Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Near to the Heart of God

My title is one of my favorite hymns and also an ongoing prayer...that I would stay near to Gods' heart. For, as this hymn states, it is " a place of quiet rest, a place where sin cannot molest...a place of comfort sweet, a place where we our Savior meet...a place of full release, a place where all is joy and peace."

I believe that God wants His creation to seek after Him, to desire close communion with Him. In Acts 17:26-28, we read that
"He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'"
"Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near." Isaiah 55:6
"For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?" Deuteronomy 4:7

However, I see from the thousand or so scriptures that I read this morning, that there is a condition, a requirement , a key to God's heart; and that is His Son, Jesus.

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
"But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:13
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who seek Him out." Hebrews 11:6 (Darby Bible Translation)
"Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25

There seem to be other conditions as well. The condition of our heart must be broken, sincere, fully surrendered and washed in Jesus' blood.

"Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22
"Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 29:12,13
"Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed. Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say,"Who sees us?' or 'Who knows us?'" Isaiah 29:13-15
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
"Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him..." Psalm 85:9
"The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." Psalm 145:18

With these conditions met, we can
"draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16

We can pray
"Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me!" Psalm 38:21 "But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance." Psalm 22:19 "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:8

And He answers,
"I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay." Isaiah 46:13

And we praise:
"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works." Psalm 73:28 "How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple." Psalm 65:4


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Pledge of Allegiance

  • Our family witnessed a wedding today - the genesis of a new home, a new family. Marriages have taken place, in various forms, since the beginning of time. What made today's ceremony special? The "two became one flesh" in the fear of God. They pledged their love and fidelity to one another in Him. There is no firmer foundation for a home!

    It occurred to me that their vows could have been expressed like this:

    "I pledge allegiance to this marriage of God's own choosing,
    And, to Christ and the Church for which it stands,
    Becoming one flesh,
    Under the hand of God,
    Indivisible until death,
    With selflessness and love."

    It is no less a miracle than the creation of a new human being.


  • In the 1970's I was very interested in the conservationist movement. Reclaiming polluted waterways, forests, endangered species, and such, seemed so meaningful. I still think it is important to be careful with our natural resources; but, from the standpoint of being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. There's always been a great sense of satisfaction for me in finding a 2nd or 3rd use for something that would otherwise be discarded. For instance, I cut up T-shirts for baby wipes and take the buttons off of worn out shirts, and feed my kitchen scraps to the chickens. My reclaiming specialty these days is turning old sheets and worn out garments into crocheted rag rugs. I work on them mostly when I'm the doctor's or at my son's bedside during a seizure episode...reclaiming the time. Another, better word might be "redeem". "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16. I've been doing more of that this month, as Ethan has had a substantial amount of seizure activity.
    God is the Master of reclamation: reclaiming His own creation, redeeming lost souls with the blood of His own Son, Jesus. I give Him thanks and praise today for His interest in reclamation.

She Hath Done What She Could

  • In common, everyday language, my mother taught me to "Do the best you can with what you have." This has been a reoccurring spiritual theme for me these last few years. My title is part of the verse in Mark 14:8; but the theme runs through much of scripture. It speaks of faithfulness and good stewardship.

    If, figuratively speaking, we only have "two mites", as the widow in Mark 12:42, we still have opportunity to "cast in all" that we have. Whether we have been given five, two or only one "talent", we can still hear our Lord say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." ( Matthew 25:14-30) This applies to every area of our lives: health, finances, time, energy, any and all resources. We are without excuse, no matter how limited our strength or resources may be, no matter what our station in life. God gives to all the ability and opportunity to give back to others (to Him) what He has given to us. That may be as simple as a kind word or a smile, or as complicated as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in a stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. ( Matthew 25:35-40) Even a "cup of cold water" in His service is deemed worthy of reward in His sight. (Matthew 10:42)
    As an older mother of 8, with a handicapped child, I am sometimes tempted to feel as if there's not much I can do. Perhaps, compared to others, my resources and energy seem terribly limited. But, I have found that God has answered my prayer to "do what I can" in various ways, throughout my days. Personally, I believe God is pleased when I use a leftover, partial glass of water to water a houseplant, rather than pour it down the drain. I think He is as pleased as I am when I use a piece of worn-out furniture, clothing or dish for a purpose other than for which it was intended in order to meet a need, rather than buying something new. He has also blessed me with some special opportunities: to open a second-hand shed for sharing; to use "down time" to crochet rugs from old sheets and rags; and, to use my love for writing to encourage others.

