Righteous Anger?

I woke up this morning, and I rolled over allowing my mind to yawn and stretch. I got up and plodded down the hall towards the kitchen to retrieve my morning companion. Coffee. First things first. However, by the time I had completed the very short walk to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to reach for the creamer, I was already thinking about my sister and anger was welling up inside of me.

Yesterday, she had posted something I found horrific on Facebook. It was in light of the current political win/loss on abortion.

I seethed, going over scenarios in my mind. Thinking about arguments I could win, backing myself up on the comment I had posted (even though my personal rule is to never get involved in the back and forth rhetoric), even going as far as to imagine arguing my point to my other sister or parents about how I was right. I had to stop. So, I paused for a minute and prayed.

Lord, why? Why does this make me so angry? I know the Truth. I rest easy in it. Yes, I am saddened. Especially by my sister who refuses to acknowledge it, but where is this boiling anger coming from? I began to think to myself, “Well,look at what they wrote. Their banter and proud words stating that they have, and can murder their babies Lord. I mean, it is right to feel this disgust. They are ignorant, and immature. It is their fault that they refuse to grow in wisdom and knowledge so they will finally turn from their selves and acknowledge you. Right?”

Then I heard it. I felt the gentle caress of the Holy Spirit stirring in my soul, and impressing a verse on my heart:

“Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:9

And those words took me back. Back to before I knew the Lord. Before I had been given the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me. Back to before I was a new creation in Christ, and at that time even I was pro-choice. I would never have thought about having an abortion, but I certainly wasn’t going to get caught up in other peoples choices. Back in a time when I was very liberal about most everything, and many of my thoughts and ideas did not line up with the Word of God.

I realized that it was of no credit to myself that any of those things in me had changed. I did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to deserve God’s grace. It surely had nothing to do with the fact that I was indeed ignorant, proud, and boastful. It was for no other reason than I was loved. He loved me and allowed me to finally see. He softened my mind and my heart.

I thought back to my sister’s Facebook post, the small squares that represented the images of each of her friends; who like minded, rejoiced in their right to kill. Then it hit me. I was angry all right. But not with them. I was angry with the enemy. And the best way for me to glorify God and the biggest gift I could offer to my sister and her friends, wasn’t condemnation. It was prayer. They didn’t need to hear what I think. I am nothing. They need to KNOW what God thinks. So I will be praying. For all of them. And I’m not going to lie, but I feel a little snarky at my dig to Satan. The last thing he wanted or imagined, would be that someone would be willing to pray for any of those people. Well, he guessed wrong. God is SO much bigger.

I will continue to worship and praise our awesome God, who even though I don’t deserve it, continues to offer me peace and mercy. And I will pray.
Thank you Jesus!

“God saved you by His grace when you believed, and you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8 NLT

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44 NLT

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Their Hearts were too Hard

In Mark Chapter 6, there are a couple of stories that I have read too many times to count. You probably have heard of them. Jesus feeds 5000 by multiplying the loaves and fishes, and then He walks on water. It is amazing how sometimes we can read the same things over and over again and then ‘BING’ one day the Holy Spirit steps in to reveal to us an awesome truth. As I was taking my quiet time with the Lord this morning and yep you guessed it, reading in the Gospel of Mark, a few lightbulb moments came to me.

Towards the end of chapter 6 in Mark, Jesus comes walking up to the apostles’ boat from across the water and they are terrified. They think He is a ghost. But at once Jesus encouraged them, “Take courage! I am here!”, he said. And then He climbed into the boat. As soon as He climbed in, the wind stopped and it says the apostles were AMAZED. For they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. (vs.52) NLT

As I took a minute to ponder and meditate on this verse I am thinking? What did they not understand about the significance? How do you take 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, hand them over to the Son of God, watch Him lift them up in prayer to God and then begin to pass out so much food that over 5000 men and their families ate AS MUCH AS THEY WANTED, with 12 baskets of food left over and not get it? How does the significance of that elude you? It would blow my mind! It really makes NO logical sense that they wouldn’t be able to grasp the significance of that occurance. Until you read the next part of the verse which says, …Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

That really resonated with me. The Bible says, that even Jesus’ apostles had hearts too hard to understand the significance of what Jesus was doing, and they were standing there watching Him do it! They were allowed to experience Jesus in the flesh and to be firsthand eyewitnesses to the miracles He performed, and the teachings that He shared, but yet, They weren’t grasping something. The significance.

Before Jesus fed the mulitudes He had told the apostles it was time to take a break. He wanted to go off to a quiet place by themselves and rest for a little while. They hadn’t even had a chance to eat. But when people saw where they were going and followed them, Jesus took one look at these people and the Bible says, he had compassion. For these people just longed to be near Him. To touch Him and hear His stories. And rightfully so… because Jesus is love. And every human being on the planet is drawn to that regardless of their recognition of that fact. Jesus was full of love, and His love overflows to His flock.

