Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Immeasurable Life

I've been writing lots of devotionals lately and decided to start sharing them here on my blog.

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly
above all that we ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20

Love inspires us to do things we wouldn’t normally do like ride up and down a cute boy’s street just to catch a glimpse of him or spend hard-earned money on a corsage for a that special girl to wear to the school dance. When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Ephesus he knew how the power of love changes the way we think and act.

Paul not only desired his listeners to change, but also wanted us to understand why God went to extreme measures demonstrating his love for us. “For this reason” Paul wrote a prayer for us to grasp the four dimensions of God’s immense love while living in a three dimensional world.

Paul’s words of the width, length, depth, and height of Christ’s love send a message. Living in his immeasurable love that surpasses knowledge carries us beyond being told “Jesus loves you” to experiencing life with power. God’s story becomes our story.

Thought for the day: Living loved defines the immeasurable life.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Help us to understand the true impact of Paul’s prayer in our lives today. May we experience the immeasurable life you promise so we can pour your great love into the lives of those around us, especially those who don’t yet know you.

Prayer Focus for Today: Those who feel unloved.

p.s. This devotional was inspired by "The Immeasurable Life" series at my church, Watermarke, by Pastor Gavin Adams:http://northpointministries.org/watermarke/messages/the-immeasurable-life

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

25 Things You Won't Find in Heaven

When I saw the title, "25 Things You Won't Find in Heaven," on a blogpost by Rebecca Barlow Jordan* it sparked my interest. Her post inspired me to make my own list starting with the things that have adversely affected me the most. There are obviously more than 25 and your top 25 things will be different than mine. The exercise of thinking of my own list invoked praise to our Father in heaven. Yay God! He is coming to rescue us believers and bring us home to this wonderful place called heaven and I can't wait! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him-but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Thank you for your Spirit, Lord, that deposits the hope of heaven in our hearts! We can make it through all of this junk until you come and get us or you take us home to heaven through death. Amen.

Here is my list:

1. No Enabling

2. No Co-dependency

3. No Alcohol

4. No Drugs-illegal or legit

5. No Murder

6. No Pride

7. No Secrets

8. No Triangulation

9. N0 Manipulation/Control/Guilt Trips

10. No Illness, especially cancer, heart disease, and diabetes

11. No Surgeries

12. No Disabilities/Defects

13. No Injustice

14. No Separation

15. No Death

16. No Time Limits

17. No Pollution

18. No Wars/Destruction

19. No Pain

20. No Sadness

21. No Abuse, Physical, Emotional, or Spiritual

22. No Natural Disasters

23. No Unemployment

24. No Taxes

25. No Crime

Why don't you make your own list today?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My understanding of the Beatitudes

I have thought about the Beatitudes for years. I realized long ago that you have to dig for the real meanings of much of what Jesus said while he was here. Maybe this is why Solomon said, "If you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:4-5).

After years of pondering and doing word studies on the Beatitudes this is my understanding of them from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit (those who have hit rock bottom from addiction to self-sufficiency), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn (those who truly grieve over their sin), for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek (those who have humbled themselves before our mighty God), for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (those whose top priority is being right with God), for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful (those who compassionately exhibit undeserved grace towards others in thought and action), for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart (those who keep a check on their thoughts and feelings, staying morally clean by regular confession of sin-even asking God to reveal hidden faults), for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers (those who share the good news of the gospel so others can have peace with God), for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (get slammed for doing the right thing and/or being right with God), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10

Let me know what you think. I would love to hear your input.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bitter or Better?

I recently read this quote:

"In His own world He is content

to play a losing game."

-Way of Faith

I'm pondering this deep thought because of the counseling book, Shattered Dreams, by Dr. Larry Crabb--I've read it and am presently studying week six of the workbook. I have learned God's reasons why this mysterious quote is true.

The message of Shattered Dreams is this: Learn how to look through life's tragedies and see the lavish blessings God has for you. In this screwed up world our dreams will shatter. Actually Jesus guarantees shattered dreams when he says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The author wrote: "In this world, the dream of feeling as good as we want to feel will shatter. . . Shattered dreams will create the opportunity for God to work more deeply than ever before, to further weaken our grasp on our empty selves. They will also create the opportunity for bitterness and its children, defeat and immorality to develop. Bitterness carries us farther from the shore, into dark nights that never had to be. Brokenness on the other hand, allows us to relax in the arms that will bring us to shore, where a warm fire is burning and food has been prepared."

