God Says about You.

Today I would like to share four of the most important things God say about you. Post them on note cards and put them in important places so you can look them over regularly. Allow these truths to renew your mind.

1. Reject the lie Satan wants you to believe that those who fail (including you) are unworthy of love and deserve to be blamed and condemned and replace it with the truth:

I am completely loved by God (1 John 4:9-10).

2. Reject the lie Satan wants you to believe that you must meet certain standards to feel good about yourself with the truth:

I am completely forgiven and am fully pleasing to God (Romans 5:1).

3. Reject the lie Satan wants you to believe that you must be approved (accepted) by certain others to feel good about yourself with the truth:

I am totally accepted by God (Colossians 1:21-22).

4. Reject the lie Satan wants you to believe that you are what you are, you cannot change, you are hopeless with the truth:

I am a new creation, complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I pray as we establish a stronghold of truth together we will instantly recognize these false beliefs and replace them with the truth of God's Word. Then we can live victoriously the way God intends for us to live.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Using Our Weapons

Either my eyes have been opened or there is more spiritual warfare against myself and those God puts in my path than ever before. God's word tells us that we are equipped for battle with the full armor of God and that our enemy is invisible (Ephesians 6:10-20). The weapons we fight with are not anything like the weapons of the world. Paul gives us a little more insight into how it all works:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war
as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the
weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine
power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments
every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge
of God, and we take captive every thought to make it
obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
Don't you have people in your life whose walls of resistance in their minds are as high and thick as the walls of Jericho? What are these walls made up of? To name a few, there are hefty doses of pride, bitterness, and unforgiveness. And for some, these walls are strengthened by drugs and alcohol.
While studying this 2 Corinthians passage I read an enlightening commentary by Warren Wiersbe in which he wrote about Paul's attitude towards these walls of resistance:
Paul's attitude of humility (as he wrote 2 Corinthians 10) was actually
one of his strongest weapons, for pride plays right into the hands
of Satan. The meek Son of God had far more power than Pilate
(see John 19:11), and he proved it. Paul used spiritual weapons
to tear down the opposition-
Prayer, the Word of God, Love,
the Power of the Spirit at work in his life.
He did not depend on personality, human abilities, or even the
authority he had as an apostle.
I am asking you to stand in the gap with me for those we love, whose minds are opposed to the truth of God's Word. Let's be alert and use our weapons every day. We also must listen to our Commander, trusting and obeying him so the walls will come tumbling down. He may even ask us to do some weird stuff like he did with the Israelites in Jericho (Joshua 6). Marching around a city wall seven times and shouting doesn't seem like an effective way to tear down a super-thick city wall, but obeying God produces amazing results.
I thought it was very strange that God has recently lead me to be re-baptized, even though I have been walking faithfully with him for over twenty years. I feel strongly led to get my baptism in the proper order. I was baptized at 11 years old but did not fully surrender to the Lord until 1987, at age 27. I also want to announce to the world that I am dead to myself and living for God in this full time writing and prayer ministry. And you know what? I can already see some cracks forming in the walls of those around me.
Use your weapons of prayer, God's Word, love, and allow the Spirit to work through you. Trust in his divine power to tear down the strongholds. I can hear the thunder of the walls crashing down even now. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God is Love

I read a great quote this morning by Gloria Gaither:

Love is the seed of all hope.
It is the enticement to trust,
to risk, to try, to go on.
Since God is love, he represents the seed of all hope. As a battle weary soldier of Christ, this reminder was a glimmer of light in a dark cave. After losing my sweet mom and recovering from major surgery over the last six weeks and many other issues, I have had a hard time processing all the changes, not only in my daily life, but in my heart and my body.
As I move forward in life and ministry, God entices me to trust, to risk, to try, to go on. I can see my Master Coach on the sidelines now, with his hands around his mouth calling "You can do it. I'm with you all the way."
How sweet it is to know this love that passes all human understanding. He will help me deal with my own grief and the grief of my family members. He will never leave me alone. A comforting old hymn just came to mind:
Because He Lives
by Gloria Gaither and William J. Gaither
God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love,
heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride,
and joy He gives; But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.
And then one day I'll cross the river; I'll flight life's final
war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.
I can face tomorrow. His love drives out the fear. I know He holds the future. He alone makes life worth living. HE LIVES!! Amen. When I listen, I hear his precious words of comfort and assurance.
Note: How strange that the hymn God's Spirit led me to while writing this entry is written by the same person whose quote encouraged me. God's ways are mysterious. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hearts Who Listen

When I think about the phrase “give ear,” it sparks a memory from my grade school years. Endless motion and school work filled our days, but when it was time for lessons, the teacher demanded undivided attention. My teacher said, “Sit down, eyes on me, it’s time to put on our listening ears.” As we settled down and faced her, we clicked each listening ear securely into place. Only then did she begin to teach.

