Life’s Trials: Just a Blip on the Radar Screen of Eternity #Perspective

Hebrews 12:7-10, 16-18 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; …

“16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

eternity

~A Prayer for One’s Enemies~

This is one of my all-time favorite prayers.  Unfortunately, I’ve needed to pray it all too often…but I am thankful that it is there, because this prayer puts things clearly into perspective for me.  After all,  in Matthew 5:38-48: [JESUS SAID]: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. …. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

32 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.

35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

This prayer is attributed to  Nicolai of Zica (1880-1956). Read on….

A Prayer for One’s Enemies 

“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than does an unhunted animal, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself they have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were small.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitter against me, so that my fleeing to You may have no return.

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore, bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.

But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore, he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

~Without Words~

I sit here in my office, another Monday behind me.  Kids have eaten and gone to bed; kitchen is clean and my shower has been taken. There are but a mere fifty-three minutes before a new TV show premiers,one I’ve been eager to see.  Glancing at the clock, I retreat into my office, the small desk lamp giving off a cozy glow.  All the scattered thoughts of a crazy day, the beginning of a crazy week, begin to calm.  I reach for my devotional and begin the evening prayers and readings for Monday… “Oh God, come to my assistance; Oh Lord, make haste to help me.”  The familiar phrase soothes my soul.  I quietly whisper the opening prayer and move on to reading the Psalms… “Not to us, Oh Lord, not to us, but to YOUR name be the glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and faithfulness… The Lord will bless us….He will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great…” (from Psalm 115).  The words start to sink in as I read them, slowly again and again…. “I trusted, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted!”….what shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord ; I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people…” (from Psalm 116)…..”…great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (from Psalm 117).

Steadfast love. Enduring faithfulness.  Love without end; grace, favor and blessing to both the small and the great, even in times of affliction… on and on the psalms soak into my soul, filling up cracks and crevices I didn’t know where there…smoothing out rough spots of callousness, softening the hard places…. A cool, soothing balm to parts of my heart that are wounded and bleeding, that I didn’t even realize existed….

God’s presence fills this little office, my little desk, which has somehow become an altar. Tears roll down my face, tears that have been un-cried because I didn’t even know they were lurking under the surface. They are not bad tears.  They are not angry tears.  They are not fearful tears.  They are healing tears, slipping out of my eyes as God fills my heart in their place with peace, comfort and that amazing,enduring, unending love, washing everything else away.

I sit here and soak, letting the Psalms and His presence wash over me and seep deep into every fiber of my heart.

There is much to be thankful for, even in the midst of trials.  And there it is… that “peace that is beyond understanding” (Philippians 4:7)…not something I conjure up myself; it is not something we can make… perfect peace is found in His presence…and in knowing He never, ever, ever leaves us.

In the noise and chaos of life, this is easy to forget.

So for now… I will sit here and soak, praying without words, from the depths of my heart.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

Musings of Mary and Martha in a Hectic World

Something I read today really resonated with me.

Luke 10:38-42: Martha and Mary

“38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'”

This poem I stumbled across sums it up well:

“Do not neglect Mary for Martha
nor Martha for Mary.
If you neglect Martha, who will serve Jesus?
And if you neglect Mary,
what will be the use of the visit of Jesus,
since you will not taste His sweetness?
Know, my brothers [and sisters], that in this life it is necessary
never to separate these two women!”
===============

It is all too easy to miss prayer/Scripture time each day…the “tyranny of the urgent” often overshadows the quiet things of importance. It is impossible to draw water out of a dry well; so, too, we CANNOT adequately love and serve others if we are not sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking in His Word and His presence. Balance. Life is not segregated into “spiritual” and “secular.” No. All of life, from washing dishes to meditating on the Word to praise and worship, ALL of it, is service to God. While I work, I work knowing it is for the Lord, and that He is with me. When I pray, meditate, soak in the Word, I am being refreshed, cleansed, refueled to go back out there into this rough and tumble world, and brazenly show His Love to ALL I come across. There cannot be an effective “Martha” get-er-dun!” attitude without a “Mary” heart of worship. And there cannot be “Mary” attitude of prayer and praise, if we are so focused only on ourselves that we are not serving and loving others in Martha-like fashion. May we cultivate each… in balance.

~Thoughts on Repentance~

Something I read this morning got me to thinking about the topic of repentance and how it relates to our lives here in the real world.   And thus, this blog post was born from those pre-coffee musings. I’ve only had one measly cup of coffee so far, so please forgive my half-awake ramblings. Hopefully my brain cells are awake enough to form at least half a coherent thought! 😉

Over the years in my own life, I have learned that there is a VAST difference between an “apology” and genuine repentance. (As with most things, i learned this by harsh example in my own life!) An apology is merely an “I’m sorry” – which may or may not be accompanied by true feelings of remorse and often (at least in my own life) *really* translates into, “I know this is wrong so I’m sorry about that but i’m doing it anyway because it’s what *I* want, but I’m apologizing anyway to try to assuage my conscience.” I found that doesn’t work well and creates still more distance between us and our Holy Lord.

