Monday, May 30, 2011

Do You Ever Feel This Way?

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:15-24)

I find myself feeling this way a lot.  That is why I am so glad for this verse:

 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Kind Word

"Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." Proverbs 12:25

"Talk nice to each other!"  I say for the thousandth time to my children.  Well it feels like the thousandth time anyway.  We go round and round about this.  I explain to them how much better it will go for them if they ask nicely for things or just simply spoke in a pleasant manner to one another.  You know what I have discovered?  Adults need the same advice.

I don't know about you but I respond so much better to a pleasant word than to a demanding or condemning word.  The same lesson we try to teach our children as they interact with their siblings or even other children they come into contact with is the same lesson that we adults need to heed also.

Some days it may seem like you are just being polite, but the person to whom you are speaking may be going through an unusually difficult circumstance and your kind word may make the day a bit easier for them.  That waitress you just said thank you to or the cashier that you just asked how his day was may have been the only nice thing they heard from someone all day.  People in the service industry unfortunately know too well the critical nature of people.  Be different.  Use kind words.

As my kids are coming to the end of their year of dance classes a thought came to mind.  I thought it would be nice to give their dance teachers something to show appreciation for their work and dedication to my little ones this year.  Just as quickly as that thought came to my head another followed that they already know they are appreciated and I don't need to find time in my already busy schedule to do something for them.  It would be just one more thing on my to do list.  For some reason this stuck out to me.  I saw this thought for what it was.  It was an attack to try to deter me from showing kindness to another.  It is silly to think that even though the dance teachers might know they are appreciated, our simple act of kindness would not do them good and boost them up a little bit more. We all could use more boosting.

As you come into contact with others, make a point of speaking a kind word to another.  One last scripture that I think sums up this thought very nicely is Proverbs 16:24, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Thoughts

Last weekend I began thinking about how I could be more intentional and focus more on the reason we have Easter.  I wanted to be sure I had something everyday for the kids to also remain focused. There is nothing better to focus your thoughts than to read the story of Christ's resurrection right out of the Bible.
I hope that you will take some time to stop and reflect on what was done for you.  I have listed some scriptures below that I hope will help. Happy Easter!

Matthew 21

Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
 1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” 4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
 5 “Tell the people of Israel,
      ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
   He is humble, riding on a donkey—
      riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
 6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
 8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
   “Praise God for the Son of David!
      Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
      Praise God in highest heaven!”

Mark 14

 22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
 23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant[f] between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 22

39 Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives.40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”
 41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.[e]
 45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
 47 But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. 48 But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” 50 And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear.
 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
 52 Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 53Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.”

John 19

Jesus Sentenced to Death
 1 Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. 4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
 6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
   “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
 7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
 8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters[a] again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
 11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
 12 Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’[b] Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
 13 When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). 14 It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people,[c] “Look, here is your king!”
 15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”
   “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
   “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
 16 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
The Crucifixion
   So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign over him that read, “Jesus of Nazareth,[d] the King of the Jews.” 20 The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. 21 Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”
 22 Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”
 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice[e] for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.”[f] So that is what they did.
 25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.
The Death of Jesus
 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”[g] 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. 31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.[h]36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[i] 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”[j]
The Burial of Jesus
 38 Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. 39 With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought seventy-five pounds[k] of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. 40 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 42 And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover[l] and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Matthew 28

The Resurrection
 1 Early on Sunday morning,[a] as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
 8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
The Report of the Guard
 11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. 12 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
The Great Commission
 16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

God the Father

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Matthew 6:9

Father.  That name brings back many memories for people.  Depending on the circumstance, it either brings a smile to one's face or a painful tear sliding down one's cheek.  It is a name for God that is probably the most relatable for all people.

When Jesus appears on the scene and begins to teach people about God, he refers to God as Father.  Not just once or twice but nearly every time he speaks of God.  Jesus even gave an example of how to pray and that prayer begins with, Our Father.  Jesus includes us in the use of Father as a name to use for God.  It wasn't just that Jesus was God's son so naturally he calls him Father.  The people Jesus spoke to could call God Father also.

Jesus offers us a new perspective on God.  A more familiar name of Father.  One that is much more personal.  It is a name with which we have firsthand knowledge.  When Jesus tells the stories such as the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32 or the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32,  people can understand because they know of the relationship between a father and child.  Jesus changed the whole nature of the relationship between God and His people.

