Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IOW: Active Faith

"If God said that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, then the whale swallowed Jonah, and we do not need a scientist to measure the gullet of a whale."

~A. W. Tozer~

Faith is all about believing. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

Popular culture tells us that unless science proves it, a thing (idea, belief) is untrue. The main science building at our local university has these words carved in stone across the entire 4-story front:

Truth is Beauty,
Science is Truth

When I first read that, I batted around in my mind that it was half right. Now I've come to the conclusion that perhaps, using the right perspective, it is entirely right: A Biblical worldview can open our eyes --

Jesus is Truth,
Therefore Truth is Beauty
Honest Scientific study proves Creation
Jesus is Creator
This Science is Truth

But...how much does this kind of proof matter in the whole scheme of things?

Faith pleases God."But without faith it is impossible to please Him" Hebrews 11:6a (NKJV)

My dear husband and I were discussing today's quote over coffee Monday morning. His gifts of wisdom and discernment were evident with his words:

"Our believing in the miracle of the flood shouldn't be dependent
on the ability to fit x-number of animals into the dimensions of the ark."

Faith is an active verb. Belief is not faith, just the seed that grows into it. Without proper care, belief alone leads to death. "Even the demons believe." James 2:19b (NKJV)

In order for belief to become faith, we must get involved our heart, mind, body, and soul:

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)

Faith is the real proof and power. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)

As my husband finished his coffee and walked out of the room, he tossed out this tidbit for me to chew on:

In referring to the flood and ark-
"Those are all minor miracles compared to
the omniscience and omnipresence of God.
That He can be everywhere and know everything is mind-boggling."

The psalmist put it in these words:

"Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence
If I ascend into heaven, Your are there,
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold You are there,
If I take the wings of morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall uphold me
Psalm 139:7-10 (NKJV)

One final thought. Since salvation from God is revealed "from faith to faith" - our faith shared with another to bring him or her also to faith, how are you going to exercise your faith this week?

Deborah is hosting In Other Words at her site Chocolate and Coffee. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Deborah's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Thankful Spirit

I found a devotion in a study Bible I've had for years. It so well-written and so appropriate for Thankful Thursday that I must share it. My Gratitude list follows.

GRATITUDE: A Thankful Spirit
(from The Woman's Study Bible [NKJV])

Gratitude begins by acknowledging who God is and what He has done. This heartfelt emotion is not dependent upon the response of another person or upon the nature of what is received as a gift. Ingratitude, on the other hand, begins with a heart that refuses to be satisfied, that rejects the Giver as well as His gift (Romans 1:21).

Life itself is a gracious gift from God. There is no gratitude except what is built on this foundation. A spirit of gratitude must be cultivated, then passed on to others, especially to those in your own household, by example. These are some ways to accomplish this:
  • Remember that a grateful person is humble and focused on God, while the ungrateful heart is full of pride and focused on self. Ruth beautifully emulated such a spirit of gratitude and humility.
    Ruth 2:10 -- "So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, 'Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?'"
    She responded graciously even to the smallest kindness.

  • Do not take for granted the small and ordinary daily blessings.
    Matthew 6:11 -- "Give us this day our daily bread."

  • Look for blessings from God, being careful not to overlook the hidden, subtle, indirect gifts from God.
    Colossians 4:2 -- "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." Recognize that not every gift you desire may be beneficial to you. God is the all-wise Giver. Consider His plan and priorities for your life, being careful not to lose sight of the big picture because of a tragic but small interruption.

  • Remember to thank God even in the midst of adversity and trials.
    Habbakuk 3:17-19 -- "Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls--yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills."

    1 Corinthians 10:31 -- "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

    Philippians 1:3 -- "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."

    Philippians 2:14 -- "Do all things without complaining and disputing."

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 -- "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

  • Gratitude to God and others should be expressed not only regularly but also publicly.
    Psalm 35:18 -- "I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people."

    John 11:41-42 -- "Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, 'Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.'"

  • Record your blessings and keep a record of God's faithfulness to you.

