Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Makes My Day

I'm gonna take a minute during my lunch break to share something that hit me personally during my mom's small group this past week.

It was this idea or question I need to ask myself - what am I using as my measuring stick to determine if I've had a "successful" day? Is it my to-do list that I, myself, am compiling of needs I've perceived (which may be very valid or completely distorted)? Or am I asking myself, "did you love God today and love others around?"

Practical work has to be done. Diapers must be changed, laundry needs to be done, etc.

BUT at the end of the day, am I allowing those practical things to determine whether or not my day was a success? Or am I allowing things that have eternal benefit to determine that?

I still need to do those practical things, but I don't need to allow that to determine anything except that my child will not have diaper rash and that my family will have clothes that are clean. It does not mean that I am a good mom - I could do practical things all day long and totally ignore my child's emotional needs. I could iron my husband's shirts for work so he looks more professional, but I could then disrespect him continually in front of my child by 'over-ruling' what he just said. Yes, my to-do list can have tons of check marks and lines crossing through tasks, but are they really accomplishing what I'm ultimately going for? A family, strong and united in Christ. A loving, healthy marriage that's defined by the Bible, not my culture? A personal walk with the Lord where I recognize every moment of every day how much I need the GRACE of God to do anything worth anything.

"I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do NOTHING." -John 15:5)

I'd love a formula - man oh man, I would. But I think the closest thing that we, as believers, have been given is that question - did I love God today and did I love others?

Did I love God today? Was I obedient to what I know of His Word and what I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to do.

Did I love others? Was I available for the ones the Lord put on my path, did I extend grace and compassion and His Truth? Did I pray & help carry someone else's burden today?

Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

I don't know that this can be applied to every situation, but I think a good gauge for me is asking myself:

Did I rely on the Lord today for the things that I did?
Did what I do today require faith that God would speak through me, move through me?
What were the motivations of my heart? the condition of my heart?

Or was my day based on my to-do list that I can accomplish - yes, through the abilities God has given me- but that I did on my own, without consultation, with prayer, Jenny-powered, life-less.

Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

(Does my heart really believe that?)

Anyways, still need to meditate on this, but wanted to throw it down on virtual paper so that maybe I will mull over it long enough for the Lord to continue to give me some insight & change my heart & mind. 

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
- 1 Corinthians 13:10

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." -Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

God's spellcheck

I'm excited this morning because I believe God is trying to show me how to view discipline from a new perspective...namely, His. Just thought I would share what I felt the Holy Spirit showing me this morning. Because I feel in the midst of this lesson, it definitely is ministering to me. I hope that it's an encouragement to you as well!

For this passage, I'm going to substitute the term 'son' for 'child' right now. I feel as though that has a more personal connotation for me than reading the term 'son' for obvious reasons.
Hebrews 12:5-11,
"And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his child? It says,
“My child, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His children.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

 Okay - gonna break this down to explain how I felt the Holy Spirit was breaking it down for me this morning.
"And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his child? It says, “My child, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,"

-First of all, it's like God was saying to me directly, "Jenny - have you forgotten that this is an encouraging Truth?! The discipline that you experience is confirming that you are My child! In other words, know that there is a purpose for what is going on; it is more than just coincidence or something to just 'let roll of your back' or to be shaken by, but it's an opportunity to seek My face and to know that I'm in this. Find Me in it!

"and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a child."

-A pastor that I work closely with recently gave a message on parenting, and he stressed the fact that when we, as human parents, parent and discipline our children, it must come from a place of love. We must have a relationship with our children in which they know that we love them and have their best in mind, first and foremost. If a child doesn't know that you love them - whether from neglecting to meet their needs, a lack of time spent with them, or maybe even just from not knowing how they receive love so that you don't know how to express it in a way that they receive it as love - whatever the reason, if you then approach them in terms of rebuking and correcting their behavior, they will rebel. They will get defensive.

Because they feel alone. They don't know that you have their best in mind, and so they feel they have to be the only one that will take up that banner for them.

So, thinking about this scripture, I see the truth and emphasis now of connecting the Lord's discipline with His love, because we have to believe that God is for us - that He has our best in mind - and that there is purpose in what we're facing in order to receive the discipline (in whatever form) as for our good as well.

And as parents, we can recognize that our children need discipline. They need someone that will instruct and guide and correct them as they're learning to maneuver through life. And so we, as children, need that as well from our Father.

I don't know about you, but rebuke to me has always seemed like a harsh word. Other translations say 'correct.' I prefer that term. It makes me think about someone correcting my grammar or spelling. And check.
I do.
I love that I can click a little button and it shows me my mistakes, so that I can correct them and the entire world doesn't have to know that my typing is less than proficient. I may type fast...but not necessarily accurate.  Hard to imagine the world before spell check.

