Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Love is Mercy

http://churchmediadesign.tv/lovemercy-video/

God uses our lonliness

Dear God-Seekers!

There I was, just twenty, all alone, staring at one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen – the Japanese Alps. It was so beautiful, yet I had no one with which to share it. At least that is what I thought... To this day I still remember the tears filling my eyes as I ached to speak of the beauty, the absolute brilliance of those sights. I just wanted to tell someone about it, just talk to anyone. Alas, I knew no one on the train and, for once, I was shy with those around me, those accustomed to a different language than me. My loneliness overwhelmed me.

The trip from Tokyo had lasted about 90 minutes and in that final stretch the train snaked its way through a deep plain, a few ups and downs and twists, snow-peaked mountains rising up on both sides albeit in the distance. My destination was Karuizawa, a popular international summer resort in Japan since the late 19th century, known well for its cool summer climate and breezy environment with thick larch and birch trees lining the bike-filled streets. (John Lennon and Yoko Ono vacationed there in addition to Japanese royalty.) There at the Nagano train station, all alone I would meet my missionary hostess for the first time, Phyllis Chamberlain. Shadowing her the next 10 weeks, Matsabarako Bible Camp would be much of our focus and I would gain a dear “mom-chan.”

I had already experienced some stretches of “all alone” in the two weeks prior to that train trip. I’d traveled by myself from the US to Tokyo, my first commercial plane trip as well as my first international trip – around 20 hours, to be picked up by another new-to-me missionary, Dorothy Steormer. I vividly remember thinking upon my arrival in the airport that day, listening to the unintelligible voices on every side, “Oh, there really ARE people in the world who don’t speak English!!! It’s real! The rest of the world is REAL!” The next two weeks were spent with other missionaries and college students I’d never met. My only connection prior to that time had been through infrequent, very expensive phone calls and snail mail letters. (No computers! No Skype! No Facebook! Imagine that!) Together in Tokyo at the TEAM center we learned some very basic Japanese phrases as well receiving training in Japanese ways and then parted ways, scattering about the lovely island.

That summer was a turning point for me. Away from my friends, away from my family, away from pop culture that was a big part of my life, I heard God in a fresh way, in a clear way. In that aloneness in Phyllis’ quiet little bungalow I sensed Him more personally than ever before. I read. I prayed. I rubbed shoulders with a woman of God, one who was totally sold out to His plan in her life. I even told Him if He wanted me to be single my whole life, I would. (Never mind that I was receiving lovely notes from one very persistent young suitor named Tom...God had other plans for me obviously!)

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, “ says John Donne, poet born in 1572. God, no doubt, put that truth in his heart letting it flow onto paper for us to read hundreds and hundreds of years later. After all God himself proclaimed in the garden, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a woman.”

These primary source verses remind us that we are created to daily be in healthy human relationships. Scripture is filled with statements explaining the importance of enjoying and fleshing out relationships, of community, of being with others, living and loving side by side. But another truth that resounds page after page after page of the Word is that God and God alone will only and always be there. While loneliness is real when defining it in human terms, God’s presence is even more real. His use of our emotions, the needs we feel in our loneliness, in our aloneness is rich beyond measure.

As I was initially pondering God-alive in our loneliness for this communique some days ago three e-mails suddenly appeared in my in-box, distinctly different, yet all confirming my thoughts about being all alone, away from others, in His presence. They all seemed to say, “Embrace the challenges of your loneliness. Come away. Let go of all else...”
One friend, a strong, busy man, one who actively leads others not only in the US but also around the world wrote - “This morning I am sitting in my chair spending time with The Lord. I am impressed with how my heart calms down and how He gives true security, grace and love when I am near Him. He also gives a quiet assurance of His guiding, direction and provision for His work. I’m finding the art of abiding with Him is learning His rhythms and how He works in His time frame.”

A new friend of mine, a wife, a mom, a committed medical professional penned this - “In my short quiet time this morning thinking about what New Year's resolution I wanted to make…I felt the inside whisper of the Holy Spirit saying: " Seeking His face is the best new year's resolution."