    There are countless ways, both spiritual and practical, that we can " unto the Lord". These verses in 1 Peter 4:10-11 summarize this perfectly: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

    "She hath done what she could" doesn't mean, "Oh, well, if that's the best she could do..." as though it was second rate. It means "She gave her best, gave her all, held nothing back." I want that verse carved on my gravestone! Help me, God. Amen


  • ..."For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb...My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." (Psalm 139:13,15,16)

    I have been adopted, several times over. Let me explain.
    From infancy, I was adopted into the Charles and Daisy Price home. I was an "only child" in this family.
    When I was 18 years old, my Mom died, rather suddenly. I moved into the home of dear church friends, closer to where I intended to go to college. They took me in, as a daughter.
    Soon afterwards, I married Howard Ainsworth, and became a daughter in the Ainsworth family.
    My adoptive father remarried Norma, thus giving me another mother to love.
    As Howard and I searched for Truth, God provided Paul and Mary Landis, spiritual parents to mentor us.
    When I was 33 years old, I met my birth mother for the first time. We enjoy a close relationship to this day. I found out that I even have a brother and a sister.
    It is an understatement to say how very blessed I feel with all these "adoptions". As precious as each of these earthly relationships have been, the greatest blessing is to be called a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

    "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ..." (Romans 8:14-17)

Special Needs

  • Due to oxygen deprivation during the birth process, our 7th child, Ethan, has cerebral palsy, microcephaly, epilepsy, sensory processing disorder, impaired vision, and a host of other special needs. Neither my husband nor I had ever had occasion for close contact with a handicapped person. Ethan has opened up a whole new world to I'm glad I didn't miss. We have addressed his various special needs, the most natural and unobtrusive way we know how; and, daily carry out those methods as patiently as we know how. His care is exhausting, yet exhilarating; discouraging, yet hopeful; frightening (especially to parents over 50), yet faith-building.
    Ethan gives me much time to ponder, and much to ponder about. Recently, it occurred to me that he isn't the only one with special needs. In fact, the folks we generally think of as being handicapped or disabled, aren't the only ones with special needs. I believe that every single one of us requires the same gentle, patient, loving care, consideration and compassion that we would give to someone in a wheelchair, or with a seeing-eye dog.
    Not all "handicaps" are readily visible to others. We have a 22 year old son, home from a year in service in Iraq, whose disabilities are not immediately evident. Yet, he has sustained much damage: emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. There are many like him, returning to a society that is largely ignorant of how to help them.
    As those of us we deem "normal" or "whole" carry on though the duties of "regular" life, we do so in spite of our own peculiar, special needs. Each of us knows what our weaknesses and shortcomings are - those things about ourselves that we must overcome in order to survive. And, we expect others to excuse us. But, how ready are we to wonder compassionately about our neighbor who seems neglectful or offensive, or the motorist who seems reckless and impatient, or the stranger that stares rudely, etc, ETC.??? They have special needs, too! Who knows what crisis they may be facing, or pain they may be enduring? My appeal to myself and my readers is to give the same "benefit of the doubt" to others that we want for ourselves. Everyone has heard the quote: "Life is fragile, Handle with prayer." I'll add James' words here from Chapter 5: "Do not complain, brethren, against one another...the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful....Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray...and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up...Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."