However not everyone has a good relationship with their father.  Sadly, the dismantling of the family has caused some people to think of the role of father with disdain.  The experience some have with their earthly father has caused them to question God as a Father.

God is not the same as an earthly father.  He is perfect in every way and instead of comparing God to the unfortunate experience of a bad or absent earthly father, He should be embraced and understood that He steps in to fill that role and be the fullness of everything a father should be to their children.

I hope you have a good experience with your earthly father.  If you have or if you haven't God as our Father is the perfect example of Father in every way and we can look to Him with confidence.  We can have that father/child relationship with Him.  We get to experience a deeper connection to Him if we will just accept and delight in Him as our Father.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The God Who Sees Me

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13
This passage of scripture is the end of a story about a meeting between God and a woman who is not part of God’s chosen people.  The woman’s name is Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. This woman who is a slave is chosen to have an encounter with God.  That God chose to reveal himself to a slave woman who is not an Israelite is enough to remind us that we serve a merciful God.  Except that there is more.  Through this story God reveals another dimension of the type of relationship we can have with Him.    Hagar gives a new name to God: El Roi.  It is Hebrew for the God who sees.  
Hagar is Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant.  Sarah is still barren and in an attempt to fix this situation on her own, she tells Abraham to sleep with Hagar so Sarah can have a child.  Abraham agrees and Hagar becomes pregnant.  Instead of being happy, Sarah is now upset that Hagar is going to have Abraham’s child so she treats Hagar horribly.  Hagar runs away.
Let’s view things from Hagar’s eyes.  We don’t really know how Hagar came to be a slave of Abraham and Sarah.  There is some thought that maybe Hagar was given to them along with other accumulated wealth when they left Egypt.  You can read all about the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt in Genesis 12.  It is specified that Hagar is Egyptian.  So she is not part of the Israelites and probably does not believe in the Israelite God.  Everything about the Israelites would be strange and unknown to her as far as traditions and customs were concerned.  She is taken from her homeland and living with a nomadic tribe.  This would be quite an adjustment.    It was customary for barren women to give their maidservants to their husbands to conceive an heir.  Now to top off everything in her circumstance she is given to Abraham to perform the duty of a wife because Sarah, her master is barren.   Hagar does indeed become pregnant with an heir. The relationship between Sarah and Hagar falls apart as Hagar despises Sarah and Sarah mistreats Hagar.  We could all see this coming right?   There is really nothing good that can come from giving another woman to your husband for the purpose of conceiving a child.  In Hagar’s mind she must be superior to Sarah now that she is pregnant with Abraham’s only child.  The human reaction would be pride in an accomplishment of achieving something that someone so far above her in station could not achieve.  Or perhaps she saw this as a chance to be “promoted.”  Often when maidservants were given to the husband for the purpose of having a child, they became the man’s second wife and no longer a slave.  That could be considered a promotion and maybe certain advantages would come to her that she did not have before.  Despising Sarah is not going to help Hagar in her situation. Sarah is Hagar’s master and can do with her what she wants.  It would not be a far stretch to think that Hagar might have feared for her and her unborn child’s life.  Running away was a means of survival.  
Hagar runs away and stops for a rest near water in the desert and this is where she meets God.  God instructs her to return to Sarah and gives her a promise that her descendants will be many.  Her response is, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me. “  She returns and has a son named Ishmael.
Isn’t it interesting that Hagar’s response to all that God tells her is, “You are the God who sees me?”  Maybe Hagar was finally feeling some validation.  She is a real person and not an object to be used and mistreated.  A slave girl who has not been noticed by anyone except for what they can get out of her and now God notices her.  Somebody who has lived as a nobody for so long is now a somebody to God. 
It is the same for you.  God notices you.  He sees you. When you feel like you are a nobody you are a somebody to God.  He sees you. Just like Hagar had a role to play in God’s story and He needed her, you have a role to play in God’s story and he needs and wants you.  He sees you.  


Thursday, March 17, 2011


"What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet."  This line comes from Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet as Juliet tries to downplay the importance of her family name.  Yet we know that as much as she doesn't want it to, her name identifies her as belonging to the family that is the enemy of  Romeo's family.  Names identify who we are.  It is the same with God, He has many names and those names communicate to us that He is everything we need.

