Friday, July 29, 2011

Headed to Atlanta!

It's hard to believe that it is almost August already! It seems like summer just began. Work is especially busy during the summer because it is when we do all of our biggest updates. I think this has added to the "shortness" of summer, but it has been very good and profitable. I am working a half day tomorrow and heading off to Atlanta for the weekend. If I may be completely honest, I wasn't planning on continuing handball. They sent out applications for the Panamerican Games and I decided not to fill out the application. After the deadline for turning in the application was up, I received an email saying that I really should fill out the application. It appears that God was opening this door and shoving me through despite my resistance. So, I am headed off to Atlanta tomorrow to play handball. They will be choosing the guys from the national team pool that will represent the USA at the Panamerican Games. Most likely, I won't be picked... actually, I probably don't deserve to be picked. This is a good thing because it takes the pressure off my performance and puts my focus where it should be--on honoring Christ. I don't know what He has planned for this weekend, but my desire is that God would be honored with how I play. I plan to do my very best... never give up... be strong... play smart... etc. All these things are good ideas, but without Him, I can do none of them. I am looking forward to this weekend and what God will do. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 comes to mind both in the physical sense and more importantly, the spiritual sense.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
God, help me to do my best this weekend so as to win. I humbly admit that I don't know what true winning may look like, but You know. I ask that You would help me to really win... not the "winning" that produces nothing more than personal fame, but rather, the winning of the heart... winning that brings honor to You. Show me what it means to "win" this weekend and help me to run whole-heartedly with that aim at the center of everything I do. Keep my heart and mind fixed on You.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Complete Cleansing

The Lord has been really blessing at work. I have three very large tasks to get done by the end of the week and honestly, I didn't see how I was going to be able to get them done. My boss authorized overtime (not manditory, but allowed), so I have been working a tiny bit of overtime. I think it's important to keep a balanced life even with the added stress of deadlines. It is amazing how the Lord enables us to get things done in the time that He gives us to do them. I think back to school and how often it was that I didn't feel like I had enough time and yet somehow, I graduated. It was all a blur... day by day not knowing how I was going to get everything done and finding Him to be faithful in helping me get it done. God really blessed today. I was working on one of these projects and my boss sent me an email telling me to make the other thing more of a priority. I had already made quite a bit of good progress on the other thing and so I kind of wanted to continue working on that, but I went ahead and worked on the other project. I honestly thought this project was going to take like at least 2 days. God blessed so amazingly... He graciously gave me one of those "light bulb" moments where I understood exactly what was going on and exactly how I was going to develop this new thing. In about an hour and a half, I had it working! God is so good! He didn't need to bless me in that way. The struggling and fighting with it is often good for learning patience (taking a while) and humility (needing help), but He gave me the easy road today. I'm very thankful for His help.

I have been reading in Jeremiah the last few days. The call to have our hearts completely toward the Lord has continually caught my attention. In Jeremiah 4:1-2, God instructs Israel as to what they ought to do and promises blessing if they do them.
"If you will return, O Israel," declares the Lord, "Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver, And you will swear, 'As the Lord lives,' In truth, in justice and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory."
There are two big things here: return to the Lord (including putting away anything that is hindering us from being fully committed to Him), and don't waver. I think of Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt when she looked back longingly on Sodom. May the Lord give us hearts that detest the things that He hates. He provides the grace and help to both hate those things and not waver in turning from them. He enables us to be faithful.

God, I confess to You that I don't always hate the things you hate. I don't always love the things that You love. Forgive me of my sin and turn my heart to love You fully. I want to have Your heart so that my desires are a mirror of Yours. Use me to carry out Your will as You deem fit, not because You need me, but because I need to be used by You for my own good. Accomplish Your will in me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Take It All!

This seems to be a far too commonly necessary prayer of mine these days: God, please take it all! I wish that this could be one of those one time decisions... and in a sense, it is. When we become a child of God, we have had a change in ownership. We are not our own. He purchased us with His blood and our every breath, thought, emotion... everything is His. The salvation cry is one of complete surrender knowing that the best of our good works cannot meet God's standard. The great news is that we are no longer loved based on what we have done, but rather based on what Christ has done. His perfect obedience is now mine. This is why I feel that this prayer is needed way too often. It's done... He owns all. I just seem to think that I can hold onto bits and pieces sometimes. The reality is that I am holding nothing. It doesn't matter if I think that I am or not... I can't. I come to Him once again asking Him to take everything for the sake of my own heart. It is not because He doesn't own everything already or that I could hold onto something that isn't mine. It's for my sake and mine only that I come to Him humbly admitting my pride in thinking that I have a better plan than He does. I do not. I must plead with Him to graciously not give me my way when it doesn't line up with His.

