Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I can't even begin to give the Lord the praise He deserves for His work in my life this year. This year has been rather different from any previous year. Life has slowed down to a major degree... God has blessed with a job that appears to be steady. Life feels much more structured and planned out. There is still plenty of room for spontaneousness, which I love... but with the schedules of those around me and my work schedule, things in general are a bit more planned out than they used to be. It's a good change.

This year has had so many highlights... the one that really sticks out to me is getting to have a Bible study in our home. This has been something that I have desired for years and thanks to God and Him enabling life to be more structured, Bible study in our home has become a reality. I am learning so much through it about spiritual leadership and studying the Word to communicate it to others... or at least guide the study as the Holy Spirit speaks to the individuals. It has been a great delight.

I was reading earlier in Matthew 6 and this was such a great reminder for me as I enter the new year.
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If my life down to the very depths of my heart (motives and thoughts) would be more in-tune with the Lord and His ways, this would be a good year. I hope to have a godly carelessness about 2012. God is infinitely wise and knows my every need. Worrying about those things is not in any way honoring Him. Worrying about specific situations and how God is going to work them out is not honoring Him. Full trust based on what the Lord has done in the past for what is ahead is what honors Him.

God, You have blessed us with another year. As we enter 2012, I ask that You would transform each of us more and more into the image of Your Son. Cause our heart motives to be honoring to You... that we would not be satisfied with the empty praise of men, but only in the honor that comes from You. You are the only One that raises up and brings down. Bring me down to whatever extent is necessary this year to make me more like Christ. Raise me up to whatever level You have prepared me to give You all the glory and honor for. Provide for my needs... don't give me too much so that my dependence rests on anything but You... and don't give me too little that I seek to have my needs met through ungodly means. Take 2012 and use it for Your glory in my heart in in the hearts of Your people. Give me a heart of compassion and humility. Make me an encourager. Help me not just to serve You, but to love You with all of my heart. Grant joy in serving You. Grant contentment and sweet rest in full obedience to You this year. Put a guard over my mouth so that I speak as You would have me speak. Guard my steps so that I walk only in Your ways. Guard my eyes that I look upon only that which pleases You. Guard my ears that I give attention to only that which is well pleasing to Your ears. Put a guard over my heart that You and You only be the first in it. Put a guard on my thoughts, that I think thoughts of You and meditate on Your Word day and night. Teach me Your ways, help me to walk in Your truth, unite my heart to fear Your name this year.  Help me to yearn for only things that You want me to yearn for. Cause Your kingdom and righteousness to be at the forefront of my mind... that I seek to further Your kingdom and not a kingdom of my own creation.  Be first in my heart this year.

Make me more like Your Son in 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We celebrated Christmas with grandma yesterday and had a fairly relaxing day today. There is a part of our community that is decorated very nicely and the sidewalks are all lined with candles in paper bags with sand. Cars drive on this loop and people ride bikes, scooters, golf carts, trailers, boats (on a trailer), etc. It is a great time for everyone. Our pastor and a couple other people from church have houses in this section of the neighborhood, so we went over there and had a great time a fellowship. We had a Christmas Eve service followed by singing with the choir throughout the night in this stable/stage. We give out coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider, cookies, fudge, etc. to the people walking and/or driving by. It's always a neat time.

Today, I have been thinking quite a bit about what it means to celebrate Christ's birth. I came to the conclusion that the best way to celebrate Christ's birth is by living in the reality of His ownership of me. Christ gave all for us... we give to others to remember the perfect gift of Christ. Ephesians 2 has been on my heart all day. It is such a joyful thing to meditate on these truths.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Were it not for the gift of Christ, I would be dead in my sins. The ultimate purpose of my life would be to make myself happy. What a worthless and sad life that would be. Christ has rescued me from darkness and transferred me into His marvelous light. He has seated me with Christ in heavenly places so that He can demonstrate His abundant riches to me through Christ. It is a gift that I have accepted. There is nothing that I could do to add to the gift to make it better. I do not deserve it, but He has given His Son freely to die on my behalf so that I might live.