Reflecting back on the apostles and their hardness of heart; realizing that there was something they were missing, and things they were not fully grasping. The gravity of it struck a cord with me. I realized that I need to have so much more patience, and compassion, and bottom line…LOVE with every other person I come into contact who just doesn’t “get it”. Because their hearts are hardened. No different than the 12 men who were the closest to Jesus. On second reflection, I am lead to wonder what it is that I am not “getting” because my heart is too hard? For, I don’t believe the apostles were even aware of their own hardness of hearts.

So my prayer today is that Father, you will soften all of our hearts. You will teach us, to above all love You with our whole heart, and mind, and soul, and then to love others the same way. Just as we are called to in your Word. Teach us to love each other in ways we have never been able to before, and reveal to us the mysteries of your teachings. The significance of your AWESOME ways that we are missing. Take from us the malice of judgement when we even have a thought that someone else just doesn’t “get it”. Instead let those thoughts be filled with compassion and help us to see everyone through your eyes, and place in us a heart like yours. That we may be servants, and the hardness that each one of us has, begins to melt away, being replaced by your truths, and sanctifying us for your glory. I love you Lord, and I praise you always! Thank you Jesus!

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Fear of the Lord

My Mom always used to say, “Life is hard and then you die”.  There is a lot of truth in this statement, and while I don’t think she had the things of God in mind when she would say it, I am reminded of the verse John 16:33:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Oh how I do take heart and comfort in this verse.  The last few years have held many trials and sorrows for me.  I am sure that some of them are worse than what others have  experienced, and yet still I am certain that there are others who have it much worse than I ever will.  I know this for certain because my heart belongs to Jesus, and He has overcome the world!!! Amen!  If God is for us, who can be against us?

In Deuteronomy chapter 8, it speaks of God leading the Israelites through the wildnerness for forty years.  It speaks of How God disciplined them as we as parents discipline our own children for their own good.  It speaks of how God lead them and humbled them by letting them go hungry and then providing the heavenly manna they had not known before, in order to teach them that we do not live on bread alone but rather by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Towards the end of this chapter, there is a warning. In vs. 13 we are told “be careful!”  That in our plenty we do not forget the Lord our God and disobey his commands.  We must not become proud and forget Him.  He does everything to humble us and to test us for our own good.  So we will never say to ourselves, “I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.”

As I read over this today, I am called to praise the Lord and rejoice in all of my suffering, because I have no other choice than to press in to Him.  He is my strong tower, the lover of my soul.  He is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  And He’s on top of it.  He’s got in all under control.  What a freeing thought.  To be able to lay down, all of my lifes worries and anxieties, becuase I know I will never be able to conquer them.  And in the minute it takes to come into fellowship with Him, he gives us a peace, that surpasses all understanding!!!  Psalm 46 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”  But if knowing the angst I have experienced keeps me from becoming proud, and thinking I have achieved any of this on my own, then my prayer is I will always know suffering, so that I may always praise the Lord for everything good!

The more I seek God, the more I am humbled that He is willing to reveal Himself to me.  And in doing so the other day, I came to know what it really means to fear the Lord.  That phrase is constant through out the Bible.  Sometimes it is coupled with warning, and to me it has always had a negative connotation.  I should be scared of the Lord, because of His wrath and judgement.  Because he knows what is right and I am constantly failing.  But I would ask you to look to Psalm 29 and perhaps the realization that I came to when He revealed something amazing to me.  It begins:

“Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings; honor the Lord for his glory and strength.  Honor the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” (Hallelujah!)

Now if you will take the time to continue reading the next portion with the imagery involved, really use your imagination to picture what these words paint:

“The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. (Imagine the ocean, have you ever stood before it, looking at it’s enormity, its vastness, it’s giant dangerous waves?)

“The voice of the Lord is powerful.” (More powerful than that ocean we just discussed.  Imagine being in the middle of the sea, just plunked down trying to keep your head above water in a torrent of thrashing waves. You would be scared, you would be helpless.  But God is so much bigger His voice echoes above the sea.)

“The voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars.  The Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.”  (Now, I have never seen a cedar in Lebanon.  But I have been to the Redwoods and seen some of the biggest trees atleast in this country, and I want you to imagine something similar, even a large tree in your yard.  Then imagine the voice of God speaking from the heavens and then by just the sheer power of his Awesomeness, that tree splitting down the middle.  I mean to fathom? Crazy!!!)

“He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.” (Now really imagine that. I grew up on the west coast with Mount Hood, I believe it’s a little over 11,000 feet, I have no idea what size Mount Hermon is, but I’m pretty sure you could substitute any mountain into this verse. I have stood at the base of this mountain and looked up.  It is overwhelming. Just the beauty and sense of God you get. Now imagine God’s voice speaking from the heavens, and that enormous mountain skipping like a calf.  Imagine it.  If I was standing there when it happened, I would pee my pants.)