The sermon this morning was about faith and God's promises. I have somehow failed to notice so many of the places in scripture where God says, "I will..." do this or that. Scripture is full of the history of God's faithfulness. When He says that He will do something, He always does it. He never once has not done what He said He would do. Satan is the master deceiver... He loves to fill our minds with lies about God and His character... maybe that He is slow... or maybe He will never come through... or maybe He didn't really mean what He said... etc. The only description of God as being slow that comes to mind is that He is slow to wrath and abounding in love! We must be so filled with the Spirit that those lies of Satan are instantly taken captive to the obedience of Christ.

I read an article today about a family who has a son named Peter who was in a serious car accident a little over a year ago while heading to mow the lawn for a widow. As they recounted all his (and their) hopes and dreams and see what they have now, I can't imagine how difficult that would be. They have had their hearts so fixed on the Lord during this time and it has been such an incredible encouragement to me. One of the phrases from that article was this: "The message is much more: you do what's right and leave the results to God."

I needed to hear that today. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that He always answers prayer when He doesn't answer how we want Him to and when we want Him to... but He always answers. It is so important that right now... this very moment... that I do what God instructs me to do with this moment and trust Him for the rest. So, I come again asking Him to take it all, declaring my full trust in His faithfulness to complete what He has started in ways far better than what I could even imagine, and by His grace, letting that trust result in full obedience right now wherever I am.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taste and See!

Work has been pretty intense the last several days. We just published a rather huge update and our lead developer was out today (the day after the update), which meant that resolving any issues pretty much fell in my lap. I did greatly enjoy it, but it certainly was not stress free. I like challenges. I would not do well in a work environment that didn't present me with challenges. It's really neat how the Lord uses times like this to show me a bit more of His wisdom in placing me where He has placed me. At the same time, He does so in such a way as to keep me humble. There was an issue on the live production server and so I went ahead and made a change and published it. I figured that something working was better than something not working, even if it wasn't exactly how people wanted it. My boss wasn't too pleased with this... and I should have known better. He was very gracious and said that I probably did the right thing in this instance, but strongly encouraged me not to make a pattern of doing such. I'm thankful for him. I need that kind of strong and gracious guidance. God has been so good to me by giving me my boss.

I was reading this evening in 1 John 4 and also read some of Spurgeon's writings. 1 John 4:16 really stuck out to me in light of Spurgeon's commentary on one of the times that God rebukes Israel for wanting to go back to Egypt.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.
O true believer, called by grace and washed in the precious blood of Jesus, thou hast tasted of better drink than the muddy river of this world's pleasure can give thee; thou hast had fellowship with Christ; thou hast obtained the joy of seeing Jesus, and leaning thine head upon his bosom. Do the trifles, the songs, the honors, the merriment of this earth content thee after that? -Spurgeon

We are to taste and see that the Lord is good. He is the very definition of love. His love is better than life! We must not lose sight of the precious possession of Christ in us. He is our life. If we truly consider Christ and the joys found only in Him, all other desires that are incompatible with love of Christ would vanish completely. The joys of life outside of Christ are as drinking mud. May it be that we find no contentment outside of Christ and His perfect plans.

God, give me a godly discontentment for anything that is not of You. By Your grace, don't allow me to settle for anything less than Your best. Don't let me turn Your ways aside for a way of my own design. Bring me joy in submission. Cause my soul to find complete rest and refreshment under the shadow of Your wings. Put Your laws upon my heart. Make them to be my delight. Remind me of all the ways I have tasted and seen that You are good so that I would desire none but You.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wholly Yours

We studied the lampstand today in Sunday school. It was a great reminder that God has given each of us as His children a task to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God who is in heaven. It also was a good reminder that this isn't a task that God just sends us out to do without support. He "walks amongst the lampstands" in Revelation. He empowers us to do His work. We also know that the battle is won in Christ already, yet, we must be faithful to Him. We are doing a study on End Times at church coming up here pretty soon and so we passed out invites to this study to a few hundred homes this evening. Usually, there are people outside and it often turns into an opportunity to talk with them a bit and possibly share the gospel. This evening was odd... I didn't talk with a single person the entire time. As I was kind of telling God of my frustration along these lines while I was putting the invites on door steps, He graciously reminded me that I could be praying for each of these people. I came to a house that had incense by the door... I believe they are Hindu. It was a sobering reminder that though the people in this certain house are clearly lost... and fully believing things that are false... these other houses that I am passing by probably have people in them just as lost in sin--just as hopeless. I walked by a house that had the star of David imprinted in their sidewalk leading up to their door. It served as a reminder of the Jews that need Christ. I know that I under estimate the power of prayer. I was so fixed on talking with people and yet the Lord graciously made it so that I wouldn't talk to a single person, but rather had time to pray. Praying ought not be an excuse for not being obedient to what He calls us to do, but it also ought not be minimized. The fervant prayer of a righteousness man accomplishes much.

