Monthly Archives: August 2012

Who Do You Think You Are, Mr. Big Stuff?….

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Job 38-42:6; Mark 4:41

A plan that’s been thwarted, a schedule interrupted, a vision overthrown, a hiccup in the silence, a bump in the road, an unaccomplished mission, a hope deferred, a crisis not diverted, a let-down & and an up-heaval…they happen every day.   As Will Smith says in the movie Hitch after a disaster date, “I saw that going differently in my mind.”  Whether it’s a pebble in our shoe or an all-out volcanic explosion, life is consistent in this:  It doesn’t always go as we envisioned.

Yesterday I received a phone call about a situation and I was disappointed with the news.  Felt kicked in the stomach.  Fear crept across the phone waves, somehow seeping into my pores.  It was an almost, but not quite….could have been, but wasn’t…so close, but no cigar kind of news.  There could have been an end, resolution, release, but no….and we must keep waiting, wondering.

I hung up and my first thought was, “God, You could have pushed it over the edge, made it happen the way we are praying, just another inch, a smidge, a breath, so easy for You.  It wasn’t even a mountain that needed moving at this point, Lord, just a slight shift from You…why not, God?”  Frustration, anxiety, disappointment, anger, disillusionment…they all pounce at the opportunity to take the place of praise and peace.

Then the “tenacious grace” of God (thank you, Matt Ballard for those beautiful words!!) rushes in and reminds me of Job 38 when God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?!…Who set it’s measurements?….Or who enclosed the sea with doors…and have you ever commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know it’s place?…Who has a way for the thunderbolt and who can tip the water jars of the heavens?…”  Basically, from a whirlwind, God says to Job, “Who do you think you are, Mr. Big Stuff?”  For me, it’s a whisper, a reminder, His word, a call again to Come and to lay my flimsy plans at His feet and see Him for who He is.  He calls to me and says trust Me unconditionally for whatever I give, whatever I take, and wherever I lead.

His questions become mine, and I ask myself, “Who do I think I am, that I think I know how God should orchestrate events, times, ways and wonders of His universe?

Out at sea, the storm wasn’t what the disciples had planned on, especially with Jesus on board.  They became fearful because they still did not know that Jesus was the God of eternity, the God who saw from the heavens, even though He existed on earth.  And when they witnessed Jesus’ power over the elements,  they realized they didn’t really know who He was and they had to ask, “WHO IS THIS?”  The puddles and storms of our lives are not the result of a God who blinked and missed something, or worse, of a God who is sleeping and is unaware.  They are from an eternal God in control, a God who wants to show Himself through us to a stormy world, so that others will say, “Who is this?”

And isn’t this our heart…to KNOW Him and to make Him known, even in the midst of this stormy life?  Jesus went through the ultimate storm so that we can.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
By: William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
Faith sees a smiling face.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessing on your head.

When Just a Little is Just Enough….

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“…BUT IF YOU CAN do anything, take pity on us and help us!!  And Jesus said to him, ‘IF You can!!!  All things are possible to him who believes.’  Immediately, the boy’s father cried out and began saying, ‘I do believe, help my unbelief.'”  Mark 9:22-24

A swift read through the gospels shows that Jesus blesses, encourages, even marvels at great faith…Jesus was amazed at the great faith of the centurion, he told the hemorrhaging woman that her faith had made her well, to the woman who washed His feet with her hair he said that her faith had saved her, to the two blind men he said it should be done to them according to their faith and they were healed.

But in Mark 9 we find a father desperate for healing for his son.  He had already asked the disciples to heal him, but they could not.  So, when he finally got to Jesus he uses the word “if” in reference to Jesus’ ability.  Been there.  Done that.  Even if I didn’t say it out loud, somewhere deep in my soul there was a tiny “if.”  Weak faith.  Faith that isn’t recorded in Hebrews 11, or even commented on in the local newspaper.  Lacking faith.  Not big, not loud, not shining, not great.  Just enough faith to make me go to Jesus and ask.  Just enough faith to pray one more time, to have a tiny hope that drives me to Him again.  And what do I find?

Jesus, ever real about every situation says, “IF?????!!!!!”  He challenging, penetrating through the walls, through the disappointments and fears, down to the hidden place where my “if” exists and He asks…”Well, do you believe or not?  Because the truth is, ALL things are possible to him who believes.”  And whether I answer honestly or not, He knows…”I do believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”   Help my unbelief….He knows it better than even I do, the One who knows the gut wrenching truth of my heart.  He sees.

And then, without warning, He moves, He calls, He heals, He saves, He provides, He calms, He shows up big time for my little faith and says, “I can work with that.”  I can work with your measly, suffering faith and I will be God to you right here, right now.  Jesus says…just a little is just enough because I’m enough for all you lack.