The Psalm continues on, but it was after I read the first half, and really pictured what it said in my mind that I came to realize what true fear of the Lord meant for me.  It is the knowing that God is so AWESOME, so GREAT, so AMAZING, so POWERFUL, that I would tremble in His presence.  Not because He was going to hurt me, or punish me, or strike me down (which of course He could and has every right to do anything He wishes as the creator of the Universe.)  It is the sheer greatness and power that causes me to wrap my mind around the fear of the Lord, as I imagine trembling in His presence.  Wow, what a gift He has given me, to turn my thought from something negative to sheer jaw dropping RESPECT!!!!  But even better than that, and yes, God just keeps getting better and better!  The last verse of that Psalm is “The Lord gives his people strength.  The Lord blesses them with peace.”  How can you not shout out anything other than, THAT’S RIGHT HE DOES!  THAT IS MY GOD! THANK YOU JESUS!!!!

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Hearing from God- it’s not a coincidence.

I think it can be easy to become discouraged when we feel like we aren’t hearing from God. Whether it is waiting for an answer to prayer, or a life decision we need discernment for, sometimes I envy the more personal contact that God seemed to make with the Israelites back in the Old Testament days. Or that the disciples reveled in when they were actually able to speak to the Son of God face to face. It just doesn’t seem to be that easy in the world we live in today. We know our God is the living God, he has given us His living Word, and he has sent us His helper the Holy Spirit to guide us on our journey. Yet, it seems so many people are having trouble connecting on a personal level that doesn’t seem one sided with our heavenly Father. We pray, we talk at Him, we read our Bibles, but where is His voice?

My answer to that is that His voice is here. He is speaking to you, He is guiding you, He is prompting you. I think if we spent more time being intentional, more time listening, we would be pleasantly suprised. I have been noticing lately, with no credit to myself, but all glory to God, that He is showing me little by little, bits and pieces of Himself. Revealing His will for my life in the simplest of ways, if only I am willing to listen.

For example, this morning, after I spent some time reading my Bible and a study I’ve been working on, I noticed the list of names I have written on the cover of my journal. It is a list of people that I want to remember to pray for, some who I love, others who have requested it. So I decided because I still had some free time that I would take that time and write out a prayer for each person. I wrote them simply because I become easily distracted when trying to pray and it helps me focus. I think this is the first time I have intentionally done this task of writing a prayer out for each person on the list, and I don’t believe I just came up with the idea on my own. But I didn’t realize this until after I had finished. When I was done, I grabbed my cell phone from near by and began to check my email. One of the daily emails I get is from the Christian radion station KLove, and it is their “Encouraging Word” of the day, presenting a Bible verse. The Bible verse for today was: ” I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” – 1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT).

Honestly I was pleasantly surprised. I had just finished doing that such thing, before I got to patting myself on the back I managed to get my ego in check and realize that normally I don’t pray for people in the way I did today and I was prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit. Amen! Secondly I noticed the Book the verse came from was 1 Timothy, which was the book I had just finished reading before I began praying. Hallelujah! How can my heart not smile, and praise the Lord, when He sees it fit to send me a message of confirmation like He did this morning. Three things… An unusual way for me to pray, confirmed by His living Word, from the book of the Bible I had just been meditating on. It is so easy to over look these little whispers God sends our way of encouragement. But as I spend more time getting to know Him, I am seeing them more frequently. It is no coincidence that those things seem to coincide. That would be pretty amazing, but not as amazing as the loving and most AWESOME God, the creator of the Heavens and the Earth, reaching out to me in this small way to show me I am important to Him, He cares about me, and He is with me ALWAYS. I challenge everyone to be intentional in their relationship with the Lord, and begin to see all of the small ways He reveals Himself to us through out the day.

I am humbled and honored that God is mindful of me! A sinner who falls short of His glory and has received through faith His gift of grace, mercy, and unfailing love. Each one of us is so special and important to God. He knit us together in our mothers womb, for a plan and His purpose. To glorify Him!!!! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!

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Encourage: to inspire with courage or hope; to spur on.

I had some free time this afternoon before my children were done at school, and since I hadn’t taken time to sit and spend any alone time with God yet today, I figured I would pick up my Bible and do just that. I didn’t have much time, but as soon as I sat down, I felt it would benefit me to read up on patience, because it seems like I’ve lacked a lot of that lately.  Especially when it comes to my family.  I’ve been rather short with my girls lately. Short on patience, so I turned to exactly where I knew I could find the encouragement I was going to need when they returned from school and the decibel level in the house rose from zero to 500 million.

