Monthly Archives: January 2012

Love Is…

Hello to all my virtual friends!

Now that January is quickly coming to a close, I need to come up with another topic to write on. After much consideration, I opted to write on Love. February, after all, seems to be the month for it.

I’m not an expert, but I do know Someone who is. After all, He wrote the greatest love story ever written (the Bible). I’ll be focusing on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a as well as other pinpoints in scripture on how God teaches us to not only love, but live. Here’s to 14 days of L-O-V-E! Enjoy!

A String of Pearls

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She will not hinder him but help him all her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship; she brings her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. She goes out to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She watches for bargains; her lights burn late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes. She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth. Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise. Proverbs 31:10-31

What a list!

I’ve been told by many fellow Christian women that the Proverbs 31 woman is quite intimidating. She intimidates me…that for sure.

This chapter describes a woman of noble character. She’s pretty amazing. Here are some of her characteristics:

  1. Virtue.   Proverbs 31:10
  2. Faithfulness.   Proverbs 31:11
  3. Reverence.   Proverbs 31:12
  4. Goodness.  Proverbs 31:12
  5. Willing Worker.   Proverbs 31:13
  6. Good Manager.   Proverbs 31:14,15
  7. Industrious.   Proverbs 31:16
  8. Strength.  Proverbs 31:17
  9. Endurance.  Proverbs 31:18
  10. Well Rounded.   Proverbs 31:19
  11. Charitable.   Proverbs 31:20
  12. Provider.   Proverbs 31:21
  13. Well Dressed.   Proverbs 31:22
  14. Wife of a Good Husband.   Proverbs 31:23
  15. Good Business Woman.   Proverbs 31:24
  16. Honorable.  Proverbs 31:25
  17. Wise.  Proverbs 31:26a
  18. Kind.  Proverbs 31:26b
  19. Good Mother.   Proverbs 31:27a
  20. Busy.   Proverbs 31:27b
  21. Praiseworthy.    Proverbs 31:28
  22. Attains or Excels.    Proverbs 31:29
  23. Fear of the Lord.   Proverbs 31:30
  24. Fruit bearing.   Proverbs 31:31

Why is she this way? Because she fears the Lord. (verse 30). A woman who FEARS THE LORD is to be praised. This has been a common theme throughout the book of Proverbs. This woman is very strong and has an amazing character. But it’s not because she’s just developed a great work ethic. (Although that is true).

Becoming this type of person doesn’t start with a resolve to work hard. That’s what I tend to do. I read passages like this and think about what it would look like for me to become a woman like that. And I know it won’t happen overnight.

This woman was extraordinary because she feared the LORD. She saw that God had provided the means for her to help provide for her family, so she took advantage of those opportunities, and tried to be a good steward of what God had given her. She saw that there were poor individuals in the community and God has blessed her with the means to help them, so she did. But all of these characteristics were a result of fearing the LORD. She understood who God was and had a relationship with Him that transformed her character from the inside out.

I think sometimes I forget that God calls me to worship Him through my everyday life. That’s part of fearing the LORD and loving God with ALL of your heart. That means that I work hard at the tasks that he has given me (anything from respecting family members that I live with to being diligent and honest at my summer job as a witness to others) because I recognize those as opportunities that God has given me to use for His glory. It goes back to the idea of stewardship. How are you using the opportunities and resources God has given you? If you need to make a change in your life, the solution is not to determine to “do better.” The solution is to confess to God that you need his strength to glorify Him where He’s put you for right now. So (whether you’re a girl or a guy), how do you line up with these traits? Could someone say these things about you?

His Flawless Word

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”  (Proverbs 30:5-6)

When I read these wise words, I am reminded of how many times as a Christian I have neglected to read the Word of God, the Bible.  I’ve spent countless hours studying and reading books in college, mostly about things I’ll never need to know again.  I’ve read probably millions of headlines in the news, and I’ve read so many books for fun. 

If we took studying the Bible even ten percent as seriously as we took studying for school, we would probably be as wise as Solomon.  Yet in this busy culture, we often don’t take the time to really understand and learn to apply the only absolute, eternal truth we know – the eternal Word of God.  I’ve found that the words in the Bible are like a double-edged sword that cut to my heart.  There’s a supernatural power behind the words that changes my life when I read them and apply them, and when I’ve shown others passages of scripture, I’ve seen their lives transformed as well.  No other book, news article, or magazine can give me the encouragement and life that the Bible brings to me when I take time to read it daily.

