Saturday, December 1, 2012

God With Us

Would you agree this is the most stressful time of the year?
Every year I say to myself, "there's gotta be a better way!" 
And I say to The Lord, "What would you have us be doing, Lord?" 
This was a busy week preparing for our women's Christmas event at Cedar Creek, along with all the other irons the women's leadership team has in the fire, both personally and in women's ministry. But wouldn't you know it, one of our team was down with the flu last week, I didn't feel well a couple days earlier this week, and Michelle, who has been our event coordinator this year, and responsible for all the details of tonight's event, was down with the flu this week as well. We've decided this wasn't just bad timing. Michelle and I had a conversation yesterday in which I found out we were thinking the same thing...God may be trying to get our attention. 

We have a lot to do as women, don't we? And especially this time of year, we're trying to please those we love. Striving, striving. It's Christmas, and we want have the right food and buy the right presents and spend the right amount of time with loved ones. But here's the thing: Jesus came down to earth....God walk among us and make a way for our salvation. Immanuel. What does that name mean? (God with us) And I fear that in this season, when we most think of Him as Immanuel, we least grasp the meaning of that Name. God with us

Yesterday my friend gave me a new 2013 purse calendar. As I thanked her I opened it and the first thing my eyes fell on was a little verse in the corner of the month of September. It was Matt.11:28 and it says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." 

Do you know Who said those words? 
Jesus. Immanuel
And today He says those words to us. 
"Come to me. Come to ME. I have what you need. And I'm right here waiting to bring you peace. Make me your priority, not your background scene. I came to be with you. Your Immanuel. "

Our theme this year in women's ministry has been Balance. It’s December 1. I encourage you to ponder the meaning of that name - Immanuel - and let it bring balance to your schedule, your priorities, your relationships and your life this season. Immanuel-God with us. Amid all the things you need to get done everyday, stop and be with the One Who came to be with us. He is the One who brings balance. 

One of my favorite passages is in Psalm 73. The psalmist gives us an example of a heart that is fully devoted to God, realizing that a relationship with God is what really matters. And the thought occurred to me that this writer lived hundreds of years before Jesus even came! He was still waiting for the Messiah! As you read these words, try to grasp how much more meaningful they are to us now that Immanuel has come, and we have a personal 
relationship with Him. He not only is with us, He is now in us through the Spirit! "I am continually with you..." (note this is not God talking; this is the psalmist talking to God. He is seeking God; yearning for His presence.) "You hold my right hand. You  guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalms 73:23-26 ESV) 

We have even more reason to make those claims today. He truly is our portion and strength. Spend quality time with Immanuel this season. He came to be with you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our women at Cedar Creek started a new Bible study yesterday. Very few things thrill my heart like gathering around a table with women and opening the Word of God. Fellowship is sweet; sharing food is always fun, but oh, to pour over the Scriptures and hear from God and make practical application to our lives is the ultimate joy. I crave it. I need it. It satisfies my soul. Yet it also makes me hungry. Hungry for more.
This weekend I am attending the Living Proof Live Simulcast. I will feed on 5+ hours of spiritual meat and I can't wait. I'll be with a dear friend and together we will glean truths from Scripture. Some things I will have heard before, I'm sure. But without a doubt, God has has some new things to teach me. Things that will convict. Things that will stir. Things that will challenge. Things that will overwhelm. Things that, hopefully, will make me uncomfortable with where I'm at right now and will push me to make changes.
I don't ever want to stop growing; even typing that depresses me, reminds me of a dead, still, stagnant pond with scum on the top. I want to be a river, flowing and fresh, always moving, sometimes slowly in deeper spots, and sometimes swiftly with passion and spirit. Wait. No. I want to be the tree beside the stream of water...that sounds familiar...

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season...Psalm 1:3

Yes. That's what I want to be. You know what verse comes just before that? 

...his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

And here I am, back to where I started. May I never tire of God's Word. Teach, convict, stir, challenge, overwhelm, CHANGE.