Now, because I believe all these things to be true, the natural next step is to live completely in the reality of this gift of Christ... we were created for good works. God ordained us to be bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. He created us to fellowship in the most intimate way with Him. Let us live in the reality of Christ this Christmas. Let us serve one another in love. Let us come before the throne of Christ and rejoice in the gift of Christ. Let us see our brothers and sisters in Christ as joint heirs with Christ and treat them as such. Let us give generously... not from what we don't have or without wisdom, but freely and with pure motives. But, may the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace in each of our hearts this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mutual Delight

The Lord has continued to pour out His blessings... so undeserved... things that I don't even need... yet, He chooses to bless me anyway. It doesn't really make sense to be completely honest with you. I was thinking this morning and throughout the day about the word, "delight".

On the way home as I was still thinking about this word and what the Lord delights in and what I ought to delight myself in, I was listening to a sermon on the radio and the pastor was talking about obedience to parents and how God blesses with long life. I don't know about you, but sometimes I just really feel like I want to see Him face to face... not at all in the suicidal way... I just long to see Him and to be complete in Him. Long life sometimes seems like it is just delaying us getting to see Him, but you know... He created us to delight in Him right now. We are to take great pleasure in all that we have in Christ including the physical blessings of life and relationships and even the financial blessings and the things He has entrusted to us. It is not wrong to find joy in physical blessings, but that must never be the focal point of our delight. God must always be the center of our delight. God created Eve to take delight in His creation of wonderful fruit in the garden... but her delight in the creation was stronger than her delight in the Creator. In order to know what I ought to delight in, I ought to know what God delights in.
God delights in sacrifices and in obedience. He delights in blessing His children. He delights in the steps of a godly man. He delights in justice. He delights in those who walk in blamelessness. He delights in those that are faithful. He delights in wise words spoken at the right time. He delights in those that fear Him. He delights in those He has chosen for His purposes. God delights in loyalty and in our knowledge of Him. He delights in unchanging love.

That right there is a beautiful picture of God--He gave all freely, He blesses us infinitely, He sent His Son to earth and demonstrated godly living, He is always completely just, He has never once sinned, He is completely faithful, He speaks and does the right thing at the right time without failing even once, He love accomplishing His Father's will, He is loyal in every regard, He is one with the Father, His love never changes.

I will glory in my Redeemer;
My life He bought, my love He owns.
I have no longings for another;
I'm satisfied in Him alone.

What a marvelous thing it is that the God of all the universe can stoop to such a low level as to delight in me. Who am I? I'm just a passing vapor... but He chooses to delight in me.

My proper response to this is to delight myself in Him. Part of that is the delight myself in all the things that He delights in. On top of that, I am to delight myself in the place of His dwelling. I am to delight in reverencing His name. I am to delight in knowing His law and to meditate on it day and night. I am to delight in His blessings... even prosperity. I am to delight in doing God's will. I am to delight myself in His consolations. I am to study God's works and delight in them. I am to delight in the commandments of the Lord knowing that they are not burdensome. I am to delight in His statutes. I am to delight also in the path of obedience to His commandments... not just the end result. We are to delight in God's ways knowing that they are higher and better than our own. We are to delight in those that we lead and discipline. We are to delight in the work that God enables us to do. We are to delight in knowing His ways. We are to delight in the reality of the nearness of God. We are to delight in the Lord for who He is. We are to delight in His words.

I think this really sums up how we ought to live:
Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God.
God, give us this heart for You. Put in us new desires. Fix in us Thy humble home. Rise, the woman's conqu'ring seed, bruise in us the serpent's head. Adam's likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place; Second Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love. God, cause my delight to be wholly in You. Let my delight in earthly things point me only back to true delight in You as the giver of every good and perfect thing. Draw near to me as I draw near to You. Give me ever increasing delight in Your ways. Grant joy in obedience. Make me delight in the things that You delight in and hate the things that You hate. Use my delight to spur others toward love and good works. Be to me the central focus of all my delight.I long to hear Your words of delight in me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Make me Your servant today. I long to hear Your words of delight in me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Make me Your servant today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Joy in the Process

I had the blessing of getting to go to a conference today for most of the day (with work). My boss did a presentation on our system and its new features and I assisted him with certain parts. The people attending were current clients of ours and it was neat to be able to put a face with a name and voice. I got off a bit earlier since I had worked some extra hours previously this week and decided to put up the Christmas lights outside.

