Thursday, April 28, 2011

thoughts about the Princess

Tomorrow Kate Middleton will marry Prince William and become a princess. I am going to honor the occasion by wearing a fascinator (a little bit like this one, but assembled at home at a much lower price) and drinking tea. Yesterday I showed my daughters pictures of Kate and they were fascinated. I discovered a royal hat blog and I look forward to the updates tomorrow! On a shopping trip, we were tempted by "princess" cupcakes. A sample convinced us to purchase them to enjoy with our afternoon tea.

Princesses are popular at our house. I tried to explain the details of the royal wedding but my youngest daughter got a little confused and in her bedtime prayer she thanked God that "that guy is going to marry the princess."

Kate Middleton's story is not exactly a fairytale. She and her groom have not waited til their wedding day to live together. The royal family has had its share of disfunction lately (actually if you know your history, royal families have never been known for healthy family relationships). But tomorrow, Kate will wear a gorgeous dress and she will walk down a long aisle in a historic cathedral, and I will "ooh" and "ahhh" because she is becoming a princess. She has no royal heritage herself, but she is joining a royal family because the Prince loves her.

Who loves you?

The Lord your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy." (Zephaniah 3:17)

The Lord your God--the High King of heaven--loves and delights in you.
And that's more precious than a diamond tiara.

Thought Provoking Thursday is hosted here.

I should give credit to the website from which I borrowed the photo.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Peel 6 sweet potatoes and cut them into french fry size wedges.

Preheat a cookie sheet in a 450 oven.

Combine juice of half a lemon,
2 tbs olive oil,
1/4 cup fresh marjoram or oregano,
salt and
in a ziploc bag.

Add sweet potatoes to the bag and shake.

Place on preheated cookie sheet and bake in a 450 oven 20 minutes.

These were lovely in our Easter dinner (which included herbed ham and also asparagus in a citrus balsamic sauce), but they'd be just as nice for an everyday lunch.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


An unpleasant surprise when we figured out our taxes brought us to a new season of trusting God. I found encouragement in these verses. They all tell me where my focus should be.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith... (Hebrew 12:2)

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [to Him], bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...(Philippians 3:7-8)

The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,
making the inexperienced wise. (Psalm 19:7)

I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set Your ordinances [before me].(Psalm 119:30)

I pursue the way of Your commands,
for You broaden my understanding.
Teach me, Lord, the meaning of Your statutes,
and I will always keep them.
Help me understand Your instruction,
and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:32-34)

This is my post for Thought Provoking Thursday, hosted here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Testimony: a Spiritual Scrapbook

Kristi Stephens at asked her readers to share their testimonies today. My testimony is already here, but it's spread out into five posts. I realized that if you click on "Spiritual Scrapbook" in the links here, you'll find it in reverse order.

So here are the posts, in order. They are adapted from a talk I shared at a Women's Retreat last month.

Part 1: Why make a Spiritual Scrapbook...and what is a Spiritual Scrapbook anyway?

Part 2: Beginnings and Guidance

Part 3: Darkness and Change

Part 4: Change and Contentment

Part 5: A Biblical woman who shared her story

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All and Everything

Just two thought-provoking words:"all" and "everything." Look for them in the verses below.

Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you. (I Peter 5:7)

I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. (Philippians 4:11-12)

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Thought Provoking Thursday is hosted here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breakfast on the Beach

After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples several times. My favorite is His appearance on the beach to cook breakfast for His friends. (John 21:1-14) The disciples went fishing and Jesus met them on the shore, with bread and fish cooked over a fire.

The resurrected Son of God spent a morning enjoying His creation with His disciples; He could have brought them anything for that breakfast, but He used the fish that were available right there in the lake. He spent the morning fellowshipping with them in their everyday environment. And He wants to do that with us. That's what prayer is all about...fellowshipping with Him!

I read that story in John several years ago when we were about to make a long car trip to the Northwest for my father's memorial service. I thought about the disciples and Jesus and their special time of simple food and good fellowship, and I asked the Lord that I would find that kind of simple joy on our trip and that I would be aware of His presence.