Some good friends from our college days send out a daily encouragement (always very meaty and needed) for couples, called MARRIAGE MINUTES. Listen to what they sent that day - “Perhaps as we start this new year, perhaps you are feeling that God is distant from you today. You feel lost, perhaps even abandoned by God, and you are wondering how to find your way home. It begins with a simple biblical principle: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He is available to you this very moment.”
Today as I get ready to push the SEND NOW key I read yet another message, this time on Facebook just this morning from a young Jesus-following woman in the Middle East, “I want to go where everybody knows my name. And they're always glad I came...Feeling the burn of culture shock and alone-ness lately.”

Loneliness, alone-ness....Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, taking us by surprise. Sometimes it is a deliberate choice on our parts. Sometimes it is welcomed, sometimes not. BUT ALWAYS GOD USES IT AND MORE SO AS WE TURN OUR FACE TOWARD HIS, LETTING ALL ELSE FADE AWAY...ALWAYS HE IS THERE!
~~~

EVERYWHERE, EVERY MOMENT GOD USES OUR LONELINESS!

~~~


Compact Oxford Dictionary –
LONELY• adjective (lonelier, loneliest) 1 sad because one has no friends or company. 2 solitary. 3 unfrequented and remote.
— DERIVATIVES loneliness noun.

Dictionary.com
Loneliness
–adjective, -li‧er, -li‧est.

1. affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome.
2. destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc.: a lonely exile.
3. lone; solitary; without company; companionless.
4. remote from places of human habitation; desolate; unfrequented; bleak: a lonely road.
5. standing apart; isolated: a lonely tower.

~~~


The Bible says -

Exodus 3:1 - Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the flames of fire from within a bush.

1 Samuel 16:11, 12 – So Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest, “ Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”...Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

1 Kings 19:10-11 – “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said (to Elijah), “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Ps. 32:12 - Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

Ps. 62:1,5 - My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him…Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

Ps. 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, [ Or the desolate in a homeland] he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Ps. 146:9 - The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 102:1, 7, 27, 28 - Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you… I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof… But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."

Song of Solomon 8:14 – Come away, my beloved...

Daniel 10:8 – So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking...

Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16 - After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone...Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Matthew 26:40 -44 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”...He went away a second time to pray...He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed a third time...

John 16:23 - Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

~~~


Words of wisdom -

Charles Stanley - Loneliness is one of the most crushing human emotions... The feelings of abandonment and isolation create an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair. People in the throes of a heightened state of loneliness often fall prey to temptations or behaviors that are extremely atypical. It is a dangerous place to be....Jesus knows what it is like to be lonely... Jesus hears our heart cry. The faintest whisper of a heart that feels alone and abandoned comes before the heart of a loving Father who will go to any lengths to comfort his children…When Hagar and her son were dying in the desert after being cast out by Sarah, God heard her feeble voice and nurtured them.

He is here
He is near us
In our hearts, in our lives, in our midst
He is here
He is near us
Calling us to trust in Him

Brian Doerksen



Meghan Kleppinger - Billy Graham was often on the road while Ruth remained the stable force back home…Ruth’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz, remarked on her mother’s example, “I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus – He was the love of her life. I saw that in her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.”

Richard J. Foster - Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Solo sung often by my dad


John Bullock - I remember how secure I felt when I was in the care of my parents. I had no worries, no needs, and no fears. So it was somewhat of a shock as I grew older, and realized for the first time that Mother and Daddy were human, and therefore vulnerable to life and death, as were all others around us. I can remember lying in bed at night, worrying about what fate would be mine should anything happen to my parents. Such are the frailties of human existence. But our relationship with God is different. God is not subject to our human frailties. He never ceases to exist. He is always there to offer shelter, to sustain us in our weakness, and to help us in times of need by His very
presence.