On the flip side, genuine repentance is not just feeling sorry, but actively taking steps to turn around and walk in God’s ways, rather than our own. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” This is where “dying to self” comes in… and it’s a daily battle, one step at a time, one breath at a time…myriad situations pop up every day where we have to choose: our way, our reaction, or GOD’S way, and a God-honoring reaction?

On the other, other side… it is also easy to become trapped in hopeless despair if we do not have a proper understanding of what repentance truly is and are constantly beating ourselves up for mistakes made, never forgiving ourselves, allowing God to teach us and learning from our mistake, and then moving forward. Yet the Word says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” If God forgives us… who are we to do otherwise? Are we smarter and wiser than God? This is a tough one…we all have things in our past that we have a hard time getting through and letting go of the accompanying guilt/condemnation we heap on ourselves. And that keeps us stuck in a big way! (See also Romans 8:1)

BALANCE is the key. We must live a life with an attitude of repentance; i.e., continually and intentionally seeking to obey God’s way rather than our own, and when we fail (as we will), to acknowledge this before God, listen for His direction, and then make whatever corrections are needed in our own life…whether it’s apologizing to one we hurt, whether it’s making a life-style change, whatever… it all weaves in beautifully with the concept a continual “conversion of life” where we actively, intentionally seek not our will, but His, in all things, no matter what – whether it’s the mundane, small decisions we are faced with on a daily basis, or the humongous, potentially life-changing decisions/choices we are faced with.  It’s all about having an attitude of humility and obedience to the Will of God in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty toughness of the real world in our real lives.

I hope that my under-caffeinated ramblings made at least a little sense.  Happy Friday everyone!

~Morning Prayer, July 29

a somewhat abbreviated version of today’s morning prayer.  Take a moment to be still and soak in the presence of God, and let this devotion and prayers be a “prayer starter” for your own conversations with Him. Enjoy.


 

“Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” – Psalm 43:3

Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

“Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.”
–Psalm 100

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

From Isaiah 60 – “Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

VIOLENCE SHALL NO MORE BE HEARD IN YOUR LAND,
RUIN OR DESTRUCTION WITHIN YOUR BORDERS.
You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your gate, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.
============

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

===============

“Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.”

“Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.”

“Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one
accord to make our common supplication to you; and you
have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two
or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the
midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions
as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of
your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.”
============

“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen!” Ephesians 3:20,21

(as always, borrowed from my most favorite morning & evening devotional, The Book of Common Prayer (1979 edition).

 

whatever

 

A Much-Needed Reminder

I found this quote on Facebook somewhere, and it spoke so deeply to my heart, rang so true to my soul, that I at once printed it out and saved it.  It is a bookmark in my Bible.  It is hanging on the wall in my cubicle at work.  When it seems that the rage and harshness of this world are bringing me to the point of despair of all hope…I read this quote and remind myself to pray.  I hope it gives you the same moment of pause and comfort it gives me.  If not…well, on the bright side, i now have this quote saved on my blog where i can’t possibly lose it (a talent of mine). 🙂 

I have noticed that we spend so much time criticizing others for what we *perceive* to be wrongs that they are doing, that we seldom stop to pray for these people. Perhaps, as we are commanded, we should PRAY for such as these. For if we are TOO BUSY PRAYING for these people, then we should be TOO BUSY TO JUDGE THEM. A person is not the sum of their acts, but their acts are an OUTWARD SIGN of the state of their HEART [See also, Luke 6:43-45]. So, then, let our prayer be for the healing of the hearts of those who do evil.” 


– Quote scavenged from somewhere on the internet, *not* my words

Monday Mini-Blurb!

Going to a strong, Biblically~faithful church is important. What is equally, if not even more important, is how we live behind closed doors in between services.  If we don’t live what we are learning, then what’s the point?

Lord, help me be a faithful steward of what I learned this week and help me LIVE it out in the nitty~gritty daily life of kids and traffic and work and Walmartians!

 LOYALTY

http://www.nhbaptist.org/media/sermons/

The test of sanctification is not our talk about holiness and singing pious hymns; but, what are we like where no one sees us? with those who know us best?

^^^^Oswald Chambers, in Disciples Indeed from The Quotable Oswald Chambers.^^^^

Loving God, Loving Others

John 13:34-35 [Jesus said] “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Matthew 25:31-40 [Jesus said] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ****‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me****”.

