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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ask and You Shall Receive

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"
(Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

I have always loved that passage. I love the concept that God is my Father and that He desires to give good gifts to His children. But, at the same time, those precious words of Jesus can be very perplexing. Many people see this passage and assume it means that Jesus will give us all that we ask of Him. And when we don't get what we expect, we are left confused and often distraught. We may think we've done something wrong or that God doesn't really love us or that we don't know how to ask properly. But the question isn't "Does God really give us good things?" rather "What is His 'good'?"

Paul says in Roman 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

Once again we see that God works all things together for the good of His children. But the question still remains, "What is His good?"

For me, I often dwell on my idea of what would be good for me or my family or my friends and when things don't turn out as I think they should; I despair. But, the Bible is clear that God promises good things to His children and that if we ask, we shall receive. So how do we reconcile it all?

Let's look again at Romans 8. Back in verse 26 and 27, Paul says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

Wow, that passage always blows me away! The Spirit of God is constantly interceding on our behalf, even when we don't know what we should pray for or if we have difficulty finding the words to pray. But the key phrase in those two verses is "according to the will of God."

The more I've prayed and sought God, the more He's helped me not only to pray for His will but also realize that His will for me (or others I pray for) or His "good" for me doesn't always look like the picture I have in my head of "good".

But, His good is always best. He sees the big picture of my life. He knows what needs to happen daily to direct me to His ultimate good plan for me. And the more I pray, seeking His will, and asking for good things keeping in mind that His ways are best, the more I'm able to see God answer my prayers in amazing ways. And often times I'm able to see clearly how His "good" really is the best.

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." (1 John 5:14 ESV)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Impossible Made Possible

My Bible study this morning took me on an amazing path through scripture. This path lead me to several verses that display God as the God who makes the impossible, possible.

In Genesis 18, God shows up to Abraham in the form of 3 men. He explains to Abraham, once again, the promise He had made previously to give Abraham and Sarah a son even in their old age. Sarah overhears this conversation and goes back to her tent and laughs. God, being the all-knowing God that He is, knows Sarah's thoughts and even knows she laughed although she was not with them. God proceeds to say, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14 ESV) I love God's rhetorical question to Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

In Mark 10:24-27, Jesus explains to the disciples how hard it is for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are amazed at this teaching and they say to him in verse 26, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus replies, "With man it is impossible but not with God. For all things are possible with God."

In Luke 1:36-38, we see the angel Gabriel speak very similar words to Mary. He explains to Mary that her cousin Elizabeth would soon have a baby even though she was too old to bear a child. He finishes by saying, "For nothing will be impossible with God." The best part is Mary's response in verse 28, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

So, all of this begs the question- Do I, do you believe that God makes the impossible, possible? I'm not talking about a head knowledge that God is all-powerful and can do all things. Most people would say that, even Satan would say that God is all-powerful. But, do we BELIEVE it? Do we behave as if we believe it? Do we pray big prayers, knowing that NOTHING is impossible for God?

May I be like Abraham and Mary who took God at His Word and truly believed that He is the God of the impossible!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in Review

Since my last post was about the upcoming year, I thought my next post should be about the lessons learned in 2012. God has taught me so much in the past year but I'll try to give you the short list.

1. His Ways Are Not My Ways

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)

Wow, have I learned this lesson the hard way this year. I have also "kicked against the goads" in the process. Admitting that the ways I thought my life should be were not God's plans for me was a difficult realization to come to over the past few months. I started 2012 as a working mom and finished the year as a stay at home mom. As much as I love our daughter, I loved my job as well. 13 years ago God called me into the ministry and I have loved almost every minute of it. When He took me out of it; I was devastated. But, God has also taught me that just because a "pause" in our life comes about doesn't mean that God's calling has been suspended completely. I know that God has a plan for my life and my ministry; I don't know what it is and as hard as it is to be patient I need to remember that God does things in His time, in His way and for His glory. Resting in that promise during this time of waiting is so much easier than kicking against it.

2. Motherhood is a High Calling

As much as I would like to say that I believed that statement before the past few months, deep down inside I know I didn't really believe it at a heart level. And, I'll admit it's still a struggle for me to believe it some days. When you are wiping noses (and other places) and cooking and making lunches and disciplining and doing the 10th load of laundry and answering "why?" for the 500th time; it's hard to remember that as a mom you're not performing a menial day job, you are fulfilling God's calling. As moms, we get to minister and lead the next generation while they are still young and under our influence. What an amazing calling! I still have so much to learn in this area but I am excited to see how God is going to teach me as we add another blessing to our family this spring.

"Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done." (Psalm 78:1-4)

3. Grief is a Difficult Path

Up until this past year, I've pretty much spent 32 years of my life not having to learn this lesson. And then it all hit like a lead balloon. Between my husband losing his father and me losing my stepfather unexpectedly (not to mention the grief experienced as I transitioned out of the work world), it's been a hard road for our family this year. Not only have we both had to go through the grief process separately and as a couple; we've also had to explain death and heaven and the loss of two grandfathers to our almost 3 year old daughter. But, I've also learned that no matter how deep the pit we are in; God is always there to comfort us and to bring us up out of it. He also uses these periods of grief and experiences of His comfort to prepare us to be a comfort for others. My prayer is that I will take that calling seriously.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 ESV)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)

All for His glory! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year, New Me?

Happy 2013!

For a long time I didn't make New Year's resolutions. I honestly thought they were silly. If I needed to make a change in my life, why wouldn't I do it at any point in the year? And, who really keeps them anyways?

Then, last year, God revealed to me that He is the God of new beginnings and He has ordered our calendars and the events in our lives for a reason. He also convicted me that I am not perfect yet and there are new things every year that I can change in my heart that could help me draw closer to Him and make me more useful for the Kingdom.

He also led me to Philippians 3:13-14.

"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

The goal of the Christian walk is to continually forget what is behind us and strain forward for what lies ahead. We are called to press on, to change and to become more like Christ. Every New Year, we have the opportunity to reflect on the past and prepare for what lies ahead.

As I contemplate 2013, I've put my resolutions in categories based on the arenas of life where God has placed me. For instance, how can I become a better Christ-follower, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and kingdom worker?

So, in the spirit of honesty and openness (and with the hope that someone will hold me accountable), here goes:

My 2013 Resolutions:

1. Plan to wake-up before Myla everyday to spend focused time in the Word and in prayer. Stop doing this haphazardly based on how my day is going, whether she naps, etc.

2. Read a little less fiction and a little more non-fiction based in scripture.

3. Help to manage our household finances better by learning a program like Quickbooks and stop doing our finances by hand.

4. Stay healthy for my family by getting back into 5K shape by the fall.

5. Learn how to crochet. (This one's just for fun.)

6. Be more intentional in my relationships with family members, neighbors, etc. Step outside my comfort zone a little more.

7. Pray and ask God to show me over the next year ways I can serve in His kingdom once the newborn stage is over with Baby #2.

May everything we do in 2013 be for His Glory!