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Faith Familiarity Fasting God's Word Ignorance Kingdom New Year Fast Perspective Rejection

However

My daughter has an amazing imagination; she’s easily moved by things she sees and hears. I have to be watchful about what books, TV shows, and media she is exposed to as she will often have dreams (good and bad) about what she’s read or watched. More times than I can remember, she has come to my room in the middle of the night and cuddled next to me because of a bad dream she has had.

My mother-in-law rocked all of her grandchildren to sleep, and is now rocking all of her great-grandchildren so far, by singing the song, “Be Careful Little Eyes.” There’s more truth to that little song that we need to cling to than most of us understand. There are only 2 doors of entry into anyone’s thoughts and that is through what is seen and heard.

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Rocking chairs are the best places to fall asleep.

Unfortunately we tend to desensitize ourselves throughout our lifetimes by allowing ourselves to be exposed to things that do little to build us or help us grow. Indeed, we need to be informed of what is going on in the world – but how much do we need to listen to in order to be informed?

Ephesians 1:15b-20 NLT “…I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

It would seem that what we need to know is not the wisdom of this world but rather God’s wisdom that we find in knowing Him. We know God more when we spend more time with Him. I have a suspicion that many of us know more about politics, health trends, celebrities, and fashion than we know about our Savior.

The person that I know best in this world is the one I spend the most time with: my husband. I’ve worked side-by-side with him nearly all of our married lives. It’s not always been easy but the more we work together, the better we get to know one another, and the better our working relationship becomes. Sure we’ve had to learn to give and take; sometimes I give more, sometimes he gives more but in the end we get things done.

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Climbing Mount Heha in Burundi with our daughter Andreya.

The relationship we have with God is much the same – the more time we spend with Him, the better we get to know Him. You may think I’m only referring to time spent reading His Word and praying, and yes that is an extremely important part of getting to know Him, but I’m also referring to spending time with Him in other ways. We can be with God when we spend time with other believers, because when 2 or 3 of us gather, He is with us (see Matt. 18:20). We also can spend time with God in worship, alone or with others (see Ps. 22:3). We simply need to be a bit more aware of what we are doing in order for us to connect with Him wherever we are – because He is always with us (see Ps. 139:7).

I dare go further and say that we will filter what we hear God saying to us through a filter of what we know better: Him or this world.

Luke 8:18 AMP “So be careful how you listen; for whoever has a teachable heart, to him more undersanding will be given; and whoever does not have a longing for truth, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

Perhaps the most important quality we can possess is being teachable; having the ability to absorb truths that God is trying to communicate to us. We can’t take His truths in, however, if we are better acquainted with the world’s system than we are with God’s because we will naturally reject things He is saying because they “don’t make sense.”

God’s way of doing things run cross-grain to this world; He won’t be influenced in any way by popular opinion or reason.

Luke 8:40-56 gives the account of Jesus’ healing of not only a woman who had a long-standing hemorrhage, but also of Jairus’ daughter who died before Jesus could get to her side. In verses 51-53, Jesus enters Jairus’ house and found a crowd of mourners that had gathered “lamenting for her.” Jesus told them to stop crying as the girl was only asleep and He was summarily mocked – because everyone knew the girl was dead, what more could be done?

What follows the laughter of the crowd can easily be missed as it is only 1 short phrase in length: vs 54, “He, however.” Not minding the crowd, Jesus moved ahead and moved against common sense: the girl was dead. Indeed, she was dead, but that did not matter because “He, however” had other plans.

This year and beyond I want to live in “however” and I can only live in “however” when I know Him better than I know my natural circumstances. Getting closer to Him will help me walk by the crowds into “however.”

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O Be Careful Little Eyes

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in Love,
So be careful little ears, what you hear.

Be careful little mouth what you say
Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little mouth, what you say.

Be careful little hands, what you touch
Oh, be careful little hands, what you touch.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little hands, what you touch.

Be careful little feet, where you go
Oh, be careful little feet, what you go.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little feet, what you go.

Author: Unknown

Categories
Bible reading Choices Church planting Devotion Goals God's Word Kingdom Missions Perspective Serving The Call of God

Hello

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Immersion. That’s a word you don’t hear often.