Adult life often mirrors those of elementary children’s. Modern living brims with non-stop activity. No longer in school, however, we do grown-up things and time spent with our Master Teacher slips away.

Could my childhood memory embody a solution to gaining some time alone with Jesus? After all, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3NIV). The difference between grade school and now is that our Master Teacher doesn’t demand attention. He simply repeats an invitation to all: “Come to me.”

In our spiritual life, hearts do the listening. If we desire to hear, we are obliged to give Jesus full access to our heart. When we do, miracles occur and true love blossoms. While giving ear, Jesus’ love stimulates a hunger to know him in deeper ways. One way to hear his voice involves a treasure hunt, digging into the richness found in God’s word. It’s not surprising that when God asks us to “hear” it means much more than we think. It means to hear intelligently with diligent obedience and attention.

Even though I gave my ear (my listening heart) to Jesus long ago, I’ve experienced hearing impairment because I failed to come to him on a regular basis. I finally learned how to sharpen my hearing ability—spend time alone with God and his Holy Bible every day. During heartfelt listening, distractions lose their draw and God supernaturally invigorates me.

Whenever we listen to Jesus’ voice, his words speak directly to our hearts—words we are able to obey, not because we have to, but because we want to.

An adventurous life awaits hearts who listen. How about beginning a journey today?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Bright New Day

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11
In the early morning hour, we are at our purest and strongest. Ready to face a new day, it would be a great time to ask God to keep us that way. In her hymn, God, Who Touches Earth with Beauty, Mary S. Edgar guides us in a prayer that keeps eternity in our hearts and minds and asks God to keep us pure and strong and true throughout each day:
God, who touches earth with beauty, Make me lovely, too;
With Your Spirit recreate me, Make my heart anew.
Like the springs and running waters, Make me crystal pure;
Like the rocks of towering grandeur, Make me strong and sure.
Like the shining waves in sunlight, Make me glad and free;
Like the straightness of the pine trees, Let me upright be.
Like the arching of the heavens, Lift my thoughts above;
Turn my dreams to noble action, Ministries of love.
God, who touches earth with beauty, Make me lovely, too;
Keep me ever, by your Spirit, Pure and strong and true.
(Words Copyright by Mary S. Edgar)
May we never forget what God has set in our hearts--eternity. Then we can remain heavenly minded while being of earthly good, praising and serving our worthy God, making a difference for eternity.
Keep your springs running freely and shine bright for Jesus!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dispelling the Big Lie about the Good News

Some of us view certain delivery methods of the Gospel as negative. How can the good news include bad news? Is this possible?

A threefold problem arises when the good news is delivered, however, no matter what the method because: 1. The Gospel reveals that we are sinners. This is hard to hear. 2. The Gospel proves there is only one way to fix our problem and it is not do-it-yourself. This hurts our pride. 3. The Gospel makes known the fact that our time is limited. We don’t like being pushed to make decisions.

And then the Prince of this world, Satan, gets involved. The father of lies convinces us that if we deliver the gospel leaving out the part that hurts people’s feelings, we will get more converts. In other words, if we do it right—the way Jesus did—we will be successful every time. There is nothing farther from the truth. Yes, Jesus emanates kindness and mercy, but he speaks the truth in love and there are times when the truth hurts.

Let’s first take a look at exactly what the good news entails:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,
which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this
gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on
to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to
the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

The most negative thing here is the fact that Jesus died for our sins. Why did my sins and your sins nail him to a cruel cross at Calvary?
1. God’s purpose for our lives includes peace and life, but most of us are not having this experience. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10NKJV).
2.We choose to disobey God by attempting to run our own lives. We ignore his way to peace and life which results in separation from God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23NIV).
3.Through the ages, we have tried in many ways to bridge this gap, without success. “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12NIV).
4. Jesus Christ is the only answer to our problem. He paid the penalty for our sins of going our own way. Jesus built the bridge between God and people with a cross. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8NIV).
5. We must trust Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and receive him by personal invitation and we only have one chance—this life—to do so. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9NKJV).

This represents the greatest of all news! We have a problem that we cannot solve—separation from our holy God. God solved it through giving us his one and only Son, that whoever believes—clings to, relies on, and trusts in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Paul said the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Does that mean if we leave parts of the gospel out it loses power? Isn’t this exactly what Satan wants to accomplish through his lies?
There is even more news to the good news! The Scriptures dispel Satan’s lie that if we give the gospel without any negative connotations we will be doing it Jesus’ way and in turn, be successful every time. Newsflash (that’s really old news)—Jesus did not win every person he spoke to for God. In Mark 10:17-31 Jesus spoke to a rich young man about eternal life. This man did not like being told he was a sinner. He had convinced himself that he kept every commandment since childhood. His pride was hurt because God’s plan for eternal life meant putting God above all of his material wealth that he had worked so hard to attain. Jesus' good news caused a storm to erupt in his heart. He walked away from Jesus sad, without the precious gift of salvation.