  • Complete the cycle of gratitude by reaching out to give to others in the Spirit of Christ.
    2 Corinthians 9:12 -- "For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God."
A grateful spirit and a thankful heart are an integral part of the holy life. The woman who is thankful and has a heart full of praise brings joy to the Father and glory to His name. And attitude of gratitude will bring to your heart a host of blessings and make you a channel of blessings to other.

I'm thankful for:
  • Shafts of sunlight peeping through the blinds, sparkling with autumn hues -- calling me to time alone with the Lord.
  • Making bread for my family using my favorite recipe from Marilyn Moll @ The Urban Homemaker.
  • This week's plentiful harvest of sweet bell peppers that will bring the flavors of summer to our winter stews.
  • The maturing friendships with my children.
  • Holding my grandson's hand while we walk.
  • Planning our special get-a-way with my dear husband.
  • Praise and worship music on the radio while I clean.
  • The alluring scent of apple butter bubbling on the stove.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WFW - Love 4-Ever

Love that lasts a lifetime is a gift, but one that requires assembly and faithful maintenance. Blessedly, for believers, God sends it with an instruction manual.

Word-Filled Wednesdays can be found at The 160 Acre Woods.
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6 Easy Steps to a Peaceful Life

After nearly 27 years of marriage, I've come to the conclusion that about 80% of disagreements (substitute "fights" or "arguments" here, depending on volume levels) are caused by poor communication.

There are a variety of symptoms that indicate poor communication:
  • snapping over minor irritations
  • silent treatment while nursing perceived insults
  • insisting one's own way is the only way
These are just the beginning of what could be a very long list. Are you starting to see a picture emerge here--with an outline of selfishness?

God's word more aptly describes this picture as a tangible sound, a "constant dripping."

“The contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” ~Proverbs 19:13 (NASB)

“A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike.” ~Proverbs 27:15 (NASB)

The writer uses a woman as an example here, but these can easily be applied to a man as well. But the writer has other examples from the perspective of a male ego.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife.” ~Proverbs 15:18 (NASB)

“A perverse man spreads strife.” ~Proverbs 16:28 (NASB)

All these verses give us a picture, as Elizabeth George puts it, of a crabby, cranky, nagging, quarrelsome, complaining, ill-tempered [man or woman]. And it all comes down to the way we choose to communicate.

Our words and how we use them can give us a stressful life or a peaceful life. God leaves the choice to us, while explaining very clearly in His word what is the best choice.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstances.” ~Proverbs 25:11 (NASB)

Here we are given an image of great beauty and value. There are 5 keys to bring that beauty into our lives through our words.
  1. Our words are to be soft.
    “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” ~Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV)

  2. Our words are to be sweet.
    “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” ~Proverbs 16:21 (NASB)

  3. Our words are to be suitable.
    “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” ~Proverbs 16:24 (NASB)

  4. Our words are to be scant.
    “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” ~Proverbs 10:19 (NASB)

  5. Our words are to be slow.
    “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” ~James 1:19 (NASB)

When we apply God's principles of good communication, we will soon see the result of our efforts when we add the 6 Easy Steps to a Peaceful Life (adapted from Elizabeth George's book A Woman After God's Own Heart):

#1- Follow God's guidelines for good communication.
#2- Identify any speech patterns that must go.
#3- Make it a goal to encourage your spouse, children, friends.
#4- Be quick to say you're sorry.
#5- "Say what you mean, but don't say it meanly."
#6- Seek to please God with your words.

“Let the words of my mouth...be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” ~Psalms 19:14 (NASB)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IOW: Graciousness in the Ordinary

"“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.”

~Alexander Strauch
from The Hospitality Commands~

Growing up in a military family and marrying a USAF member, I got to experience hospitality all around the country and in Okinawa, Japan. Interestingly, most of the hospitality I've received centers around food.

A true Southern hostess will offer her guest a glass of iced tea practically before she gets all the way through the door. In New England, it's a cup of coffee or tea offered.

