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Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year ~ New Thing!

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19

I love reality TV shows that are about people cleaning out their clutter. Two favorites were always, "Clean House" and "Clean Sweep". These were shows where a team of experts come into the homes of people with hoarding issues and help them clean and organize their space.  Often their attachment to clutter has become so extreme it is holding them back in life ~ in jobs, relationships, health, overall quality of life. They cannot move forward emotionally because they cannot see to take the next step. Their clutter is holding them captive.

One thing the experts always make the participants do on every episode is to sort their stuff. 
KEEP - SELL - DONATE - TRASH...

In Isaiah, the Jews were being held captive in Babylon. The people wanted their life back. They wanted their land, their customs, their familiar surroundings. Their stuff. Their clutter? Isaiah comes to them and says, "Forget all that stuff. God is about to do something new, but you are so focused on the past you can't see it."

Maybe 2012 was a fabulous year for you. Maybe it was the worst year of your life. Maybe it was just a BUSY year. Whatever it was, it ends tomorrow and we will have the proverbial clean slate of a new year. What will we do with it?  What new thing does God want to do IN you in 2013? What new thing does He want to do THROUGH you in 2013?

Paul says in Philippians 3:13 we are to "forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead." Maybe that means we just need to sort our clutter. We need to examine those things in our lives that are holding us back ~ in our job, relationships, health, quality of life...and most of all our relationship with our Creator. He is always up to something new and if we don't sort the clutter we may not perceive it. 

So I challenge you to create piles for sorting:

KEEP = Those things that are positively influencing your life and deepening your relationship with God. Those things that you feel God has called you to do without a doubt. 

SELL/DONATE = Those things that are good, but maybe need to be delegated to someone else because it is just not your time to do them. Sometimes when we do something we are not intended to do, we not only stress out ourselves, but we prevent someone else from receiving a blessing as well. When you pass the mantle on to someone else, they receive their intended blessing and you receive the blessing of less stress, too!

TRASH = Negative attitudes, words, things that are negatively affecting your life, your relationship with God, and your relationship with others. They just need to go!

The New Year is upon us and it is chock full of potential and new adventures. The Israelites wanted their old life back, but for the time being, God told them no. He was directing them to a different path. Maybe this year you will walk a different path, too.
  • Walk it with a positive outlook, not filled with regret.
  • Don't let the enemy keep you trapped in the past. Remember God's mercies are new EVERY morning (Lam. 3:22-23). He does not want you trapped, He wants to bring you out into a spacious place (Ps 18:19)
  • Walk in trust and faith, not fear and doubt.
Every day wake up and say, "This is the day the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

What new thing is God up to in your life this year?


Monday, December 24, 2012

Love's Pure Light

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

I have a confession. 

I have been more than a little 'bah humbug' this year. I don't really know why. We are settled in our new house this year. Grandkids have come and gone and are still coming and going. It's been a beautiful, tropical Florida Christmas season. We did a great program at our church. And, yet, I'm just not feelin' it... 

Until tonight.

Tonight was our annual Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is undeniably one of my favorite services every year and is always packed. Tonight was no different. 

During the weeks leading up to the holiday, our pastor has been preaching a series of sermons called "The Light of Christmas" from the first chapter of John. Our Christmas musical was also themed around the light. And tonight, I saw the light.

Because I was singing with our Praise Team on the platform, I had a bird's eye view of the entire sanctuary. The lights were dimmed at the end and our pastors came forward with lit candles while we began to sing "Silent Night". They each lit a few candles and then those few lit a few candles. From where I was standing, I could see where the light was and see where the patches of darkness remained. As the flame was handed off from person to person, the darkness diminished and the light grew. There was a lump growing in my throat, too. At one point I just stopped and watched....overcome by the beauty of it.

As the light in the sanctuary overtook the darkness, it occurred to me that before me was a picture of how God intended His light to be spread to all the world. One person at a time, handing off the flame, again and again until every little pocket of darkness is dispelled. 

I am not a young woman. I have been to many candlelight services. I have sung "Silent Night" hundreds of times. Tonight was one of those nights when I just saw it all with fresh eyes. Especially when we got to the last verse:

Silent Night, Holy Night
Son of God, Love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

This season is the celebration of the dawn of God's plan for redeeming man found in the pure light of His Son. There is much darkness in this world, it is up to us to spread the Light.

May you be blessed with the radiant beams of God's pure light and love this Christmas and may you know the redeeming grace that began that night! Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jars of Clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us."  2 Corinthians 4:7


Jars of clay... Why not etched crystal? Or for that matter, what about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? This little light of mine could shine through crystal - and just think what  beautiful pattern it would make glowing through the etched sides. Gold is sparkly and attractive. Everybody just loves gold. So why does it have to be a jar of clay?

In 2 Kings 4, the widow who only had a bit of oil came to Elisha for help. He told her to go and collect jars. Can you imagine what it must have taken for her to go to her neighbors and ask for their jars? They had to know she was in trouble financially. No doubt there was more than one conversation at dinner tables that night about the widow woman coming to ask for jars. I mean, she had nothing to put in them. Whatever, did she want with jars? But she was obedient and she humbled herself and she asked for jars.

The problem with this little light of mine is that it tends to be a bit prideful. Unfortunately, putting it in a crystal vase might make it look pretty for a time, but it will never shine brightly enough to get me out of the way. Gold sparkles, but the focus is the gold and the focus needs to be on the light.

