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Friday

As I write this, the time is 2:45 in the afternoon on Good Friday.

Jesus was on the cross from approximately the 3rd hour (9 am) to the 9th hour (3pm).  The pain He would have felt physically was excruciating. However, that wasn’t the worst part of the cross.

The message my pastor brought this past Sunday, “What Really Happened at the Cross” went much deeper, allowing me to experience today in a whole new way.

At a stop light today, I looked at the clock it was, 11:50 am, ten minutes before the 6th hour.  The book of Matthew says this,

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,”Eloi, Eloi lama sabachtham? – Which means, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  

Matt 27:45,46 Psalm 22:1 (NIV 1984)

He went on to say the description of Hell is darkness and separation from God.  Jesus experienced this to the nth degree.  The punishment for sin is death, a separation from God.

As Christ hung between heaven and earth He felt that separation not only for me but for all who came before me, who live in the world with me and those who have yet to live. He felt what it would be like for the whole would to be separated from His Father.  How is it that He could possibly feel billions upon billions of people’s punishment all at once?  The pastor said, being who He was (God in the flesh) He could.  We can have no comprehension of how this is possible.

1 John says,

“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”  (2:2 NASB)

I looked up the definition of that big word “propitiation” in the Greek. The definition stunned me.  It says, “that which appeases anger and brings reconciliation with someone who has reason to be angry with one” (NASB Key word study Bible)*.  He not only felt the separation but also satisfied God’s wrath for sin.

I see the clock, it is now 3 pm.   Shortly after this Jesus said,

“…He said, ‘It is finished.’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.”  John 19:30 (NASB)

The better translation of “it is finished”, is “Paid in full”.  There was nothing more to be done.  The punishment was completely paid for. Nothing else was needed.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only too take it up again.

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to

lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.”

John 10:17,18  (NIV 1984)

*  NASB Hebrew-Greek Key word study Bible  AMG International Inc. 2008, pg 2190

Silence is Golden

I’m not a people person.  That is to say, I don’t have to have people around me twenty-four seven.  However, silence is some thing I can’t handle either.  Usually I have to have the TV on just for noise, which in turn becomes a big distraction.  Lately, it’s been Christian radio which in reality, is a better choice in breaking the silence.

Another issue I see is the busyness of life.  Now I don’t cram my days with activity after activity, but with three girls I feel like I’m running all the time.

Our culture says the busier you are the better.  The danger in this is an overwhelmed schedule that makes it harder to hear from God.  This has been true about me over the past several months.

Through circumstances of life I realized that I have been neglecting my soul.  Sure I have been in the Word and praying but there is a discipline I have been ignoring.  Silence.

Silence means listening and that can’t be accomplished unless I’m intentional about doing it.  I can rush to get my time with God done and move on with my day, but what is the point in that?  That is not how a relationship works.

The first time I sat and was still, I stared at the wall waiting, nothing happened.  Frustrated, I started my day.  Needless to say I felt guilty. I determined to start over the next morning.

I sat down and said, “Okay, I’m here God. Show up.”  I don’t recommend saying that, my attitude wasn’t the greatest but He did.

I read the portion of scripture and waited. He showed me things I had never seen or realized before.

Two months later, the women’s director of my church recommended a book to me.  Embracing Soul Care – Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith.  It talks about how our lives get so bogged down with schedules that we start doing things in our strength and then neglect our spiritual lives.

This book has forced me to slow down, and be still before the Lord so He can refresh, and nourish my soul.  I have learned quite a bit about myself and the Lord.  As I have paused after my reading both this book and Scripture I take time to reflect on the questions and what the Lord has for me.

*These are just some of the things God has placed on my heart through sitting still and listening.

  1. Take the clock out of the office: I had become so task oriented that I was constantly checking the clock so I could end my time with Him before my girls got up for school.
  2. Praying before I start reading. Before, I always prayed after reading scripture 1. it took longer so if I had to cut something short it would be prayer  to apply what I read.
  3. Stop recording some of my favorite TV shows. TV became a distraction and took time away from more important things.
  4. Pray more for my children (pinpoint praying not vague prayers)

Even after a month, it’s still so hard not to do anything for a few minutes.  Sometimes I learn something new, other times God brings things to mind I need to confess, and yet other times it’s just to be silent and soak up the fact I am in the presence of the God of the universe, my Father.

How about you?  Do you look in the mirror and see a person you don’t know anymore.   Are you feeling overwhelmed, struggling with your quiet times.  Maybe you feel stretched thin, tired, both spiritually and in your everyday life.  Maybe it’s time to slow down, breath in God through reading, prayer and listening.  You won’t regret it.

Silence is golden.