One of the most comforting things I discovered about my husband's family early in our marriage was that no guest ever goes hungry. When she was able, Granny (my husband's maternal grandmother) always had a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Even though her mind drifts on occasion, at 92 years old she still invites us to her house with this: "Come on up. We'll fix something good to eat."

I'm not the true Southern hostess you would expect from a woman born in Biloxi, Mississippi and raised by a mother from Spartanburg, South Carolina. If I get unannounced guests, I'm more likely to grimace in panic than smile in welcome. The panic comes from never quite feeling the house is fit for company. I try to keep sweet tea in the fridge (according to my chef daughter and grill cook son, the best ever!). I haven't quite mastered the art of keeping a meal at the ready.

I've worked on this failing for years. Today my problem isn't so much laziness as a home under constant remodeling. My washer and dryer are located in the dining room (visible to the front door). This will probably be remedied this week, if I finish a promised chore to prepare the new laundry area so my husband and son can move them for me.

I have a wonderful book I bought in 1994 called, "A Christian Woman's Guide to Hospitality" by Quin Sherrer and Laura Watson. It is the best I've read on the subject and I pull it out frequently. It has the most wonderful reminders of our home's real purpose and tips for fulfilling that purpose.

"Your home is
God's provision for you.

Whether you are married or single,
it can be a source of blessing to others,
whether you live alone or with others,
your house can be a tool for ministry
to other single adults, married couples, and families."

~A Christian Woman's Guide to Hospitality

From scripture we can see God's stance on hospitality. It is a condition of leadership fitness according to the apostle Paul.

"An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable,hospitable,
able to teach." ~1 Timothy 3:2

Peter tells us that hospitality is a gift from God, not just to the person receiving the hospitality, but to the one giving it.

"Be hospitable to one another
without complaint.
As each has received a special gift, employ it in
serving one another
as good stewards of the manifold
grace of God."
~1 Peter 4:9-10

If our hearts are full of hospitality, we have the opportunity of doing the most amazing service for the Kingdom. And evidently our hospitality is to extend to everyone we encounter.

"Do not neglect to
show hospitality to strangers,
for by this some have
entertained angels
without knowing it."

~Hebrews 13:2

We have the opportunity every day of "practicing hospitality" (Romans 12:13b). God has placed us in our families for a wonderful purpose. If we are parents, we can glorify Him by teaching our children His grace and mercy. If we are children still living under our parents' authority, we can glorify Him by obeying and serving our parents.

One thing I like to do is to use the "good china" on days other than holidays or just for company. I've seen eyes light up at sitting to a table well set with candles and cloth napkins, even when the main dish is a casserole or meat loaf. Out of consideration for my husband and son (they tend to worry about breaking something), I don't use the china every day, but I try to make special meals weekly.

This kind of service to those closest to us prepares the way to be gracious to others. Even when we are far away from our extended family, God expects us to serve and love those outside our house. I love what He told us through the prophet Jeremiah. It was a source of comfort all those years we traveled because of the USAF. So often a military family just marks time until the next move. Here the Lord lets us know that we are placed deliberately wherever we are and we are to live as His children in every circumstance.

"Build houses and live in them;
and plant gardens and eat their produce...
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you

into exile, and
pray to the Lord on its behalf;
for in its welfare you will have welfare...'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
~Jeremiah 29:5, 7, 11

For the past six years we have lived in my husband's childhood home. I am working hard to develop the level of hospitality in this settled lifestyle that I was learning when we were always packing up and moving to new places. Opportunities to serve are different, more routine but nonetheless important. Proverbs 3:33b reminds us that the Lord "blesses the home of the righteous."