1 John 4:7-8, 19-21 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love….We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

——————————————-

Over and over again in Scripture we are admonished to love God, and love people.  And not just the ones we like, either… ALL people… even strangers. Even people who don’t look like us, live like us, think like us, act like us….. Even…dare I say it?…. Even our enemies. (See Matthew 5:44; I didn’t come up with that one, Jesus did… plenty of times I’d like to erase that verse lol… but nope, God knows best, even when I, in my flesh, don’t like it one bit!)

Loving God and loving people go hand in hand.  The more we know God, the more we fall in love with Him…and the closer we get to Him, the more our hearts and minds are transformed and renewed by the word of God (see Romans 12:2) and the more our hearts change to be more like His… which causes us to…you guessed it… love people.   I don’t mean the shallow (sometimes fake) societal politeness and courtesies… courtesies and general niceness is good…but ultimately worthless if it does not stem from a heart that is being daily transformed by and daily surrendered to the love of Christ.  (Check out 1 Corinthians 13…all the good deeds in the universe are utterly worthless if done without love!)  As our hearts and minds are transformed, we will begin go see people through the eyes of CHRIST… not our own eyes, with vision blurred by selfish interests, hurts (past or present), bias or prejudices…. We will ultimately begin to see others the way God does… made in His image…deeply loved by Him… each person dear enough to God’s heart that He sent Jesus to die on that cross for us…and them.

I know…that all sounds real nice, doesn’t it? Awww, how sweet.  Great lesson for the Sunday school class, eh?

But.

How does this “loving God, loving people” thing work out here in the real world?  You know…where it’s pretty darn hard to do?  How does the call to love God, and love others show up in our daily lives?

Well…first, we must choose to walk in obedience in this area (ooh, that sounded all spiritual-like, didn’t it??? Don’t let that fool you, I’m talkin’ the real world here).   It does go against our selfish natures to want to surrender our whole lives, hearts, and wills to God. It goes against our natural selfish inclinations to love people outside of our own immediate circle…or sometimes even within our own immediate circle!  That’s where the choice comes in.  “Lord, they aren’t very lovable. In fact, that whole crowd there, they are just a whole bunch of creeps!  But… I know YOU love them.  Jesus died for them.  Their salvation matters to You every bit as much as mine does…Help me to see them through Your eyes.  Help me to pray for them and treat them as you would have me to…with kindness, respect, and dignity – whether or not I think they “deserve” it or not!”  ….and that’s when the Holy Spirit jumps in and gets to working on our hearts and enable us to do just that.  It’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit, through God’s love filling and overflowing our hearts, that we can do this.

Next… OK, God… I am willing to show my love for you by loving others…how does that work?  How do we do it?

Simple… who is around us?  Who do we encounter each day? Our immediate families, certainly.  Co-workers.  Store clerks.  Fellow shoppers in the wonderful world of Walmart, etc.  In Matthew 25, quoted above, Jesus says that as we have done to others, so we have done to HIM.  When Saul encountered the risen Savior on the road to Damascus, Jesus said to Him, “Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” – not, “why are you seeking to imprison and kill my people, Christians, my followers…etc…..” – nope…Jesus said, “Why are you persecuting ME?” (See Acts 9:4).  In other words…if Jesus was standing here in front of me…how would I act, how would I welcome Him, how would I treat Him?

All these people we come across in our everyday life…each one is an opportunity to show God’s love…not falsely from some hidden agenda, but simply because of the fact that God loves them. Period. They matter to Him…they should matter to me. Showing the love of Christ out here in the real world may be as simple as a smile, or a word of thanks. An uplifting letter or a card in the snail mail, an encouraging email, a quick phone call.  Or.,,it may be NOT saying something unkind or harsh (I fail at this one a lot; so thankful God doesn’t give up on us; otherwise I’d have given up on me a long time ago!).  It may be offering a helping hand, a listening ear, a praying heart.  It may be patience in the midst of traffic (big “needs improvement” area here) or dealing kindly with a harsh person (Proverbs 15:1) (and yes, it is possible to be kind and not be a doormat…but that’s a whole ‘nuther post for a whole ‘nuther day!)

A million times a day, we have opportunity after opportunity to see Christ in others, to welcome them as we would welcome Him, and to love them as He loves us.  We fail… well, I know I do, at least… but the most important thing is repenting and forging ahead anyway.

Love and kindness are not weaknesses.  They are the strongest forces on earth…because nothing is more powerful than the love of God.  Lord help us to love You…change our hearts, help us to see through your eyes, give us wisdom, discernment, and most of all, genuine love and compassion so that all may see YOU and come to KNOW You for themselves.  Lord, help my life to reflect Your love, and forgive me for the times I’ve failed.

Yesterday is over and done.  Tomorrow…or right now, as you read this… is a new beginning! His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22, 23).  Let’s unleash God’s love, let it out of the Sunday-only church box and turn it loose in our everyday grind…and see what cool stuff God does next!

Love thy neighbor