Jars of clay... The finish is dull. They crack and break easily. They don't draw anyone's attention necessarily - but they are functional. They hold oil. And a little bit of oil can fill a lot of jars when God is doing the pouring. Enough to get you out of trouble. Enough to make all your neighbors talk about something besides you.  Enough to let everyone know you had nothing to do with what happened in your life and God had everything to do with it.

Enough.  

I am a jar of clay and I am filled with a treasure. My vessel is incredibly flawed, but God has chosen to fill such a humble container with a priceless cargo. My vessel is broken in places and cracked in others. It sits a little crooked. But out through the top and through the cracks in the sides and through all the broken pieces, a light brighter than this little light of mine shines. It is the glory of God. Though the jar of me does not seem outwardly to be a masterpiece, I am His workmanship (Eph 2:10) and I was created to do good works that He prepared for me to do.

What little thing do I have that God can pour out like oil through me? What good works?
  • I have a little money. I can give to His work. Fund a missionary. Sponsor a child through Compassion.  I can just make it available for whatever he wants to do with it. 
  • I have a little writing ability. I can keep writing this blog and pray that in time at least one person will read it and realize they need Jesus.
  • I have a little teaching ability. I can teach a Bible study and be open to alternative places to have it other than in church. 
  • Best of all, is the little I don't even recognize, yet. The widow knew she had a little oil but she had no idea what she really had until it was revealed to her by the prophet and demonstrated to her by God. The little she had saved her. 
So, I make my jar of clay available and I ask God to do something in me that has no reasonable explanation. I ask God to fill it and to make me humble and obedient when He is ready to pour it out.

I am a jar of clay... 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leaving Your Nets

Matthew 4:20 "AT ONCE they left their nets and followed Him (Jesus)." 

Matthew 4:20 records the response of Peter and Andrew to the call of Jesus to be his disciples. They literally walked off the job and into ministry. We have the advantage of viewing this story with hindsight and the scripture, but Peter and Andrew were in the moment...

Jesus was a hometown boy, a carpenter. He hadn't really started his ministry, yet. Surely he had been preaching in the area and the disciples knew what kind of man he was. But still...

Fishing was a major industry around the Sea of Galilee and most fisherman belonged to family owned business. Can you imagine old Zebedee's face when somebody walked in his "office" and told him Peter and Andrew had taken off with the new preacher? How do you go home and tell your wife that you walked off the job for a ministry with no pay? How do you feed your kids? Their security was gone. Their income was gone. Possibly a few relationships went south. These weren't just a couple of guys with  no other responsibilities. These were grown men with families to think about. And yet....they left their nets to follow Him.

We have a sweet couple from our church who are sold out to Jesus...literally. They sold everything they had and moved to Papua New Guinea to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They left their nets and went to the jungle. Before they left, they gave a presentation during our House of Prayer Service. Afterward, I hugged Cheryl and said, "Sometimes, I think I'd like to sell everything and go somewhere." (Don't ever say things like that out loud). The next time I saw her at church she said, "They need nurses." Alrighty then....

I recounted the conversation to my husband and he said, "Would you really go that far from your grandkids for that long?" Well, would I? (Place pregnant pause here) .... I'm working on it.

Or maybe, I can follow and just bring my net with me. How about that? The trouble with nets is you tend to get tangled up in them. They drag you down. You fill them up with other things that distract you. And then before you know it you are back to following your own desires and missing the blessing of God.

Truthfully, today, I do not feel called to any place that would require me selling out materially. But I need to be so sold out spiritually that I would go AT ONCE, if He calls me. 

In order to do that, I need first to focus on His promises. In Joshua 14, when the spies went into the promised land, all but two focused on the giants. Only Caleb and Joshua remembered what the others forgot - the land came with a promise. There may be giants in my way, but if I am obedient and stand on the promises of God, He will provide for me and my family.

I also have to have faith that overcomes my fear. Again, in Joshua 14, it says that when the others saw the giants their hearts "melted with fear". I don't recall anywhere that it says Joshua and Caleb were NOT afraid, but they were willing to trust God in spite of their fears. I may be afraid if God calls me out, but as long I as trust Him to take care of me, I will have His blessing.

I imagine Peter and Andrew had some fear, but they stepped out on faith, focused on the promised Messiah and were blessed beyond measure. 

Could I leave my grandchildren? My children? The comforts of home? The internet? Job security? It wouldn't be easy. I would be afraid. But "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13)

Will I go if He calls me? 

Yes, I'm pretty sure I will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Keeping Christmas

I have no idea who wrote this. My mother was thumbing through my grandmother's old Bible and found it typed (with an OLD style typewriter) on a little sheet of paper, tucked in between the pages...

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas Day, and that is keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you?
To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world?
To own that the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life?
Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children?
To remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old?
To stop asking how much your friends like you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough?
To try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you?
To trim your lamp so it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you?
To make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open?
Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world ~ stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death ~ and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love?

Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?

But you can never keep it alone.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

He Who Began a Good Work...

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns." Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Just a short food for thought note tonight...

I am reading the passages from 2 Kings on the life of Elisha as part of my new Bible study. From this, I am learning how to have more faith and to believe God for bigger things. Elisha did some wild things!

As I was sitting, meditating and praying over what I had read, the scripture above came to me. It occurred to me that God began a good work in Elisha's life many years before Jesus was even born, but it is still not completed. It won't be completed until Jesus returns. Elisha is still living out the purpose for his life through the pages of scripture and the lives of believers that still hear his teaching. Isn't that amazing?

What is more amazing to me is that this is what God has planned for each of us. Long after we are gone, God will still be working out the purpose for our lives in the lives of others and the legacy we leave. 

What do you think about that?