Through dealing with family tragedy of the loss of my brother and the aftermath of heartache that lessens, but never quite goes away, I've done it both ways--bitterness and brokenness. Bitterness makes me ill, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But brokenness has led me to healing. In God's mysterious, powerful ways, he uses suffering to convince us we are safe to let go and surrender completely in his arms so he can deliver us safely to shore. For some reason, us proud humans don't ever get what it means to surrender without suffering.

What about you? Have difficult, hurtful situations made you bitter or better? In what ways has suffering made you bitter? In what ways have you experienced the healing that comes from brokenness and become better?

Dear Lord Jesus,

You are content to play a losing game because you know the end of the story, which is eternal life beyond our wildest imagination. Your story includes free will which leaves us with choices. We can fight for our right to feel good and for things to be right while living here (and be miserable) or we can allow your Holy Spirit to use the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for YOU, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. A dream of a vibrant, growing, joyful relationship with you despite any circumstances, bad or good. For we know and believe that in all things, You, God work for the good of those who love you, who have been called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28). In your precious name we pray. Amen.

Photo courtesy of christianphotos.net

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Listening to God

But whoever listens to me will live in safety

and be at ease, without fear of harm.

Proverbs 1:33

Most of us talk away to God, rambling off requests for what we want and think we need. I'm not saying our prayers aren't legit, but even though I love to share ways to listen to the inaudible voice of God I still have to tackle a universal problem: when I pray, how often do I sit still and listen for the answer?

God commands us to "Be still and know that He is God." I don't think it is an accident that after God gives the incredible promise in Proverbs 1:33 (above), He follows with three big "Ifs" in Proverbs 2:1-4 to give us practical ways to be still and know.

1. My son (daughter), IF you accepts my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom apply your heart to understanding,

2. and IF you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,

3. and IF you look for it as silver and search for it as for hidden treasure.

Then comes the thens. . .then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path . . . Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you (Proverbs 2:5-11).

Wow! Those are some awesome promises. How can you and I apply the three "ifs" to everyday life?

1. How do you accept God's words and store them up? Find a good Bible study and sit still long enough to do it. Right now, I'm doing the workbook inside the incredible book by Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams: God's Unexpected Path to Joy. If you are already in a Bible Study, go a step deeper by doing word studies on some of the passages you are studying. I love my Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance, published by AMG. You can look up the text in Hebrew (Old Testament) and in Greek (New Testament) and learn the original meanings of the words God uses in His Holy Bible. The Hebrew and Greek dictionary in this Concordance is expanded and a wonderful asset to your studies.

2. How do you practically call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding? Besides shouting out to God in prayer, I started by asking trustworthy Christians lots of questions. Don't remain quiet because you think your questions are dumb. Ask anyway! And if your heart hurts from the trash this broken world dumps on you, cry with a professional counselor. I did and my healing has deepened and I'm much stronger than ever before.

3. How do you look for it as silver and search for it like treasure? For that you go back to number one again. Like searching for treasure, Bible Study is hard work. IF you want the promises above to become evident in your daily life. Don't give up! Keep studying! I'm praying for you all the way.

Dear Lord Jesus, Inspire us to make an effort to listen to you every day. We want to live in safety in this crazy world and be at ease, without fear of harm. In your precious name we pray. Amen!

Friday, July 8, 2011

How Birds Got Their Wings: A Parable

There is a fable about the way the birds got their wings at the beginning. They were first made without wings. Then God made the wings and put them down before the wingless birds and said to them, "Come, take up these burdens and bear them."

The birds had lovely plumage and sweet voices; they could sing, and their feathers gleamed in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air. They hesitated at first when bidden to take up the burdens that lay at their feet, but they soon obeyed, and taking up the wings in their beaks, laid them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a little while the load seemed heavy and hard to bear, but presently, as they went on carrying the burdens, folding them over their hearts, the wings grew fast to their little bodies, and soon they discovered how to use them, and were lifted by them up into the air-the weights became wings.