I’d encourage you to memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17 below.  Commit yourself to studying and applying the Word of God to your life this summer.  Pray and ask the Lord to use it to transform you and make you the person he created you to be.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Snare of Fear

The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.  – Proverbs 29:25 NASB

There are many reasons we might be afraid: wars and threats of war…concerns about terrorism, crime, or disease…problems with a job or boss…conflicts in our marriage and family…pressures in our finances…or simply fear of what other people might say or do.

Over and over, the Bible tells us not to be afraid. It also reminds us that fear of other people “brings a snare.” What does it mean to be ensnared by fear of people?

James Strong says the Hebrew word here means “a noose (for catching animals)…or a hook (for the nose).” In other words, fear of what others say or do literally can capture us and pull us further and further from our destination, as if we’re caught by a noose. This fear can distract us, trap us, and control us.

What is the answer? The Bible simply says the way to be “exalted” is to trust in the Lord. Trusting in the Lord means refusing to give in to worry or fear, no matter what circumstances come our way and no matter what others say or do.

Trusting God is our greatest defense and protection. And our greatest weapon is not resorting to revenge or anger, but resting in Him and letting Him defend and protect us.

In your life, does any person or situation cause fear in your heart and mind? Right now, commit it to the Lord. Turn everything over to Him—the people, the problems, the fears.

Place your trust in Him today. Don’t be snared by fear, but commit your needs to Him. Sow Seeds into His Kingdom with the resources He has given you, and make Him the Rock on whom you depend.

Integrity

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. Proverbs 28:6

Integrity is superior than riches. What we need most is an upright heart, not prosperity. If we measure our society against the Scripture, we can see how far off the norm is.

Integrity derives from the Latin root word of “integer”, meaning complete, wholeness. So, in terms of a person, we can say he is complete in the sense that his personality is not fractured, not double minded.

Of course, I am referring to integrity as singleness of heart in the good sense. We can not say a man who sell his soul to the devil wholeheartedly has anything to do with integrity. Whereas the opposite to integrity is hypocrisy (or corruption), doing things with a hidden motive behind a good cover.

We should pursue spiritual goals over material gains. Let our eyes be used as one.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

I had a little difficulty in choosing today’s verse. Chapter 27 is jam-packed with great information (thanks to God and King Solomon milenia ago), from not praising oneself to how to accept encouragement from others…and everything in between. But..alas!…here I am with the old adage: as iron sharpens iron…because it is so true.

Most everyone knows a dull knife can be more dangerous than a sharp one. Although it seems contradictory, a dull-edged blade can actually do more damage!

That’s because when a blade is dull, it’s harder to use. Not only does it take more force to actually cut something, but also it’s harder to control. That’s why a dull blade can slice a finger quicker than a tomato, and why people spend hundreds on a great knife.

Every knife becomes dull with use. The sharp edge rounds out, and little chips develop. Cutting will render a blade ineffective, and on its own, it will never become sharp again. That’s the first truth about sharpening iron: a knife cannot sharpen itself. Nor can something weaker than iron, sharpen iron.

Proverbs 27:17 uses a practical truth about sharpening iron, to teach a spiritual truth about our relationships with others: “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (Msg).

We’ve all had the experience of friends who inspire us to be better than we are, and friends who don’t. A godly Christian friend can sharpen you in areas they are strong. For example, a wise friend can make you wiser. A loving friend can expand your capacity to love. A biblically knowledgeable friend can enhance your understanding of Scripture. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

When we think of sharpening a blade, or sharpening ourselves, it’s always done for a purpose. A chef doesn’t sharpen his or her knife so it looks better lying on the kitchen counter. Sharpening is done to make it more effective and efficient. If we sharpen a knife for years and never put it into use, it will eventually be sharpened down to nothing, with nothing to show for all that honing.

This is just like Christians. We are to be sharpened, and to sharpen others, in order to advance the Kingdom of God. Whether we are talking about a knife, a sword or ourselves, sharpening isn’t done for a passive activity. A blade is sharpened to accomplish a purpose. One reason Christians need sharpening is to be effective in the spiritual battle against sin surrounding us. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Growing as a Christian is important. Choosing friends who will sharpen us is one practical way we can grow. God designed us to need each other for fellowship, and for advancing His kingdom here on earth.

Week 46: The Art of Losing Myself

Worship.

I live for it.

I breathe it in.

Not just for anything.

For one thing.

My Savior.

Jesus.

The deeper I get into worship, the more respect I have for the worshipers that went before me and paved the way for what we call call worship today.  The longer I spend in worship and talking to others about it, the more I realize that this is indeed art at its most primal level. Even when we’re going through the hardships that life has a tendency to toss our way.