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted
is the most terrible poverty.
Mother Teresa


Corrie Ten Boom ( “Clippings From My Notebook”) - writes of her loneliness in prison. She and her family were placed in concentration camps in World War Two Holland because of their work helping Jews. She tells of being in a dark cell alone for four months…One day a beam of sunlight entered her cell. She stood so the beam fell on her face. As the beam moved, she moved, to enjoy it as long as possible. She says that moment she realized her loneliness as never before….But, she says, God spoke to her through a remembered scripture: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

You will never overcome loneliness
until you reconnect with the Father
through Jesus Christ.

When you feel really lonely,
claim the promises of God, which are ammunition against Satan’s lies.
Go, not by what you feel, but by God’s truth.

Charles Stanley



Beth Moore - We can lock arms with fellow servants just as the disciples did. We will experience a measure of God's anointing and perform some significant works. For the parts of a whole to work as God intended them, however, each part must stand on its own before a highly personal God. If we insist on a boat full of company, we'll miss the waves where we ride only one at a time. When a wave of loneliness suddenly erupts, ride it. Let your stomach rise and fall with fear and peculiar excitement. Don't fight the feeling. Don't just busy yourself. Ride the wave straight into the presence of God and experience the adventure of feeling you're the only one there.
There are reasons You could leave me
Oh a million or so
So why You stay here
Why You do this, I really don’t know
I’m not handsome, I’m not special, just an ordinary guy
I loose my car keys, always moody,
So tell me why
You love me
When I’m anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love it holds on
Did You know from the beginning all the wretched things I’d done?
That underneath my silver armor
I was hiding who I was
So You’d be blameless if you left me
And I would have to understand
Don’t you see now this is crazy, You could find a better man?
So tell me why
You love me
When I’m anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love it holds on…
In the middle of the night you love me
First thing in the morning
When I’m fast asleep and helpless you don’t love me any less
Well I’m less than a man ever should be and all the odds are against me
You love me…

