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God: The Great Reverser

3 Apr

God created light and lit the darkness. God reverses.
Jesus gives us life instead of death. God reverses.
The Spirit guides us when we would wander aimlessly. God reverses.

What do you need reversed today? You’re probably chuckling, if you’re anything like me, and saying, “Where should I start?”  Here’s where I started:

  • Today I prayed that God would reverse the negativity that I’ve been experiencing at work and it’s already lifting and turning to a new excitement in my teaching.
  • I also prayed that God would reverse my tendency to internalize  my emotions when life hurts.  I need to cry and not bottle things up!  I’m going to continue to pray the same.  I feel no results, but know that God is working.
  • I prayed that God would reverse a terrible situation in the life of a loved one.  I see no results.  But faith is not based on what I can see.  I will just keep praying.

I’ve been teaching Beth Moore’s series on Esther in our church here in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and it’s been such an encouragement to me in so many ways.  Today, I studied the reversal that happened when the King granted Esther her petition and she and Mordecai drafted a new proclamation and sent it out all over the Kingdom.

First, Haman–using the King’s authority sent out an “order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” Esther 3:13  The Jews reaction was four-fold:  In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.  Esther 4:3

We are under the same type of order:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (John 10:10a)  The thief can be thought of as Satan or false teachers.  Satan often whispers lies in our ears to steal from us.  The world often whispers lies to us.  False teachers on television can whisper lies to us.

The new edict gave the Jews the right to ” assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.” Esther 8:11

The situation was totally reversed.  For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.  Esther 8:16  (The word “honor” means that they realized how precious this gift was.)  Jesus is the Great Reverser.  He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10b

Ask for reversals in your life.  Find scriptures that apply to those reversals and memorize them.  God CAN REVERSE!

What Anxiety Does

14 Jan

Here’s a few highlights from Chuck Swindoll’s book, Getting Through the Tough Stuff, which I found interesting.

  1. Anxiety highlights the human viewpoint and strangles the divine, so we become fearful.
  2. Anxiety chokes our ability to distinguish the incidental from the essential and get distracted.
  3. Anxiety siphons our joy and makes us judgmental rather than accepting of others, so we become negative.

What I found particularly interesting about this is how quickly we can move from one state to the other.  Thinking about point #2, I reflected upon an incident that happened last month.  I’d had this wonderful day studying and preparing for the Ladies’ Bible study that night.  I’d reviewed and strengthened my notes, baked peanut butter cookies, and printed out a fill-in the blank outline of my notes for the women in the study.  I felt gooooooood!

As I gathered up my things I realized I’d misplaced my notes and the outlines.  In a flicker of an eyelash I rocketed from peace-filled to crazy-tense and anxiety-filled.  I yelled at Mike to help me find them.  Stormed around.  Hollered when the printer jammed when I decided to just print new copies.  And finally thought to pray.  (Oh mighty woman of God…not.)  Then I walked downstairs and found where I had closed them in the cookbook.  Sheepishly, I joined Mike in the taxi.  When will I learn to pray first (Remember the other day?  Worry not; pray instead) instead of react first and pray later??

Waiting in the Lord

5 Jan

When I hope in the event, I feel like these flowers which always look semi-collapsed!

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Is. 40:31

To hope in the Lord is to wait for Him and expect Him.  The tense could be written more like this:  but those who are waiting in the Lord.  The promise given to people who are waiting is that they will renew their strength. I always thought about “will renew” as being in the future because waiting on the Lord can be so exhausting.

The tense renew is written in is used many ways, but as I reread it and think about it the following usage seems to be the best:  “The kind of progression or imperfection and unfinished condition  of the action may consist in its frequent repetition”.  (Online Hebrew Lexicon)  In other words waiting on the Lord results in renewed strength now and in the future.

One of the meanings for strength is wealth of soil.  This makes me think of Matthew 13:23:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I want to be fruitful and have a wealth of soil!  Iwas listening to Beth Moore the other day and she said that she realized that waiting is so exhausting because she was waiting on the event and not in the Lord.  Oh, did that ever clobber me upside the head.  That’s exactly it.  I’ve been waiting for my loved one to change/to live close to my grandchildren/my vertigo to stop instead of simply waiting on the Lord.  My focus has been on the event and not on Christ.  Help me refocus, Father, please.

Listen for the Music!

31 Dec

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.  Psalm 45:7-9

I was at my grandparent’s house one day long ago when a terrible thunderstorm passed through.  My grandma was cooking in the kitchen and my grandpa was smoking his pipe and working on a crossword puzzle in the living room.  I climbed in his lap with my book even though I was a pretty leggy 10-year-old at the time.

He sensed my fear and said, “Susie, just listen to the music in the storm.”  I didn’t get it and so he took out his record of Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite. First he had me listen to the movement called On the Trail until I could hear the mules going down the trail.  Then he put on Sunrise and had me listen to the sun quietly peek up over the horizon and blast into its full glory.  Finally, he put on Cloudburst and had me listen to the wonder of the instruments recreating pouring rain and the drama of thunder and lightning.  I loved the part when the storm rumbled off into the distance.

From that moment on I loved the drama of storms because I listened for the music.