He answered. The trip was full of joy! There were so many friends to visit, so many memories to remember and the Northwest Spring was beautiful.

As you read the Gospels, as you watch Jesus interact with His disciples, talk to the Lord about the fellowship you crave....fellowship with other Christ followers and fellowship with the Lord Himself.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I am grateful for Jesus' humble birth. Thinking of the Holy God coming to earth in this way fills me with praise.

I am extremely grateful for Jesus' death--and the salvation He gave me.

And I am grateful for His life.

None of His earthly life was lived in splendor. His neighbors still knew him as “the carpenter's son” when He began His ministry at age thirty. He traveled around Israel, teaching and healing, and He certainly didn't have luxury accommodations.

As I read the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, I see His power and His gentleness. I see Him holding children, comforting grieving families, and reaching out to sinners. Yet when confronted with hypocrisy and pride, He didn't mince words. Far from weak, when He saw God's temple filled with people who were only there to make money, He sternly drove them out!

How wonderful to serve a Savior who lived His earthly life with kindness, perfectly balanced with power. I am grateful for that.

The last week of Jesus' ministry began in triumph, though Jesus still appeared lowly and unassuming as He approached Jerusalem:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NKJV)

But soon the crowds turned against Him and He faced an unjust trial. Still, the Son of God kept His power under control and responded in a meek manner:

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

On the way to the cross, the Son of God was so weak that He stumbled and fell, and the soldiers forced someone from the crowd to carry His cross. Think about that for a moment: the Son of God—a captive.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. You know that Jesus was crucified and buried but then He rose from the dead. And suddenly His power was obvious to His believers. Yet He did not appear to them in a spectacular glory, but with gentleness and approachability.

Praise Him!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Praying for Godliness

I've been in the desert eight years now, and I've come to love our weather. But there's one thing I miss in the spring time: flowering bulbs...daffodils, crocus, and tulips. I've read that if you want to make bulbs grow and bloom in a warm climate, you must dig them up and store them in your refrigerator for a certain length of time. The cold is necessary for the blooms.

In our spiritual lives, growth in godliness often happens during a trial—we might call it a chilly season or a storm.

In the book of James we're told that the trying of our faith produces patience. I've heard Christians say that we should never pray for patience because God will answer us by sending trials. I can understand a bit of the logic behind this idea, but I am not sure that it takes into account the wisdom and love of God. He wants what is best for us and what will bring glory to Him. I cannot believe that He has a stockpile of troubles He's just waiting to pour on us if we pray the wrong prayer.

We know that He wants us to pray for godliness (Paul prayed that his converts would grow spiritually) and I believe that we can trust Him to follow His good plan for us. Trials will be a part of that because we live in a fallen world, but God in His grace and wisdom speaks to us through the tough times, using the chill of troubles to produce beautiful blooms of godliness.

If God has prompted you to pray for a certain character quality, a specific fruit of the Spirit, or godliness in general, rest assured that He is working within you, and He has already arranged or allowed the circumstances and now He's preparing you. He will be with you every step of the way, whispering His words of love in your ear. You can pray confidently!

I pray this: that your love will keep on growing
in knowledge and every kind of discernment,
so that you can determine what really matters
and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ,
to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-10)

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit. (Col. 1:10-11)

We always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Praise: Part Five

Remember the word eucharisteo: giving thanks for grace...and rejoicing...Why do we rejoice? Because He is our joy...our Exceeding Joy.

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. (Psalm 43:4 NKJV)

I appreciate the word “exceeding” which means “exceptional in amount, quality, or degree.” God gives us a joy that is unexpected, a joy that is greater than our circumstances.

In the book of Luke, we meet Anna, a joyful aged woman who saw Jesus when He was just eight days old. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem; there they met Simeon, an elderly man who had been told by the Spirit that he would meet the Messiah. He recognized Jesus as the promised one, and held Him and prayed and praised God. Anna joined the group as Simeon was proclaiming that this infant would bring comfort to His people.

Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: "Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed—and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:25-38)

Anna was widowed at a young age and spent the rest of her life at the temple. Whatever her service involved, it is obvious that she was focused on God and His word; Anna was one of the few who recognized the Messiah and proclaimed His arrival. When Simeon foretold the sorrow of the future, Anna pointed them back to the joy of God's presence.

I think it's impossible to talk about joy without talking about troubles—they are both parts of our earthly experience. How do we find joy within troubled times? Let's go back to that scene in the temple, when Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna were praising God together. The Jewish nation was expecting the Messiah to come and deliver them from Roman oppression. This little group probably had this in mind as they praised. They didn't know God's great plan of redemption in detail. They just knew He had arrived, so they praised Him. I think there is a lesson here for us. On a dark night, in the midst of grief or worry or pain, God's presence is our comfort. This is why, as I posted last week, I pray for awareness of that presence. When I remember that He is with me, my dark night may not end instantly, but knowing I'm not alone—knowing I am with my Savior—puts a gleam of hope in my heart. Look at these Scriptures about joy and rejoicing:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:12-14)

I love that phrase: overflow with hope—God my exceeding joy is also the God of overflowing hope.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Don't forget, when you read Philippians—Paul wrote this letter from prison. And he urged his readers to be joyful. Now that is exceeding joy!

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You, because You have redeemed me. (Psalm 71:23) Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15)
Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! (Psalm 95:1)
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:2)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Praise: Part Four

Yesterday I posted a few thoughts on remembering the Savior. Today, let's praise Him.

...The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
(I John 4:14 KJV)

When my daughter Martina was three, she began asking questions about Jesus and heaven and the big cross outside our church. She never stayed focused on the answers for long, but she kept asking. One day at church while Mark was practicing with the band and I was watching the kids, Martina asked me to read her a book. Its topic was gratitude, and each page had a little rhyme about a girl and her thankfulness for her dog, her grandma's pie and her curly hair. At the end of the book I asked Martina what she would like to thank Jesus for today. She said, “I'd like to thank Jesus for dying on the cross to take away all my wrong choices and give me a home in heaven some day.”

I stared at her for a moment, shocked that she had put such a long and detailed sentence together. I asked her if she would like to thank Jesus right now. “No,” she answered, “I want to crawl under the bench.” Off she went, crawling across the floor in her church dress to play with a toy under the bench. Soon she reappeared, and I asked her again if she'd like to thank Jesus, and this time she said “Yes.” I felt blessed to be present at this moment, and I thought it was beautiful that her first declaration of faith was expressed as gratitude. The more I think about this, the more obvious it seems—when we realize that Jesus is our Savior, of course we respond with thanksgiving and praise!

Jesus' name proclaimed His mission on earth: “Jesus” is our English translation of the Hebrew “Yeshua,” a common Jewish name in Mary's time, meaning “Yahweh is salvation.”Yahweh was the name God used to identify Himself when He promised Abraham that his descendants would bring blessing to the whole earth. The Savior brings salvation.

Most of us probably know these verses very well, but I hope we never lose the wonder of these truths:

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8)

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

As soon as sin entered the world, God promised a Savior. The Old Testament books are full of further details on that promise. Here are three of my favorite promises:

On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)
Surely, falsehood comes from the hills, commotion from the mountains, but the salvation of Israel is only in the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 3:23)
...I will dwell among you, and you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me to you. (Zechariah 2:11)

Your Savior dwells with you. Whatever commotion is surrounding you today, rejoice and be glad in that salvation.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom should I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, their refuge in a time of distress.
(Psalm 37:39)
May the Lord be praised! Day after day He bears our burdens; God is our salvation. Selah. (Psalm 68:19)
Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! (Psalm 95:1)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Praise: Part Three...the Lord's Table

From our perspective, “The God Who Sees” is invisible. But He understands our need to have something we can see and touch, so before Jesus gave His life for us, He gave us two very visible symbols that we can see, taste, touch, smell...depending on how crunchy the bread is, you can even hear it. We use those symbols at the Lord's Table to remember this event and to remember His sacrifice.