Rambling About Relationships

  • Recently, at our ladies' gathering, I led a topic entitled, "Mothering Daughters". Now, I'm no expert on this subject; but I am an "older woman" with three grown daughters, with whom I feel I have an excellent relationship. As I considered this specific relationship, it occurred to me that the same vital ingredients are necessary in every close relationship: love and communication.
    We are told in the Bible that "we love Him (God) because He first loved us." This is certainly true with our children. They grow to love us, because we have loved them, cared for them, provided for them, protected them, nurtured them, corrected them....given ourselves for them. Love may be demonstrated in many ways, physical contact, being one important way. Touch releases endorphins, which produce feelings of well-being and security. I get mind pictures of mothers nursing their babies, toddlers being rocked and stroked at naptime, holding hands to pray, a shoulder rub after a long and stressful day, a lingering hug that says "Your heart is safe with me". Love and respect and trust are so entertwined, that it is difficult to separate them.
    Communication takes time. As it relates to our children: Deuteronomy 6:4-7..."when thou sittest in thine house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."...In other words, being involved in the day to day activites and talking while you work, play, observe, and learn together. Honest communication builds healthy, edifying relationships. Be free with praise, free with confession and apologies, and occasional constructive criticism; admit your own fears, admit that you don't always have the answers; but that you care enough to search with them. Laugh at yourself, expose yourself, be "real". Respect should permeate our conversations, not condescending or impatient tones and interruptions. One of my favorite verses about how we should speak is found in 1 Corinthians 14:3:..."to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." We must learn to see the constant stream of opportunities to "speak the truth in love" through everyday experiences.
    Every soul with whom we have the privelege of crossing paths adds to our character and our journey and we impact their life as well. I want to view each relationship as an opportunity to "grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians 4:15-16
    As we build relationships in this lifetime, we are building our relationship with Christ and His body for eternity. What could be more compelling?

The Thanks Box

  • Twenty-three years ago, our family began a "Thanksgiving" tradition. I cannot take credit for the idea, but, neither can I remember where it came from.

    With my help, my three little girls decorated an oatmeal canister and chose an appropriate "thanks" verse from the Bible, which was pasted on one side. This years' is from Isaiah 51:3: "For the LORD shall comfort Zion: and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."

    Throughout the year, anyone (even a guest) is encouraged to place a note of thanks to God. These tiny messages of praise and thanksgiving have ranged from "Thank You, God, that I found my lost shoe" to "Thank you, Lord, for water from the creek, while the pipes were frozen" to "Praise God for Jesus' saving grace in my daughter's life, as she has made a full surrender to You". They are written on post-a-notes, receipts, envelopes and scraps, then folded and deposited through a hole in the top of the can. Sometimes, this is done secretly, the note folded many times, enclosing a penny or a drawing. At other times, the author of the note draws much attention to the fact that they have a special note of thanksgiving to add to our box.

    Near the Thanksgiving holiday, but sometimes as late in the year as Christmas, we gather in the evening for a special time of praise, as the notes are read, one by one, around the table. Even those who are not yet able to read, have a turn to draw one out, and the person next to them reads it for them. This process takes some time; but is always worth it. Often, we are delighted to find that many of us thanked God for the same thing, over and over. Conversely, there are notes read that had escaped anyone elses' remembrance.

    And, then, a time of prayer...

    One unexpected blessing is that these notes combine to form a diary (of sorts) of our year. We are reminded of events and answered prayers. The growth that has taken place in our home in one year's time is made evident. Another side benefit, is the offerings of money that collect with the offerings of praise and thanksgiving. After all the notes are read, the children sort, count and package the coins to be given to a predetermined charity or cause.

    The "grand finale" of this ceremony is the burning of the notes. The solemnity of this act is not dependent upon whether this small fire takes place in the wood-stove, barbecue grill or a tin pie plate on the front porch. A song or hymn is sung by all as the smoke ascends in a symbolic "sweet savor " of praise to God for all His many benefits. One of our favorites is a round: "Let our voices rise like incense, let them be as sweet perfume. Let our praises fill the temple, Hallelujahs ringing for our God. Holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty. Holy, holy is the Lord our God."

    Not many days after, a new verse is chosen, and the can redecorated, if need be.

    My "little girls" are now grown women, and we have added five more children to our circle of praise since beginning The Thanks Box. This tradition of giving of thanks has stood the test of time and has established a precious anchor of memories for our family.