In the context of missions, it is the best way to learn language, culture, and the discipline required to acquire both. While becoming fluent evades some, the simple effort to communicate in the local language is appreciated by those we live with. I don’t remember ever being berated in Africa for saying something incorrectly; I’ve always been met with smiles and appreciation for the little effort made to learn to say “hello.”

I had never, in all of my days, thought that I would speak more than 2 languages: English and Finnish (my parents are from Finland and I grew up speaking Finnish at home). I also didn’t know how speaking 2 languages from the get-go would help me learn 5 more languages. My mind was already accustomed to working between 2 languages; adding another 1 or even 5 wouldn’t be impossible.  Yes, you read that correctly: 5 more languages. I studied all of them but became fluent in 3 of the 5. Since our return to Burundi last month, I’ve been working on my Kirundi that I studied in 1991 when we first moved here to plant a church. In 2000 we moved away and as a result, I lost the bit of Kirundi I had learned. However, now that we are back, I’m finding myself speaking more in Kirundi than ever before – I’ve been immersed! Just give me another year to practice and I’ll not only be slightly conversational, I will speak fluently.

Learning the culture of any people group comes from learning language, for culture is deeply intertwined in language. Just think of how differently English is spoken in different places around the world! Years ago in Zambia, my husband was preaching in our church on a Sunday morning. He attempted to tell a joke, which often backfires here as what we may think is funny, often falls flat.  What is funny to us from the USA is often incomprehensible here in Africa. The same holds true for African humor versus Western humor. We often don’t see what’s funny to the other! However, on this particular Sunday, Jamie (my husband) was rewarded with not only a laugh from the crowd but an addendum to the joke. The joke went like this as he said:

“It has been said that the British invented English, but it’s the Americans who perfected it.”

From the crowd, we heard the following:

“And the Zambians ruined it!”

Roars of unexpected laughter filled the place – I’ll never forget it. Why was it so funny? Well, you’d have to hear Zambians speak English to appreciate how funny it was.

Culture and language, they go hand in hand and if we can’t learn to pick up on their cues we risk being effective wherever in the world we find ourselves.

Becoming fluent in language and culture came (and is still coming after nearly 31 years of learning) through being immersed, there is no shortcut, no second option. It’s the only way to leap over the barrier that separates me from those I’m serving and it’s a barrier that must be overcome. Living among the people we serve and being forced, as it were, to communicate with them and learn the ebbs and flows of the culture is enabling me to communicate through a filter they will understand. It’s an extremely frustrating season for anyone serving in a culture foreign to their own – but it’s what we came here for. We didn’t come to bring American language and culture to Africa. We came to Africa to bring Kingdom culture to those we touch. The onus to change how we communicate is on us, not on those around us (see Acts 17:16-21 when Paul was ministering at Athens).

The same principle holds true in Kingdom culture and language. The more we immerse ourselves in the culture and language of the Kingdom of God, the more fluent and comfortable we will become. His cultural cues become increasingly engrained in us as we spend time studying His language, His Word. The more effort we put into learning His ways and language, the more we will get out of our relationship with Him. As time passes we find ourselves needing less interpretation of what He is trying to tell us – because we’re familiar with His voice, His language, His culture.

I arrived early this morning for another bit of Kingdom culture immersion as I sat down to read my Bible, pray, and spend time with God, my Father, who is also the King of the Kingdom I serve. I began as I do every morning when I sit down with Him:

“Hello, Dad.”

He was quick to respond:

“Hello daughter, I’ve been waiting for you.”

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Categories
Choices Family Fasting God's Word Missions Sacrifice

About Those Potato Chips

The food that potato chips bought.

This time of year, we take part in a fast. It’s always a very meaningful time where we push back and set our minds on our relationship with the Lord and what He has planned for us in the coming year. It’s kind of a reset button that helps us keep our ears and hearts open to God’s voice. No one enjoys the physical process of fasting, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

At home, we’ve always encouraged (never forced of course) our young children to give up, or fast, certain activities (TV and other forms of media for example) or unnecessary snacks for a period of time. Our youngest is an avid potato chip fan – she knows most of what’s available here and panics when the chip stash runs low. This year, she has laid down the chips and has somehow enjoyed the sacrifice. Of course it’s not a full chip fast but it’s precious nonetheless!

One of the often overlooked parts of fasting has to do with what to do with the money we’ve saved with far less grocery shopping. Do we save it or buy something that we’ve wanted but haven’t been able to afford? Do we pay down bills or put it into savings?