Josh Bales

John Stott – My friend, there is a hunger in the human heart that none but Christ can satisfy, there is a thirst that none but he can quench, there is an inner loneliness and emptiness that only he can fill.

~~~


Well, 35 years have come and gone. Of course, I seem to need my precious family and dear friends more each day. That’s normal, right? BUT God quite recently has allowed me yet another time of lonely wandering, completely friendless, without family anywhere nearby…

I soberly told Him, “Lord, I’m invisible here.”

He tenderly answered back, “Yes, Sue, you certainly are invisible…and that is good. I am here, just Me alone! Let’s talk…..”

Lingering alone with Him as often as I possibly can,
Sue

P.s. I highly recommend MARRIAGE MINUTES by Bob and Cheryl Moeller. You can request the short daily encouragement by e-mailing them at cherylmoeller@comcast.net
Sue Addington- Fellowship Mosaic

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Celebrate Growing Older"

My age odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO WASTE TIME HATING SOMEONE.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.. Your friends and parents will.
Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath.. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and
no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a
special occasion. Today is special.
22.. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't
do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come..
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield..
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio
"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written."

A broken spirit and a contrite heart

Good morning:
Psalm 51:17: A broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart O God you will not despise. Psalm 34:18: The Lord is close to the broken hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. Those broken down with sorrow for their sin. Have you neglected to face the truth about some sin that you have committed and have failed to repent of it? How do you feel when you let it linger? In Psalm 51-- I’ve often wondered, before David confessed, did he go around praying and being all religious in front of the people? Was he sickened by his own sin, but did not take ownership of it? God sent Nathan to gently nudge David. I also think that it had been eating away at him because when Nathan told him about his sin he immediately cried out, “ I have sinned before the Lord.” David was very quickly willing to submit in the spirit of meekness and ready to lay it all out before the Lord. He is sickened by it and comes to the realization that it not only hurt God but it hurt others around him. In vs. 7-12, look at the words that he uses--he asks for mercy before he even mentions his sin, there is shame, a feeling of worthlessness, and self loathing, of letting God down. Wash me, take away this horrible feeling that I have. Create in me a clean heart. David’s soul craved to be forgiven for his sin. He is asking God not to really look at him as he is --a sinner. He is asking God not to cast him away from His presence. He wants to once again feel the favor of God upon him. He wants that personal relationship restored with God. He wants his joy back. He clearly sees God as his creator, God is the only one who can make and change the heart. II Corn. 5:17. He humbly comes before God and admits that he has been rebellious and sinful -- he has done what he wanted to do. He asks God to uphold him, and to help him. He then makes sure that we are aware of what God wants from us --love and complete obedience to God, that is the best sacrifice we can make. God delights in a quiet softening of the heart and a personal contrition and confession of our sin. David immediately felt God’s pardon and not God’s pity, a deep sense of God’s love and forgiveness. He was truly humbled before the Most High God.
We need to be right with the Most Holy God. We carry this sin around with us instead of confessing it. What makes it so special that we even want to carry it around? Are you feeling unworthy and bogged down to the point of being miserable? Come to Jesus, He will accept your broken spirit and contrite heart. Come, let Him restore all the wounded places. Do not ignore His pleas and continue to live your life the best that you can. We are only as broken and sick as our secrets. The places we hurt we bury deep inside of us -- wounds that open and reopen and close according to our circumstances -- things that hinder us from getting closer to Jesus and all that He desires for our lives. Don’t continue to be affected, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. The inner part-- this is where God can move in power and in healing. Don’t hide your sins from Jesus, He is gentle and strong, He will walk with you and be there for you. If you notice David in acknowledgment of his sin-- flees to God’s infinite mercy and depends on that for pardon and peace. Psalm 51: 10 -- create in me a new heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. What is it right now that you need to confess -- are you tired of it? Is God going to have to send someone to gently remind you that you have sinned and are need of confession and repentance or will you be immediately convicted and say to God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, “ I have sinned before you O Lord?”
Father: nothing is ever hidden from your face -- we think that we can hold on to our sins and still be in perfect relationship with you. In doing what we want to do, we actually alienate ourselves from your presence and then wonder why we feel the way we do. You are Holy and Pure and it is our sin that separates us from You. Help us Father to be willing to run to your throne and lay it all out at your feet, so that we may be clear, restored and remain in fellowship with you. We believe Satan’s lies when we think even the smallest thing does not matter. Break us and make us willing to summit in the spirit of meekness, ready to be corrected. Amen