Plans and Priorities, Expectations and Exceptions

  • I had planned to finish my vacuuming this morning; but, my oldest son, after working all night, is asleep in the office.
    I expected to attend every evening of the special church meetings; but, Ethan's sensory integration dysfunction prohibited being there Friday night.
    I had planned to read a chapter out of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" at lunch each day with the boys; but, sometimes Samuel isn't at home or sometimes Howard is.
    I expected time alone with God in the early morning; but, the life companion He gave me desired coffee together before meeting his day.
    We plan, we have expectations and they are waylayed, time and again. I am tempted to feel discouraged, as if I have failed to fulfill a commitment or promise. Where is the routine we can count on? Where is the schedule that brings continuity to our days? Where are the habitual rituals that cement our lives and bring stability and security to children's hearts? These are the questions I have been asking myself lately.
    Although, I do not fully understand all the answers yet, I am ready to put this much in print:
    Our plans must be balanced with a God-given, moment-by-moment sense of priority. Prayer. Our expectations must be surrendered to the exceptions that He allows, as we recognize them as coming from Him. Wisdom.
    I make lots of lists: To-Do lists, Shopping lists, Goals lists, Menu lists, etc. Invariably, those lists are revised over and over, as one thing and another takes priority or loses priority. I'd like to think that it is a good thing, that flexibility and discernment. But, I'm also aware of the tendency to make excuses for ourselves, our laziness, our lack of perseverance. I want to be on guard against those pitfalls.
    On the other hand, I am increasingly aware that some days I am inspired to do a certain thing. I hadn't planned to do that thing; but, I have the strength and will to do it. Like those golden, "teachable moments" that we capitalize on with our children, I seize the "moment", with what I believe is Holy Spirit driven determination and zeal. That project takes precedence over what had been planned. I am tempted to feel guilty...instead of schoolwork, the boys helped me make the kitchen more functional. But, but, but we worked together, and while we worked, we talked; and while we talked, we laughed; and when it was done, we enjoyed a sense of satisfaction that comes from teamwork. No, I will not feel guilty for that exception.
    My heart's cry to God is this: Every day is fraught with exceptions, interrupted me make every day exceptional by listening to You, surrendering my will to Yours, patiently accepting Your priorities which bring changes to my plans.

Live With It

  • We 21st- century Americans (generally speaking) seem to take for granted that we should never suffer or experience lack, we should never have to wait or be denied anything. We are used to getting our way, pampering ourselves and living in comfort, if not in ease. "Now, wait a minute! I live in a single-wide trailer with broken windows and holes in the floor." I refer to relative ease, as compared to most of the world's population, past and present.

    Who do we think we are?!?!

    If we are hot, we turn on the air conditioner. If we are cold, we turn up the heat. Have a headache? Reach for the Tylenol! We want softer beds, bigger video screens, newer furniture, more stylish clothes, faster food and "cooler" cars. If our body doesn't suit us, there are tanning salons, beauty salons, nail salons, fitness clubs, diet clubs and even plastic surgery. How does this appear to a God Who sees all?...Who sees the emaciated orphan in rags, sleeping on the ground, stomach distended and growling...while we sing "You deserve a break today" on our way to McDonald's for lunch? What a contrast to the lifestyle we call normal!

    I catch myself thinking, "If only I had this or that, then I would be satisfied." There is only one thing that truly, deeply satisfies: an abiding relationship with Jesus, lover of my soul. Sometimes I think we hinder our relationship with God by eliminating anything that causes discomfort. We surround ourselves with things that make us feel good. We are satiated, over-indulged, our hearts are "overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life"... (Luke 21:34) We "correct" the very situations that God has allowed as a means of bringing us closer to Himself. The suggestion of fasting causes us to sheepishly search for excuses to be excused from such self-denial.

    Please, let me be understood. My goal for this treatise is not to produce a guilt trip. I am not advocating self-induced deprivation. My intent is to give fresh perspective - a perspective of our lives here on Earth, as a vapor, as God sees us, based on these verses as well as many others:

    "In the world ye shall have tribulation..." (John 16:33) "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12) "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3) "That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians 3:10) "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." ( Philippians 4:11-13) "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4) "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?...(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:25,32-34) "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:2) "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

    In summary, there are things that we cannot change, ordained by God. There are things that we should live with, in gratitude, patience and humility, allowing God to perfect us by them. Those things which are changeable, must be properly discerned. What is our motive, our heart's desire?? Is it pride? fear? weakness of the flesh? We must use what He has given us in service to Him, to His glory and to bless others. We must "be content with such things as ye have...godliness with contentment is great gain." ( Hebrew 13:5,1 Timothy 6:6) We must check our priorities, asking ourselves how else this time, money, energy , space could (or should) be used. Ultimately, we must be thankful, feeling and showing gratitude, for every breath we take is a gift from Him.

    Finally, one more verse: "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

Be Not Weary

  • " Let us not lose heart in doing good,
    for in due time we will reap
    if we do not grow weary."
    Galatians 6:9 NASB
    "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good."
    2 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB

    I lost heart today. I grew weary. The really bad part is that I'm not even convinced that it was because I've been "doing good".