While saving money feels good, there is another powerful element of fasting that has far-reaching potential:

Isaiah 58:6-9 NKJV

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily,

And your righteousness shall go before you;

The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Today the three of us piled into our little car and drove to the store and purchased food and soap that we will distribute among some of the poor in Blantyre where we live. This is actually something our daughter thought of last year after seeing how poor many are in our city. What we purchased today will be bundled into care packages that we will begin distributing this week and she will be front and center putting the packages together. Her joy is palpable and contagious!

Yes, we are aware that this little bit of help will most likely do very little in the larger scope of things to address poverty – but simply because it isn’t enough doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Who knows? This little bit of help might just be the glimmer of hope someone needs to see to light their way in the dark. Obedience in the Kingdom of God goes a long way and translates into miracles.

About the potato chips? That sacrifice will go a long way.

Categories
God's Word Rejection Relevance Relevant

Best Before

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How did this happen?

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was fashionable, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Am I out of style? Am I past my “best before” date?
In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years in the future from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, best before many years into the future!
The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report about a grocery store in Europe that uses items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families.
Truth is never out of date, it never expires. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, wrappings that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required to help today’s generation understand what is being said.
What appears to be forgotten in the noise that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, is that our attempts to “be acceptable” may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth openly can be as bad, or worse than, rejecting it for without being spoken, truth won’t be understood by the hearers; it will sound foreign.
The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods to present it that are fallible; it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable or presentable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down.
Proverbs 27:6 NKJ “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.
2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ 
vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?’…” 
People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding it; they won’t like the way it’s packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right. The problem with forming truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with those changes making truth relative instead of absolute.
Absolute truth is what gives us security and safety. For example, my children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.
Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided will ever be searching, striving, and working for approval by all who they connect with. They want to prove they are worthy of love and acceptance.
Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church under the guise of relevance (see “The Problem With Being Relevant” by Patrick Schatzline).
Relevance has become a buzzword in the church world to the point of potentially exchanging the truth for a comfortable compromise of an outline of truth that has been colored in with relevance; have we actually sacrificed a real encounter with God for the sake of the “cool factor?”
The “cool factor” we crave is actually a poor substitute for the real “cool factor” found in the truth of God and His Word that, while old, is always new and always works.
1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”
The quick fixes of today, the self-improvement courses and how-to guides, seminars and endless “must have” lists will all fade and be forgotten – but God’s Words are never irrelevant for they go beyond what’s cool. They are eternal, they never expire, and they are always fresh from day-to-day, year-to-year, and generation-to-generation.
Psalm 119:160 NKJV The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Categories
God's Word Words

No Forward, No Introduction

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I get into trouble sometimes not so much because of what I do or don’t do, but more because of what I have said or maybe haven’t said. It would seem that my brain works slower than my mouth and my mouth always rises to the occasion and has a response whether or not a response is requested or required.

When I was 5 years old or so, our family was living in Brooklyn, New York. One day the phone rang and I answered it. My mom was “indisposed” in the restroom and wanted me to tell whoever it was on the line to call later. I did tell the person to call later but not before I told them that mama was in the restroom and was in there a long time. I continued divulging facts she certainly would have preferred to be kept quiet and said that she sometimes took a long time and I couldn’t tell when she would get out. In the background, I heard my mom calling out, “No! No! No! Stop!” But my mouth kept moving! I then politely told the caller to call back later and hung up. My life’s course was altered that day when mom emerged and my life flashed before my eyes! (A lot of it was spent talking…) I wasn’t allowed to answer the phone for a very long time after that incident.

From the time we learn how to speak, our words begin to shape the course of our lives. Initially, we can do little more than say, “yes” or “no” but our vocabularies quickly take shape and as they do, our lives follow our words.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the standard conversation-opener between a visiting adult and child. Our answers to this and other questions like it begin to give direction to us and by the time we graduate high school many of us have already decided the field of study we will pursue later in life. It all began with the question, “What do you want to be?”

While it may seem that words are innocuous in and of themselves, their effect can cause anything from joy to panic. I saw this while living in Burundi – rumors would circulate from day to day regarding an invasion of the city by rebel forces. I can’t count how many times I went to bed knowing that the next day the entire city would be razed to the ground. While we did see a lot of violence in the city, rebel forces never overran it. The fighting would take place in different areas of the city from time to time, giving us a great deal of uncertainty, but we managed to survive.

