Beholding Jesus: He Offers Me Living Water, 10/30/12

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By , October 30, 2012 7:50 pm

PRAISE: 1) Jesus! What A Friend For Sinners by Michael Card 2) What A Savior by Laura Story 3) Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin (3DCD “What LOVE Looks Like” 2008)

Martha read us the story of the woman at the well from John 4:1-30 and 39-42. In these Scriptures we see Jesus STOP, REVEAL, and HEAL while the woman STOPS, DROPS, and DRINKS.

Iron Sharpens Iron

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By , October 29, 2012 6:40 pm

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Recently, I got lured into a home demonstration for Cutco knives. I agreed partly because I wanted to help a young man I’d known for many years. But mostly, I just wanted my drawer full of Cutco knives sharpened, free of charge.

Their product is stellar, and their standards are strict. Any knife that bears their name — no matter the age or amount of use — must cut cleanly through a thick piece of rope. Any evidence of gnawing or frayed edges sends that knife to the whetstone for sharpening.

At the same time my knives were being tested and honed, my love was undergoing God’s sharpening process. My personal rope test came during Parent’s Weekend at Ole Miss. Our daughter Merrill Lee is a senior, scheduled to graduate in May. We took her out to dinner; and conversation inevitably turned to her plans for next year. On the way back to the hotel, a disagreement arose between my husband and me.

Eager to debrief, I began to rehearse all the options we had discussed. It took me a few minutes to notice that Bob wasn’t participating. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I felt shut out”, was his reply. I was startled by his comment. “Why do you say that?” I wanted to know. “Every time I expressed my opinion, you just changed the subject back to what you want her to do.” Ouch. I could see why he felt that way. We both held some strong convictions about our child’s future. I was so focused on fulfillment of her dreams and passions that I had dismissed Bob’s concerns about her financial security.

I said I was sorry, but it was obvious that Bob was finished with the conversation for now. As we drove along in silence, I hated the disconnection I had created between us. I began to ask the Lord to search my heart. Without condemnation, He gently revealed that I had judged my view as superior to my husband’s. This prideful attitude had dulled my heart to God’s call to love. Without the love of God as my primary goal, I lost my ability to see Bob’s wisdom and precious father heart. “Oh Jesus, I’ve done it again!” I thought. “I’ve failed to honor You and my husband by my lack of love. Please forgive me and love Bob through me.”

It was tempting to be discouraged about my “love life.” But, instead I chose to take hold of the only solution that could cleanly cut through this relational barrier. As I prayed for God to love my husband, I had Romans 5:5 in mind. It tells me that the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into my heart. The overwhelming, overcoming, sacrificial love of my Redeemer lives in me!

That perfect love can flow to others when I yield to God’s refining process. Iron sharpening iron involves friction. It isn’t a quick fix. But as I allow Him to remove everything that hinders, I become an instrument in the hand of God wielding the love of God that never fails.

The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:5

Beholding Jesus: He Says I Must Be Born Again – 10/23/12

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By , October 24, 2012 9:27 am

Martha walks us through Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus as we examine the question “What’s your starting point?”: Self-righteousness which leads to a performance/works mentality that tries to earn something from God vs. receiving and relying on the righteousness of Christ which leads to love for God and acts of service that flow from that love.

The Pits

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By , October 22, 2012 11:02 pm

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Ps. 40:2 NIV

Lately, my attitude has stunk. My nose has been out of joint. Even though I’m not facing any major problem, everything has seemed ugly and crooked and unbearable. The words exiting my mouth have come out with a whiny tone. Think about an unhappy two year old and you’ll have the picture. Despite my efforts to climb out of the pit, I just haven’t been able to rise above my sorry state of self-absorption.  My prayer has been, “Lord, rescue me from myself!
In Matthew 9:36 we see Jesus looking over Jerusalem and having compassion on the people. His heart was moved because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Yes, that description just about covers it. I’ve felt the same way — annoyed, pestered, vulnerable, oppressed and powerless to do anything about it.
Pray, Jesus tells His listeners, that God would send workers to help these poor people. I definitely could use some help to get out of the pits! So I bowed my head and prayed, “Lord, I cannot seem to find a way out of this funk. Would you please send a worker to help me?” Though I have many praying friends that I could call, it felt right to leave it with God, believing that He would send help my way.
The next morning found me at church. One of my favorite missionaries was in attendance, so I located him after the service for a quick visit. As we were about to part ways, he asked if he could pray for me. “Of course,” I agreed. He began to pray, asking for God’s blessing and strength. Then he paused and said, “The Father is well pleased with you.”
Pleased? With a whiny, wayward sheep like me?” To say I was blown away is an understatement. One might expect a lecture or a solid kick in the pants, but not this. The kindness of God overwhelmed me and my heart bowed in repentance. Preoccupation with myself was replaced with praise for His marvelous grace. “Oh, Lord, your love is incredible. Thank you. Thank you for sending help. Thank you for loving me just as I am!
The Lord of Love had sent a worker to shower me with reassurance and affirmation when I was being anything but loveable. I came away from that encounter feeling like a lost sheep that had been rescued from the ditch.
What a Good Shepherd we have, loving us the most when we deserve it the least!