Jesus was never politically correct either. He told the woman at the well straight to her face that her religion was wrong (John 4:1-26). But she didn’t walk away sad, she skipped away filled with the living water of eternal life.
Paul said it best when he wrote, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Beloved Mother

After a long battle with countless medical issues, my mom went home to live with Jesus on Thursday, February 28, 2008. I wanted to share the eulogy I wrote with you. She was strong and courageous to the very end.

JANUARY 21, 1934 to FEBRUARY 28, 2008

Recite Psalm 147 First

Mom’s Eulogy March 2, 2008

Back in 2006, when God laid this Psalm—147 on my heart, my church family and friends were dealing with a lot of heartbreaking issues, like the death of a daughter, who was also a young mother, death of a newborn, cancer, and serious illness. God used this Psalm to minister to me and help me pray for all of these hurting people. Now that my family and I are brokenhearted, Jesus, the Good Shepherd led me to this comforting Psalm again.
This Psalm overflows with the attributes of our magnificent LORD, many of which my mother clung to, relied on and trusted in on a daily basis. Let me share a few of them with you:
Through this Psalm, the LORD promises to build up Jerusalem. My mom depended on the Lord, our builder and encourager, to lift her up. Because she dealt with serious illness most of her life, she was constantly being knocked down, but you would never know it. She was the most positive person I have ever known.
Through this Psalm, the LORD promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. My mom experienced more than her share of heartache and tragedy. My mom depended on God, the healer of broken hearts, to cure the hurt caused by our broken world.
Through this Psalm the LORD promises to sustain the humble. My mom was also the most humble person I have ever known. Her words and actions proved our Lord sustained her.
My mom served God’s children in a way that is unseen and often went unnoticed—she constantly prayed for us. When I read, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love,” I smile, because through this Psalm I know the LORD is thrilled with my mama. She didn’t worry about doing things to get recognition; she respected her LORD at all times and put her hope in his unfailing love and let him take care of the rest.
One of her repeated testimonies comes from the promise in this Psalm that “He grants peace to your borders.” My mom was frequently trapped in a hospital bed, but she continually bragged on how God repeatedly gave her peace to withstand being bound by her medical challenges. One of her hospital stays lasted 100 days. She made it through by holding on to God’s gift of peace. She believed Jesus when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This Psalm also glorifies God as our Creator. My mom relished God’s creation, especially her beloved Florida Keys. She took great pleasure out on her deck watching those fabulous sunsets and feeling cool breezes on her face.
And last but not least, she loved God’s word. She enjoyed good preaching and Bible Study. When my car was headed to church she wanted to be in it. She knew the power of God. She watched and waited as God sent his word to melt hearts of stone. She got excited when he stirred up his breezes and sent his Holy Spirit waters flowing.
I desire to follow in her footsteps and cling to the promises of God. Today, I am assured that she is happy and completely healed. My mom was a strong, selfless woman and always thought of others first. Recently, in the emergency room she cried out. All she wanted was her eyes back so she could read. God answered her prayer and much more. She has her eyes back and a body that will never be sick again or require surgery. She is reunited with her precious son and many other loved ones, and most important she is with her beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. And for that, we can celebrate!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lasting Peace

Since God commands us to "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples" (Psalm 96:3), I feel impressed to share what He's been up to in this Listening Heart. My recent medical problems are long and boring, but God has been working quiet miracles in the tedious details.

To make a long story short, for Christmas, instead of coal in my stocking, I got rocks in my kidneys. While in the Emergency Room I had a catscan that showed a mysterious spot that the radiologists or doctors could not identify. And during follow up appointments, I found out that the surgery I had last summer caused scar tissue that could only be corrected by a hysterectomy. I was angry and scared. Angry that I had wasted time having that procudure last summer and scared because of this unknown "spot."

I put my prayer warriors to work and asked everyone I knew to pray for me. Through prayer, Jesus gave me his peace that passes understanding. In John 14:27 Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

I had my marching orders, but Satan tried to break in and steal Jesus' precious gift of peace more than once. Like when my Mom spent a week at St. Joseph's Hospital in heart and rhenal failure and when problems with my brother's alcoholism flared up, yet again. The final clencher occured when I saw the reason for my visit on the receipt from the general surgeon that became involved in my case. It said, "pelvic mass."

Seeing it in writing made this supposed mass seem real even though God had given me his peace throughout the whole ordeal. The waters of the underlying flow of peace I had felt since my E.R. visit were troubled. I had to wait for the ripples from that rock thrown in my direction to settle down. With more heartfelt prayer and surrender to God's plan for my life, they finally did.