Bring it on, Lord.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a God-thing?

 There's a little catch phrase that has been increasingly heard in Christian circles in the past few years-"it's a God-thing".  I've never used it that I can recall. For some reason, it doesn't sit quite right with me. Not that I'm offended when I hear it.  But as I've thought about the popularity and growing use of this phrase, I've made an interesting observation. I've never heard it used in the context of trial or hardship. It always seems to be said when something extraordinarily good happens, or when good fortune comes along. People whose circumstances seem to come together or work out unexpectedly or coincidentally to their benefit like to say, "it was a God-thing!"
But we know that God works just as much in our our bad days, when things don't work out like we wish. Our best growing happens through trial. We learn to depend on Him more when we realize how limited we are in our own strength. So I'm thinking, why don't we ever say, "it's a God-thing" when we've had patience to deal one more day with that intolerable co-worker? Or when a family member is dying and it doesn't seem fair but we have faith in the sovereignty of God anyway? Or when we've lost a job and don't know how our family will survive? Or a friend has betrayed us and we're hurt and confused? Is that a God-thing? Can we separate Him from the uglier days, when things happen that we would never choose? Are we to keep Him compartmentalized over here with the happy moments, the promotions, the "miracles", the joyful chance encounters? Isn't He also in the difficult circumstances? I know He wants to be. That's where He shapes us, if we let Him. That's where He develops perseverance in us. But He can only do His work if we're looking for Him there - in that hardship, that trial that we'd never choose, but that He allows for a reason. Sometimes we learn the reason, and sometimes only He knows. Either way, it's all good, if He's in control. ran into Cousin Sally in July in terminal C at the Atlanta airport. The same exact terminal in the same airport you saw her in 3 years ago in July! It's a God-thing! Okay. But how about this: you've just gotten a diagnosis, and it's not good. You know you have a long road of suffering ahead. You cry out to God in anguish, not understanding why. But you lean into Him, and you accept the love and support of others, and you ask for more faith.  And you find ways to be grateful. Grateful. How is that possible?

Well, it's a God-thing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I love Laura Story's music. She is a young, christian artist who not only sings and plays piano and guitar, but is also a gifted writer with spiritual wisdom beyond her years. Although her next CD, "Blessings", won't be released until April, I heard her title song from the CD on the radio and then looked it up online and have since listened to it a dozen times. One line continues to play in my head:

"What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching in this life
 is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?"

The point of the song is this, I think:  we pray and wait for our disappointments and suffering to end, but often times the greatest blessings God gives us come from those very trials. And a very important purpose for our trials is to remind us that we are strangers here and there is something better fact, something altogether perfect, satisfying, completely fulfilling.

This is not our home. That's why life is so uncomfortable. Or it should be anyway. Though we are to work toward contentment, this life is not supposed to be satisfying. If God would have His way, life should leave us wanting. Wanting more of Him. Wanting Heaven. So where is the line between being content as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians, and yearning for something more than what this world can give us? Or does He intend for us to blend the two? Does true contentment only come when we are desperately seeking Him?
1 Timothy 6:6 says "there is great gain in godliness with contentment." That seems to suggest that you can try to be godly while being discontent, but you're not going to gain much spiritually. But seek God with all your heart and strive to be content with a simple life, and you will gain much.

Part of contentment in this life is being okay with trials. Easier said than done, but then God never said it would be easy. But He did promise He would give all the strength we would need for every trial, and better yet, He promises that one day all our trials and suffering will be over and Heaven will be our home. But until then, He wants us to take one day at a time, desperately seeking Him and finding blessings even in our disappointments. And not overlooking the blessing that our pain reminds us that this is not our home. There's a better home awaiting us.