It doesn't usually take too long as I put up nails in previous years and can reuse them. I didn't get off quite as early as I wanted since we ended up being stuck in some traffic, so I was running out of daylight to get the lights put up. I am the "to do list" type of guy... I like to know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done and do whatever it takes to make that happen. Sometimes God needs to remind me to slow down and really take joy in the process, not just in the completion of the task. Such was the case this afternoon. Dad had taken out the box of Christmas lights for me and I went over to the neighbor to borrow a ladder. I quickly unpacked the lights and started testing them to make sure they still work. I really don't understand how Christmas lights stop working as they sit in that box in the garage all year, but anyway... almost all the lights worked which was actually just fine because some of the lights were unneeded. I got up on the ladder and put up the first story of lights pretty quickly. I went to move on to the next section when I realized that I had put that entire section backwards. After contemplating how I could run an extension cord up onto the roof to another strand and then down again to an outlet on the other side of the house, I just decided it was best to start over. God used that in my heart to remind me to take joy in the process. I was in my own world in my race against the clock (or sun going down) and found that I wasn't taking joy in it. I was just trying to finish the task. Had it not been for that incident, I would have got it done much faster, but I also wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly so much. I'm thankful that the Lord works in small ways like putting a few sections of Christmas lights on backwards to slow me down and remind me to take joy in the small things.

I was reminded of Psalm 63:1-8.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. 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.
The Lord has satisfied me. He has done far more than satisfied me, but I think it honors the Lord for us to be satisfied--to be content in all we have in Christ. It feels strange to use the word "satisfied" because it makes me feel like I am saying that God owes me something and He satisfied my requirements for happiness or something, which is not at all the case. He owed me nothing, but gave me everything... all spiritual blessings in Christ... everything pertaining to life and godliness... eternal life. It is a my reasonable service to respond to His indescribable gift with joyful praises to Him. As I muse on His deeds, I can't help but be joyful as I remember His deeds from the past and see work that He has "finished" and trust Him for the work that is still in progress. It would be a Christ-honoring thing for me to take more joy in the sanctification process. It feels slow and hard at times, but there so much joy to be found in Christ and His unending faithful work to conform me into His image. God, help me to take joy in the process in preparation for when Christ makes me to stand in Your glorious presence blameless and with great joy. May You be glorified now by my joy in You.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

His Washing

On Friday, the Lord blessed me with getting to spend about six hours with a Christian lady at work. I had only met her once before and didn't know that she was a Christian, but my boss asked if both of us would deliver test materials because the guy that usually does it was gone. It was such an incredible blessing. I don't think we got more than a mile from the office before both of us were discussing things of the Lord. It was such an incredible encouragement to me to hear her story of God's sovereignty in providing this job for her and how God had used her getting this position to answer my prayers concerning a possible change in my job description at work. Long story short, I came away from Friday seeing another glimpse into just how brilliant God is in His plan. He is never doing just one thing... He is doing infinitely many things all at the same time for His glory and our good. What a brilliant God we serve! Thank You, Lord for doing things Your way in Your timing!

The sermon today gave me some new insights into Jesus washing the feet of Peter. I had never seen it this way before. Take a look at John 13:1-8.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
The message that I have generally got from this passage is that Jesus was a servant leader, and I should be as well. I was challenged today to see it from a new perspective--to see it as an event in the life of Peter.