A friend of mine reminded me of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs (From the Inside Out). Each time I listen to this song, the same lyrics continue to jump out at me:

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

excerpt from “From The Inside Out” – Joel Houston, Hillsong

I’ve heard this song many times before, and each time, those lyrics touch a deeper portion of my soul.  They so clearly articulate what I believe, but never been able to put to words myself.  I’ve had people ask me why I worship, and what I do when I worship, even how to worship.  I’ve never once had anyone ask me about the art of worship. 

As a worship artist, it’s important for me to remember that worship is never about me, my style or the notes or song that comes next. Sure the talent is art, but the true art is allowing myself to be lost in God; not focusing on that moment. The art of losing yourself in worship, as the song alludes to, is a matter of getting your priorities straight first, then simply being creative in His presence:

  1. Put your focus on God
  2. Remember that you are there so others may worship
  3. Be creative and continually put their focus on God

Sounds simple enough, but it’s the creatively part where most people trip up.  Where do you draw the line in expressing yourself creatively so that it doesn’t feel like a performance?  I believe it all comes down to focus.  Performance in church has its place so long as the focus is placed on God, then it becomes an expression of the gifts you were given by God.  When people notice you more than than they notice God, then you need to seriously examine if you crossed that line.

The art of worship requires you to balance the natural tension of performance (“look at me”) and presentation (“look at Him”).  The art of losing yourself in worship requires to you to keep one eye and ear on the physical world around you while getting as deep into God as possible through worship.  The aim here is to connect the two together.  Connections require constant attention, otherwise they fall apart.  What is worship for some people, is a distraction and a struggle for others.  You need to be able to respond to the needs of the physical environment around you while responding to the spiritual promptings of the Holy Spirit so as many barriers to worship are removed as possible.

Even the best worship leaders need to practice this continually or risk losing perspective on the environment around them.  This is living art at it’s God-given best.  God rewards the faithful who use their gifts wisely and sacrificially.

A Resolution to Make My Home a Welcoming Place to Be

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

 

I resolve to live with grace, to use the word “OK,” to not lead my life as if I were directing a Broadway production, and to set aside time to rest in an effort to make my home a welcoming place to be. I don’t want to live my life, turning people away at every opportunity; the hospitable woman within me will not let that happen.

Priscilla Shirer briefly touches each of these statements in her next section about living with grace.

I resolve to live with grace…

We must live with grace. We must see our homes as holy ground (or everything we touch, as it all is, first and foremost, God’s) and ourselves as the holy attendants, bestowed with the responsibility and privilege of creating an atmosphere in which the essence of God’s grace, freely extended to you, can be felt and sensed through the grace you freely extend to others. Our homes are the place where we cultivate peace to be enjoyed by those who live there and by all who enter through the doors.

Women hold the primary controls to the mood, spirit, and equality of life within each of their homes. It’s about recognizing our power to change the spiritual climate of our home based on the Holy Spirit-enabled resolve to be a woman who exudes the simple yet wonderfully poignant attribute…grace.

We must remember (and strive towards) what happened when we realized the detriment of our sinful disgrace and what God did for us. When we chose to follow Him, His grace becomes ours. When we fully realized how many of our own blunders He lovingly forgives and forgets every day, we suddenly find the motivation for extending that same undeserved favor to those around us. His patience, His acceptance, His understanding, His kindness. By His grace, these become ours – not just to receive but to release.

See every downfall as an opportunity to extend forgiveness and grace; to bestow compassion on another human being.

I resolve to use give a gentle answer…

I also rediscovered during my journey through this section that it’s okay to just say OK. I don’t always have to be right and burn myself into the ground to prove myself right (even when I’m wrong).  Proverbs 15:1 reads A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Try it. It may save a relationship.

I resolve to not be the director of my own personal Broadway production…

Doing so would leave way too many big shoes unfilled. When we do this, the “actors” in our productions do not know what’s expected of them and when they fail, we give them boot. That shouldn’t be the way we lead our lives…tossing relationships to the side because so-and-so didn’t say what I wanted them to at that precise moment.

I was a drama queen once…during my teens…but those years have long since gone. Being a writer doesn’t help much either. I can direct the drama  that fills the pages of my latest novel, but I can’t direct that which fills my day-to-day life. A woman of grace recognizes and admits that, yes, she has a predetermined plot line for her life and surrounds, a compilation of past experiences and make-believe notions. We’ve all done it. There are days when I’m still guilty of it.

