Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who have you been with?

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note that that these
men had been with Jesus."
Acts 4:13
At the time Luke wrote this, Jesus had been crucified, already returned to heaven, and Pentecost was over,* yet the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law noticed that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Had Peter and John already figured out how to spend time alone with Jesus praying in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)? He hadn't been with them (physically) in a while. The answer is yes, because when we back up to verse 8 in this chapter, Acts 4, Peter answered the rulers questions filled with the Holy Spirit.
Since Pentecost 2009 years ago, praying works the same way for Peter and John as it does for us. We cannot speak in the power of the Holy Spirit without spending time alone with Jesus listening to him through his word. The only difference is that Peter, John, and others were working on writing the word of God, but we have the complete and perfect word of God in our hands between a leather cover. We have the privilege of knowing the whole story, even the end that has not happened yet.
The verse bolded above makes me ask myself--Who is taking note of me? Does how I act prove who I hang with? I hope and pray people around me can tell I spend time alone with Jesus. I have some bad days, but for the most part, I desire for those God puts in my path to have their notepads ready and jot down "Susan has been with Jesus!" Because when it comes down to it, everything good I do is his idea, anyway.
Always Listen!!
*Jesus was crucified during Passover, after he rose he stayed on earth for 40 more days (Acts 1:3). Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Six Calamities

From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.
Job 5:19
Feeling like you are on your sixth calamity? I know my friend does. While walking across the parking lot at her grocery store, she was hit by a car. One minute she stood pushing her cart, the next, her foot was under the tire of an automobile. Ouch! She's quite beat up; with a cracked elbow, and a broken ankle.
What do you do when life knocks you down? When you are feeling uncomfortable today, try not to forget all that God has brought you through yesterday. Remember all of his past graces. And think about it. If he has brought you through six troubles, will you not trust him in the seventh?
After pleading his promises and presenting our cases to God in prayer, we usually realize that if there is any help to be found, it will come from God. For like Peter we say, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). Though we don't know how it will work out and when, we look to God. Even when we are knocked down and unable to do a thing, we look to God. Our eyes may be full of tears, but they are looking up.
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help come from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Move Past Your Devastation; Stay Close to God

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength
of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:21-28

We all experience times of devastation that cause us to cry out, "Why God? Why did you allow this to happen to me?" or "Why did you allow this to happen in my family?" I cried out to God in this way when my brother was murdered. And sometimes horrible things happen when we are attempting to serve God, like David. Anointed as King at 15 years of age, David did not sit on the throne until he was 30. During those 15 years of waiting, he regularly inquired of the Lord. As a result, he wanted the presence of God to be near him as he ruled over Judah (and 6 and a half years later, Israel too. 2 Samuel 5:4-5). This caused the first thing on his agenda to consist of bringing back the ark to Jerusalem, which the enemy had captured.

David put together a huge party, about 30,000 in all, to commemorate the return of the ark. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and every instrument they owned. When they made it to the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. Uzzah, the man guiding the cart and oxen, reached out and took hold of the ark of God. Because of his irreverent act, God struck him down and he died on the spot. The party--instantly over. David became angry and afraid. He asked, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?" (story from 2 Samuel 6)

When was the last time you were angry and afraid of God? Are you still there? The Scriptures (in the Psalm 73 above and 2 Samuel 6) reveal that the man after God's own heart moved past his devastation back into the arms of his Lord. After the tragedy with Uzzah, the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. David must have spent that time figuring out the proper way to carry the representation of our Holy God's presence. As soon as David heard about Obed-Edom's blessings, he mustered up enough courage to finish the task of bringing the ark to the City of David. Uninterrupted celebration and worship followed. David danced before the LORD with all his might.

Life works the same for us. When we get past our trials and heartache and truly understand that God is not harsh; GOD IS HOLY, we are prompted to return to brave obedience and do things God's way instead of our own way or the way the unsaved world works. God's ways will always surpass our thinking (Isaiah 55:8-9). Even though he is holy and mysterious at times, he remains a personal God who wants to comfort us and guide us through the ups and downs of living in a broken, sinful world. Our enemy wants us to stay devastated. What if David had held on to his anger and remained afraid to come near to God? There would be no "rest of the story." We can follow David's example by wanting the blessings of God for ourselves enough to get up and start over again. And then, we dance.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Axhead Floats

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live."
And he said, "Go."
Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?"

"I will," Elisha replied. And he went with them.
They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!"
The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:1-7

I love this short little story tucked into the narrative of Elisha's ministry. It shows us God’s great concern for us, especially in everyday things, like cutting down trees and building a place to live.

All Elisha had to do was to cut a stick and throw it where the axhead fell in. God did the rest. Cutting and throwing a stick seem a little weird, but against all expectations, the heavy iron floated to the top of the water. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

I pray today that God opens our eyes so we can see Him working His little miracles all around us. And if he prompts one of us to cut and throw some sticks, well—“according to our faith let it be done” (Matthew 9:29). May we reach out our hands and take all God has in store for us and experience floating irons on a regular basis.