Wednesday, February 22, 2012

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

Forty-one is far too young. Too young to die. At least to those of us left on earth, it is. Today we learned of the death of a friend. A friend who shared some of the most special years of our lives with us. A friend who touched everyone he met with a zeal for life and an appreciation of his blessings. A friend with a wife, children who are now left to pick up pieces and somehow find a way to move forward.

For those without hope, I just don’t see how that is possible. Times like these polarize my thoughts. Mentally, I travel down two roads. The road of salvation and the road of sadness.

Salvation is found for those who recognize their own brokenness and realize that there is no way they will ever find peace through their own doing. It takes recognition. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Simply put, we’re a mess and without God, we’re a mess and in trouble eternally.

Those who recognize this truth have a way out of the mess, however. On my own, I fail. But, through acceptance of the promise of the gift of salvation, I am saved. The Bible goes on to say in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Chris Jesus our Lord.”

Eternal life. We are all going to have it. The question is where we will spend it. With God or apart from Him. I have complete clarity about where I will spend it. Through the simple act of faith and through asking Christ to live in my heart, I know that I will spend eternity with Him.

If you haven’t done this, I beg you to strongly consider it. Pray. Ask God to show you the next step you need to take, now. You just don’t know that you will have a tomorrow to deal with it.

Which leads me to the other road. Sadness. Sadness for those who don’t think they need to “worry about this stuff.” Sadness for those who believe they will be fine because they are “good people, do good things and go to church.” These are statements that are just not enough. You DO need to think about this. You CANNOT do it by your own merits. Salvation is a GIFT. An unearned, undeserved gift from the God who created you and loves you. Yet, as much as He loves us, He leaves the decision to us.  Up to each sinful, messed up heart. When you reach the place where you understand how lost you are without Him, you realize you never want to feel that way again – at least I pray you do.

As for my friend, he is home. As stunned and sad as we who are left behind are at this point, he is rejoicing with Jesus. As believers, we are assured, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life,” 1 John 5:13. This is how we will go on, pick up the pieces and live.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

Scripture memorization.

I don’t know what it is about my aging brain. When I was in school, especially in college, I could memorize like nobody’s business – internalizing information relevant to my major. In my Master’s program, I was able to memorize verbatim things like law, negotiation and management.

So why is it, that now when I earnestly want to memorize Scripture, I struggle?

In the nine years since I was saved, I cannot seem to diligently memorize the very word that is transforming me. I can grasp concepts and can speak generally about the Scripture I read, but word-for-word and knowing exactly the book, chapter and verse, not quite.

It is a struggle I share because I wonder if this is something that other Christians experience and if there are things I can do to improve in this area?

I’m hopeful. I’m praying about it. I’m working harder at it.

In Bible study, our group is urged to take this particular session to a deeper level. We are encouraged to write out the entire book of James AND memorize it. I tell you, writing out the words of our God in my own handwriting is having a profound impact in my heart.

The words on the page in writing that is of my own hand is somehow making it seem more alive, more equipping, even more real. My prayer is that through writing out the book, and studying it deeper through this study, it will begin to settle into those places in my heart where I need it to rest, to live and to stay. I pray that I begin to learn those Scriptures so they can truly transform my heart.

This is something I sense God is urging me to do at this point in my life. I’m hearing it also from several other believers lately as well. It’s like God is aligning us for what is bound to be coming at us in the future. I believe the only way to truly equip ourselves for the ongoing battles we face is to know the truth in our hearts so we can use that truth as ammunition.

Do you have memorization techniques or tips? I’d love for you to share them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always.” Psalm 105:4


There is so much power in that little word. 

If you’re like me, you probably don’t pray as often as you’d like, as you should or in the way you’d prefer. By that, I mean:
  • I pray when I’m scared, asking God to intervene
  • I pray when someone I love is sick or facing uncertainty
  • I pray for blessing when there is financial crisis
  • I pray when I hear about a disaster
But true prayer, the kind that can deepen my relationship with Christ, is rooted in thanksgiving and awe. It’s a dialogue in which I express my thanks, acknowledge His unmatched power, lay out my concerns or questions and then I WAIT. Wait for Him to respond or reveal. It’s where I submit my will to His, knowing His ways are better than mine, higher than mine and He knows the entire story, when I only know a small portion.

Recently, my mom faced a potentially life-threatening diagnosis. All indications were that another form of cancer had developed less than a year after she beat breast cancer. Honestly, we were devastated by the possibility. But, that’s all it was, a possibility.

So, instead of panicking and thinking the worst, I took a different approach. Reaching out to every praying friend I know, we all began to speak words of truth instead of words of doubt. Rather than focus on the “what if’s” of the situation, we prayed prayers first of thanksgiving, then laid out our concerns and then waited. 

God answered!

His answer in this case was in line with our petition. Mom’s diagnosis was completely treatable and non-life threatening. Praise God!!

But the most amazing part of it all was the peace I felt the day she was getting her results. Before her appointment, I was praying and speaking Scripture over the situation. I felt His presence with me. I knew He was there, holding me up and breathing peace into my heart. THAT was a breakthrough in my prayer life!

I don’t know why God answered our prayers the way He did – sparing my mom this diagnosis. I know that many other times, the response is not what we hope and pray for and we lose loved ones. I can only humbly thank Him for this gift and trust in His sovereign plan. Because even if the news here on Earth is bad, the news in Heaven will always be good.

Friday, February 10, 2012

“…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

If a year ago you had told me I’d be sitting where I am today, I might have laughed. I would probably have sneered a little. I would absolutely have thought you were crazy. 

But a year ago, I was raw, hurt, confused and somewhat angry. For reasons I still don’t know or understand, my livelihood was stripped in a chaotic, unceremonious manner. The sheer jolt of rejection ripped open wounds I didn’t even realize I had.

I tried to put on my best “faith face,” but the reality of it was that I couldn’t understand why God allowed this in my life, not when He had been so good with it for so many years.

After spinning and stewing and processing for quite a while, He began to work on me. I began to soften and even let Him into my pain a little more.

What I began to realize was that my neat and tidy answer at the beginning of it all were really just a 
defense mechanism that I had perfected over the years every time I faced rejection. The only difference this time was that I was saying different words than what used to fill my vocabulary. My faith, at least in this particular area, wasn’t real. Ouch.

What He was showing me was that I need to learn to LIVE OUT the faith I profess. In ALL areas of my life. And that wasn’t happening. I needed to learn what total trusting faith really was.

I needed to stop pressing on. To just pause long enough to let Him step in front of me so that He could begin to teach, guide and lead me through this twist in the road. A twist that while I didn’t know about or expect it, He did and He meant it for good.

I can look back on those days with more understanding. My life was on cruise control and while there were many good things where I was, there were also many distractions that were keeping my eyes elsewhere, allowing me to trust in things other than Him. Today, I don’t have that. I NEED him for everything. I don’t know where the money for next month’s bills is coming from, or what will happen if someone gets sick and needs a doctor, but He does. He has been faithful and I trust. That I can say without a doubt.

Recently, my Bible study group began a session in the book of James. The teaching is speaking loudly and powerfully to me. I never really knew what perseverance meant. Now, I’m starting to see it in full force in my own life.

Yes, a year ago, things were different. So was I. Today, I can honestly say that I like who I am more than I did back then. I can say without a doubt that my faith is stronger because of the trials of the past year. I can say that while the trials may not be over, I view them differently. I see them for what they are. The means to an end – to render me mature and complete, lacking in nothing. That probably won’t happen this side of Heaven, but now that I have a better understanding of the process, I trust that it will be okay.