Our God is a God of words. He is an Author, He has written and created many works over many a millennia. Genesis 1 & 2 tell us about His creation of the world and how He spoke, and the world just was. He had something in mind and said it, and it was.

Psalm 33:6 AMP “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth.”

What I find most interesting about the Creation, as I’ve pondered it, is that when it came to creating mankind, a discussion took place. We weren’t created without God putting some thought into us:

Genesis 1:26 NKJ “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

The only part of creation when the Father said more than “let there be” was when He made mankind. There was purpose to our creation that wasn’t there for the rest of the world – and He made us to be like Him, in His image so we could represent Him. How powerful are God’s Words! And since we are created “in His image,” how powerful are our words? They are more powerful than we think.

Was it possible to see the words God spoke when He created our world? No, but we can see what His words created. In the same way, we can’t see our words, but we can see what they create, whether negatively in agreement with this world, or positively in agreement with God and His Word.

Hebrews 11:3 AMP “By faith we understand that the worlds [during successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible.”

We have accepted Christ into our hearts by faith. We couldn’t see Him when we accepted Him, but that experience was real and is now evidenced by what He has done in our lives. He heals us, delivers us, gives us joy; and while we might not see Him with our eyes, we see what He does.

Our own words have not brought us much success when we say what we “feel.” Society tells us what to do and say to fit in and it still says we aren’t good enough. Friends might be well intentioned in their words but they still fail us. Popular words follow the latest and greatest trends and change every day. But God’s Word never changes.

Psalm 119:89 AMP “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven [stands firm as the heavens].”

God is still writing today; He is still writing books in heaven. And He is listening:

Malachi 3:16-18 AMP “Then those who feared the Lord talked often to one another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name. And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, Me peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him. Then you shall return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who does not serve Him.”

While we think what we say is not important, God is listening. Not only are our words powerful either positively or negatively, God pays attention to our words and is recording them. What are we saying to one another? What kind of book is written of my words? It indicates here in Malachi that as we who fear the Lord speak to one another, God records it and not only that – our words distinguish us from those who don’t serve Him.

As this world’s condition grows increasingly worse, the opportunity for God’s people grows greater as we display and declare how great and how sure our Father’s promises are. In the face of the world’s disappointing condition, here we are, secure, strong, and moving forward.

Psalm 37:25 NLT “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.”

How can we possibly believe this statement from Psalms? What if the dollar crashes? What if health care goes south? What if war breaks out?

Which words are more powerful? Certainly not the promises we hear over the news or from political figures around the world. I’ve chosen to trust God’s Words over those of the world that have disappointed me every time.

Some have said to me that they would love to read the Bible if they could only understand it. To this, I answer, “How much of what goes on in this world do we really understand?”

  • Do we understand the stock market fully? Yet we follow it and appreciate what we do understand.
  • Do we understand space and all of the galaxies out there? Yet we look at them through expensive telescopes.
  • Do we understand politics fully? Yet we follow it nonetheless.
  • Do we understand math or grammar? I thought I would throw that in for all of you who are numerically and grammatically challenged.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 NKJ “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God Himself Authored this Book – He needs no forward, no introduction, He doesn’t need other “intellectuals” to back His writing. He backs it Himself, and His authority is enough.

If you want to hear God’s Words that He used while breathing the world into existence then you must go to His Word. Nothing else compares even remotely.

There are many good books that give us lessons from great examples and mentors such as: Luis Pasteur, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, the list goes on. However, there is only one book with heavenly mentors – and that’s the Bible.

God put His entire weight of authority behind the writings of these men and women found in the Bible. If Jesus saw it fit to speak their words, shouldn’t we?

Nothing can stamp out God’s Word. People might try to ban the Bible, burn them, outlaw them, but when history as we know it has ended, there His Word will be going on; eternal, alive, active, and still speaking! Imagine, in eternity, the familiar verse we have taken for granted, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” Still speaking and working; how much of that “simple” verse do we take for granted?

 

 

Categories
Easter God's Word

Made to Order

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I’m the first to admit I’m not much of a foodie. It’s very difficult to impress me at a restaurant or with a fancy dessert. Although I don’t consider myself a very good cook, I know I can usually cook better food at home. My husband has grown used to my peculiarities and can usually predict what I will/will not order when we are out.