And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:19)

Notice this little phrase: in English, it's simply “gave thanks.” Jesus gave thanks. I looked up this phrase and I learned something fascinating. It's one word in the original Greek: eucharisteō (in Greek: Εὐχαριστέω)

It means “to give thanks.”

But when you look at this word, it contains its root word: charis, which means grace. When we give thanks, we are noticing...remembering...grace. Grace is a free and undeserved gift of God, and when we hold the juice or the bread, we have a visible touchable reminder of the sacrifice He made to give us the free gift of eternal life and a relationship with Him.

Now, if we look again at this word, charis--grace--there is a verb that came from this word, and it is chairo which means rejoicing, especially rejoicing for the redemption that God gave us through Jesus Christ.

I know that the Lord's Supper is usually a solemn time. And yes, it is a quiet moment of reflection, and it's something we take very seriously. But, when you are giving Him thanks for His gift of can you not be joyful? How can you keep from bubbling over with His exceeding joy? We are celebrating!

I love the way God chose to give us edible symbols. As humans we naturally celebrate everything with food, don't we? At the Lord's Table we use food to celebrate Him. To see with our spiritual vision The God Who Sees Us.

We give thanks--eucharisteo--
for His grace--charis--
and we rejoice--chairo.

Give thanks for grace, and rejoice today!

This is my post for Thought Provoking Thursday, which is hosted here.
I learned about these words in One Thousand Gifts, and researched them in my Bible dictionary and at
One Thousand Gifts is a thought-provoking book that I will review on my blog one of these days.

Praise: Part Two

This is the second in a series of posts praising God, specifically focusing on three Names of God. Today we praise the God Who Sees.

An Old Testament woman named Hagar was the first to call God “The God Who Sees.” Hagar was a slave to Abraham's wife Sarah. Sarah ruled over her staff. She knew that God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but they'd been married for decades and they were still childless. Sarah decided it was time for this promise to be fulfilled, so she suggested that Abraham could have a child by Hagar. This was not at all shocking in their culture, but it shows us Hagar's lowly position in the household: even her body belonged to her owner.

Sarah, struggling with the grief of infertility, didn't foresee the emotions that would consume her when her slave was carrying Abraham's child. Jealousy and anger overruled any feeling of joy, and it didn't help that Hagar developed a bit of an attitude. So Sarah irrationally sputtered at Abraham, “You are responsible for my suffering!” (Genesis 16:5), and he told her to handle the matter herself. So Sarah made Hagar's life miserable and Hagar ran away to the desert. There she met the Angel of the Lord, and He told her,

“You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.” The Angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her: “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; he will live at odds with all his brothers.” So she named the Lord who spoke to her “The God Who Sees,” (Genesis 16:11-13)

This does not sound like a very comforting message, but Hagar seemed to focus on the one detail that was incredibly encouraging: God saw her. God knew every detail of her situation, and cared enough to speak to her.

Many Bible scholars believe that the Angel of the Lord mentioned in the Old Testament is actually Jesus. This is a mind-boggling thought! God Himself talked to a runaway slave girl, a girl of extremely small worth in her culture, a girl with no rights or privileges. God saw. God knew. God cared. And He sees you and cares about you. Praise Him!

The Lord looks down from heaven; He observes everyone. He gazes on all the inhabitants of the earth from His dwelling place. (Psalm 33:13-14)
The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. (Psalm 14:2)
Now the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him— those who depend on His faithful love. (Psalm 33:18)
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. (I John 4:14-15)

Tomorrow, we'll look at three Greek words that express thankfulness and praise.