The mustard seed then sprouts a minuscule green leaf and I marvel at a God who says He can work with that tiny little seed in me.

He was marvelously helped UNTIL he was strong….

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There is a short verse in 2 Chronicles about a little known king, but the impact of the verse can be powerful in our lives when we meditate on what it means and how we can apply it:

“So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord His God.” (27:6)

A sad contrast to this verse, is one written of Jotham’s father, Uzziah, who was king before Jotham:

“…he was marvelously helped until he was strong.  But when he became strong his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly and he was unfaithful to the Lord…” (26:15-16)

The phrase that Uzziah was “marvelously helped until he was strong” seems to be a dichotomy, but in the economy of our Lord, it is simple truth.  God helps the humble, runs to those who depend on & obey Him, and makes mighty him who “orders his ways before the Lord.”

So, what does it look like to order our way before the Lord.  We know that without faith we cannot please God and that we are powerless to “gut it out,” but need His mighty Spirit to faithfully order our way before Him.

Here are some principles and encouragements in the way of the Lord:

1.  To order our lives before the Lord we will need to give some things up.  In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Amy Charmichael would say of anything she lacked, any hurt she felt, any pain she endured that these were all just “chances to die” and find true life.

2.  Most of God’s will in the Bible is clearly put and has to do with matters of faith, character and conformity to the image of His son.  Don’t miss God’s will for you this day by looking for some great and wild plan that falls from the sky.  Moment by moment obedience will bring days of fruit and years of joy.  A legacy is left as we make moment-by-moment choices to follow Jesus.

3.  Don’t let the urgent things crowd out the vital things.  Time in God’s word, prayer, and fellowship are not optional in this journey of faith.  Sometimes life can get hectic and we are bumped off the path of discipline.  When this happens quickly reorder your life to the things of God.

4.  God has written your story and it is perfect for the plan He has for you and your impact on this world.  Comparing your story to someone else’s only steals from the beauty of your own story.    

 

A stupid question…

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A stupid question….

One day, years ago, I was in the grocery store with our 5 little ones (the 6th hadn’t shown up yet!)  I homeschooled at the time, so whenever I shopped it was like a moving zoo…we took up the whole aisle!  It gained the attention of many on-lookers.  Very often a complete stranger would approach me and say, “Are you Catholic?”  When I answered in the negative, they would ask, “Mormon?”  Trying to keep the “zoo” chaos to a minimum, I would just tell the person I was a Christian and move on, thinking to myself that it was strange, sometimes bordering on the stupid, that someone would come up to me and ask me that.  The poor man who asked me on one particular day was taken aback when, after his questions, I answered, “No, I’m not Catholic or Mormon, I’m just a sexy Protestant!!”

This morning I’m struck by what seems a seemingly stupid question Jesus asked a crippled man.  He said, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)  The man had been sick for 38 years, spending his days on a mat beside healing waters which he never entered.  “Do you want to get well?”  This is where my kids would say, “Duh!!”  The sick man didn’t answer Jesus, but told him all the reasons why he hadn’t gotten well yet.  Excuses.  Uh-oh, the story is starting to hit home a little too closely…

I hear Jesus ask me, “Do you want to live the abundant life???”  Duh.  However, like the sick man, I look at the healing waters and say, “ I just can’t, though, because  I have no time, I’m too tired, I don’t know how, I’m short on money, etc.”

Ouch!  I’m realizing it’s not such a stupid question after all.  In the story of the sick man Jesus doesn’t ask him again–almost as if He knows the man will just keep giving excuses.  Jesus says to him, “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk.”  It sounds a lot like the Nike advertisement, “Just do it!”

Do you, like me, find yourself making excuses for why you can’t study the Bible, pray, stop complaining, overcome your anger, cease worrying, share your faith, let go of your bitterness, take the first step toward wellness, give your tithe, etc?

In the John 5 story we are told there was a “multitude” of sick people around that pool.  Jesus walked up to one man, looked him in the eyes and asked the penetrating question, “Do you want to get well?”

Today He’s asking you, and me, “Do you?…Then GET UP…obey”  And His amazing, incredible power can cause us to obey. “I can do ALL things through Christ who empowers me.” (Phil. 4:13)

A Bow on my Finger….

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They forgot God their Savior...Nevertheless…He remembered”  Ps. 106:21& 44-45

“Jesus said to them…Do you not remember…?”  Mark 8:17 & 18

Lists.  Alerts on my phone.  Reminder messages.  Notes.  Refrigerator post-its.  Seems these days I use a multitude of ways to help me remember appointments, lunch orders, meetings, etc.  I don’t want to forget those things immediately coming up.  And it seems that it get more difficult with age.