As you go about on your journey this week, ask God to create in you a pure heart and a renewed spirit. If there is something you need to confess, don’t wait --take it immediately to the Father-- don’t be robbed of your joy. It is better to live with freedom instead of being burdened. God has seen and has forgiven some pretty sick stuff -- He will not be shocked at what you tell Him. Have a blessed week - Janice- Encourager Coach- CR FBC NW

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One Day at a Time

I ran across this great paragraph call "One Day at a Time"
I am not sure who the author is but found it very encouraging:

"One day at a time----this is enough.
Do not look back on the past and grieve, for it is gone.
And do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come.
Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering."

This reminds me of Phil 3:13
"Brothers, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things are which are ahead."

Hug your family or a friend, spend time in gratitude toward Him today for the breath you just took in and thank Him for loving You because He does very much.

Rodney- CR ministry Leader, FBC, NW Arkansas

Monday, January 18, 2010

How do I love Thee?

Good Morning:
“ I love you, I love you not, I love you, I love you not.” “ I can’t stand you, I want to pinch your head off.” “ I can’t love you --you only cause me pain and suffering.” “ God, please help me love and be nice to this person because he is made in your image.” Love, will and unconditional -- these three words have to be thought of as a group that belong together. We have all at one time or other had a difficult time loving someone let alone liking them -- for whatever reason. God loves everyone, and he loves them unconditionally. He does not always like what they do but it is his will to love them unconditionally. Unconditionally -- just as is, with or without blemish, without opinion or judgment, just as it is. Will is the part of God, that is always perfect and is the right thing, no matter what. Our will is either going to be what we want to do or to be determined to do what God wants me to do, putting myself aside.
I Corinthians 13 is a perfect example of showing unconditional love, submitting to the perfect love of the Father out of the love that He has shown to us out of a grateful heart. Vs 1-3-- show us that we are to love unconditionally no matter what. It is a voluntary act of our will -- the ability to see beyond all things and hurts. It is not motivated by our external situations -- it always reacts appropriately to each situation. Love is one of the best spiritual gifts that you can possess. In verses 4-7: describes the characteristics of love-- no resentment, it is kind no matter what, it not prideful or easily provoked, it has no evil thoughts. It is a picture of service to others, able to bear all things, not gullible and able to with stand assaults from the enemy. There is not a critical spirit, there is hope and the ability to be positive. This is where doing the will of God enters in. Having the ability to love unconditionally is a choice. It is saying, even though I don’t feel like it or they do not deserve it, I am going to do it because that is what God wants me to do. We all have people at one time in our lives or even right now, we are having difficulty loving or even having the desire to be nice to them. Vs. 8-13-- love will always be necessary, it will never become dated, or eliminated. We are to strive for love, love first for God and then even for each other -- yes even when it hurts or we just don’t want to. The will -- yes, it always wants what it wants . When we cave into our will, I don’t know about you, but most of the time nothing ( especially love ) comes from doing what we want. Most of the time the consequences of doing things out of our own will are not what we expect. By submitting to the will of God and loving others unconditionally, gives you a clearer view of God’s great love for you. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I stand pretty amazed at the unconditional love of God and how it has impacted my life. It absorbed hurts and does not fighting back. It has to be freely given. Your tendency to find fault with others will decrease and your ability to obey God will increase. It is a choice, not whether or not we feel affection for them. God gives us the strength and all we need to love them. How would you feel if you could show everyone a clear picture of unconditional love in every situation, doing the will of the Father and not acting on your own feelings? Putting all else aside and just being able to love without even thinking about it-- whether the people are deserving or undeserving?
Father: Your love for us is fierce, one of the mightiest forces in the universe, whispering, roaring, creating and redeeming…you take great delight in us. Help us to be unconditional in the way we love others. Show us how to love perfectly with your love and your standard, our wills washed in submission to you for the sake of others. Forgive us when we put conditions on our love or let hurts effect our love. Teach us to show and give out pure love-- the kind you give us. Thank you.
Leadership: love your enemies and drive them crazy! Love supernaturally, make them wonder, love unconditionally, and let God’s love be perfected in you. Janice CR Encourager Coach-Team FBC Rogers

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Victims of Addiction