My prayer today is this:

Father, thank you for the home you have given to me. Please guide me to make it a haven of rest to those who live in it and those who come to visit. Remind me daily of the calling you have given me to be the one who makes this house into a home. Help me overcome my stubbornness with the tedious tasks so that even cooking and cleaning give You glory. Help me have a heart free of prejudice and bias so that I can serve whomever you send to me. Lead me to be one who welcomes "angels unaware" with dignity and graciousness. Amen

Chelsey is hosting In Other Words at her site Joyfully Living for His Glory. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Chelsey's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IOW: Standing Up On the Inside

"Still, accepting God's existence is one thing; honoring his command is another matter entirely, especially if we're required to go back when we'd rather go forward."
Liz Curtis Higgs
from Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers addresses obedience to God in at least 177 of the daily devotions. Evidently he could see, in his own and the lives of the missionaries he taught, one of the biggest struggles we all have: to obey without regard to our own will.

It's fun to do the new and exciting; not so much fun to do the same old thing. Aren't we always wanting to jump headlong into the big important work for God, the ones that impress our observers?

"...to obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22 [NASV]

How often have I wanted to volunteer, say yes to a new ministry, anything to feed my sense of importance...without pausing to ask the Lord first?

"When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again."
Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest, December 28

What happens when we don't respond properly? We get to learn the lesson again. When we don't exhibit patience, another situation requiring patience slaps us in the face. When we ignore the Spirit's urging to pray, we encounter a problem that drives us to our knees.

How simple our lives could be if we would subdue our natural urge to do things our way. If we didn't react to God's chastening with the attitude, "You may be forcing me to sit down, Lord...but I'm standing up on the inside," couldn't we sometimes avoid going back to learn submission all over again?

"...obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people, and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you." Jeremiah 7:23 [NASV]

Honoring God with our attitude, the one we keep hidden behind the mask of our church faces, is the only way to walk in fellowship with Him. True fellowship with the One who loves us and died for us is the effect of a life surrendered.

"Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point--a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire,
giving our utmost for
His highest--our best for His glory.
Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest, December 27

Father, You are entirely worthy of all my best. Please guide my mind to remember my first love. Help me to be on fire for You so Your will becomes mine.

Miriam is hosting In Other Words at her site Miriam Pauline's Monologue. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Miriam's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Join the Gratitude Community with your own list.

Just the beginning of my thankfulness:

  1. Cool, quiet mornings on the front porch.
  2. Hot coffee with just a hint of chocolate.
  3. Sweet wake-up cuddles from my grandson.
  4. Oswald Chambers.
  5. Books. Books. Books.
  6. A solid-footed husband who encourages my soaring imagination.
  7. Happy hens clucking in the yard.
  8. My daughters.
  9. My son.
  10. Newness each time I open the Bible.
  11. Inspiration.
  12. Pink roses.
  13. Motorcycle get-aways.
More to come...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slammed Right Up to God

"For at least when we express our anger to God, our wrestling keeps our skin pressing into His. God is still present. When we honestly expose our inflammation, express our soreness, we are still staking our commitment to our relationship with Him."
Ann Voscamp from her blog post,
Even if He doesn't: Learn to Lament

This posting is a day late for the simple reason that I have been in awe over the words of Ann Voscamp since Loni posted them on Friday.

After I read them, I went to Ann's blog to read the entire context. I was unprepared for the full impact of her testimony. God has stretched me as I have tried to get my mind around the simple truth that as His child I can go right up to Him and be completely open with my pain and anger.

The first thing I realized is that I don't spend much time confronting God with my anger. Mostly I gripe, then whine...never really delving deeply enough into the source of my pain or anger to seriously deal with it.

So...instead of letting God peel away the unhealthy layers and deal with the raw, open wounds, I begin to develop a callous around my heart. As subsequent circumstances occur, related or not to the present anger, I whine a while and try to dismiss the anger and put on my "church face."

When my children were young, I got very good at tuning out whiny, cranky voices that indicated tired or unsatisfied little kids. I could carry on normal activities while ignoring their shrill, repeated complaints.

At about age 4, my son, from within his painful public shyness, figured out how to get my full attention back.

He would slam himself against me, grab my legs, and hold on with all his might. If it seemed I was still going to force him into a situation he didn't want to face, he would let go with one tiny hand just long enough to signal his increasing distress with a sharp punch at me.