Today a new note is going on my fridge.  Remember Him.  Remember His deeds.  Remember His ways.  Remember His promises.  Remember Who He is.  Remember the cross and the resurrection.  Remember hope.  Remember love.

When I run the water at my sink, remember that He can turn it into wine.  When muddy feet tromp through my kitchen, remember He washed His friend’s feet.  When fixing my hair, remember the extravagance with which the woman loved Jesus when she wiped His feet with her hair.  When my husband leads me, remember even Jesus was under authority.  When I worry about my children, remember He let the children come to Him and He cares for them.  When I find myself in sin, remember His mercy and love to the woman at the well.  When I make my bed, remember He had no place to lay His head.  When it’s difficult to pray, remember He is praying constantly.  When I meet a non-Christian, remember He came to me that I might go to others.  When I fold the clothes, remember He said if I do it for anyone-even the least-I do it for Him. When I wonder about the future, remember He has already accomplished it.  When I take a bath, remember He can walk on water.  When I plant new plants for the fall, remember He is the vine.  When I concern myself over finances, remember He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Remember.  Remember not to forget.

Remember, because when He walked through this world persecuted, misunderstood, God handled by mere men, God on a cross, He remembered me.

Great song by Mark Schultz:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16YYBoQ3YMI&feature=fvwrel

I, we, they….

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Mark 6:56  “And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.”

Who are they?  Unnamed. Unnoticed. Expectant. Faithful. True. They are the people who cared enough to carry their friends and family to the market places.  They are the ones who had enough faith for their sick to be healed.  It’s Biblical.  Many times we see one have enough faith for another….the father for his daughter, the centurion for his servant, the mother for her daughter, etc.  They all believed for healing for another and it was granted.

Is there a they in your life?  Someone who aches with you, rejoices with you, believes for you?  Are you a they for someone else?  Someone you don’t condemn, but love; someone you care enough about to believe Jesus for  their growth and even their deliverance from sin?

When we came to Christ He turned our “I” into a “we.”  We are privileged to have a huge family who call on His name.  Pray for a “they” for yourself, and pray to be a “they” to someone else and our “we” will be a better light in this world of “I’s”.

A Case of Mistaken Identity….

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When Mary Magdalene went to the open tomb of Jesus…

“…She turned around and behold Jesus was standing there and she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”  Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”  John 20:14-16 

Have you ever treated Jesus like the gardener?  I know I have.  Barely a glance, telling Him what I want to happen, turning from Him before He even has a chance to answer back.  Expecting He will show up, same time same place next week, or next month…

Missing the Divine.  Treating miracles as matter-of-facts and the Master as the gardener. Praying like post-it-notes.  Leaving my first Love and losing the truth of who He really is.

Then He whispers your name, you turn back, realization dawning, “Oh yeah, this is the resurrected Jesus, I just treated Him like the gardener, but He is still calling my name.”

He is still calling my name.  Something to marvel at.  Something to mull over.  Something not to miss. Something to move us. He is still calling your name.

Turn back to Him, as Mary did, recognize Him for who He is, then tell others  what you have seen and heard (vs. 18).  They’ll want to know the Gardener too.

My hometown…

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I grew up in Evans, GA.  You’ve probably never heard of it.   Evans had 1 store and 1 church.  The store was called “Roundtrees” and was smaller than my den.  The only thing to commend Evans at all, perhaps, was that the influx of visitors who came for the Augusta Masters Golf Tournament might find a home to rent there.  It wasn’t that Evans had a bad reputation, it had no reputation at all.

Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, was a lot like Evans.  Small, under the shadow of the capital city, Sepphoris, which was being rebuilt at the time.  But, even more than that, many Gentile, foreigners, and immigrants lived there.  Not many people were “from” Nazareth.  But Jesus was.  And the town had such a bad reputation  and ill repute that Nanthaniel, upon hearing from Phillip that Jesus was from there, said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?

Ever feel like you are from Nazareth?  Or maybe that you are living in Nazareth right now?  Like you have nothing in your past to give you credibility, and even some things that weigh you down.  Or like you are in the middle of a really difficult time, maybe in small or big ways your reputation has suffered a little, you are unnoticed while those around you prosper and make a name for themselves, you are just a “stop” on the way to somewhere else, or maybe you even feel unloved.  You ask yourself, “Can anything good come from this?

The resounding answer is, “Yes!”  Jesus.  Jesus can make our difficult pasts into a beautiful future.  Jesus can make the stripping of pride, the loss of love and friendship, the hurt of being unnoticed, and the pain of being used into a dynamic, impactful, amazing place of greater faith in your life.  And you will be able to say, “Yes, Jesus came from there.”