 What a glorious thought.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Parable of the Lost Games

My friend's nine-year old grandson got a hand-held gaming device for Christmas, along with some games. On a trip to visit other relatives over the holidays, he lost track of three of the games and realized they were missing when he got home. Being an exceptionally sweet and sensitive boy, he was completely distraught and heartbroken, not just because he didn't have the games, but because he felt responsible for them. My friend told me he was so upset that he wept and wept in the arms of his mother till he fell asleep, only to wake up distraught again.

I'm reminded of a parable Jesus told when the Pharisees were passing judgment on Him for attracting sinners. The parable was about a woman who lost something valuable and was so distraught over it that she turned her house upside down and wouldn't rest until she found it. When she finally did find it, she was so elated that she invited people over and threw a party to celebrate.

What was Jesus' point? (He always has a point.) The reason he associated with sinners was because they're lost! And that bothered Him. So much so that He was always looking for an opportunity to turn men toward the Father. Their lost state was distressing to Him. And when one turned to God, there was nothing more satisfying to Him.

Another thing Jesus taught repeatedly was how we are to be like children in our innocence and faith. My friend's grandson could think of nothing else but finding his lost games. It weighed heavily on his tender heart. As he gets older he's going to grow and mature and realize that people are the most important things. And that was Jesus' point. People all around us are lost without Him; some are our family and friends. As adults striving to have childlike faith, how distraught are we over the lost? Do we weep? How important is it to us that they be "found"? Jesus' parable made it clear that nothing on this earth should be more important.

Today the lost games were found in a relative's home. I don't know if the little boy has received this happy news. I suppose he'll find out when he gets home from school. And I bet he's going to want to celebrate.
That's what happens when what's lost has been found.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eat Pray Love (Only If It Makes Me Happy)

I recently saw the movie Eat Pray Love. I had a preconceived idea of what it was going to be like based on the trailer and a description of the movie. I sensed that there was going to be a lot of hogwash about how you need to "find yourself" and take any and all necessary steps to find your own happiness. I had hoped that I would be pleasantly surprised and the movie would offer some depiction of the main character discovering joy in life through giving of herself to help others, or better yet, by reaching out to God Himself and desiring to please Him rather than herself.
But sadly, Eat Pray Love turned out to be just what I was afraid it would be: a story of an unfulfilled, young woman who decides she doesn't want to be unfulfilled anymore. So she does what any selfish, misguided person would do; she sets out to satisfy her longings and "empty places". It's all about her. Ironically, toward the beginning of the movie, she does cry out to God. It's quite a moving scene, actually. It's the middle of the night and she asks God for His help and begs Him to tell her what to do. Then she promptly climbs back into bed and tells her husband she's leaving him. And we're supposed to be thinking that that was God's answer to her.
From there, the character moves on from one self-focused decision to another. I couldn't help but think how many women this movie will influence. How many selfish attitudes will be perpetuated by the message that happiness is attained by doing "whatever feels good" and putting one's own wants and needs first? What a sad, narcissistic way of thinking.

What a silly, shallow movie.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Practice Makes...Peace

I want more peace in my life. I think we all do. There are plenty of deterrents in our lives, though, that would keep true peace just out of our grasp. But they are just that-deterrents. Not insurmountable circumstances, but challenges to be faced head-on. In fact, the very definition of deterrent suggests "a way around":

deterrent: something that makes movement or progress difficult

Not impossible, but difficult.

There is a passage in Philippians 4:7-9 that gives us a prescription for peace. Within three verses we read two phrases that sing to my soul: the peace of God and the God of peace. These  verses are within the context of our thought patterns and what we choose to do mentally with our concerns. Paul tells us to think about eight things regularly, as we go from day to day, some days good and some days that bring challenges. He says to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise. 
Hmm, a lot of things I think about don't really fall under any of those categories. How about you?

Then Paul goes on to say that we have to practice these things. Practice. That sounds intentional. Deliberate. 

So if I had to sum up Philippians 4:7-9, I think Paul was telling us this:

The peace of God will guard your mind as you deliberately think about positive, God-honoring things. And as you practice this kind of thinking, the God of peace Himself will live in you and through you.

I want that kind of peace!