Walk with Him Wednesdays focuses on spiritual practices, such as praising. This post is adapted from my book Praise Patterns, and is part of a message I shared at Shiloh Bible Camp.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Praise: Part One

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise. (Psalm 51:15)

This week my topic is Praise, specifically using names of God while we praise Him. The Bible is full of different names for God, names that each express one aspect of His character or His relationship to us. I love to use the names of God when I pray. I like to say that using a specific name of God to open my prayer time is like finding just the right way to begin a love letter. It puts me in that worship mood instantly! But more important than my mood is the fact that praising God by name glorifies Him.

Last week I posted about praying that we will be more aware of God. I mentioned the fact that He is aware of us. That is the simple truth expressed by this name of God: “The God Who Sees.”

When I began writing my Praise Patterns book, focusing on names of God, I was teaching my Sacred Signposts book. One Tuesday morning towards the end of class, my friend Ellen burst in the door. She'd just come from her doctor. She'd just learned that she had cancer. We all gathered around her and prayed, and my friend Maura gave her some very detailed information about what to expect. Maura had faced breast cancer herself a couple years before, and she knew what Ellen's next few months would hold. As everyone was leaving, Maura turned in the doorway and said, “I have a doctor's appointment today. Just a routine checkup. I'm not worried.” Well, as Maura said later, “that was a doozy of a statement!”

The routine checkup showed that Maura's cancer was back, and her diagnosis was very serious. At first her doctors didn't expect her to live more than a year. (Now, 15 months later, Maura is still with us, still needing treatments occasionally, but still with us!) Our women's group was very shaken up by this news. Maura is not only active in our Bible study, she's very involved in a youth ministry at another church. Maura has three young kids.

When Maura got this scary diagnosis, I kept telling God how valuable Maura was to everyone, how talented she is, how she is serving Him so whole-heartedly. I was so upset at the thought of losing Maura that I lost sight of God's sight. And then in my writing project, I reached my chapter about “The God Who Sees.” I found such comfort in this Name! I wrote this prayer:

O Lord Who Sees, it is so hard to praise You tonight! You know the news my friend got from her doctor today. You know her condition. You know her future. You know her needs right now. You see. You know. I will take comfort in knowing that You know.

When I use the expression, “Oh I see,” I mean “I understand now” or “I am aware.” God is always aware of us, and He understands us intimately. God sees each of us, in our unique situation, no matter how distant we may feel from Him.

Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His...(2 Timothy 2:19a)
Lord, You have searched me and known me. (Psalm 139:1)

This Praise series is based on my Praise Patterns book, and I shared these messages at Shiloh Bible Camp.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Sneak Peak

Next Book:

Only for My King
a song of service and surrender

and a possible soundtrack:
(that's a direct link to Itunes. Where did the playlist widgets go?)

If you know any wake-you-up rather than lull-you-to-sleep versions of any of those songs. do leave me a comment!

I will definitely be changing the "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" to a different version. There are some kids singing on the end and they're cute, but they kind of interrupt the playlist.

Prayer, Part Six: Praying with Faith

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think—according to the power that works in you—to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Paul gave God the glory. When Paul prayed, he made lots of requests for himself and his friends, but he also burst into praise and declarations of faith.

My definition of faith is a simple acrostic I learned at Bible camp when I was a teenager: Focus Aimed into the Heavens. That is what I mean by praying with faith: lifting your eyes from our own circumstances and concerns to focus on our great God, declare our faith in Him and praise Him.

Christ is in control, He is trustworthy, and without Him I am powerless. He is worthy of our faith and trust because He is faithful.

God is faithful; by Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.(I Corinthians 1:9)

...the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.
(2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith...(Hebrews 12:2)

Lord God of Hosts, who is strong like You, Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds You. (Psalm 89:8)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His actions. (Psalm 145:13)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
faithful love and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14)

God, within Your temple, we contemplate Your faithful love...(Psalm 48:10)

My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.(Psalm 64:3)

The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night—a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abundant in faithful love to all who call on You. (Psalm 86:5)

For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal;
His faithfulness endures through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

As I meditated on Paul's prayer, I realized that “glory” is one of those words I hear at church and use when I pray, without thinking about what it means. Its English definition includes the words “fame, praise, honor, splendor, worthy of praise.”

