Saturday, January 30, 2016

So you must live as God’s obedient children.  Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires . . .  1 Peter 1.14
Slipping happens in a New York minute.  I’m reminded of this especially this time of year because I live in the icy, snowy state of Michigan.  If I'm not careful, if I'm distracted or in a hurry before I know it I'm flat on my back on an icy driveway.  

Traversing icy walkways takes focus and concentration and this life with Jesus is no different!  It takes intentionality, determination and single-mindedness.  The call of our old life is strong.
But God has gifted us with the Holy Spirit, God himself living inside of us, who fills us with His desires and empowers us to live as obedient children.  We don’t have to do this on our own, in our own strength.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4.30 (MSG), “. . . His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for Himself.  Don’t take such a gift for granted.”
We don’t have to attempt to live this life by ourselves but we do have to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.  Jesus said it best when He declared, “No one can serve two masters.”  There can only be one master in our life, it’s either us or its God.  We can’t have both.  We must let His Holy Spirit reign in our lives in order to experience victory.
However, it’s in the re-asserting of ourselves onto the throne when slippage happens. 
When we lose focus, become distracted with life, allow fear to dictate our choices, before we know it, we find ourselves flat on our back in the muck of our old life, our old habits, and our old way of living.  And we lay they’re wondering how this could’ve happened AGAIN.
We will never drift into this life of surrendered-living.  Just like it takes focus and intentionality to walk on the ice without slipping, it takes purpose, effort, and tenacity to live a life surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit.  It takes work to keep from re-asserting ourselves onto the throne.  It takes fortitude and perseverance to keep from going back to our old way of life. 
It takes a heart that desires God more than anything else!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Living Stones
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.  Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15.5
In music harmony adds dimension and fullness to the melody.  The beauty of harmony is its different parts working together to enhance the song; adding flavor and depth.
The same is true of the family of God.  It is not all the individuals doing and saying the same thing but all of them working together, each using their unique gifts and abilities to bring depth and dimension to the ONE purpose.
And there’s the rub.
Working together brings friction, conflict and tension.
We all are familiar with this chafing but often we fail to see the beauty that comes from this abrasiveness.  It is in the friction where beauty is born. 
Working together with other people who are broken and imperfect like us, is God’s beautiful design.  We are like rocks in a stream; bouncing, rubbing and polishing off each other’s rough edges.
So we welcome the tension, open the door to conflict allowing it to refine and perfect us.
If you find yourself in conflict with another follower of Jesus, don’t be surprised.  Remember, we’re ALL still in the process of being perfected.  Peter tells us, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple . . . “ 1 Peter 2.5 (NLT)
Know this; God wants to use this friction in your life to polish you into a beautiful living stone for all the world to see!
Heavenly Father, I know you designed family.  It’s part of your plan but I confess there are times when I don’t like the pain that comes with it!  I want to run and hide.  I want to escape the hurt, throw it to the winds and be done with it.  But teach me to STAY.  To embrace the pain and see the beauty.  Amen.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Word for the Year

Last year around this time I wrote a blog post entitled, One Word.  I had been challenged to let go of New Year’s resolutions and focus on one word I sensed God wanting me to focus on in my life.  I chose, UNDIVIDED.  The verse I chose that centered around this theme was Psalm 86.11,  

               Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 

When I chose this word, I never dreamed how powerful it would be.  How God would constantly remind me of my heart’s desire.  How He would shape and form me.  Weeding out those places of impurity and dividedness in my heart.  How my heart’s cry every day became . . . “Give me an undivided heart.” 

The reason I chose this word, was because I could see myself so divided in my genuineness towards other people and God.  How jealous I was when someone would get what I had been longing for and how angry I would be that God wasn’t giving me what I wanted.    

I craved a pure heart . . . one that would genuinely rejoice over someone else’s success, without bitterness or jealousy raising its ugly face.   

And God did that and so much more!  He took me to places in my heart I never knew were divided.  Culminating in a confrontation by a friend that I was harboring bitterness towards someone who had hurt me long ago.   It led me to meeting with this person who had hurt me so deeply and sharing my hurt and struggle. Through that obedience God set me free.  It’s been a beautiful year, of soul searching, pain over my sin and joy at God’s gentle prodding and pruning. God has done an incredible work.  I’m ready to step out in boldness, looking expectantly at what God will do in my heart this New Year with my new word . . .
Psalm 118.6  The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me? 
               Romans 8:31  If God is for me, who can ever be against me?

Daring to follow wherever He leads.  Daring to take Him at His Word.  Daring to go where He wants me to go and do what He is wants me to do, no matter the cost.  Daring to share truth.  Daring to pray audacious prayers. Daring to trust. . .  