One of the names that the Israelites used to identify God was LORD.  You will find this word in the Bible written in all capital letters to signify a difference between the usage of Lord and LORD.  LORD is the Hebrew name for God.  It is often referred to as the personal name of God.  Writing LORD is simply the best way that those translating the Bible to English could come up with to signify the Hebrew name YHWH.  It is often translated Jehovah.  Lord is used to signify a title of respect such as sir or master.  Exodus 3 is where God first reveals His name to the Israelites.  Moses asks God who he is supposed to say sent him.  "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has set me to you."  The definition of this name given in Easton's Bible Dictionary is: "the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God, the 'I am that I am,' a covenant-keeping God."  These names LORD and I AM Who I AM are supposed to be interchangeable.

If we go back to the situation in Exodus where the Israelites are enslaved, we begin to understand why this name means so much to them.  They have been in Egypt for hundreds of years and have begun to forget their calling as God's chosen people.  He reveals His true name and nature to remind them what kind of God they serve and to Whom they belong.  The reminder to the Israelites of His name stirs a longing in them to return to their true identity.  They are God's chosen people.

In John Wesley's Notes on the Bible Commentary, he explains this name LORD.  First, this name defines God as self-existent.  He always was and is and always will be.  There is not starting point or ending point for God.  What does that mean for us?  That means that He knows all about what went on before we were born, while we are living, and after we die.

The second meaning of the name I AM WHO I AM is "He is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday, today, and forever: He will be what He will be, and what He is."  Our world is constantly changing and change seems to be coming at us faster.  Thinking about an unchanging God gives me peace.  Everything around me can be turning upside down, but not God.  He is still the same.  Nothing else in my life may be consistent but He is.  That makes me breathe a big sigh of relief.

The third and final aspect of LORD that Wesley examines is that "He is faithful and true to all His promises, unchangeable in His word as well as in His nature, and not a man that He should lie."  People are fallen and repeatedly make mistakes.  Not God.  This name signifies that.  We can know in our relationship with God that He truly is I AM WHO I AM.  We don't have to second guess His motives or wonder if He will say one thing one day and something different the next.  This wonderful name describes an amazing God who is timeless, unchangeable, and faithful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Too Busy to Rest

Rest. Relax. Take a day off.  Why does there seem to be little time for this?  We feel so busy, with seemingly less and less time for rest.  Where does that get us?  Are we more productive?  Making more money? Happier? More content?  Rest is imperative.  God gave us an example of rest in the Old Testament and then Jesus was an example of rest in the New Testament.

Rest is a command give by God to the Israelites.  In fact it's one of the original commands.  "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Work six days and do everything you need to do.  For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and Sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day." (Exodus 20:8-11 MSG)  God created everything and then rested.  When He commands the Israelites to rest, He refers to His own example of rest when He created everything.  I don't think it is because God gets tired.  I think it's because He knew we needed the example of rest.

Jesus made time for his disciples to rest.  "Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" (Mark 6:31 MSG)  Jesus knew that as humans we physically and mentally need downtime.

When we are tired we are not on top of our game.  The enemy, Satan, knows that if you are running on empty, you are most vulnerable.  Even Jesus was tempted after fasting in the desert for 40 days.  Satan targets Jesus when he was in a weakened physical state.  If Jesus is susceptible to temptation, how much more will Satan wage war on you during your exhausted, stressed, and busy state?  We are so busy with work, kids, households responsibilities that we run on empty.  Ironically, we often, feel guilty because we are not doing more.  I heard author Beth Moore call it the, "captivity of activity".

How can we implement this practice of rest in our lives?  First, we must reject the lie that we can do it all.  Set aside time with your spouse to determine your family's priorities and decide what activities best fulfill that purpose. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey can help.

Next focus only on the things that fit your family's purpose.  Don't allow other things distract you from your goal and don't feel guilty about saying no.  Are there lots of good things out there to do?  Yes, but they aren't necessarily for you to do.  Do your children need to be in every activity ever offered to them? Do you need to volunteer in every ministry of the church?  Do you need to do every community service event?  Be discerning, and only do what fits your family purpose.

Finally, set aside purposeful rest time.  Designate time in your schedule to rest.  Tell yourself this time is for enjoying your family, working on a hobby, or spending time with the Lord.  Don't allow guilt to rob you.  Don't spend the time thinking of all the things you need to do.  Clear your mind of those things.

Be still. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  How can you hear what God is trying to say to you if you don't take the time to listen?  Slow down. Allow Him to use this time to refuel you so that you can be even more effective in His kingdom.  We are here to serve Him, not ourselves, and not society.  He loves you. Get some rest.