Sunday, November 24, 2013

New Mercies


"You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you." Psalm 86:5



God abounds in his love for us. His love has no end. It is His very character and His character does not change. He never tires of loving us, pouring out His mercy on us, and caring for us. He knows the depths of our hearts, the hairs on our head are numbered to Him. Every beat of our heart and every breath is known. This is an amazing, unfathomable love.

His mercies are new every day, the sun rises and His mercies begin again. He pours them out on us and He never tires. So often we think that God will not pour out any more mercy and that the well is empty. God's well of mercies will never be dry. He cannot tire or giving mercy, He IS mercy.

"The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." Psalm 145:9

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy..." Ephesians 2:4

“The Lord's mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.” -Charles Spurgeon

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:13

“Whether our days trip along like the angels mounting on Jacob's ladder to heaven or grind along like the wagons that Joseph sent for Jacob, they are in each case ordered by God's mercy.”-Charles Spurgeon

"But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pursuing Our Children's Hearts


 "Mother and Child Reading" -Frederick Warren Freer

"May our sons flourish in their youth
    like well-nurtured plants.
May our daughters be like graceful pillars,
    carved to beautify a palace." Psalm 144:12

As parents we teach our children many things, spoken and unspoken. We want them to learn about the universe, to learn about God, and fill their minds and hearts with God's truth. We we think the hours of pouring ourselves into them the activities, and the money and time poured into their education is going to make them successful. The Bible verses memorized---we think that surely this will lead to a favorable outcome.

There is something more important than all the facts and activities-- pursuing and capturing our children's hearts. Not only to have a good relationship with them for selfish purposes---but that their heart is held captive to Christ.

Children must see their parents walking with Christ. In joy, in mistakes and sorrows. He must overflow from our hearts and minds to our lips. He must be spoken of with such a love and passion that children see that Christ is all and He is life.

Speaking of what Christ has done for us frequently is often mocked and laughed at. But it is what we are called to do, especially for our children. They must hear of what God has done for them, and why it is so important. Leading them to a personal relationship with Christ beyond just facts is our duty as parents. Each child is different, so praying about the heart of that child is of the utmost importance. Praying that God gives us wisdom as parents to know how to best lead each child into relationship with Christ and how to capture their heart is more important than anything else we do.

"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Deuteronomy 6:7

More children raised in Christian homes than ever before are falling away from their faith. Children involved in the most church activities, the most seemingly stable homes do not truly know Christ. They walk away and embrace the world when their parents "gave" them everything. They gave them things, facts, activities, but they did not give themselves. Christ in their hearts did not overflow in abundance to their children. Most of us come to know Christ in the most intimate and meaningful way because we come to know that He gave Himself for us!

Our children must be allowed to come to us. They must see us stop for them. Their hearts are led to Christ through our example. Did we show them their worth and their importance to us? That the board meeting, the extra paycheck, the next social engagement was more important than them, or do we show them that we have stopped to sit and spend time with them? As adults we find this hard to do.  But learning how to do this with our children means we must also stop to spend time in the presence of God. We get to know God's heart and who He is when we are still in His presence. We get to know our children and capture their hearts when we engage with them fully and show them their worth in our eyes. This is only a small reflection of their worth in their heavenly father's eyes.

 God never stops pursuing our hearts. He never gives up on knowing His children.Our worth to God is greater than we can imagine.

"One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:13-14

If we are quick to scold our children for bothering us, and we do not stop to pray for them, to pursue their hearts, what do we think the outcome will be? The little children saw that Christ welcomed them, he laid hands on them, stopped His more important work to show them they were the most important of all. He won their hearts by His patience, love, and by letting them come to Him.

Prayer: "God, in this rushed and hasty world show me how to be your hands and feet to my children. Show me how to minister to them and capture their hearts for you God so that they walk in your truth and freedom all of their days." Amen.

"You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you." Psalm 8:2

"Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord." Psalm 22:30

"Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord." Psalm 34:11

"so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children." Psalm 78:6

"The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him." Psalm 103:13
 "I see more and more that I must be myself what I want my children to be and that I cannot make myself over even for their sakes. This must be His work, and I wonder that it goes on so slowly; that all the disappointments, sorrows, sicknesses I have passed through have left me still selfish, still full of imperfections!" Elizabeth Prentiss "Stepping Heavenward"


Thankful In All Things


"The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God." Philippians 4:5-6

At many Thanksgiving tables words and prayers of thanks will be uttered. Our words and prayers are almost always for the many good things God has given us and blessed us with. Abundant food, health, a warm home, children and many other blessings.

It's easy to be thankful when we have all we think we need and the ride of life seems smooth. Often it is in those times that we thank God for all He has given us and done for us or even whisper a half hearted prayer of thanks to God. It is easy to be thankful when things are going our way.

When things are tough and we don't understand a trial we are going through, we often become anxious. The anxiety of the unknown (to us) outcome overwhelms us. The opposite of true thanksgiving is anxiety. Our attachment to the outcome is greater at that time than our attachment to God. Instead of hanging on to God and a quiet heart filled with His peace, we hang on to the outcome of the situation being exactly as we would like. Any other possibility fills our hearts with angst. 

The future is a place God already is because He stands outside of time. It's in His control. He clothes the flowers in beauty; all the more we are cared for.  “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? Matthew 6:28-30

Letting go of the bondage of anxiety in all things releases us to live in God's peace. God doesn't want us to lose sleep and make ourselves sick with worry. He wants us to live in His peace! This doesn't mean we don't feel sorrow or stress but that we feel a deep calm in the heart that comes from a deeper trust in God. Giving thanks to God in death, in life, in sickness, in health, in abundance and in poverty is what God wants of us. Our thanks, our grateful hearts.

