...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Going on Vacation!

I get to go on an amazing vacation.

Here is the deal- I never could have gone on my own budget; I never would have dreamed of the opportunity; I thought this was the sort of thing "other people" got to do.

But I get to. Because I serve an amazing God. And He does amazing things in other people's hearts. And He showers His blessings on His children.

  • sometimes directly
  • sometimes through the hearts of His people. 
So I will be gone for a little over three weeks.


I will be back with lessons learned lots to share!

See you in three weeks.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.                             Ephesians 3:20,21

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Sacrifice of Praise?

On the way to church, my head hurting, my mind reeling, my heart dragging......

Hmmmmm......, I don't think that is what I am supposed to be doing or feeling. I mean, I am going to the House of my Lord and am going to hear His word preached and praise His name in study and in song and be blessed by being with other believers.

What is wrong with me?

As I drive along, condemning myself and feeling badly about feeling so badly, a verse came into my mind:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."                              -Hebrews 13:15

 A sacrifice of praise?

What does that even mean?

I will tell you what it meant to me this past Sunday morning on the way to church:

  • I had to slay and then lay on the altar the things that were huge impediments to my praise. They had to be sacrificed because I had to PRAISE.
  • My mind, my body, and my feelings had to be laid down because they were incapable that morning of praising!

First was my mind which was condemning me and thinking of all the undone chores and worrying about the problems and logically looking at situations which it was declaring "impossible"....
  • It had to be laid down

Second was my body which was tired and consumed with a looming migraine and achy and weary and teary and....
  • It had to be laid down

Third were my feelings which were jumbled and sad and conflicted and disappointed and confused and....
  • They had to be laid down

All three of these parts of me had to be laid on the altar so that my lips would not give off complaints or judgement or despair, but rather "the fruit of (my) lips would give thanks to His name."

So choosing to praise anyway....maybe that is the sacrifice. Choosing to be thankful. Choosing to be grateful. Choosing to be humble. Choosing to be content. Choosing to be satisfied.

Satisfied in Jesus.

And as I feebly gave that sacrifice of praise, not a thing around me changed- my head still hurt and the problems were still the same.....but somehow praising changed everything.

Now again this morning, I am trying to remember that lesson. Today is an anniversary of an event that seemed to be one of promise but changed into one of heartbreak.  So today, as I WANT to feel sad and despondent,  I. Will. Praise.


Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,    
for I will yet praise Himmy Savior and my God.
Ps. 43:5

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raising His Child

It takes a great deal of faith and trust to remember and believe that the Lord created our children exactly how He desired them to be. So that they can do the exact job He designed them to do.

Each one unique.
Each one especially designed.
Each one carved by the Master's hand.
Each one with strengths.
Each one with weaknesses.

And yet each one scarred by the ravages of the sin nature they inherited from us.

Our job is not to change the design of our children, but rather to train their hearts to be strong so that their sin nature will not destroy or distort the Master's design.

I remember eons ago, before I had children, coming down squarely on the Nurture side of the Nature Vs. Nurture argument. Now, 23 years later, I laugh at myself.  How naive.  It is not either/or but rather it is both/and. It is 100% Nature and 100% Nurture!

Our nurturing of our children matters immensely. I am a big proponent of pro-active parenting. What we do in our children's lives makes all the difference in the world.

But our children have a Designer...and therefore a design! And it is not our job to change that design.

I want to suggest that God's design of our children is under attack from the world, our own expectations, and their own sin nature. That is why parenting is such a grace-needed, prayer-producing activity! Because as parents we are not supposed to be engineers, tinkering with the design. Rather, we are gardeners: pulling weeds, fertilizing, pruning, and watering the gardens of our children's hearts.