When we pray, we give God glory—that is, praise and honor. We also recognize that He is glorious—worthy of our praise. And when we ask Him to answer our prayer “for His glory” we are saying that we are seeking not our own will, not our own fame, but His. We ask Him to answer our prayers in a way that will not bring honor to us, but to Him. We are saying “Christ over us”—expressing our desires and our wishes but also asking God to overrule them if that will bring a greater glory to Him. Praying for His glory expresses both our faith and our humility.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prayer, Part Five: Asking the Lord for a Message

This is part of a talk I gave at Mt. Charleston this weekend.

This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers. (I Thessalonians 2:13)

Paul was thankful that his converts heard the message of God. When we pray for a message from God, who are we praying to? In John 1, Jesus is described as God's Word. Jesus is God's message to us, wearing a human body and walking among men for 33 years. When we ask for a message...we are talking to The Message.

We all receive lots of messages every day: text messages, e-mails, books we're reading, television to conversations--we are flooded with advice. Some of these messages are helpful, some are extremely unhelpful, and some are directly from God. Let me tell you about God's message to me one Christmas Eve several years ago.

My husband went to church early to practice with the band, so I got the children ready in their Christmas finery. Now, my oldest, Lydia was seven and she was very capable of sitting through a church service, but the two younger girls were four and not quite three, and they were very wiggly. We all sat down in the sanctuary, and my little Tina found that her satin dress allowed her to easily and repeatedly slide out of my lap. Soon we went up on stage to hear a special children's message. Under the bright lights, my four year old Annika decided her tights were itchy; lots of wiggling and scratching followed and her hemline didn't exactly stay at a modest level.

After the children's story we attempted to sit in the sanctuary for approximately two minutes, before we gave up and fled to the Family Worship Room. There were lots of noisy kids in that room (because that's the purpose of the room!) so we couldn't hear the sermon. I began to get a little discouraged, wondering why I had come to church at all. At least we got a photo of the girls in their Christmas dresses, I thought, but that seemed a silly reason to be at church. When the service was over, as we slowly made our way through the crowds in the sanctuary to meet my husband at the piano, many people greeted us with “Merry Christmas” or “your kids are cute,” but one man said something different. He was a stranger to me, and I saw him smiling, watching me trying to herd my children through the exiting congregation. He looked at me and said “God bless you.” Those three words were the only Christmas message I heard or needed that night. Those words adjusted my attitude and I began to count blessings rather than annoyances.

I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God's mystery—Christ. (Colossians 2:2)

Paul wanted his converts to grow in loving relationships with each other, finding the knowledge of Christ together. That was my prayer for the women who attended retreat—that they would encourage each other and learn more about the Lord and to talk to Him.

As you read these Psalms, notice the phrase "Your word."

How sweet Your word is to my taste--[sweeter] than honey to my mouth...
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path...
I am severely afflicted: Lord, give me life through Your word...
You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word...
The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced. (Psalm 119:103, 105, 107, 114, 130)

If we want to receive a message from God, if we want to recognize His voice in the midst of all the other messages we receive every day, we must be familiar with His word. Messages from God will never contradict the Scriptures—and that requires that we spend time reading the Scriptures.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15)

God means what He says. What He says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. (Hebrews 4:12, The Message)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Prayer, Part Four: Awareness

Our third prayer word is Awareness. Look at these verses:

May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You, and will eagerly watch. (Psalm 5:3)

Awareness is that eager watchfulness for the Lord—-being aware that the Lord of peace is with us. I seek the Lord very diligently when I'm having a bad day, but I've been praying that I will look for the Lord and be aware of Him even in the good times. A few weeks ago I looked up at the sky and noticed there were no clouds. I've lived in the desert for 8 years and I'm still amazed at how many cloudless days we have--even in the spring. I took a moment to thank God for cloudless skies. And I remembered that the night before had been very windy, so windy that it woke me up at one a.m. While I was awake I began to worry about the garbage in the garbage can out at the curb. Was it blowing all over the street? What was the last thing I put in the garbage can—was it heavy enough to hold the garbage down? I knew I wasn't going to sleep til I checked it out, so I pulled on some clothes and went outside. The garbage was not blowing all over the street, so I came back in and went back to bed. As I remembered that the next day, I thought of other nights when I'd been awake at 1 a.m., worried or sad or stressed. And so that morning, I thanked God for a peaceful night when my only concern was a garbage can. And I asked Him to help me be aware of Him in these peaceful times..those everyday moments under a cloudless sky or on a windy night with a garbage can.