"O blessed Lord, You ministered to all who came to You. Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in work of their recovery, and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love." Author unknown "The Twelve Step Prayer Book" compiled by Bill P. and Lisa D.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Be The Branch"

Be the Branch! Sounds pretty simple, until Jesus adds “he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit”. Now that’s the hard part, even Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church says this is his greatest challenge! Webster defines “abide” to mean “remain”, so Jesus is telling me to remain in Him when the stresses are so great in my life that my flesh wants to grab control of the situation and do it my way, I am to remain in Jesus and Jesus in me, so that Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control flows from Jesus through me, and out to the world and my stressful situation. Can this really happen? Be the Branch! To accomplish this, God will reveal those sin areas in my life, like letting my flesh rule, and provide me with repentance, a plan to turn away from this sin area. Through repentance, we will be able to rest in Jesus and Father and Jesus will come to me and make their abode with me. As we stay near to God, we will see renewal of spiritual passion in our life, so that when we walk through this world, they will see the fruit of Holy Spirit instead of my stinking fruit. Be the Branch! And Jesus’ Peace will flow through you.


If you are having troubles abiding (remaining) in Jesus, you are with good company, read Psalms 73 so that you can see how Asaph dealt with all the stresses and living in a wicked world, and remaining in God at the same time.

Thoughts from Tim and Carol Payne based on teaching from Chip Jackson at Mosaic Fellowship 1.9.10

God looks thru two lenses

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."
--Lamentations 3:32-33
When my paralyzing accident happened, I know the Lord took no pleasure in it. I believe it pained his heart to see me hurt, just as any father has compassion on his children. Yet I also know it pleased the Lord to permit my accident. He was as delighted then as he is now to work it all out for my good and his glory. Sound confusing? I can understand why: In some scriptures, God is described as grieving over affliction; in others, it doesn't seem to bother him.

Dr. John Piper explains it this way. God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses, a narrow lens and a wide-angle lens. When the Lord looks at a painful event through the narrow lens, he sees the tragedy for what it is in itself, and he is deeply grieved, as Ezekiel 18:32 says, "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord..." He hates the isolated incident of disease, crime, or violence.

But when God looks at a painful event through his wide-angle lens, he sees the tragedy in relation to everything leading up to it, as well as everything that flows from it. He has in mind Romans 8:28, "...in all things God works for the good" and Ephesians 1:11, "...according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." The connections form a mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic, in all its parts of good and evil, dark and light, brings him delight.

God often wills what he despises because he has two lenses. You can trust him today that your painful trial is part of a pattern. One day you, too, will put on that wide-angle lens. When you do, what a beautiful mosaic you will see
Joni Eareckson Tada.

Tempted and Tried?

Ever have a week where you were so tempted and tried? Tempted to complain, do things that you know are wrong, listen to things you should not be listening to, tempted to do everything other than the things we know we should be doing? Temptation-- an enticement or invitation to sin with the implied promise of greater good to be derived from following the way of disobedience. How many times this past week have you flirted with temptation? I Corn. 10:13--no temptation has seized you except was is common to man. God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it. God is always there to help through it. Jesus was tempted in the same way we are--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He never even entertained the fact of doing anything but the perfect will of the Father.
One of the things that make us cave into temptation so quickly is, we often have the sense that we are going to fail anyway, so why even try. How hard have you tried to resist temptation this week? Do you cave in right away without even trying to resist it? Not even putting up much of a fight? Or do you say, “ why struggle when I know it is going to happen again?” Our temptations feed on our weaknesses and our bent desires. It is when you give in to it and do what you know you shouldn’t -- take the easy way out. It may be the easy way out, but the results of taking the easy way out have a much more devastating effect on us. Sometimes it does not just effect us, but others in our lives.
Do you often place yourself in dangerous territory without God being with you? Are you letting temptation have a vote in the way you live your life? As Christians we are all going to face temptations, we just want to grow smarter and stronger with our struggles with them. Jas 1:4--are you prepared for them? I Corn. 10:13--God will show us a way out when we are tempted. Are you looking for the way out that God is showing you? Are you memorizing his word so that you will be equipped -- bringing your thoughts back on truth? Do you just keep flirting with the temptation having that unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach knowing that it is going to be a bad thing and yet you continue to be tempted? When you give in to it and you know better, how does that leave you feeling? A whole lot worse than if you had not continued to entertain the thought of the temptation.