But the woman of grace looks at her reality first and then shapes her expectations accordingly. She seeks to discern the true needs of her loved ones and then adapts her own view of things so that she can do what is best for them, nurturing an atmosphere in which they can genuinely flourish.

Grace releases, frees, relaxes, and unbridles. It allows room, loosens nerves, gives permission, and expresses acceptance.

After all, God’s the director. Not me.

I resolve to set aside some “Sabbath” time…

I resolve to rest. God did. He even commands us to do the same. Why? Because we need it. We need the rest. We need the opportunity to regain our prospective on life. If we kept going, our minds become clouded by the hum of a busy life and our decisions are made rashly. We end creating more chaos for ourselves.

We need to purposefully carve out time to stop.

Even if that day doesn’t land on a Sunday.

Or a Saturday.

We need time to simply enjoy God. To celebrate a time of rest, rejuvenation and spiritual focus that would perpetuate their experience of freedom, not just in theory, but practically.

Priscilla argues that it’s not good to just set aside one day of the week, but rather a segment of time each day that we give to God. I would tend to agree. This, for me, occurs during the earliest hours of my morning, on my walk to work, a reprieve from work in the afternoon, yoga in the evenings and then again, right before I turn in for the day. Doing so actually frees me from the bondage of my day-to-day life.

How about you? Will you resolve to be a person of grace today?

I will.

Again, I say…I resolve to live with grace, to use the word “OK,” to not lead my life as if I were directing a Broadway production, and to set aside time to rest in an effort to make my home a welcoming place to be.

Little to Fear

Have you ever had a time–maybe even now–where things seem to be closing in on you and you don’t know what to do? You question why you of all people should have to deal with such a thing? After everything you’ve been through, you ask, “When will it all end?”

As difficult as it is going to sound, I’d ask you to just step back and believe that you are going to get through it. Whether it is a threat of something due to not having enough money or losing a job while you have debt or struggling with temptations…whatever it is, just pause and give it all to the Lord. Tell him that you’re believing this isn’t for you and that you will rise above it by trusting that God has bigger and better plans for you and that he intends to prosper you rather than harm you just like it is revealed in Jeremiah 29:11:

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

Don’t let the deceit of Satan the liar get the best of you. All sorts of calamity may appear to be raining down upon your head or your house, but do not fear. Stuff is always going to happen around you, but you have been given faith in order to have hope and know that there is always a positive outcome in the works of the Lord.

Reflect today on the words of Proverbs 26:2 this time from The Message translation:

You have as little to fear from an undeserved curse
as from the dart of a wren or the swoop of a swallow.

Believe the curse is undeserved because God would not cause you harm! Treat it as if you were being descended upon by a tiny little sparrow. Obviously, the much-smaller sparrow would not intend you to be its target so you would not be concerned. In Christ, you are bigger than anything any devil would throw at you. It’s time to take a stand and profess in the name of Christ that you are not going to give in to the lies and fear and the stress of this world. Trust in God and he will see you through anything. Even though the sky is dark and the clouds look ominous, you may see the light of day before you see any rain.

Courtesy of http://www.daveingland.com

Concealing a Matter

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to seek it. Proverbs 26:2

This verse reminded me of the film One Night with the King, which depicts the story of Esther. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.

There is a contrast here between the King of Kings, God and earthly human kings so we might better understand God.

It is the responsibility and honor for a human king to inquire, research, investigate, and interrogate to be able to come to an equitable and honest ruling in a matter. In fact that king’s honor is at stake in each ruling.

The contrast here is that a human king is trying to dig out all of the facts possible, but God Almighty hides and covers all of the details of our life of sin when we lay those sins before Him. It is the ‘glory’ or fullness or beautiful heaviness of God to choose to cover over those confessed sins.

David uses the same word Hebrew word ‘caphar’ when he wrote in Psalm 51:9 “Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.” It is clearly God’s desire to forgive a person their sins. Isaiah said the same in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. ” So when we come to God confessing, repenting, believing then God pardons as in Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly [pardon]. ” When we come to God we never cry, ‘Justice God, justice!” but “Mercy is what we need O God.”

Like the story of a mother’s plea to Emperor Napoleon for her son’s second desertion. ‘Emperor I implore you for mercy.’ ‘But he doesn’t deserve mercy’ The wise mother answered, ‘If he deserved it sire, it wouldn’t be mercy ‘ Napoleon is said to have replied, “You are correct madam, so I grant your son mercy that he does not deserve.” And the son was set free.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve but grace is getting something even better than that. We don’t deserve the rich blessings that God desires to bestow upon us. However He does so that we might give Him a spontaneous response of praise from our heart.