Peter was the disciple that rebuked Jesus when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to die in Mark 8:31-33. Peter had a plan... a plan that involved Jesus not dying. But, God's ways are higher than man's ways. When Jesus told Peter that he could have no part with Him if Jesus wasn't allowed to wash him, Jesus was not talking about the physical washing of feet, but rather the washing of the heart which was about to take place at the cross. It is humbling to have God wash your feet, but infinitely more humbling to have God die because of your sin. Jesus was using this to prepare Peter's heart for the washing of his heart by His blood. We see just following this that Peter still doesn't want Jesus to die... he cuts off the ear of the servant which Jesus heals and tells Peter to put away the sword. Peter didn't understand God's big purpose. Peter then seems to give up when he denies Christ. Is this not far too often our reaction when God's plan doesn't line up with our own? When He does things in different timing than we expect or in a different way? We lose hope and give up when He is in the midst of doing His perfect work.

If God would have given Peter his way, he would have spent eternity in hell as would the rest of us. We see once again that God is so infinitely wise and His plans are so perfect. His plans don't line up with our expectations and ideals, but His plans are always best! Oh for grace to trust Him more! This same Peter later rights in 1 Peter 5:5...
...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Peter experienced the grace and faithfulness of God through God doing things His way. May God give us that same grace to believe with all of our heart that His ways are always best. That belief will produce the fruit of obedience and submission to Him regardless of what His plan is... because His plan is perfect.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Path of the Righteous

The Lord has been so good and gracious. I was just meditating just a few of the many blessings that He has poured out on me this evening and once again reminding myself that it everything good comes from the Lord. One of His blessings is the gift of wisdom. In James 1, we read that we are to ask God for wisdom when we lack it... this honors Him, showing our dependence on Him in not leaning on our own understanding. It also is the only true wisdom! Our own wisdom is subject to be influenced by our emotions or the feelings of the moment, but the wisdom from God is unchanging. I was thinking about these things in light of Proverbs 4:10-18.
Hear, my son, and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; And if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness And drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
The reality is that most of us don't like being told to do... but that is because we are surrounded by sinners just like us who are tempted to use authority in a self-seeking manner (just like we are). Do you remember those days when your dad was changing the oil and a smile beamed from you face when he asked you to get that wrench for him? Do you remember when your mom asked you to thread a needle for her and the joy that brought you? Do you remember the first time you got to mow the lawn? Do you remember the first time you got to help your mom cook a meal? Do these memories not bring joy and delight to your soul? Do you know why that is? It is because you know of their love for you and because of that, serving them is a joyful thing. In the same way, our serving of the Lord is meant to be completely joyful.

The God we serve is the perfect Father and cares for us more than the most tender and loving of mothers. It is this God who directs us in the way of wisdom. He tells us to hold onto His instruction and not let go of it because it is our life. Did you get that? Your life depends on the instruction of the Lord. He instructs us in the way of righteousness and tells us specifically how to guard our hearts from evil. We are to not make any kind of provision for the flesh and its lusts... don't even enter the beginning of the path of the wicked. Remember how the priest approached the beaten man in the story of the Good Samaritan? That is the picture here... walking on the other side of the road... not even looking in the direction of sin. Make absolutely no provision for the flesh.

When we are walking in the ways of the Lord, we know it because we are continually more aware of the light of righteousness and the darkness of sin and our hearts are continually turned toward the Lord. It is like we are just discovering the first glimpse of light in the distance showing us a little bit about what it means to live righteously. As we walk in His light and have fellowship with Him, He graciously opens our eyes to see more of what it means to live righteously before Him and we become brighter lights for the Lord. The Holy Spirit is present within us constantly leading and guiding us in His ways... opening our eyes to understand His Word and how it applies to the situations He puts us in. Without the Lord, we are blind! In the words of Christ Himself... "For apart from Me, you can do nothing."

May we have child-like faith to see serving God with incredible joy... just like we did getting that wrench for dad while he was under the car. If we took joy in that small of a thing for our earthly father, how much more joy should we have as we have the privilege of serving the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the searcher of our hearts, the great I AM, our Wonderful Counselor, our Rock and Fortress. Would not the smallest thing done for the Lord please our Heavenly Father? O God, teach us to be content in pleasing You!