    I can think of many reasons for this weariness of heart:
    physical exhaustion, taking on the stresses of others around me, hormone imbalance (my favorite)...

    However, what it really boils down to is a lack of faith in God, His purposes for me here as I "occupy until He comes",His ability to work miracles in the hearts of others; and,forgetting that His strength is perfected in my weakness.

    I was lifted up by some gracious words on another Christian sister's blog site, reminding me of the joy and beauty that is everywhere, just as God is everywhere. Her encouragement leaves me nearly speechless with humility, no, shame, for allowing the cares of this life to overshadow my joy in Him. I lost my perspective. Didn't I just write about that last time? How frail and feeble and forgetful I can be!

    I will let her words say the rest:

Benefit of the Doubt

  • Once upon a time, and by those closest to me, I was known as the "benefit of the doubt sister".
    From what does this attribute, (if it is one), spring?
    I'd like to think that it is a natural quality of character that enables me to jump to good conclusions,
    rather than imagining the worst.
    Perhaps, I could even commend my parental training and influence, as my mother used to rather look on the bright side,
    see the positive and envision potential for good in every person and circumstance.
    But, sadly, I must admit, as I lay myself bare before the Lord and His Word,
    that it is more likely that I am willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, because,
    I am in need of it myself.

    Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
    Matthew 7:12

    Anyway, I would like to dig a little deeper into my soul and allow Christ to qualify and strengthen this response to the mistakes, offenses, and sins of others with some examples and some scriptures.

    What is my initial gut feeling when someone cuts me off of a lane on the freeway? What would cause me to do that? I was distracted, didn't see the other car, or was fearful of missing my exit. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; 1 Corinthians 10:13

    I've shared my heart with my spouse or friend, or detailed my plans for the day, and was not heard, no one gave attention. Do I feel slighted, unacknowledged, unloved? Or do I suppose that others minds and hearts are also full? They also have needs unmet, hearts aching, which cloud and distort their ability to see and hear. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

    Even if what I perceive as a fault in another does not directly affect me, am I guilty of judging heart's motives, thereby "lifting myself up" as the Pharisee against the Publican? The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. Luke 18:11 Do I look at the outward appearance, rather than the heart? But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1Samuel 16:7

    As I considered these examples, as well as others, the first section of Scripture that came to mind was 1 Corinthians 13...
    4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    And, this verse in 1 Peter 4:8 summarizes the key to giving "the benefit of the doubt": Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

    Lord, help me to love as You love, to forgive as You forgive - there is no doubt about Your love and forgiveness. Amen.

    And, He spoke these words to my heart: "Freely you received, freely give." Matthew 10:8

Perspective, Perfection, Perseverance

  • These three concepts have been going round and round in my mind for quite some time now. I am not exactly sure how they are related; but I want to see what I can do to braid them together.
    I have been struck with how the way we perceive things affects our emotions, our spiritual well-being, our health, our responses, our relationships - everything! Similar to the old "is the glass half full or half empty" question, the way we perceive life not only affects our response to it; but also reveals something going on inside our hearts.
    I also think that we naturally desire perfection. Think about the scenarios to which people (in general) attach the word "perfect": the perfect color, a perfect match, a perfect fit, a perfect meal, a perfect score, a perfect race, perfect weather, perfect health, a perfect day, a perfect couple, a perfect wedding, perfect decor, a perfect picture (hence, "picture perfect"), and on and on. Those things that we perceive as perfect, are not truly perfect. That "perfect picnic" likely had ants or flies or too stiff a breeze. The "perfect couple" may have exchanged harsh words in private conversations. Our perception of the "perfect weather", was actually a disappointment to the farmer whose crops needed rain. And, we expect perfection from each other, though, we may not want to admit that. Do we expect perfection from ourselves? Unfortunately, we are usuallly guilty of wanting to be perceived by others as nearly perfect. We try to hide our imperfections.
    And, last, but not least, perfection demands perseverance in any category. If I desire to play a piece of music on the piano perfectly, I must practice for hours, every day. I know how these topics fit together! How we perceive ourselves, our sin, this mortal life and the eternal life that Jesus Christ (the only perfect One) has provided for us, will affect how we persevere through this life. We will either perfect ourselves in the love of God and exercise perseverance in faith to obtain it, or we will consider it of little consequence and not worth the effort. Consider these verses as a summary:
    "Not that I have already obtained it [perfection] or have already become perfect, but
    I press on [perseverance] so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
    Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:
    forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
    I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
    Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude [perspective]; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;"
    Philippians 3:12-15 (NASB)

    "Now the God of peace, ...make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Heb.13:20-21


  • "...for a wide door for effective service has opened to me..." 1 Corinthians 16:9
    "...I have put before you an open door, which none can shut..." Revelation 3:8

  • Opportunity...