Here is a wonderful article that got me thinking about this very thing.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, August 15, 2011

Give Me Jesus

This morning as I was "running" (and it wasn't pretty) I was listening to Fernando Ortega. I sort of pick my ipod music by my mood:

  • Energetic- Stephen Curtis Chapman
  • Really Energetic- Casting Crowns or Third Day
  • Needing Encouragement- Laura Story
  • No mood- just a mix of whatever
  • Contemplative- Fernando Ortega

This morning I was feeling contemplative. Mostly I think I was just contemplating how much I didn't want to run.  But I ran, with Fernando singing in my ears and as I was struggling up a hill, tying to find whatever shade was possible because at 8:00 am it was already hot...
  • Aside- finding the shade meant I had to run right next to the Rottweilers. So I would like to publicly thank Rotty 1 and Rotty 2 for your personal "encouragement" this morning. Your incessant barking certainly helped me to run faster
...struggling to put one foot in front of the other
  • Aside #2- curious as to who it was who caused my shoes to weigh at least ten pounds more each this morning. Now that they are off my feet they seem to be back to normal. Weird.
...trying to breath
  • Aside #3- was it the heat that sucked the oxygen out of the air? ....or did it all get sucked into my shoes and that is what made them heavy?....or did the Rottweilers use it all up in order to be able to bark so long and loud?
....Alright, sorry, got distracted. I will make my point.

Back to Fernando and this morning. I was listening to one of his songs with this line, "you can have all this world, just give me Jesus."

And so as I struggled up the hill I began to list in my mind what were the things on my "WORLD" list that get in the way of my Jesus.

  1. desire for a remodeled kitchen
  2. desire for a car with less than 100,000 miles and without the "customized hood" from "kissing" the car in front of us.
  3. dream garden
  4. recovered furniture
  5. resolved relationship issues
  6. resolved business issues
  7. "enough" money -whatever that means
  8. time
  9. to-do lists that are done at the end of the day
  10. school schedules that actually work for more than two days in a row
  11. personal character issues resolved in my life
  12. personal character issues resolved in my kids' lives
  13. ability to go from "running" to Running!
  14. .......

That is a very incomplete list by the way, but it is a start.

But honestly, you can have. You can have it all.

Just give me Jesus. 

Because even if all those things happened, without Jesus it wouldn't be enough. Even if my budget overflowed and my piles were non-existent and my house was fixed-up and I finally ran in that 10K, even with all of everything done or accomplished or performed or supplied.....

Even with ALL that....without Jesus....it would never, ever be enough.

"You can have all this world, just give me Jesus."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gonna Get Me Some "True Grit"

Recently I watched the new "True Grit" movie. And I enjoyed it. But what it really put me in the mood for was to see the old "True Grit."

I mean: John Wayne. Need I say more?

There are some things that are just iconic and are very hard to mess with. Besides, the movie has some great lines like:

  • Rooster:  "I always go backwards when I back away."
  • Rooster:  "I only take one step at a time. That is why I have two feet."
  • Mattie:  "Mr LaBoeuf, I have no regard for you, but I am sure you have enough for yourself to go around."
  • LaBoeuf:  "You hit his lower lip? What were you aiming for? -His upper lip?"
  • LaBoeuf to Rooster when he is drunk:  "You couldn't see it if you saw it.
  • Mattie about alcohol: "I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains!"

I love good, old-fashioned, country wisdom. It is straight and to the point and rather colorful.

But my favorite line from the whole movie is Mattie's line which explains why she choose Rooster Cogburn: "They say he has grit. I need a man with grit."

She had other options to Rooster. She could have chosen a Marshall that looked better, or talked nicer, or smelled like something other than a distillery. But she was looking for a different characteristic. She was looking for someone with grit.

What is grit?  Grit is literally loose sand or small pieces of gravel.

But when it is used allegorically Google defines grit as:
Clench (the teeth), esp. in order to keep one's resolve when faced with an   unpleasant or painful duty"

Are you ever faced with unpleasant or painful duties? Ones which push you past your comfort zone?

You gonna be a Mama and raise children for the Lord when the world wants to take them and dilute them and make them ineffective?

  • Then you need some grit.

You gonna be go to work everyday and keep your integrity and stay faithful to your spouse and not become a slave to money and position?
  • Then you need some grit.

You gonna talk about Jesus to people who will look at you and call you archaic or bigoted or non-inclusive or irrelevant?
  • Then you need some grit.

You gonna pick up your six-shooter, mount your horse, and ride at the enemy (and don't be fooled, we HAVE an enemy!)? Are you gonna ride at him with all your might and go through water, fire, and storm as a soldier of the One, True, God?
  • Then you NEED some GRIT!