I would immediately refocus on him instead of continuing to push him into his classroom and smiling apologetically at his Sunday school teacher. At that point I new his fears and stress had progressed passed the whiny stage into real distress. My response was always to kneel down and take him in my arms, softly telling him that hitting mommy was not ok, and assuring him that I was going to stay with him until he was comfortable enough for me to leave.

It took a long time for me to get to go to my own Sunday school class. But by the time I did, my son was confident that I was always going to be available to him and I would always be back to get him.

Ann's words reminded me of my freedom to approach my heavenly Father, even in anger.

While I was preparing for our Wednesday night Bible study, I read some words that brought it all together for me:

"But though Job's faith wore out, God's faithfulness did not. He stayed with Job until he had learned the lesson of God's sovereignty, and then He gave Job twice as much as he had before... 'Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.' (Lamentations 3:32)." ~From The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges.

I believe God wants us to engage Him fully, no matter the situation. If it's worth bringing to Him, instead of throwing up half-thought prayers that trail off in whining and complaining, we should boldly grab hold of Him and truly pour out our hearts.

Think about this: If it's only important enough to whine about, perhaps it's not worth the whining.

Ann reminded us that David went to God with words of deep lament. She could only give us this encouragement because it's obvious that she knows and searches the Scriptures. This is the "how" part of applying her valuable words.

[From The Practice of Godliness on the fruit of Joy~~
Jeremiah 29:11 ~ "'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.'"

These are the words the Holy Spirit will use to promote joy in our hearts. In order for Him to use the Scriptures, however, they must be in our hearts through regular exposure to and meditation upon them. This is our responsibility and is one of the practical means we must pursue to exhibit the fruit of joy.]

Loni is hosting In Other Words at her site Writing Canvas. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Loni's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Intimacy with the Lord

"The key to either great purpose or great destruction lies in where we choose to sustain our focus. Knowing this fact should move us to jealously guard our intimacy with the Lord."
by Bill Johnson
Senior Pastor, Bethel Church - Redding, CA

I'm part of a Sunday School lesson writers' group at our church. I just finished my latest assignment. My lesson covers 1 Samuel 2:12-4:1a.

What a vivid example Eli and his sons were of the destruction that follows when one turns his focus from the Lord.

Eli was a priest whose family had been set aside historically to serve the Lord in the tabernacle at Shiloh. Evidently Eli's tabernacle work kept him too busy to teach his sons the customs of the priests' relationship to the people. His sons were evil, greedy men ~ so evil they even stole the fragrance offering from the Lord.

Eli was very old before he finally confronted his sons. By that time, all the people knew not only that Hophni and Phinehas stole the fatty meat from their sacrifices before it was properly prepared, but also their immorality with the women who served at the tent of meeting. Ultimately God put an end to the entire priestly line of Eli in punishment for their wickedness.

The saddest part of the story is the consequences for the people of God. Because of the actions of Eli and his sons, "Word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent." 1 Samuel 3:1.

Think about this: Greed has no place in service to God. The Lord provides for His own. Do you have the patience to wait for His provision? Can you be an example of a faithful servant without needing your rewards up front?

What a contrast of great purpose Samuel is! His parents were a godly man and woman who fully supported his service to the Lord, and they did everything in their power to show that support. After praying for years for a son, Hannah was given the desire of her heart. When Samuel was old enough to be weaned, she released her hold on him into God's service. Only able to see him once a year when they came for their yearly sacrifice, they brought him a new robe that he needed for his work. As a result of their faithfulness, their lives were blessed with more children.

Think about this: God gives us a beautiful example of a whole family sold out to Him. Like them, focus now on serving and supporting the ministry of the Lord. Your family will follow whatever example you set for them.

It is so important that we live faithfully under the guidance of the Lord. We should make every effort to do what we know to be His will. One great way to start is with a few minutes of meeting Him in prayer and Bible reading.

Think about this: Are you living the life of an obedient servant, never having to beg for scraps of the Bread of Life? If not, what changes are you going to make right now?

Michelle is hosting In Other Words at her site Because I Love You. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box above on your site then click on the link to Michelle's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.