There is this one place that did impress me in Texas some years ago that I must give props to. Dear friends, Paul and Perrianne Brownback, who pastor The Abbey Church in Azle, Texas took my husband and I to a well-known steak restaurant in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Those who know me know that to impress me with a steak is nearly within the realm of the impossible. I generally don’t eat steaks, not because I’m a vegetarian, but because I simply have had very few really good steaks in my life. Upon their insistence that the steak at this restaurant had a 5-star rating, and to my husband’s great surprise, I ordered a steak, cooked in between well-done and medium well, knowing it would be like every other disappointing steak I’d ever eaten. Mentally I was already tearing the steak down: it was going to be too chewy, overdone, underdone, flavorless, or otherwise undesirable.

We have known the Brownbacks for all the years we have been missionaries (since 1987). Their church has been a faithful supporter of the work and we try to connect with them whenever we can and this time at the restaurant was a great opportunity to play catch up. I forgot about mentally destroying the steak and enjoyed the company. After some minutes, the waiter brought bread and some other condiments to go with the bread. While munching on the appetizers, we laughed over old memories and seriously contemplated our futures. It was a great time, and then…the steak arrived in all of its sizzling, 5-star glory.

I knew this steak was different from the moment it was set in front of me. It smelled amazing! It was cooked to perfection: right in between well-done and medium well. It wasn’t dry, chewy, or tasteless. The waiter graciously explained that there were different sauces available to me, but I was oblivious. You see if I enjoy a steak, I don’t want any sauce on it to ruin the flavor. I want to taste the steak, not the steak sauce. The rest of the evening’s meal was eclipsed by this piece of amazingness! Yes, I remember the steak from the Dallas/Fort Worth area – it was a steak worth every bite.

Today, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, I find myself wondering how well am I doing with what I am offering to those around me who need something to fill their emptiness? Is what I offer much like the bland, tough, undesirable steaks found in so many restaurants? Why would they bother with that kind of steak when they already have tough and flavorless available to them in their day-to-day lives?

Many have already tested what’s available on menus we have offered and have been let down. It’s been too tough, too lonely, or simply too complicated for them to enjoy the experience.

Matthew 11:29,30 NLT “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

God’s Word, on the other hand, is unlike any other menu. His is “made to order” for each and every person we meet. What He gives is tender and easy to bear; it is made to suit the one who is hearing it. The Chef is skilled enough to meet the needs of the most finicky of customers! Some need strength, others need encouragement, others need a shoulder to cry on, and still others need a combination of ingredients. It’s all there in the menu that God has prepared: it’s “a la carte” and can fit every taste. Even the pickiest palate can be refreshed by the amazing offerings that God prepares to perfection in His 5-star establishment.

How are we doing at offering His menu to the world? How well do we rate? Are ours the stars shining or are God’s stars the ones shining? When we try to make God fit our ideas of “excellent” service, we are immediately downgraded. Those serving in His Kingdom have learned the only way to bring in those looking for a certain item on a menu is by representing the Owner.

God doesn’t franchise out His Word like restaurants do here on the earth. A franchise will resemble the brand but will take on the personality of the owner of franchise. There’s no fast food or instant fixes here – everything is done exactly to fit the needs of those ordering.

The Chef is never too busy for you; He will come to your table and listen to what you have to say and prepare something that will far exceed your expectations. Please, you’re welcome to take a seat; you’re the first person He is serving today.

He’s ready to take your order now.

 

 

 

 

Categories
God's Word Success

Fine Print and Disclaimers

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Gimmicks. They’re all over the place. From pyramid schemes to get you rich quick to 7 steps to “washboard abs” (how I wish that one worked!). Every day, my inbox is filled with gimmicks of every kind you can imagine. Since I write a blog, there are the inevitable emails advertising “free” online seminars or EBooks to monetize your blog. There must be a market out there for all of these quick fixes to life’s never-ending struggle to stay above the water, otherwise these popups, ads, and emails wouldn’t be plaguing us every time we open our devices.

The attraction is, obviously, an immediate solution to what may be a long-standing issue that is usually financial. Who doesn’t want to be successful? What is missing from these advertisements is the fact that for most people paying for the service, subscription, or product won’t bring those fantastic results that are advertised in the ad. If you read the fine print or disclaimers at the bottom of the ad, you’ll see there’s no guarantee of success.