I am now almost two weeks post-op and am doing great. There was no sign of any mass anywhere (and they explored everywhere) and my surgery a complete success. I have to share the "marvelous deeds" he did for me, because one of you may get (or have) some weird diagnosis one day soon. I feel strongly about how important it is for you to be reminded that you, too, can hold on to Jesus' gift of peace no matter how rough the water gets. God will never leave nor forsake you and he will work his miracles in your life every day, guaranteed.

Hold on tight!! All my love, Susan

Monday, February 4, 2008

Five Simple Steps to Improve Your Time Alone With God

Insight blooms when you follow the master of “face-to-face.” Moses, famous for one on one communication with God, talked with him as one who speaks with a friend. Moses can help us improve our hearing of God’s voice and bring us to a higher level.

Digging into the first eight verses of Exodus 34, treasure abounds. Below you will find Moses five straightforward steps toward enrichment:

1. The Lord told Moses to, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first one and I will write on them the words that were on the first tables, which you broke” (Exodus 34:1). Since our hearts of stone have been replaced with hearts of flesh (see Ezekiel 36:26), like Moses, we are to prepare our hearts to receive what God desires to write on them. Preparation includes confession and asking God to fill us with his Holy Spirit. Without preparation my time spent alone with God feels like something is missing.

2. “Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain” (Exodus 34:2). Hearing God’s voice keenly starts with a morning time alone with God in his word, the same way God commanded Moses. During Moses ministry to God’s chosen people he regularly experienced God face-to-face. It works the same way for us when our appointment with God includes our Bible, no matter what time of day it is. There is nothing wrong with praying on the run—in your car or wherever you are. But when I leave out my Bible study, my spiritual nutrition, for too long I become weak. I saw one of those church signs that read, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Maybe, “and study” needs to be added to that quote.

3. “No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain” (Exodus 34:3). Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). Old Testament or new, God’s view on prayer has not changed. A special spot where you can be alone with God brings untold benefits. My chosen place is at my kitchen table, a round oak ball and claw. As a mother of three, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen anyway, making my special prayer “room” all the more significant.

4. “So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first one and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord commanded him” (Exodus 34:4). Basically, Moses obeyed God; we can do the same—meet God on the mountain, prepared and early. Obedience, oh so simple, but oh so tough. It’s hard to adjust priorities and remain disciplined. Accountability partners have to be one of the most beneficial ways to stay on track.

5. After hearing God’s word, “Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshipped” (Exodus 34:8). A leader to be emulated, Moses’ response to God reveals his submissive heart. Our Lord is worthy of all praise and honor at once. I can’t say worship comes at once, sometimes it’s delayed. But when I finally get to praising, my mood elevates and my problems shrink.
God’s commands are for our benefit and protection. When he said, “Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain,” he was speaking to all of us, not just Moses. May each one of us find our mountains and make the trek up regularly. God has lots of things he wants to talk to us about.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and
unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3

Friday, January 18, 2008

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

While reading about Abraham and Sarah in Genesis the Lord stopped me in my tracks with Genesis 18:14: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Abraham and Sarah had been promised a child, but they doubted and took matters into their own hands. The results have been devastating even to this day. When Sarah told Abraham to have a child through her maidservant, Hagar, I bet they never dreamed this "wild donkey of a man" would still be wreaking havoc even into our generation.

Sometimes I doubt, like Abraham and Sarah, especially when I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. But God speaks through his word and says to me, "Susan, is there anything too hard for me?" I know the answer, "No," but I need those nudges from the Lord to carry me through.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2
Are you thinking that something in your life is too hard for the Lord to handle?
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is refuge.
Psalm 62:8

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Loving God

We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I've spent hours wrestling out answers to my questions about the commandment to,"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). Why the breakdown? Why do we have to love him with our hearts? Our souls? Our minds?

Our forever faithful God answers our questions and teaches what it means to love him with everything we have. He even made a promise to that end in Psalm 21:2. He grants the desire of our hearts and does not withhold the requests we make. But for him to be able to answer us, we need to spend some time with him listening.

After spending time in prayer with him and thinking through the breakdown of the heart, soul, mind and strength, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a verse I have memorized—Romans 5:8. This passage reveals the greatest commandment is not a one-sided command from God to us, for it is written:
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8 KJV)
Incredibly the greatest commandment applies to both God, the creator and to us, the created! Revelations like these cause a response to God. God regularly works this way—he speaks and we either respond or reject what he says. We respond by obeying his word the best way we know how. We reject by not allowing God’s word to move us into action, which inevitably leads to hearing impairment. How do you respond to his voice, the word of God?