But God has shown us how much he loves us

– it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 GNT

Beholding Jesus: He Cleanses the Temple of My Heart – 10/16/12

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By , October 17, 2012 1:54 pm

PRAISE: 1) Fall Afresh by Bethel Music and Jeremy Riddle 2) My Jesus I Love Thee/Tis So Sweet by Bart Millard 3) Mighty To Save by Laura Story (3DCD “What Hope Looks Like” 2008) 4) Completely Satisfy by Chris Moerman (3DCD “Listening Prayer” 2012).

Martha taught from Jn. 2:13-17 and Jn. 21:15-17 as we began discussing the idols we erect in our lives to meet our legitimate needs.

Confirm Confirm Confirm

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By , October 15, 2012 9:42 pm

Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Matthew 10:30

It was a time when answering machines and landlines were the main means of communication for most people. Texting was nonexistent. Cell phone numbers were closely guarded to avoid racking up charges for excess minutes. It was also the time when I was investigating what the Bible had to say about what I could expect from God when I needed answers.
As I searched the Scriptures I found both Old and New Testaments filled with accounts of God’s supernatural guidance to those who asked. It was clearly the norm to be led by God’s Spirit. Being a list maker, I began to catalogue a growing number of promises to today’s reader. The evidence was overwhelming that God will instruct and teach His people. As we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths.
Eager to experience this for myself, I started with what I considered to be the “big stuff.” As I faced decisions that involved a significant investment of time or money, I asked God for the wisdom He promises in James 1:5. Praying for specific answers taught me the patience I lacked as I waited on His tailor made solutions. To my delight, God faithfully delivered the wisdom I needed on time every time.
If God would come through for me in weightier matters, maybe I should ask Him about the details of my day. After all, Jesus said that I am so important to Him that He numbers the very hairs on my head. As a woman with a thick head of hair, I’ve always loved that thought! In my mind’s eye I can see a gigantic tally in heaven with my name on it. Every time I shampoo or style my hair, the number changes to reflect my current hair count.
Armed with this Scripture and God’s record of answered prayer, I approached Him boldly. I had a conflict on my schedule that included a hair appointment. “Lord,” I prayed, “I really don’t want to cancel that hair appointment. But, more than that, I want to know what You think best. Will You confirm if it is okay to keep it or not?” With that, I left the house for my morning running date and a quick trip to the grocery store.
As I was unloading my groceries, I noticed the blinking light on my answering machine indicating three new messages. Reaching for pen and pad, I heard the words, “This is Rhonda from Oak Street Hair Group, calling to confirm your appointment.” “Oh no, not that,” I thought. I still needed God to show me what to do. Message number two interrupted my thoughts: “This is Rhonda from Oak Street Hair Group, calling to confirm your appointment.” “Didn’t she already say that?” I wondered, a bit distracted. The third message got my attention: “This is Rhonda with Oak Street Hair Group, calling to confirm your appointment.”
I was astonished and exhilarated as I realized that the God of the universe had answered my prayer for confirmation! About a hair appointment. I began dancing around my kitchen, laughing and shouting, “God, You are so amazing! You are awesome! You are so funny!” Wouldn’t you love to know what God did to get Rhonda to call me three times in a row?
I saved those messages for the longest time, playing them for anyone who would take time to listen. Some reasoned them away as coincidence, but not me. This very personal encounter with the living God emboldened me to ask all the more. And the more I asked, the more He answered, confirming His answers when necessary. I am forever convinced that my heavenly Father answers my prayers so that I may know how much He cares about even my tiniest concerns.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

[For a list of supporting Scriptures, see the handout “Listening to God.” Find it in the posting entitled “Beholding Jesus: He Calls Me To Come & Follow – 10/09/12” on the Resources tab of this website.]

Beholding Jesus: He Calls Me To Come & Follow – 10/09/12

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By , October 10, 2012 6:02 pm

PRAISE: 1) The Same Love by Paul Baloche (3DCD “Beholding Jesus” 2012) 2) When the Night is Falling by Dennis Jernigan & Friends (3DCD “Extraordinary Life” 2006) 3) Speak O Lord by Andy Bromley (3DCD “Here Am I” 2007) 4) I Can Hear Your Voice by Michael W. Smith

Discussion of John 1:35-42, how Jesus interacted with His disciples and what we can expect as a result.