I like to read reviews and the standing of a company with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) before even considering spending any of my very hard earned money into anything. The dollars I’m being asked to spend represent lots of work and deserve to be spent only on what is proven to work, not on a gimmick meant to enrich only those who are behind it.

How is it that we throw our lives into things that aren’t proven, things with only an online assurance of their future success? How many times have we fallen for the newest thing ranging from vitamin supplements to “how to” seminars? Yet, we continue to put our hope in the newest, flashiest, and most expensive gimmicks that come our way. “This will be different,” we reason. “Last time I didn’t know what I know now.” Yet, most of the time, the result is the same: money, time, and relationships lost or damaged.

We fail to read the fine print or disclaimer.

Living life as a believer, I sit back in wonder when I consider how much faith we put into these kinds of schemes but we fail to trust God Whose Word is proven.

Psalm 18:13 NJV As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”

There are no “quid-pro-quos” in God’s fine print. It’s very straightforward: God’s Word is proven, it is perfect, and for those who dare to trust Him fully – it guarantees success. But success as God defines it doesn’t always line up with what we preconceive. God’s path to success leads us through paths that don’t look perfect to us – but bring us ever closer towards His perfect way.

Psalm 23:4 NKJ “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

In the times of deathly shadows, I would rather walk with God by my side. He has promised me that He will be with me and ultimately I will be successful.

Psalm 23:5,6 NKJ You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We are “played” by this world and it’s thinking; we live in a culture where success is viewed as having the best of everything – the best money can buy is what we are after. However, when the rubber meets the road and we find ourselves in death’s valley, when a loved one is in hospice or divorce is on the horizon, no amount of money or financial security can walk us through.

Death’s valley is a cruel place that doesn’t have any preferences to whose door it will knock on. But for those who choose to trust God’s Word, even in the darkest places we walk through in life, we will eat – even in front of those who are our enemies. We will have enough to take care of loved ones and ourselves. We will see God’s goodness and mercy each and every day of our lives, if we can only trust Him.

If we can trust online ads that are not proven, how much more can we trust God and His Word that is proven?

I remember during one of my life’s darkest hours, when my younger brother was in hospice, I wasn’t sure how I would cope. Yet, for my father’s sake, I knew that there was no other choice. He was frozen in grief and was unable to attend to any of the issues that needed to be attended to at the time. I had to find a way to manage the feelings that assailed my heart. Never in my lifetime had I thought it possible to one day be sitting by my dying brother’s bedside, waiting for him to enter into God’s presence. How did this happen? Some of those questions are still waiting to be answered in eternity but I did know one thing: God was with me in death’s valley. As the time drew nearer for Matthew to enter into glory, God’s presence became so thick in his hospital room that the tears somehow didn’t feel so very painful. It was as if God’s own hands were open to Matthew and He let it be known to those of us around his bedside that all was well. When my brother finally did graduate to a truly better place, in my spirit it was as if I could hear him walking away with his Heavenly Father. We were left with the feelings of loss, but God was walking with us as well, and we managed.

I think back to that time three years ago and wonder how God gave me the grace to make it through – but I did. The tears still come but at the same time, I feel great joy for Mathew who now knows a full joy that those of us who are here on earth have yet to experience. I suppose the greatest comfort of all comes in knowing that when Matthew left us, it wasn’t “goodbye,” but rather, it was “I’ll see you there.”

God’s Word, there’s no hidden fine print. He’s true, He’s present, He’s walking with us and taking care of our needs. There are no hidden gimmicks or pop up ads – He walked me through my brother’s death and continues to walk with me daily, making sure His goodness and mercy follow me everywhere I go.

And that is all the success I need.

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Categories
God's Word Words

What Did You Say?

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“What did you say?”

If I heard my mother utter those words when I was a child, I knew that the rest of my day, or longer, was in imminent danger. I knew that I’d better find a very good answer to deflect the lecture my mother had already prepared in her mind ( I think she had files and files of them). She had this way of unleashing a verbal thrashing for speaking out of turn that I have never been able to duplicate in my life as a parent.