Is it possible to hear the music in other areas of life?  Do we need the contrast of minor keys and silent beats to feel the joy of the music at other times?  My mom was a music teacher and she always had a soundtrack going in her mind for her life.  Try thinking of your life as a symphony today.  What music would be playing right now?

Lessons in Prayer

27 Dec

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

We spent last week at the beach.  Yes, the week before Christmas.  Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, our church related duties (for lack of a better word) were completed early and so five days at the beach was our Christmas present to each other.

It was the best pre-Christmas week ever.  I spent most of my time reading in the hammock under the gazebo.  We walked the beach, prayed, listened to messages, and watched some movies.

The most important lesson that I got was a lesson in prayer.  From a bird.  A flock of green parakeets of some sort came often to the clumps of beach roses surrounding our cottage.  I watched them while relaxing in the hammock, alternating between prayer and frustration due to how easily distracted I am when I pray when one of the parakeets left the group to perch near me and sang and sang and sang.  Her song wasn’t beautiful, and although distracted occasionally by the appearance of a hawk or a friend, she returned to her perch at various times throughout the day and sang some more.  I love object lessons and that’s what this was for me.  An object lesson in prayer and praise.  Prayer is a choice that we make as we go through our days.  It does not have to be perfect to “count”.  On the way home from the beach on Christmas Eve, I read this quote which is the grace message on prayer in a nutshell:

A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms.  As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep.  Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms.  Our prayer is much like that.  We settle down in our Father’s arms, in his loving hands.  Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will.  It is very simple prayer.  It is very childlike prayer.  It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom. — M. Basil Pennington

The Anxiety-Producing List

5 Dec

I was reading a book for upper elementary students last night called Becoming Naomi León by one of my favorite authors, Pam Muños Ryan, when I came across this quote which made me laugh out loud because it sounds so much like me:

Chewing on the end of my pencil, I got back to my list, which Gram said was one of the things I did best.  I had all kinds of lists in my notebook, the shortest being “Things I Am Good At” which consisted of 1) Soap carving, 2) Worrying, and 3) Making lists.

There was my “Regular and Everyday Worries” list, which included 1) Gram was going to die because she was old, 2) Owen would never be right, 3) I will forget something if I don’t make a list, 4) I will lose my lists, and 5) Abominations.

I am the kind of person who takes the Scripture about redeeming the time so seriously that my to-do lists tend to have tyrannical rule over my life.  I have always taken the Scripture to mean that I should use each minute well.  I haven’t been so careful to distinguish what “using well” actually means.  I make my lists and categorize them, either under area (church, school, family, personal) or importance (imperative & important; not imperative, but important; imperative & not important; or not imperative & not important). 

I tend to put everything I can think of on lists and so I am overburdened before I even begin.  My lists can not be completed in any reasonable amount of time.  I’ve done two things to ease the pressure.  1) I started using to keep my lists.  Not only can I access it at any computer (which, of course, makes me want a Smartphone) but when I don’t complete a task the computer automatically rolls it over to the next day.  Thus, I no longer look at my list through the eyes of failing, but with a brand new start each day.  2) I pray each day for God to set my priorities within me.  Thus when I finish the day, I figure I’ve done just what God wants me to.  I HAVE redeemed the time. 

To redeem the time is to to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own. –Online Bible Greek Lexicon 

Wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good means that I’m going downstairs to watch football with Mike rather than cross more items off my list.  What does redeeming the time mean to you today?

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 1 — Faith in Faith

27 Nov

A while back I mentioned that I was reading the book, The Jesus of Suburbia by Mike Erre.  I set it down for awhile and picked it back up yesterday.  I love the premise of this book:  that God is HUGE, mysterious, and paradoxically knowable–although far from predictable.

As I’ve studied the subject of fear, I’ve come to believe that the antidote for fear is faith.  Mr. Erre proposes three stages of faith as illustrated in the book of Job.  The first stage is demonstrated in Job 1:1-5:

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

We see several important points in these verses:

1.  Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil,

2.  Job was rich,

3.  Job offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had sinned.

“We see throughout the book that the predominant paradign for understanding God was this:  If you do good things, God will reward and protect you.  If you do bad things, you will suffer and be punished. . . . [Job’s] faith wasn’t in God yet; it was in his own ability to please God through his religious activity.  His faith rested in his religious his religious performance.  That was why he sacrificed to God on behalf of his children. . . .There is no joy or peace in this kind of faith because whether or not we receive God’s blessing ultimately rests on us.  We have to get everything just right.” — The God of Suburbia p. 125, 126

Bartering faith.  Erre calls it having faith in faith.  If I do this, God will do that. For this to function, we have to be always scanning our behavior.  Am I praying enough?  Reading my Bible enough?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  The whole thing comes down to a question of motive:  Am I praying because I want to communicate with my Lord or because I want blessings?  Am I reading my Bible because I have a vital need to hear from Jesus or because I want to be rewarded for my faithfulness?  Am I bringing my neighbor cookies because I want to be seen as loving or because the love of God is flowing through me?  Sometimes we don’t even know our own motives.  Faith in faith will not deliver us from fear, worry, or anxiety.  In the end it makes us more anxious because it’s all about us!