My favorite line from the whole movie, is when Rooster's enemy, Ned Pepper taunts him with:  "That is bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!"

Isn't that the way of the enemy? He finds our faults and short-comings and then taunts us with them. And usually he doesn't bother with taunting us with made-up short-comings. If the enemy taunted us with faults that weren't true they would have no power to discourage us. They would have no ability to dissuade us.

Rooster was fat.  Rooster had one eye.

But Rooster had something else.


So lets get us some grit. And lets grab us our gun. And lets get on our horse. And lets ride hard and fast and light.

We have us an enemy. But what is more, we have us a God Who is worth fighting for.

And then when people look at us, or when people need to find someone to fight for them, may they look around and when they see us say: "They tell me your a man (or woman) with true grit."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Choking the Life Out of Me

This past Sunday morning, I mused and pondered on the lack of fruit in my garden and the picture that gave me of the lack of fruit in not only individual Christians' lives but also the modern church. Then I went to church and our guest pastor looked right at me and quoted Scripture that I hadn't even thought of about the same thing! Isn't God amazing????  In order for this post to make more sense, you might want to read the first one HERE.

God is so amazing. Here I was wondering why the church in America is so unfruitful, and He had ALREADY TOLD ME! In fact, I have repeatedly used this exact Scripture to encourage others in parenting or to examine my own parenting issues.

The Parable of the Sower
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the story about seed and the different ground it falls on and the effect that ground has on the fruitfulness of that seed. Some seed fell on the wayside and the birds ate it, some fell on the stony places, but could not develop much of a root system in that stony ground so the they died when it got hot and dry.  And some fell among the thorns and the thorns choked out those plants.

And then there was the seed that fell on the good ground. It was fruitful. It multiplied greatly. It did what it was supposed to do- it produced fruit.

So which one are we? The Church in the modern western world today?

Listen to Jesus' explanation:
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.   ~Matthew 13:22

The cares of this world.
The deceitfulness of riches.
Yes, those can choke the life right out of you.

Why and how do they choke the life out of us? By taking all our time and all our energy. They become the priority of our heart. They crowd out our soul. They steal our strength. They fill up our mind. And they don't leave us any time for our neighbor.

And then how can we possibly fulfill the greatest commandments:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.  ~Luke 10:27

More Thorns

Everyone will deal with thorns. It is guaranteed. How can I say that with such confidence? Because they were part of the curse of the fall:

Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it 
      All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
Genesis 3:17b-18

Well, thank you Adam!

But seriously, what do these thorns represent? Are the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches the only things we need to be concerned about? Actually, Scripture labels others issues thorns as well. Here are just a few:

Evil Influence
When the Israelites entered the Holy Land they were instructed to drive out all the current inhabitants because God knew that His people would be prone to fall into the evil practices and idol worship of the current residents. Look how God describes the influence of people who practice evil:
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, 
then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes 
and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.
Num. 33:55

Funny, because laziness is probably the opposite problem of the "cares of the world". Certainly the lazy man is not as worried about "the deceitfulness of riches"! Or he wouldn't be lazy! Instead he would be busy.  But laziness is selfishness and is just a much a thorn that will prevent fruitfulness as working too much is!
 The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns,
      But the way of the upright is 
a highway.
Proverbs 15:19

And here is probably the worst thorn of all:

Useless waste of good conditions
When I look at our affluent Western churches, I think this must be the biggest issue. We can't complain about money, not compared to other parts of the world. We can't complain about freedom to worship. We really can't complain about anything. We have been given all that is necessary to be fruitful...It is just that we so often are not!
Now listen to this verse!
 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, 
and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, 
receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected 
and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Hebrews 6:7-8

And So....
I will end this post the exact same way I ended the last post. It is a call to me personally. And it is a call to my family. Because that is where I can start.  Will you join me? 

May we stop producing thorns, and start producing fruit!

May I wake up.
May we wake up.
May we take Jesus and His word seriously.
And may we start producing fruit...while we still can.

PS- If you haven't read the book Radical by David Platt, I heartily endorse it. But I will add a caution that someone else stated the other day: if we read it, and by taking in the information think we are somehow doing something, then we are deluded. It isn't that we know that we can and should be radical that will make the church radically different. It is ONLY by being Radical!

Here is a link: