Saturday, July 22, 2017

More on accessing God's strength

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Graphic from Saved Sister
I'm still struggling and tired. Still thinking about what I studied the last time.  Specifically Piper's A.P.T.A.T. The question that comes to my mind is what promises from the Word do I need to be speaking aloud and trusting about?

So this morning I want to spend some time coming up with verses.  Mostly, it is my job that has me exhausted. I'm going to list what about my job has me exhausted so I can find verses that apply to these issues. Oh Father, please guide me through this process so that I can learn how to do what I hear people call "standing on your Word".  Lord, please help me be able to do what Paul wrote to Timothy about and rightly handle your Word.

Here's my list of work issues:
  • Finding shift coverage
  • Frequent onslaught of numerous, coming at you,competing issues that I need to address
  • Due to B, I strain to remain focused and get everything done
  • Due to B, it would be easy to miss what is truly important and thereby mess up 
  • Navigating potentially company problem issues and minimizing the risk
  • Presenting ourselves to licensing auditors as the good people we are and making sure that they see that
  • The need to establish positive, productive, relationships with difficult people
  • Extensive paperwork that is extremely detail oriented and must be well thought out
  • Being effective at coming up with ways to train and mentor leaders and make a difference

Now, how do I apply the Word to these?

I feel like what I need to do is:
1. Come up with some verses
2. Work out my thought process behind those verses.
3. Come up with truth statements for these verses.
Then I can read (and eventually have memorized) aloud those verses and some truth statements that correspond to those verses. I can do this throughout the day.  This way I don't have to become drained and tired and overwhelmed.

It's so much, I just can't do it on my own. I am not smart enough.  In life and work there is always so much going on that I just only see a fraction of.  Yet my actions need to be in line with the entire situation (even that part I don't know). What I need is God's  direction, God's ability, and God's favor.


God's Direction
1. Verses
Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.


Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 32:5-10 (NIV)
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them. 
 You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.
 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you. 
 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Psalm 119:104-105 (NIV)
I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path.

 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

2. Thought process regarding these verses
God promises that He will lead me.  If I stay in His word and seek to follow His ways, I will reap the benefits of His wisdom provided in His Word.  If I mess up and go off His path, I can acknowledge my sin & repent and He'll forgive me (1 John 1:9, Psalm 32:5). I don't have to get all stressed and exhausted, I have his counsel and leading available to me.  I'm not all on my own in this trying to figure out what to do.  He promises to direct me.

3. Truth statements based on these verses
  • No situation is too much for me. 
  • I can count on God's guidance and direction. 
  • I am not alone in this, He is with me and will lead me. 
  • As I obey God's Word and follow His direction, I will reap the benefits. 
  • When I mess up and fail to follow God's Word, I can acknowledge my sin and choose to turn away from it.  God will forgive me and His blessings will become mine again.
God's Ability

1. Verses
Deuteronomy 8; especially verse 18 (NIV)
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Philippians 4:10-13; especially verse 13 (NKJV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:15-19; especially verse 19 (NIV)
God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NET)
 My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. 

Matthew 7:7-12; especially verse 7 (NIV)
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

2. Thought process regarding these verses
My job, and sometimes life, is just too much for me.  I am not smart enough, do not have enough ability.  I need God's ability  The Word says that I need to ask and He will give me what I need. He puts me in my life and job and wants me to be successful. There is also a theme regarding me needing to give and then I will receive back as I give.

3. Truth statements based on these verses 
  • God gives me the ability to do what I  need to do. 
  • I can count on God's strength and ability. 
  • I have everything I need to do that which is before me to do.
  •  Whatever I have need of, God will supply.  
  • As I give and help others, God will help me.    

God's Favor
1. Verses
Genesis 39; especially verse 21 (NIV)
 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.

Proverbs 3:1-4 (NET)
My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments, 
 for they will provide a long and full life,
and they will add well-being to you.
Do not let truth and mercy leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will find favor and good understanding,
in the sight of God and people.

Psalm 23; especially verse 6 (NET)
Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all my days,
and I will live in the Lord’s house for the rest of my life.


Psalm 90; especially verse 17 (NET)
May our sovereign God extend his favor to us!
Make our endeavors successful!
Yes, make them successful! 


Psalm 5; especially verse 12 (NET)
Certainly you reward the godly, Lord.
Like a shield you protect them in your good favor. 


2. Thought process regarding these verses
When God puts His favor on someone, they will be successful no matter what happens to them.  Joseph is a perfect example of this.  Following God's Word and commandments will give us favor with Him and the people around us. God will have his goodness and mercy follow me.  He will protect me with His favor.

3. Truth statements
  • God's favor is on me. 
  • As I seek to obey God I will act wisely and win the favor of those around me. 
  • Goodness and mercy are following me where ever I go. 
  • God's favor protects me.   
  • People see the best in me due to God's favor. 

Oh Father, thank You for Your Word.  Please empower me to be obedient to You and Your Word.  Enable me to be a true help to others.  Enlarge within me a giver's heart. Help me rest daily in the direction, ability,  and favor that You give me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Glorious inner strength

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Photo from Psychology Today
I was delighted when I realized this next passage: Ephesians 3:14-19. This has long been one of my favorite prayers; one that I've specifically prayed over my oldest son Devon for years. Today I pray that God would show me what He wants for me today in this portion of His Word.

I'm especially partial to the way this reads in The Message paraphrase:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.


Today I'm extra drawn to the words about glorious inner strength because I'm tired. About a month ago I went back to work for a company that I've worked for before. This time around the company has huge staffing problems. I'm called constantly and am in the position of constantly finding coverage, sometimes ending up coming in myself and working. I'm on salary so I'm not paid any more for coming in, and I still have all the regular work load expectations. As long as I'm at this job, I want to do a good job and glorify the Lord by my work performance. As of yet, no other work doors have opened up for me; so I take that as an indication that God must want me where I am at for now. I'm exhausted and struggling with discouragement. Today I fully recognize how much I need His strength.

I appreciate Jon Bloom's thoughts on these verses:

"This was not only Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians; it’s God’s desire for us today. He wants us to have more strength, enlarged capacities, to know Christ’s love and enjoy more of his fullness. Because more of God’s fullness means greater love for him. And greater love for him means more delight in him. And the greater our delight in him, the easier his yoke and the less burdensome his commandments become (Matthew 11:30; 1 John 5:3), for God has enlarged our heart (Psalm 119:32).

This concept of enlarging our capacity is what draws me here.  God is is the One of supreme strength (Isaiah 40:12-31, Jeremiah 32:17-22, Acts 17:26-27, Psalm 136:11-12).  He has given me His Holy Spirit who lives within me.  The Holy Spirit within me can be a source of strength. Richard Patterson discourses about Believers living their lives dependent on God's power:

"in his epistle to the Philippians Paul declares that it is not in his power that he lives out his life and ministry, but solely in the Lord’s strength: “I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13). As Comfort points out, “This powerful presence enabled Paul to go through bad times and good. Paul no longer relied on his own strength but on the strength of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who lived in him and worked through him (see Gal 2:20; Col 1:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:8-10; 4:7-12).” 

Today I'm thinking about how do I access or experience God's strength?  I sure need it!  I feel exhausted so much of the time. John Piper had some practical thoughts on the answer to this question. He wrote about using the following sequence: A.P.T.A.T.

A. Admit - Admit we can't do anything on our own
P. Pray- Ask God for help
T. Trust-trust God that He will help. Piper talks a lot about memorizing scriptures about God's provision and choosing to believe they are true. I appreciate these points of Piper's regarding "Trusting":
             "When Peter says, “Whoever serves, [let him serve] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11), we do this not only by praying for that supply, but by trusting in the promise of the supply in specific situations. Paul says that God supplies the Spirit to you “by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5). That is, we hear a promise and we believe it for a particular need, and the Holy Spirit comes to help us through that believed promise."
A. Act-Go to work with a good will and a high heart, expecting to be helped as you asked to be.
T. Thank-Thank God for His help, provision and blessings in your life

Oh Father, help me follow this sequence in my life.  Help me stay in Your word and know and count on Your promises.  Help me hold steadfast and rely on You throughout the challenges of my life.  Empower me to live a life filled with words of thanksgiving and a grateful attitude.  Please, strengthen me with Your strength.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The gospel is for everyone

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Photo from The Gospel for Believers
What strikes me today as I read Ephesians 3:1-13 is that the gospel is for everybody.  In this passage Paul spends a lot of time alluding to the fact that God created the Jewish nation to be His people, but Jesus came to save everybody.  Those who are the knowledgeable, "churched", people and those who aren't.

This has become real for me in a new way since I started volunteering with Prison Fellowship Ministry (PFM).  In one sense, prisoners are bad people.  They are people who have done bad things, they have victimized other people.  It is much easier on one level to be sympathetic toward the victims than the victimizer.  I've long said that I'd rather be a prosecuting attorney than a defense attorney because the district attorney's office stands up for the people, the victims of crime.

Along with 2 other ladies I currently teach a class on job seeking and keeping as part of PFM's academy. We teach in a medium level prison called CRC.  Our class is comprised of young men who are part of CRC's youth offender program.  CRC has pulled inmates ages 18-25 away from the rest of the population for part of their prison time.  They are housed together and have optional classes together.  Just a couple of weeks ago during class we were discussing that the largest percentage of jobs are obtained through knowing someone.  One of the young men in the class related a story about how he was once working a temp job with 2 others.  He said that he outworked the 2 others by far, but that the 2 other people ended up being offered permanent work for that company while his job ended.  He explained that the other 2 had family members or friends who worked there.  He said that he got really angry about it and thought to himself that he should go rob all of those people.  I remember being shocked when he said that.  I thought to myself - who thinks something like that when they're upset?

Yet, somehow, when I'm there with those young men, I am filled with a sense of how precious they are.  I think it's the Holy Spirit within me; because these young men are precious to God.  The gospel truly is for everyone because God loves everyone.  He doesn't look at people the way that we do.

During these weeks that we've had class together I've come to know some of the young men and their stories.  My heart breaks as they casually mention things about their childhoods that were terrible. Moms who were drug addicts, chaotic households, dads in and out of prison, generations of gang affiliation...these are standard fare among the incarcerated.  God sees their pain and wants something better for these young men; my prayer is that I am a part of bringing that about.

I want to get in line with God's ways of looking at and loving people.  So what does that mean for me in my everyday life?  Are there people with whom I come in contact that I've written off?  Who I find offensive and/or annoying?  The gospel is for them too!  How can really believing this change the way I interact with and talk about these people?

Oh Father, thank You for Your love.  Thank You for extending your salvation to me and everyone else.  Show me ways each day to love the people around me.  Please help me be open to hearing Your voice when I'm around people who I don't like and who annoy me.  Empower me to change my attitude.  May I love people like You do.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Being part of His church

Graphic from Literature and Liturgy
Today I'm focusing on Ephesians 2:19-22.


God's building something.

It started with the prophets who were the foundation. Jesus is the chief cornerstone. God is joining His followers, the Church, together with Jesus to build a temple to His glory.

The church is comprised of all who believe in Christ; it is a visible entity that symbolizes the invisible grace that makes it possible.  I believe that the church has a special place in God's work on this earth.

God has always planned to reconcile men to Himself; this can be seen throughout the Scriptures:

Genesis 3:15 - Genesis 3:1-20 recounts the fall of man and the fact that God provided a way back to Himself.

There are pictures of God's redemption throughout the Old Testament; here's just a few of them:

Genesis 22 - God required Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac and at the last minute provided a substitute for that sacrifice.
Exodus 2-14 - Moses leads Israel out of captivity in Egypt.  Psalm 106:6-12 summarizes how God redeemed Israel through Moses leading their exit from Egypt. 
Ruth 1-4 - Boaz is the kinsman redeemer who purchased the ability to care for Ruth and her mother in law and bring Ruth into the family of Israel who were God's chosen people.
Isaiah 49:8-10 & Isaiah 61:1-3-the promise of restoration and deliverance

John 12:20-35 - Jesus died for everyone and if he is lifted up He will draw all to Himself

Romans 5:12-19 - Death came through Adam and salvation for all came through Christ

Philippians 2:5-11 - Eventually all will come to God through the Lordship of Jesus

2 Peter 3:8-9-God waits for all to come to Himself.

1 Timothy 4:6-10 - God is the savior of all people

So everyone will eventually come to God through Jesus, but the church are those who form the mystical body of Christ who have come to Him while on this earth. It would seem that God has a special place, a special work for those of His Church. The Church is supposed to bring glory to God on this earth, preach His kingdom and make disciples, and help one another grow in relationship with God through Christ. Scriptures such as Romans 15:1-6 & 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 show me that the Church exists to bring glory to God.  In Matthew 28:18-20 & Acts 1:8 we're shown that the Church is to bring preach the Jesus story and make disciples. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, Ephesians 4:11-16, and Ephesians 3:10-25 show the Church is to help Believers in Christ to encourage one another and grow in their relationship with Him.

I believe that if I don't accept God's gift of salvation now, at the end of this life I'll be separated from Him in hell. That Hell is still redemptive in nature; a time of refining fire that I might repent and come to Him. Choosing Him now not only saves me from hell later, it allows me to experience relationship with the Creator of my soul. As part of His Church I am called to bring Him glory, help bring His kingdom to others, and help build up others of faith.

So what does this mean to me now? What are the questions that come to my mind?
  • Does the way I live bring glory to God?
  • What am I doing to help others come into His kingdom?
  • Am I encouraging and helping others in the faith grow in Him?
Oh Father, thank You that You let me into Your kingdom. Thank You for letting me be part of Your work.   Would you please empower me to live so that my life brings You glory.  Help me stay positive at my job and keep a servant's heart so  that You would be honored.  Help me be smart and fix problems at work and make things better so that You can get the glory.  Be with me at Prison ministry so that You would speak through me and be a source of encouragement, truth, help and an example for those young men.  Oh Father, show me daily if there's something specific that You want me to do and help me be sensitive to Your leading.  Sometimes I feel exhausted and like I don't have the energy that I need for it all.  Please give me wisdom and self discipline to eat, exercise, and live in ways that keep me healthy for my life and all I need to do.  Please empower and energize me by Your Holy Spirit within me to be up for the life/ministry before me.  May I be a source of wisdom, encouragement, and love to Daniel as we talk each week.  May I be a good helper to John and a source of love, encouragement and affirmation.  Even though we don't talk much, show me ways to be a positive source for Your kingdom in Devon, Rachel, Dylan, Liz and my grandchildren's lives.  Thank You that I can always come to You Lord.