*Please note – God works with each person differently. What He impress on my heart may not be what He wants for you.

“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In

Repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’”

Isaiah 30:15 (NASB)

The Perfect Gift

I’ve always been overwhelmed by the fact that God chose to be one of us, and to give up everything to become a helpless baby, to be laid in an animal feeding trough.

 

As I write this I’m preparing to go shopping for the perfect gifts for family and friends.  Sometimes those gifts are things the individual needs, more times then not they are things the individual wants.  As I get older, the less I want and the more I desire to give.  But it can be stressful, trying to find the “perfect” gift.

 

Christmas, though, is the day we celebrate the fact that God gave the perfect gift to the world.  The baby born so long ago filled both the world’s needs and wants (whether it realizes it or not).

 

We are all sinners.  Of course not all of us have killed, but who reading this has never lied, said a cross word, worried, or stole a cookie?  It’s all sin.  Like Paul, there are I times that I can say “I’m the chief of sinners.”

 

The worst part of sin is not that it hurts others – which it does – but that it separates us from the One who created us and wants a relationship with us.  The consequence for sin is death not only physically, but spiritually.  It’s why the sacrificial system was put in place.  A lamb without any defect, including spots, was sacrificed to pay for all the wrong doing.

 

I’m no more perfect than you.  I need, you need and the world needs a Savior.  That little baby more than two thousand years ago was that Savior.  He came, lived, and taught others how to live, but that wasn’t His purpose.

 

His purpose was to be that perfect sacrifice, without sin or defect.  He left the riches of heaven to die a cruel death to satisfy the requirement of His Father.  The good news is He didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave three days later.  If He hadn’t all that He accomplished on the cross was for nothing.  If there could be any other way, His death would mean absolutely nothing.

 

His coming that Christmas morning also provided for our wants.  Many times we think if I could just have more money, a nicer house, perfect children, perfect spouse or perfect job, life would be satisfying.  However, when we get more or have the perfect family or job, we find it’s not enough.  Why?  Because when we were created there was this void built in us that can never be satisfied unless it’s filled with Him.

 

He created us for a relationship with Himself.  Too simple?  Yes, but also the hardest concept to accept especially in a culture that thrives on the mentallity of “dependence on self.”

 

As the story reveals the wise men sought God out, found Him and presented Him with the best they had.  Unfortunately, our best isn’t good enough.  It never will be, but Christ gave His best and that is enough.

 

How about you?  Have you ever genuinely chosen to seek Him?  Are you a skeptic and have you snubbed the whole idea of this whole Savior thing?  I challenge you, seek Him and the truth with an open heart and mind.  Ask Him to show you the truth.

 

If you are willing, open the Invitation Tab above.  It may be the answer you’re looking for or it could be your starting place.  There is the perfect gift waiting for you, but you have to accept it.  It won’t be yours any other way.

 

 

 

Humility

Being humble doesn’t mean weak, but strong
It means not taking advantage of one position
God has given.

Humility doesn’t mean being a doormat,
It means taking a stand with grace, love
And tact.

Being humble doesn’t mean I give up who I am,
It means being the best you can be
Without saying “Look at me”.

Humility isn’t being weak and timid
It means having strength and confidence
Through the Holy Spirit.

Being humble isn’t putting aside your intelligence
It means using it with wisdom, even
When the decision is against “What I think is rational.”

Humility isn’t going down the easy path,
It means sometimes taking the difficult one and
Depending on God and doing it for Him.

Being humble isn’t seeking the numbers.
It means doing what we are called to do,
Even if it’s just for God.

Humility isn’t hiding the God given gifts,
Talents and passions out of fear
It means using them to benefit others, and glorify God.

Being humble means being obedient even when
Things don’t make sense, It’s putting aside my
Desires for God’s and putting others first.

Trials Equals Growth

As much as I wish it wasn’t true, God never promised us a trouble free life. Due to the sin in the world, life can get messy.

So what do we do when life throws us challenges? James the half- brother of Jesus gives us an answer.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NTL)

OR

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” (MSG)

I have never thought of trials as gifts never mind joyful, until recently.

One day, in exasperation, I told my husband I can not continue to fight “fear”.

His response, “That’s why you need to memorize scripture.”

“I do. When I start feeling afraid I recite the verse sometimes two or three times and nothing happens.”

“You need to meditate on it.”

“That’s my issue. I’m not meditating on the Word.”

Little did I know the opportunity to learn about meditating was coming sooner than I thought.

Two weeks later I found myself in the ER with a wild heart rate. Scratching their heads, the nurses looked at my heart rate then the test results, “You’re staying over night.”