Through God's call in my life of late to, "Come, take up these burdens and bear them," I've discovered the truth buried in this parable is one of God's favorite things to do in our lives. Since 2008 I've experienced one heartache after another, but without hesitation I can say they gave me wings and taught me how to fly. God takes the burdens of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose and works them into our lives for our good (Romans 8:28). As we discover how to use our wings and fly God woos us heavenward to soar above all of chaos and din of this earth.

And then I received an added bonus. As I studied Hosea this week I found the Old Testament version of Romans 8:28. Hosea 2:15: "There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope." Yes, our amazing, miracle working God loves to turn our troubles into a door of hope, our burdens into wings.

Let's pray!

Oh dear Lord Jesus, thank you for turning our weights into wings. Help us to obey your call to "Come, take up these burdens and bear them." You are a promise-keeper and you have said we shall mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31). Continue to woo us heavenward each day. In your precious name we pray. Amen.

"Blessed is any weight, however overwhelming, which God has been so good as to fasten with His own hand upon our shoulders.

-F. W. Faber

photo courtesy of christianphotos.net

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A New Look at God's Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13

I took a new look at God's love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, this morning. To love other people the way God does, it may be good idea to follow His description of love and make some commitments:

Love never gives up . . . How about committing to be patient?

Love cares more for others than for self . . . How about committing to be kind?

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have . . . How about committing not to be jealous or envious?

Love doesn't strut . . . How about committing to esteem others above ourselves?

Doesn't have a swelled head . . . How about committing to lay down our pride?

Doesn't force itself on others . . . How about committing not to be rude?

Isn't always "me first" . . . How about committing not to be self-seeking?

Doesn't fly off the handle . . . How about committing to deal with our anger in healthy ways?

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others . . . How about committing not to keep a record of wrongs?

Doesn't revel when others grovel . . . How about committing to take captive our evil thoughts and turn them over to Jesus?

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth . . . How about committing to seek the truth?

Puts up with anything . . . How about committing to the sanctity of life?

Trusts God always . . . How about committing to remain surrendered to God?

Always looks for the best . . . How about committing to focus on the positive?

Never looks back, but keeps going to the end . . . Because God's love never fails, how about committing not to fail others, but when we do, rely on God's grace and mercy to cover a multitude of sins?

Dear Jesus,
We love because you first loved us. We are asking you to strengthen us by your Holy Spirit-not a brute strength-but a glorious inner strength that You will live in us as we open the door and invite you in. And we ask You that with our feet planted firmly on Your love will be able to take in with all of Your followers the extravagant dimensions of Your great love. Help us to reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives in the fullness of God and love others the way you love us. Your love changes people. In your precious name we pray. Amen.
*photo courtesy of christianphotos.net

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's All Right to be Human

"You human," two year old Aleson said. At first, I didn't quite understand, but as she twirled her mermaid doll, Ariel, around in her hands and repeated, "You human," I finally got it. I am a human as opposed to Ariel who is a mermaid. Little Miss Aleson is exactly right.

Sometimes this truth frustrates me, however, but my humanity never takes God by surprise. He understands who I am and why I do the things I do. He reminded me the next morning in my quiet time when I opened my Jesus Calling devotional. The very first sentence was in bold letters: IT'S ALL RIGHT TO BE HUMAN. Yes, it is all right for my mind to wander when I'm praying. He even forgives me when I worry needlessly and comforts me when I grieve.

I loved the promises in the last paragraph of my devotional that day the best: "As you live in close contact with Me, the Light of My Presence filters through you to bless others. Your weakness and woundedness are the openings through which the Light of the knowledge of My Glory shines forth. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7) My strength and my power show themselves most effective in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

O Jesus, You have said to me that your grace--your favor, loving-kindness, and mercy--are enough for me. Your grace is sufficient against any danger and will enable me to bear any trouble with God confidence. You have promised that my strength and power are made perfect in weakness. For when I am human and weak, Your power rests on me. Amen!

*Personal photo of my precious little cousin Aleson.