Are you memorizing his word so that you will be equipped -- bringing your thoughts back on truth? We are going to continue to be tempted as long as we live, and we are still going to fail from time to time We are not ignorant of Satan and his ways. It is not the temptation itself that is wrong -- it is what we do with it and about it. If you react upon it and you know that it is wrong it gives birth to sin and sin gives birth to death. When tempted - we also have the ability to draw the line and hold fast to our convictions. Temptations come subtly and when we are the most vulnerable. Temptation can also “ perfect us” -- we become more aware of them, and we grow stronger, we listen closer to the that “ still small voice “ of God and we in turn find that doing the right thing and not caving in leads to a more peaceful and abundant life. We will always have temptations in our lives, but the outcome of the temptation will be a result of your response to it. There are going to be days when you will eat that chocolate cake or watch the ball game instead of mowing the lawn--but you know what the results will be when you do it too often!!
Father: you made it through all of the temptations that you faced here on earth. It is so hard when our bodies and minds crave the forbidden and our hearts constantly cry “ surrender “ to those temptations. We know that you promise escape, but sometimes that faintly lighted exit in the distance seems so far away. Sweet Savior, when we are too weak to resist temptation, whisper Your faithfulness to us. When we turn away from all help, give us the strength to change direction and turn to You. We ask these things in Your Precious Name. Amen
This week-- are you going to listen and flirt with temptation or are you going to stand firm and turn your ear? Think about the consequences then decide. Have a blessed week. Janice- Encourager Coach CR FBC

Be happy with the gift

God is the giver of every perfect gift (Matt.7:11, Jas. 1:5,17) - eternal life, salvation, the necessities of life, the ability to work, the Holy Spirit, His Son, and our spiritual abilities--our “gifts.” One of the sweetest things about the gifts that God has given to us is that we can share them with others. Have you heard someone sing and it touched your heart or blessed you by the beauty of the voice? What about the person who is never cast down in their spirit and they have this great ability to bring laughter where ever they go and you are always glad to see them. What about the person who no matter what your circumstances are- they always lead you back and get your focus back on the Lord? Did you ever receive and encouraging word or a hug just when you needed it?

We are all unique and we are gifted in different ways. There are women who are excellent cooks, women who are athletic. There are moms that can fix boo-boos and moms that can over haul an old Honda Civic. There are men who feel relaxed and comfortable in a suit and men who feel like they are choking if they even look at a tie -- blue jean guys. Some have the gift of preaching a beautiful sermon, landscaping, listening to others problems etc. Some of us are just plain and ordinary -- nothing extraordinary. Do you wish you were taller, thinner, prettier, been raised in a different family or had a better version of your life? Do you have trouble accepting the entire package God has gifted you with? Are you only happy with some of the gifts that he has given you? I Corn. 12:4 -- we all share the same spirit, but we do not all share the same gifts. Your gift to God is using and accepting the gifts he gave you and understanding that they are part of his plan for you. Are you developing them to the best of your ability? Are you using them to serve others? Have you discovered the fullness of God’s plan for your life as you have uncovered your gifts and have used them for His glory? Jas. 1:17 --every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. Did you get the part about “ good and perfect gift?” Romans 11:29 - for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. I Peter 4:6 - Each one should faithfully use whatever gift he has received to serve others , faithfully administering grace in it’s various form.

Everyday is a gift from God if we have the eyes to see it and the heart to appreciate it. Take time to thank God for the gifts that he has given you. Accept the opportunities and limitations in your life as gifts from God. Ask him to show you your gifts. Be grateful for the gifts that you receive even if you think they are not as good as someone else may have received- even if they are difficult and unattractive to you--God gifted you with those talents and abilities, not to bring attention to yourself but to show his glory through you--to take what he has given you to lift up, encourage and edify the body.. If you were to put a diamond necklace on a smelly old goat -- it would still be a goat. It would not change the goat. Thank God everyday for the gifts that he has given you--develop them and bless someone with them--putting on a diamond necklace will not change the gifts God gave you! God knew exactly what he was doing when he created you and gave you the gifts he did. That is what makes you and your gifts special to him.

Heavenly Father: thank you for the gifts that you have given each and everyone of us. You have placed these treasures within us so that we can share and minister to each other. Make us to want to participate in blessing and helping others with the gifts that you have given to us. Be generous to us Father so we may give out of abundance -- from the gifts we have received. Amen.