I felt fear creep in. Immediately a verse entered my mind and I prayed:

“Father You said in Your word do not be anxious for anything, well right now, I am anxious. You also said to bring prayers and petitions to You. Well I am. You know the answers. I need Your peace.” (Philippians 4:8)

The peace that came over me surprised me, it shouldn’t have but it did.

With several tests scheduled over the following weeks, the doctors released me the next day. During one of those tests, I panicked, on what I thought was a problem.

Once more, I turned to praying scripture.

Again peace came over me so much so, I could have fallen asleep on the examination bed.

How can we find in joy in trials? James puts it this way:

“For you know that when your faith is tested, you endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” vs 1:3-4 (NLT)

When, my faith is tested, I have the opportunity to grow.

How did I grow?

1. I learned what meditating on the Word meant, and how it worked in my life.
2. I also exercised more dependence on God.

Was it worth it? Yes. Would I go through it again? Yes, because I grew more mature. Will I fail again, of course, I’m human.

How about you? Are you going through a trial right now and wondering where the peace is? Ask God for scripture to meditate on, and what lessons He wants you learn.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. do not waiver…” James 1:5-6a (NLT)

Choose This Day

If we were sitting face to face and I asked, “What do you think God considers idols?” My guess is that you would say things like cars, money, work, and hobbies.

You would be correct, what about affirmation, worry, significance, perfection, or children? Each one of these can take their place above God.

When I become anxious, I am putting the situation above God. In a sense, I’m telling Him “You can’t deal with this situation; if I worry enough the result will turn out better”.

I believe that many people have facebook accounts to gain as many friends as possible in order to feel popular. They check hundreds of times a day to see how many “likes” they get on a picture or comment.

How do I know? I am one, and it’s not just facebook.
Two years ago, God impressed on my heart to write a blog. Without my knowing, it too, turned into an idol

One day I checked the stats of my blog and saw there were only 1,034 hits in two years.

Depressed I called a friend.

“I guess I need to chuck it all in. Good bloggers and writers have thousands of hits monthly, not a thousand in two years.” I stated, “I know the numbers shouldn’t matter, but I guess people don’t like it, and I’m not being an encouragement to anyone except the same people over and over again.”

She responded, “Why does it matter so much to you that people like it or not?”

“Because, it’s the a way I know I’m doing what God wants of me.”

“Why?”

“Because when people like it, I know I’m loved by God.”

“Christine,” she paused, “Go deeper. Why do you have to have people’s approval more than God’s approval?”

I couldn’t answer right away. “Well, because when people affirm, to me it’s God’s way of affirming me.”

“Why?”

“I’ll have to think and pray about it.”

I pictured her grinning on the other end of phone line.

That Sunday we started a new series in our Sunday school god’s at War by Kyle Idleman. Coincidence?

Kyle’s definition of an idol:

“Anything or anyone I live for other than God is an idol.”*

So the deeper was revealed.  Subconsciously, I was saying, “God you aren’t good enough or big enough to meet these desires or needs.”

These aren’t the only things in my life that I was placing above God. My middle daughter, anxiety, and worry were all placed ahead of God. These are about situations out of my control and were taking the place of God. I trusted myself to control situations, when trust needed to be placed in the more capable hands of God.

The next morning during my devotional time, the realization of the idols in my life overwhelmed like a tidal wave crashing on shore and the tears flowed. Now that I knew the deeper issue, I desired change. I had to:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served…” Joshua 24:15 (NIV1984)

It’s a moment by moment, situation by situation choice. I’m not going to be perfect; eventually, I will worry again. The journey to change will be long and hard.

What about you? Here are seven questions Kyle asked in his video:

1. What disappoints you? Ex: not having spouses/bosses respect.
2. What do you sacrifice money and time to?
3. What worries you? Ex: children, finances.
4. Where do you go when you need comfort? God or man?
5. What makes you angry? Ex: when someone embarrasses you.
6. What are your dreams?*

The final question he presented this way:

“God is a jealous God and will put Himself in direct competition with that idol and say to you ’_______ (insert your name) you have a choice between me or _______ (insert your idol), who do you choose?’”*

I can’t tell you how many times the last question has popped into my head during a day. I never realized how automatic it has been to go straight to the idols of affirmation or worry.

What is getting in the way of your relationship with God? Like a husband who loves his wife so much he doesn’t want another man to come between them, so God loves us so much and wants to be our one and only.

Who do you choose?

Two years ago, the day after Thanksgiving, I lay in hospital fearing I may have had a heart attack. Laying there that night, I realized that I needed to be more diligent in caring for the “temple” God has given me. In the Old Testament the priests were not only assigned to perform the sacrifices, and incense offerings but their duties included caring for the temple.    Read more

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