New Blacktop

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By , October 8, 2012 9:28 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I found a notice in my mailbox announcing that our neighborhood streets would soon be resurfaced. Early that Monday morning, workers began the jarring work of milling, removing the existing asphalt to make way for the new. Next the crew poured and packed on a thick coating of paving material. Traffic was delayed as residents drove carefully around the fresh layer so that it might become firm beneath us. Though unsettling at the time, the process resulted in beautiful new blacktop that has made our going so much smoother.
“New Blacktop” has become one of my go-to phrases to describe what happens when we gain new ground in the journey of faith. One of the most pivotal examples in my life came early on in my first discipleship class. The teacher had been milling away my current mindset about what God expects from me, laying the groundwork for a more solid relationship with Him. That particular morning, she read Psalm 119:65, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.” The Spirit of God took the word of God and made it personal–new pathways for my heart to follow.
My new blacktop gave me a fresh look at stories of how God interacted with people in the past. This took the guesswork out of my prayers. I had new confidence to simply ask for and expect the same provision, protection, and power that I saw in the pages of my Bible.
Almost immediately I had the opportunity for a test drive. The time was approaching for my firstborn, Jackson, to be enrolled in school. My husband and I wanted a different environment for him than the very large public school in our area. As we set out to investigate the other options for his education, conflicting data began to pour in. Parents and educators filled our heads with their opinions. They seemed to suggest that our school choice had the power to determine what our son might become — anything from an Ivy League scholar to a morally bankrupt ne’er-do-well. It was tempting to feel overwhelmed and under qualified.
At some point in this process, it hit me to try out my new blacktop. “Oh yeah, God promised to deal with me according to His word,” I remembered. Immediately, the story of Abraham came to mind. God promised to lead him to a place that he did not know and to prosper him there. Suddenly, clarity came and, with it, confidence to pray with expectation. “Lord,” I prayed, “You showed Abraham the way and I’m asking you to do the same for us. Guide us to the right school for Jackson.”
Besides home schooling (no one at my house thought that was a good idea!), we had explored every school choice imaginable. But mind can’t conceive of what God has in store. Unsolicited, three people in a single week offered glowing reports about a school option we hadn’t considered. And that was the one that we chose. God led us to a place we did not know and it was a place where both our children prospered.
The same God that charted a path for Abraham had made a way for us! He demonstrated His ability to use His written word in a living, active, and personal way. New Blacktop can become a reality to all of us as we rely on the Bible as our roadmap.

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”
Isaiah 42:16

Beholding Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God/Listen to Him! – 10/02/12

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By , October 3, 2012 10:52 am

PRAISE: 1) The Same Love by Paul Baloche (DDD “Beholding Jesus” 2012) 2) Just As I Am by Travis Cottrell 3) Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Michael W. Smith

John the Baptist as a humble yet bold servant of God who understood his position in Christ.

Emancipating Our Emotions

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By , October 1, 2012 3:27 pm

Much has been written about giving the voiceless a voice. Just a few days ago, as our nation observed the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Obama spoke up for the victims of human trafficking in our world today. I, too, desire to champion the oppressed. Or maybe I should say the suppressed. I want to give voice to the part of our beings that is oftentimes hidden or hurting: our emotions.
Our emotions are simply visceral responses to the stressors of life. I liken them to the dashboard on my old Volvo wagon. In the years my kids were in grade school, my personal-time clock started ticking the second I left carpool line. My hope was to get everything done before 3:00. As a visual processor, I had not only my To Do list, but lots of other reminders crowding my dashboard. Coupons, empty prescription vials, and repair claim checks occupied the space between the dashboard dials and me. One day, with the usual array of reminders onboard, the temperature gauge indicated that my engine was overheated. Oblivious, I drove all over town, ticking items off my list as I went. At 3:05, only a block away from the school, I heard a sickening “clunk” as the engine died. Only then did I realize I had made a costly mistake. Do you think $8,000 is too much to pay for this valuable life lesson? That is the unfortunate truth about what it cost to get my car up and running again.
I don’t want to make the same mistake with my soul. If the role of my emotions is like those warning lights, my desire is to learn to use them as indicators of what is going on underneath. What does it cost me when I fail to pay attention to them? In my grim determination to feel better fast or to be a good sport, I lose the opportunity to love myself well, to become more whole.
My instinct is to dismiss my feelings with excuses of fatigue, hormones, or weak faith. Getting busy with a task allows me to replace my unwanted emotions with a sense of being in control. After a lifetime in the Bible Belt, I know how I should feel. I’m quick to run straight to a Scripture and plaster it over the problem. I resist feeling the feelings or allowing myself the time necessary to healthily process them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we live by our emotions—been there, done that, and wouldn’t recommend it. In that scenario, we become slaves to our feelings instead of letting them serve us. But God has something better in mind than either avoiding or idolizing our feelings. As our Creator, His design is for our emotions to have a voice. As our Redeemer, He offers us hope.
Observe the way Jesus responded when someone He loved was hurting. We see Him in John 11 going to the tomb of His dear friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha, the sisters of the deceased, are doubly grieved. Not only is their brother dead, but they feel deeply disappointed that Jesus did not come in time to heal him. Knowing full well that He intended to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus interrupts His march toward the impending miracle.  He takes the time to listen, to let their heartache be heard, and to weep with them. His message to them (and to us) is that our feelings matter.

Jesus wept.

John 11:35

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