  • What an interesting word. I gave a devotion about 10 years ago for a small group of sisters centered around that word. It still intrigues me.

    First of all, what does the word mean? Noah Webster's Dictionary says:
    1. (n.) A time or place favorable for executing a purpose; a suitable combination of conditions; suitable occasion; chance.
    2. (n.) Convenience of situation; fitness.
    (n.) Importunity; earnestness.

    Secondly, what are the opportunities for which we look? Are we looking for the chance to work or play? Serve or be served? Share or receive? Learn or languish? Encourage or criticize? This list could go on and on. All of life is about choices. Consciously or subconsciously, we look for (or miss) opportunities all the time. It is true that we make time for those things which are most important to us. I believe that it follows that we see opportunities that are important to us, too.

    At the time I gave the devotion, finding time to read my Bible was especially challenging. I was a homeschooling mother of 8 children, one of which was profoundly handicapped and not sleeping well at night. As I explained to the gathered ladies, I began an earnest, continuous search for “a time or place favorable for executing (my) purpose”, which included praying for it. It was the desire of my heart to find that opportunity. God answers that kind of prayer.

    I suggest that the desires and inclinations of our heart and mind will dictate whether we recognize and use the opportunities God gives us. If our flesh rules, we will likely readily see opportunities to please the flesh with indulgence, entertainment, and ease. If the Holy Spirit rules, we are more likely to recognize opportunities for service, study, prayer, outreach, witnessing, ministering and fellowship. These choices not only implicate our time, but our thoughts, energy and other resources.

    Perhaps, in this time in history, and in this country, we have more opportunities than anyone has ever had, and yet, the question remains: How do we use them? Here are a few suggestions from the Word of God: (New American Standard Bible)

    For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

    Jesus said to them, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” John 12:35

    We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. John 9:4

    So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:10

    Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Colossians 4:5

    Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

    “Here is an opportunity for endurance on the part of God's people, who carefully keep His commandments and the faith of Jesus!" Revelation 14:12 (Weymouth New Testament)

A Thought, A Verse and An Hymn

You can please a perfect God; but you can't please imperfect man.

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

I'll live for Him Who died for me, how happy then my life shall be! I'll live for Him Who died for me, My Saviour and my God!.

Food For Thought

  • My thinking has been spurred by several comments recently heard in regards to diets.

    I have personally subjected my body to a variety of diets over the years, each one promising better health or certain weight loss. My experience tells me that most diets lack something, if not in nutrition, at least in principle. Some diets take an unbalanced "all or nothing" approach. Others require foods that are either unavailable or unaffordable. It seems to me that something is amiss if our diet requires purchasing specially prepared, packaged, pre-measured meals. Most diets turn our focus almost continually upon food.

    While I believe we should "eat to live" rather than "live to eat", I am formulating some guiding principles for myself as follows:

    1. Use foods that are readily available and affordable, growing what is feasible. "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. "1 Timothy 6:8
    "...and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. "Hebrews 13:5

    2. Learn what foods are healthful and nourishing, and how to prepare them in such a way that they retain as much of the nutritional benefits as possible. Avoid foods that compromise health and energy. "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2 "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" 1 Corinthians 6:19

    3. Eat only enough to satisfy and sustain. "Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. "Philippians 4:5
    "And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite. " Proverbs 23:2

    Other factors to take into consideration are age, activity level, and peculiar health needs. (such as allergies or diabetes), It is clear that no one marketed diet plan could possibly work for everyone. So I conclude that all of these factors must be melded together with the glue of common sense. I have found a few resource books helpful also, especially in addressing health challenges.

    1. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James & Phyllis Balch
    2. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
    3. Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal, Readers Digest

    Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11