It is so important that I am wholly devoted to Him, so that I see His purposes... not just the obvious ones when He gives opportunities to talk about Him, but the ones that no one else will ever know or see. When no one but the Lord sees, that is the true test of character. God, make me a faithful man. In Your grace, don't allow me to look down on small things because they are small, but rather work diligently to accomplish them through the power of Your Spirit. Teach me to find true joy and fulfillment in following You and only You. Rid me of selfish desires and the pride that I so naturally cling to. Strip it away. Make me wholly Yours.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Lesson From Cookies

Jonathan is playing piano this week at church, so they went off to music practice the other day. When they left, they requested that I bake some cookies. I'm definitely not the best cook around, but I can follow directions. Anyway, I made some cookies yesterday and as I was mixing the cookie dough, God used that to remind me of the fact that I don't know the outcome of what He is going to do or how He is going to do it... but that I can trust Him. If you actually think about it... it's pretty crazy that this white powdery stuff that we call flour which tastes absolutely disgusting by itself would be the most used ingredient in these cookies. I mixed the dry ingredients... flour, sugar, salt, baking soda... it really wasn't looking anything like cookies. Then I mixed the wet ingredients... egg, an extra egg yoke, melted butter, vanilla... not only did it look gross, it tasted... okay, I didn't really tasted it. ;) As I was looking down at these two bowls... one of a bunch of dry ingredients that wouldn't taste good at all together, the other of these wet ingredients that wouldn't taste good at all together, it really is pretty amazing that you can mix these two things and it becomes a dough... and not just any dough... it becomes the perfect dough for chocolate chip cookies. The fact is that life is infinitely more complex than baking chocolate chip cookies, but we have the all-wise God who knows all the perfect ingredients, when to use each of them, how long, etc. I thought yesterday... these might have been better with walnuts in them. God will never do His work on us and then decide it would have been better if He did it a different way. He makes no mistakes! He knows the beginning and the end... He P-L-A-N-S the begginning and the end and everything in between.

I was reminded of these things as I read Psalm 65 this evening.
How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who establishes the mountains by His strength, being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
He is the trust of all the ends of the earth! We stand in awe at His work... and we barely see a glimpse of His work! That beautiful sunrise this morning... and the sunset tonight are little hints of His glory that shout out joy--His joy. God, help me to see Your work around me and muse on Your deeds. Fill my heart with the joy in seeing Your work starting within the unseen places of my heart and going to the ends of the earth. When I don't see how Your ingredients are working together, point my heart to Your faithfulness. Remind me of the Red Sea crossings. Teach me full dependence on You, for Your love is better than life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Firmly Planted by Streams of Water

My boss and I spent half the day training some principals how to use our data management system today. It was kind of strange for me because I have always seen principals as authoritative and strong leaders. However, in this context, I was leading them. It caused me to reflect on the faithfulness of the Lord and how He has has called "lines to fall in pleasant places" for me. I spent much of the drive back with my boss talking about how thankful I am for the position that I have... how I could have been in so many other positions and yet, I am blessed to be where I am. God really lead my feet around some huge pits. He has been so gracious to me.

I was reading tonight from Psalm 63... a passage that I continually cling to.
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
I love when I wake up during the night with thoughts of Him on my mind... with songs of joy in my heart. Sometimes I cling to Him out of pure joy in having direct access to Him, other times I feel like I have fighting to cling to Him under crashing waves. Either way, it is not my clinging that matters... it is the right hand of Almighty God that upholds me. I am reminded of Psalm 1 and the description of a man that depends on the Lord--he flees from wickedness, he avoids scoffing, he delights in the Lord and His commandments knowing that His way is always best, and he meditates on it, longing to know Him and His ways more. This man is the one who is firmly planted by streams of water who yields fruit in his season. We ought not be discouraged if we don't see immediate fruit... He brings the harvest.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Only Two Responses

This evening I was reading in Acts 7. You really can't read just part of it, so I am not going to attempt to post it here. Stephen is giving history of the people of Israel from the time of Abraham to the time of Christ. The first thing that catches my attention is how well Stephen knew the scripture. He was put on the spot in front of all these people in authority and God gave him incredible boldness to speak the truth of scripture. The second thing that caught my attention is the people's response to him. Rather than being torn apart by the depth of their sin, they chose to reject the message and kill the messenger.

The sobering reality is that we can do this very same thing. You know those people that make you feel convicted when you are around them? Our natural tendency is not to humble ourselves before them, but rather to take up defenses or avoid them completely. I have found that even when those around us are not completely right... or even mostly wrong in their thoughts about us, there is usually some part that is true. We must not ignore the truth that is there. There are only two responses to truth, either we humble ourselves and submit ourselves wholeheartedly to it, or we reject it. There is no middle ground.

God, help us to see the truth of Your Word as it applies to us. Allow it to do the careful and complete surgery on our hearts that must be done in order to clease us of all sin and purify us for Yourself. Show us any area in which we are rejecting Your truth and give us hearts of humility to listen once again. Unite our hearts to fear Your name. Teach us not only to serve You, but to love You with all of our hearts not with motives of personal gain, but simply because You are worthy of our love. Make me to love You more.