What will God do in my life with this word?  Only He knows.  I confess there is a part of me that wonders will I be brave enough for this word.  I can feel the fear knocking on my back door but I’m refusing to answer and I choose to walk in faith knowing God never calls me to anything that He won’t provide. 

What has God done in your life this past year?  What does He want to do in your life this year?  I’d love to hear about it!  Do you have One Word this year that you’re choosing to focus on?  I’d love to hear what it is and why you chose it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Forgotten Miracles

Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea. Even so, he saved them—to defend the honor of his name and to demonstrate his mighty power.  Psalm 106.7-8

I came across these verses in my time with God this week and it immediately transported me back to a conversation I had with my Dad recently.
My Dad loves to share Jesus with others and this particular day he was having a conversation with a disillusioned young man.  This troubled man said he couldn’t be believe in the Bible because he had never seen a miracle and he felt it was all a bit unrealistic.  My Dad replied, “You’ve never seen a miracle?!  I’ve seen a lot of miracles in my life!”  And for the next two hours shared with this man all the miracles he had seen and experienced in his life.

As I was listening to my father share this story, I wondered . . .

Would I be able to talk for two hours about the miracles I’ve seen and experienced in my life?
It’s not that I haven’t experienced miracles . . .

It’s just I’ve forgotten . . .   
How easy it is then when we get in difficult places, like the Israelites were – back up against the wall (the Red Sea), to begin to question God.  His power?  His greatness?  His goodness? 

We assume He has set us up to fail.  We listen to the lies that say He’s a dangling-carrot-kind-of-God who takes great joy in yanking things away whenever He feels like it.  We believe He’s a game-playing God who wants to see if we’ll flinch or yell “Uncle”.  We accept as truth, because of what we see, that He’s a malicious, vindictive, and troubling God.

I propose it’s because we’ve forgotten.  We’ve forgotten the ways He’s demonstrated to us His might and power.  His unending love.  His elaborate grace.  We’ve forgotten that He is greater.  Wiser.  All-powerful. Simply, we’ve forgotten the miracles.
So how do we keep from forgetting and wallowing in our pain and disillusionment?
We choose to remember.  We make note.  We write down and hold close our God-sightings.

And when the times of disillusionment come, when we feel God has backed us into a corner, left us hanging out to dry, we remember the treasure trove of God-miracles, we bring them out into the light and cling to their truth instead of what we feel.

I don’t know where this Christmas Season finds you.  Times of joy or sorrow?  Times of laughter or disillusionment?  Wherever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in, may you choose to REMEMBER! 
Remember God’s outrageous grace. His priceless gift.  His unending love.  His forever promises.

Remember the miracles you have seen and experienced in your life, let them remind you of God’s great power and might, even when you cannot see! 
When we choose to remember, we will have what we need to face whatever comes our way, without allowing them to shake our foundation and demolish our belief in God.
Let's start by remembering the greatest miracle of all . . .  

God becoming one of us!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Servant Living

Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.  So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water into a basin.  Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.  John 17.3-5

Jesus knew who he was.  He knew where He had come from and where He was going.  This was God, the Creator of the universe, King Eternal, Yahweh washing the feet of the one’s He had created. 

For the disciples, this was a “shock and awe” moment!  No Rabbi or any person of significant status had ever washed another’s feet.  It just wasn’t done.  The job of foot washing was always relegated to the lowest of the low, the refuse of society.

But Jesus never let society dictate His behavior, He never let it deviate Him from His mission.  He had come to serve.  Just hours from this moment, Jesus would demonstrate His greatest act of service, His coup d'├ętat, the cross!  Overthrowing the norms, the status-quo and turning this self-driven, people pleasing society on its head.

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them, “Since, I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you.”  (John 13.12-14)

Do what I do. Serve each other. 

Having the heart of a servant was a way of living for Jesus and it should be for those of us who are His followers.  It wasn’t one act of service, followed by a myriad of self-driven deeds.  It was a lifestyle of service.  Unconditional service.  No expectations.  Service born from a heart that loves.

Jesus’ greatest act of service, the cross, came from a heart propelled by love.  And so should our service derive from a heart of love for those He created.

Unconditional service is never easy.  Unconditional service always has a cost but it is a way of life for those who choose to follow.  It marks us as true followers of the One who first demonstrated His love for us!

Lord, we confess in this every-man-for himself world, we have lost sight of this servant way of living.  We have allowed the world and its ways to color our perspective and justify our self-centered choices.  Teach us to have the heart of a servant and to live each day, following the example you set for us.  Amen