One of the things that jogs my memory to make me aware of God is His creation—the mountains around my town, the cat purring on my bed, my small herb garden.

From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made...(Romans 1:20)

When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

Last summer I asked the Lord for a greater awareness of Him. My husband has more time at home in the summer, and I love that because he cooks, and I enjoy not having much of a routine. But without much of a routine, it can be hard to get my usual Bible reading and prayer time every day. When it's 115 outside, I need that refreshment of God's Word! In the summer we don't have women's Bible study and I miss the fellowship! Last year I prayed about how to stay in the Word, and I ended up putting Bible study books and extra copies of the Bible all over my house, so I could grab one when I had five minutes. I learned that five minutes here and there added up to an hour or so, and I felt that I was more aware of what God was teaching me because it was spread through my day and it was in my thoughts continually.

If you are in a frazzled stage of life, you may be discouraged at how to include one more thing—even if it's being aware of God—in your daily routine. Here is encouragement from David:

May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering. (Psalm 141:2)

Some days we have no energy and no words, and all we can do is raise our hands to the Lord. Our prayers are fragrant to Him, even when they are so very simple. He knows us intimately and accepts whatever worship we are capable of giving Him.

I complain and groan, morning noon and night, and He hears my voice. (Psalm 55:17)

Isn't that beautiful? Even if your prayers are complaints and groans, He hears you.

The Lord will send His faithful love by day: His song will be with me in the night—a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

Praying for awareness is praying that you will hear that song in the night and will respond with a prayer to the God of your life. It's a prayer that you will open your eyes to see His goodness and faithful love pursuing you, as Psalm 23:6 says:

Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life...(Psalm 23:6)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Prayer, Part Three: Strength

Our second prayer word is Strength. You may already pray for this every day!

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Who are we asking for strength?
Our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our refuge, our stronghold.

Why do we ask God for strength? Because He is strong!

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. (Ephesians 6:10)
May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy. (Colossians 1:11)

God's strength is vast. His might is glorious!

Here's one of Paul's prayers for strength for his friends:

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement
and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts
and strengthen you in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Did you notice why God strengthens us? It's not just so we can feel all warm and cozy and encouraged, but so that our words and our actions will be good and godly and glorifying to Him.

When I ask the Lord for strength, He often answers with a scripture verse that speaks to my current need. Other times He speaks through other Christians.

I prayed for strength constantly when my father's health was failing several years ago. It was so difficult to figure out how to help him when I lived a thousand miles away. Moving my dad away from his friends in the northwest wasn't an option, and my budget didn't allow me to fly up there too often. I had to have difficult conversations on the phone with my dad, and I continually felt I was in a situation that I couldn't possibly handle. God sent little bits of encouragement and strength, one day at a time. Some days I read just the right verse in my Bible. Other days I found comfort from a devotional book. Many nights my husband brought me baklava and a movie and I just sat next to him on the couch and felt encouraged. But the most encouraging strengthening thing was the realization that Jesus was my friend. This is one of those simple truths that I probably heard when I was five, but it was so meaningful to me during that year of Dad's illness.

This year I am especially praying for strength for my oldest daughter. Not because she isn't strong—if you have an oldest child, you know what I mean!—but that God will channel her strength into obedience and godly character.

Everyone on your prayer list needs strength—strength to get through the day, strength to say no to temptation, strength to know when she is too weak to take on one more thing....Look back at the verses above. Which will you use in your prayers today?