The worst thing I could say in such a situation was to actually repeat my usually sarcastic remark. Sometimes, if I had indeed dared to repeat myself, mom would ask again, “What did you say?” As if she was giving me another moment to reconsider my decision. I would come to myself and correct my words, fumbling around using some poor excuse such as, “What I meant was…”

No, you never wanted to cross my mother with your words. It didn’t matter that we lived in the USA, a nation that prides itself with everyone having the right to “freedom of speech.” Yes, I was foolish enough once to say to her that “freedom of speech” was my right as an American.

Those encounters with my mother taught me that freedom isn’t meant to be used thoughtlessly. Words are powerful: they can build up, tear down, create curiosity, defeat hope, and express either love or hate. How we use the power of words is our choice.

News comes and goes; from day to day we will hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of technology, we have access to bad news more than we do good news since bad news has a way of spreading like wildfire. Whenever I look at the news online or scan a social media feed, there is so much negativity being spread around – I wonder where are all the believers with the Good News? I know there are good things happening around the world – I see them here in Malawi daily. How have we gotten so wrapped up in the negativity of the day when we carry within us the Hope of the world? When we aren’t careful with what we say, we unleash the power of our words negatively.

Mark 11:23 NKJ For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

If all we speak is negativity, sarcasm, and cynicism the result will be negative, sarcastic, and cynical. I submit that we hear enough of all of that already – why not come into agreement with what God says instead? There’s power in agreeing with Him and His Word.

Matthew 18:19 NKJ “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

Popular opinion sways us very easily; God’s opinion, we acknowledge, is good but the situation on the ground “needs our voice.” I submit that our mountains, the troubles of our lives, this world, need to hear our voice as well. Our mountains need to know that their future is to be “swimming with the fishes” because we don’t have time to scale them, better they be removed than waste our time and energy climbing them.

Malachi 3:16 NKJ “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.”

We all know this world is in deep trouble. Every day brings a new crisis, an new rumour, a new scandal. Those troubles need to be talked about by us but in the right way – in a way that causes God to take notice of our words and actually record them. I doubt many of the words we speak about our world lately have been worthy of notation by God!

When we receive Christ, we are really free from the rules of speech that govern this world. In Christ we are free to bless and give Heaven’s viewpoint. In so doing, God takes notice. Hebrews 3:13 says that we should spend our time “exhorting one another.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines exhort as “to urge, advise, or warn earnestly.” Exhortation takes on a different form in light of this. True freedom of speech comes when we allow ourselves to speak Heaven’s viewpoint. God takes note of these words and soon, we’ll find mountains flattened and valleys brought high as He makes His way plain for all the world to see.

Isaiah 40:4,5 NKJ “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

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Categories
God's Word Ignorance

I Didn’t Know

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“I didn’t know that.”

I’ve been in trouble before for not knowing something I should’ve known. Years ago at one of my early places of employment, I neglected to make note of the workplace dress code. The next day, when I arrived for work not following the dress code, I was sent home to change and was docked pay for the time I was not at my shift.

Some may think that I deserved a bit of grace. It was my first day at work, after all, shouldn’t I have had a simple warning instead? Not taking the time to learn the dress code was my fault, not my employer’s. I had been told where to find the rules for the dress code but I neglected to take the time to read them – and I had to face the consequences of my own ignorance.

Everyone wants grace; few want to own their mistakes. In fact, people cry “Unfair!” when grace isn’t extended to them and they are required to own their self-imposed ignorance. Many relationships have been destroyed because people refuse to own what they have neglected to learn. Life isn’t fair as it’s impossible to be fair in every situation. Everyone has his own set of circumstances and what is “fair” isn’t necessarily right.

God has expectations of us as well but we fall into the same pattern of willful, yes willful, ignorance. He has given us a book that is clear in its instruction to us: the Bible is where not only are God’s instructions found, but also in entering it, our relationship with Him grows. There we learn how to function in this crazy world we live in. We may think that the world has evolved beyond the Bible’s relevance but there’s nothing new happening in today’s world that hasn’t already been happening since time began.

We like to make ourselves look the part of being part of God’s family: we are at church on occasion (every week is too radical), we have Bibles scattered on tables and shelves throughout the house, and we make sure to pray over our meals and before we go to bed. In this way we wear the “robes” of the religious but our lack of knowledge of Who He is astounding.

Mark 12:24 TLB “Jesus replied, ‘Your trouble is that you don’t know the Scriptures and don’t know the power of God.’”