As you go through this week--take time to think about those who have blessed you and given to you because of the gifts God has given them. Then think about the ways you have blessed others through the gifts God has given you. Have a great week Janice-E Team

Sunday, January 3, 2010

His heart is for me

Any parent knows this: love is chosen. You cannot, in the end, force anyone to love you.
So, if you are writing a story where love is the meaning, where love is the highest and best of all, where love is the point, then you have to allow each person a choice. You have to allow freedom. You cannot force love. God gives us the dignity of freedom, to choose for or against Him (and friends, to ignore Him is to choose against Him).
This is the reason for what (C.S.) Lewis called the Problem of Pain. Why would a kind and loving God create a world where evil is possible? Doesn’t He care about our happiness? Isn’t He God? Indeed, He does and is. He cares so much for our happiness that He endows us with the capacity to love and to be loved, which is the greatest happiness of all.
He endows us with a dignity that is almost unimaginable.
For this creator God is no puppeteer.
“Trust me in this one thing, God says to us. “I have given the entire earth to you, for your joy. Explore it; awaken it; take care of it for me. And I have given you one another, for love and romance and friendship. You shall be my intimate allies. But on this one matter you must trust me. Trust that my heart for you is good, that I am withholding this for a reason. Do not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…or you will die?” (The Epic pp 52 – 54 by John Edlredge)

So as I read this I was struck by the question – “Do I believe that God has good will towards me?” That His desire for me, for us to not eat of the fruit is because of His love for us and not for His own “control” issues? Of course the Sunday School answer is “Yes, surely, God has good will towards me.” But does my life and how I relate to Him match what I say? Does my practical, everyday lived out theology match up with my spoken or professed theology. Does my prayer life and even how I read His word match up with that thought? For all the years prior to recovery, no it did not I must dare to say.

What about today? Right now? In this moment of time? “Do I believe God has good will towards me?” Or am I still buying into the lie that Satan deceived Adam and Eve with back in the Garden? Do I still believe that God is holding out on me? And with all my heart I want to answer, “No, by no means! I know God’s heart is for me! I know that He has good will towards me! I know that I no longer buy into that original lie! And I know that if He is holding out on me, that it is out of love!” This morning though, I don’t think I am there yet, not completely anyway.

Does this mean my recovery has failed – no not at all. It just means that there is so much more that I have to learn and unlearn. I am finding that recovery is as much about “unlearning” or deprogramming the lies out of my life as it is learning how God sees me and applying His truth to my life.

Three years ago God gave me a picture of what I had done to my life and my marriage with the sin and bad choices I had made. It is like standing amidst a home or a building that had been just torn down. There is rubble everywhere; dust is still in the air, swirling so much that you cannot see very well and everything is a mess. The only thing that seems of any value is the foundation, but the rest is a disaster. So for the last three years it has been a process of clearing of the rubble and to get down to that foundation which was still good. In the process of clearing away the rubble, each piece is to be examined, to see if it is of any use or if the material was to warped by the damage or the choices I have made.

What mornings like this are for me are like a sign-post from God saying, “Move in this direction” or “Keep your current course” or “Adjust this way or that.” As those sign-posts guide me they almost never lead me into a lush green valley where the going is easy. Most of the time it is a pretty rough path and it takes its toll on me emotionally. The good news is that I often find fellow travelers walking a similar route, struggling as I am, but we pat each other on the back and encourage each other to press on with worship, prayer and stories of what the sign-post maker has been saying to us.

On mornings like this when I see that I have such a long way to go, when tears fall because I see a lacking in the development of my character or I see a new level of work the God desires to do and once again realize I have not measured up. When I see my powerlessness to effect the change in my life that I know needs to come. When the Serenity Prayer keeps echoing through my head. When I realize that it is time to surrender once again. When I once again turn to God’s Word in Mark 1:11 and hear Him say to me, “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” When I see the need for the truth of God’s Word to etch itself on my heart. It is on mornings like this I am learning what it means when we say “it works if you work it” and I am learning what it means to celebrate my recovery, because for all the work that needs to be done in my life, I have found what I didn’t have three plus years ago - hope.

Reflection thoughts from Tim- Encourager Coach CR and Top portion from the book “The Epic” by John Eldredge. The second part is my response to what I read.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Nothing wasted

"God doesn't waste our pain, our rejection or our "shipwrecks."
He uses them to bring about His plan—to position us so that others can see His
transforming power at work in our lives and believe in the living God." Author unknown