Paul tells us: "What you have learned and received and heard in me---practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9) Paul is clear that it takes practice to achieve this peace. We must dwell on God's truth and keep that at the forefront of our minds. Like strengthening a muscle takes lots of exercise, spiritual strength to beat anxiety takes practice. We can't let the lies of our minds and emotions run wild. We can't walk in the lie of anxiety. Anxiety is just that--- a great, big lie.  "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused." Romans 1:21

God is not a God of chaos and anxiety.  "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7  Anxiety is not from God and it is a weapon used against us to distract from and never know His peace. We have to fix our minds on God's truth and dwell on it. Dwelling on the unknown, the lies, the what if's is putting the outcome under our control and not God's. Knowing that God holds us in the palm of His hand, that He is the author of time, that this life is temporary and He is in control---what is there to be anxious about?

Before Jesus went to the cross, what did He do? “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24  Just hours away from a painful death---Jesus gave thanks! We have so much to be thankful for, but not only in material wealth. God loved us so much, that Jesus died for our sins so that we may have eternal life. If we do not have all we need this Thanksgiving, or we are facing the worst trial, let us remember that we have ALL we need in Christ, and give thanks.

May we be known by our peace and not our anxiety. 

“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” -Ann Voskamp 

 Prayer: "Lord, it is so hard in this world's trials to find your peace. I am marked by my fear of the unknown and not turning it over to you who knows. Show me the miracle, the treasure of your peace. Make it wash over me and help me to practice and learn until your peace is what I live in. Mark me with your peace Lord. Amen." 

Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, Charis.  But, it also hold the derivative, the Greek word, chara, meaning ‘joy’… A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black.  A threefold cord that might hold a life?  Offer a way up into the fullest life?  Grace, thanksgiving, joy, Eucharisteo.  A Greek word… that might make meaning of everything?” Ann Voskamp ("One Thousand Gifts")

The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air." Isaiah 51:3 

"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted." John 6:11 

They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:12

"This is the testimony of all the good books, sermons, hymns, and memoirs I read- that God's ways are infinitely perfect; that we are to love Him for what He is and therefore equally as much when He afflicts as when He prospers us; that there is no real happiness but in doing and suffering His will; and that this life is but a scene of probation through which we pass to the real life above." Elizabeth Prentiss, "Stepping Heavenward"


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Decluttering to See God


"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Amongst so many things to do, so much stuff, and so much on our to do lists, we forget what matters most. So many layers are piled onto each day that it's hard to dig out of. God is first---let's start with Him then add what is necessary. Technology and so much connectedness, easy access to shopping and more and more stuff and we are more cluttered inside and out than ever. Amongst all we have to do each day, let us take time to strip away everything and remember that it is God we need to seek first. Our days cannot fall into the perfect order God has if we do not stop to seek the One who matters most.

Seek first the kingdom and God reveals what is really important and it fills us up. The clutter only covers what will really fulfill us. It is falsely gratifying with an immediate fix of feeling we are part of the loop and "keeping up." The things we are keeping up with in this life will pass away. We need to keep up with God and find His peace.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Augustine of Hippo

We keep up with so much out of a "fear of missing out" syndrome. We think we will miss something great if we don't keep up here, there and everywhere. But we are missing out on God. Can you remember all the things you feared missing out on from last week? The truth is probably not.  Don't live a whole life with a fear of missing out on the world, and miss out on God. Strip everything else away and start with God. He will help us to rebuild with what is important. Our hearts, our minds, our families and our peace.

Missing real moments of the life God has given us because we are posting pictures on instagram and facebook to our virtual life, is it really important or do we just want to be seen and heard? We are more exhausted than ever and we think it's just the way it is. When we stop to look objectively can we see how much are we doing to perfection that God hasn't even asked us to take on? God doesn't want us to live our life in our own self induced exhaustion. Maybe we need to have a "stop doing" list instead of a "to do" list? There will always be more to be done. We can't constantly live the frantic pace of running in the hamster wheel. It's important to stop somewhere and reevaluate---to ask God what it is He has for us, what He desires for our days to look like.

God didn't do it all in one day.  What makes me think I can?  ~Author Unknown

While there are trying times of life, and seasons that are more tiring and difficult than others, God doesn't desire His children to live a frenzied pace of life. He knows when we live like that it's hard for us to listen to Him. He provides our shelter and our peace and His living water is enough. He is a God who set up His order for us because it is for our good. "Seek first the kingdom..." is not a suggestion, but a command so that our life will have greater peace and our days are lived with meaning and purposeful intent. God knows what is best, and His paths lead to life. Let us trust enough to say no to the paths that lead to clutter and frustration, even if everyone else seems to be walking it.

The world's yoke is heavy and it's burdens hard. If in our daily life we have piled too much onto ourselves that is not from God and we feel like we are always spinning out of control then this is not the burden God has laid on us. Trust God that when He lays out His plans for you you will feel His peace and rest in your soul.  "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29

Prayer: Lord, I've put too much on my shoulders that you never asked me to carry. It seems I can't dig out most days and that I am stuck. But show me what stays and what goes God, show me what path I should walk each day and that it is enough. Show me that your peace is normal and that a frenzied pace is not of you. thank you for being a God who will show me how to live my life according to your plan that will be satisfied and filled with you. Amen. 

"And He said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat." Mark 

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27

And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14