Jesus said this in response to religious leaders of His day – people who were supposed to lead others didn’t know the Scriptures and what was the result? God’s power wasn’t a part of their lives. They were more interested in looking the part instead of living it.

This wonderful relationship we profess to have with Jesus is designed to be much more than what we are satisfied with. We wonder why our lives are lacking in power while we spend little to no time understanding the Instruction Manual. We rarely see the power of God evident – unless there is a crisis. Then, we cry out to God, beg Him for mercy, and wait for our miracle. Because He is merciful, He bails us out time and again; He provides the new job, healing in a relationship, whatever we are asking of Him – but these occasional bailouts aren’t enough to sustain anyone for any length of time.

Hosea 4:6a NLT My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me…”

 Take time to really know God today. Reading the Bible may seem a daunting task when looking at that dusty Bible or unused Bible app on your smartphone or tablet. What we need to understand is that the Bible is more than a book we read. It has power in it to change our lives on a daily basis as we spend more time in it learning about Who God is and how wonderful His plans are for our lives.


For further study on how to enter into a relationship with God’s Word, and not just read it, I highly recommend reading “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.

Categories
God's Word

Day 9 – Subtitles

The following blog is written by a dear friend of mine, Mahalia O’Brien. She is a gifted leader and communicator. I hope you would take time to comment or email her directly to encourage her for today’s great blog. Her information is listed below. Blessings!


If ever given the opportunity to enjoy a movie at the O’Brien household, you’ll soon discover we make proper use of subtitles. On second thought, we can’t watch television without it. We read, watch and listen simultaneously. Why we do it, no one knows for certain, all I know is this; it has become a thing we do, a family habit that makes watching TV unsatisfying without it.

To some degree, subtitles do remind me of certain experiences I’ve had with God. For instance, pressing the mute button does not impede articulation. Your experience may have changed, but communication is still ongoing. A scenario I liken to God’s silence. When God goes silent, He’s not depriving us of communicating; He only requires that we listen and watch more attentively. We can remain engaged by either praying or worshipping; besides, there should always be activity between the Father and us.

And while my family and I enjoy and take advantage of subtitles they are far from perfect. Contingent on the studio or year of release, many programs are inadequately equipped; the spoken and written words may differ, and phrases and sentences are modified due to editing.

But God’s word remains gloriously perfect; there are no defects, contradictions, or inconsistencies.

John writes one of the most compelling statements explaining solidarity of the Godhead. He goes on to say “there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one,” (1 John 5:7) and they do not disagree under any circumstances.

The Psalmist also exalts God by saying “I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your Name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (Psalms 138:2 NKJV) God’s Word abides unchanged; it is eternally sustainable and able to regenerate His work.

The word is magnified above all other attributes of Himself, far above the Eternal Godhead, and above the glory of His kingdom, power, and dominion, and exalts it above anything created. We too must do our best to take it at face value, and believe that God will perform the promises made to you.

In His Word, we find instruction, and it is the principal teacher. It gives concise direction. And it’s easy to follow. We can read between the lines, and it fills in the gaps. It heals and delivers. It gives expression to life. It’s dramatic yet comforting. It corrects but isn’t rude. Its truth is revealing but isn’t harsh. It refreshes the weary. It forgives the condemned. It brings wholeness to the maimed. Deliverance to the oppressed. Humility to the prideful. Love to the scorned. It is food for the hungry water to the thirsty. Light to those in darkness. It infiltrates but is not intrusive. It pierces but does not hurt. It is Freedom to the captives and gives vision to the dreamless. It exalts the weak to sit among princes, it’s a friend to the lonely and softens the bitter at heart.

In the long run, I may one day tire of subtitles, or I may no longer have a use for television, but God’s word will remain as a seal upon my heart. For it is the light that brings me comfort. It has given me joy and removed my fears. It brings correction and spurs me on. It provides courage, strengthens my hands, directs my path and steadies my heart. But most importantly, it reveals my Father’s heart and defines His face. In short, I cannot see without His word, it is the most precious thing to me.

By: Mahalia O’Brien

Twitter: @mahaliakobrien

website: http://eikonwomen.org

Email: info@eikonwomen.org


 

We are drawing near to the halfway point of our fast – I hope this season has been as special for you all following as it has been for me.

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