I sat down with my Bible, and flipped right to the back looking up patience to see what verses I could find.  It’s not very often that I search for a specific topic when I’m reading, and I just only realized lately that the Bible I have been using not only lists the verses for the word, but also the definition.  I was shocked when I read the definition to patience.  It wasn’t anything I had ever considered before, and the depth of it had me reading, and re-reading the meaning. Over and over again.  Trying to fully wrap my  mind around it.

Patience: the power or capacity to endure without complaint something difficult or disagreeable; forbearance, long suffering.

Wow!  The first thing that popped into my head after I read this was 1 Corinthians 13:4.  Even if you are not a Christian, chances are you know at least how this verse starts off… “Love is patient, love is kind…”  God is funny.  He loves to bring things full circle in a way we would never expect.  He loves to be in control in an awesome way, where when we sit down to grasp for patience, he gives us a lesson in love.

Love is THE commandment we were made for.  We are all called to love. That is our job. Aside from sharing that love in the form of Jesus with others, we are instructed to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all of our strength.  We are called to love our neighbor as ourself.  When I think about it, sometimes it is easier for me to love my neighbor than to treat those closest to me, (my husband, and my children) with the love that God speaks of.

Let me jump back to patience for a moment.  The verse that God gave me when I first began this special life lesson was Romans 15:5

” And the scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.”

Lately, my husband and I have been having some problems with the ‘complete harmony with each other’ part of this verse.  And this brought me back to thinking about love.  I realized that since I was so suprised by the definition of patience, and God was so clearly giving me a lesson in love that I would revisit 1 Corinthians and see what else I was missing about it.  If patience was such a little word with a BIG meaning, perhaps I was missing something else really important. So I broke the verse down.  I’ve read it a thousand times. My eyes fly right over it, and my mind reaps the implications, but I’m not sure how deeply rooted I have ever gotten the meaning inside my brain, or my heart for that matter.

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  it does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”                       1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

I have to admit, I don’t get super excited when I read this verse.  I’m not sure how to put what I think into words when I read it, but I guess it would be something like…” sigh, I know, gotta work on that…Yep, that’s love…doing my best…sigh”

But that’s it.  That is our definition from our Awesome God.  The definition of LOVE.  What everyone wants, what everyone craves.  What we are all trying to learn how to do right, but never can.  God gives us the instructions.  He gives us His encouragement.  So I decided to go through these verses phrase by phrase, and look up the definitions to all of the key words, so I could really understand what it was He was trying to tell me.  And let me tell you, I will never look at this verse quite the same way again.

Love is PATIENT.  patience:  the power or capacity to endure without complaint something difficult or disagreeable;  forbearance, long suffering.  ( I thought the definition to patience was worth repeating!)

Love is KIND.  kind:  affectionate, loving; of a sympathetic or helping nature.

Love is NOT JEALOUS.  jealous:  intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness, hostile toward a rival.

Love is NOT BOASTFUL.  boast:  to puff oneself up in speech, brag.

Love is NOT PROUD.  proud:  having or displaying excessive self esteem.

Love is NOT RUDE. rude: offensive in manner or action.

Love DOES NOT DEMAND it’s own way.  demand:  to ask for with proper authority, claim as a right.

Love is NOT IRRITABLE:  easily exasperated or excited.

Love keeps NO RECORD of being WRONG.  record:  official body of known or recorded facts about someone.  wrong:  (adj.) incorrect, sinful, immoral, or improper, (adv.) in an unsuccessful or unfortunate way, (n.) an injurious, unfair, or unjust act; something wrong, immoral or unethical. (WOW!!!! Don’t ask my husband if I’m guilty of this one.)

Love does NOT rejoice about INJUSTICE.  injustice:  unfairness, wrongs.

Love rejoices when the TRUTH wins out.  truth:  the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality (natural and spiritual); sincerity in action, character, and utterance.

Love NEVER GIVES UP.  gives up:  yield control or possession of: surrender.  to desist from: abandon.

Love NEVER LOSES FAITH.  lose:  fail to keep, sustain or maintain; to damn.  faith:  reliance, loyalty, or complete trust in God; a system of religious beliefs.

Love is ALWAYS HOPEFUL.  hopeful:  full of or inclined to hope.  hope:  to desire with expectation of obtainment.

Love ENDURES through every circumstance.  endure:  to withstand, suffer or persevere.  persevere:  to persist in a state, enterprise or undertaking in spite of opposition or discouragement.

That is how Scripture defines love.  I am only now just grasping how deep and wide love really is.  The concordance in my Bible defines love as:  the ultimate expression of God’s loyalty, purity, and mercy extended toward His people- to be reflected in human relationships of brotherly concern, marital fidelity, and adoration of God; a beloved person.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of character building to do.  The only thing about that, that doesn’t scare me is the fact that I rest in the arms of the one who created us all.  Thank you Jesus!

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