We need to be able to not only receive God's correction when He gives it, but we need to get to a point where we go to Him, we initiate, like turning on the spell check function on our current device.  We need to ask God to examine our hearts and check its condition."Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So, be earnest and repent." Revelation 3:19
"Endure hardship as discipline;"

-whew. Do I see the difficulties I face, the hard situations, the changes that I don't welcome in my life, as the Lord's discipline? Do I see that He is wanting to use these things to develop in me the character that He desires for me to have - one that trusts Him, that submits to His authority and the authority that He places in my life, and one that even welcomes these opportunities because I know that it means that He is accepting me as a child, a child that He is will protect and provide for?

"God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all."

-'everyone undergoes discipline' - What is key in this process is perspective, being able to recognize  what we're facing as God's method of disciplining us. Sometimes I tend to think of discipline in the form of correction and a consequence for sin, but discipline is also learning the correct way to handle something as well. It's strength-training, it's working out spiritual muscles so that they are able to handle the weight of life without breaking and faltering. So, we must ask for God's eyes to see what we're facing for what it is - His orchestration of events in order to accomplish His purposes.

And an exciting thing about this is that it allows us to feel like we're more a part of God's family. We know that individuals love us when they can speak truth to us, putting the condition of our relationship ahead of the 'ease' of the relationship. If I have sin in my life, it's LOVE for someone to confront that in me, because from there I can move into repentance and change and freedom. It's not easy, though...but it's that person telling me they care more about me than what I may think of them in that moment.

And so God is willing to create waves in our lives, and in our relationship with Him, because He knows that it's for our good and that it will ultimately allow us to have a closer, more intimate relationship with Him. I've experienced that with God, and I've experienced that in human relationships. I'm much closer to those individual in my life that are willing to go through conflict with me, and see it out to the other side, than those that avoid and neglect.

"Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness."

-Discipline is part of our inheritance. It's part of the whole package of the eternal salvation that we received when Christ died on the cross. John 1:17 says that we receive both grace and truth through Jesus Christ (see here). Grace means that our sins are pardoned and God's truth then begins to transform our lives to look more like Christ. We want to receive God's grace, readily and freely and desperately, but in the same way, I pray that we will receive God's discipline - His truth about our condition and instruction on how to change it - with the same readiness and desperation. 

In the same way, upon completion of a document, that we would click spell check, I pray that we would get to a place in our lives where we can approach the throne of GRACE with confidence, laying our hearts before the Lord for His perusal. 


we know that we're not the best spellers,
that there are some apostrophes out of place,
that we have random commas lying around, 

 and we need God to reveal to us the things that need to be addressed, changed, and even deleted.

When we receive & accept the Lord's discipline, we are submitting to His authority and further stepping into all that He has for us - His inheritance that we are now qualified to receive because of His sacrifice on the cross. (Colossians 1:12)

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful."

-Um, yeah. 

"Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

- I do pray that God would give us eyes to see the Hope to which we have been called to (Ephesians 1:15-23) - hope beyond our current condition, knowing and trusting in the fact that the discipline we receive is shaping us more into Christ's image, who is our Hope.

The word 'trained' makes me think of how we will seek out a trainer at a gym, asking for their instruction and guidance in order to reach the exercise or weight-lifting goals that we're pursuing. But a trainer's advice and instruction is worthless unless we receive it and respond accordingly.

God knows us so intimately that He can identify the weak 'muscles' in our lives that need to be strengthened. In His Omnipotence, He knows what we will face in the future and what will be require for us to prepare us for those battles, those challenges, those sacrifices. And so He orchestrates, allows -however you want to put it- the discipline in our lives in order to strengthen us, in Him, to face them. He wants to set us up to succeed, if we will just receive both the pleasurable and not so pleasing things from His Hand.

Lord, may we learn to accept both the pleasant and unpleasant things in life as from Your hand. May we be so enveloped in Your love for us, to know Your love so intimately, that we recognize that You are for us. May we trust Your ways, which are not our own, because we trust You. May we focus our eyes on the Giver, and not the 'gift' You're asking us to receive, so that we know that all things that come from You are good. Because You are good.  

Yet I will praise You

The Lord brought a verse to mind this morning as I was praying, just sitting down at my desk at work, and since it seemed a little random, I knew there must be more to it and I needed to investigate.

"Yet I will ever praise You, Lord."

The first Google search for this led to Psalm 71:14, "As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more." (This translation changed the wording a little bit, but others actually said, 'I will ever praise you." But still - I will always have Hope. Isn't that true?

In Jesus Christ, we will always have Hope.Period.

Nothing can change that.
Nothing will change that.

Even when our feelings lie to us and tell us there is no hope, Jesus still remains our Hope and our Freedom.

Anyways, in reading the whole Psalm, I was surprisingly encouraged this morning with a new perspective. I usually have read this passage, and passages like this in the past, thinking of witnessing to other adults, non-believers -

"My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone."

Or maybe in order to encourage other believers - "hey, this is what God has done for me. He can do it for you!"

But this morning, the Lord directed my attention to what He has now redefined as ministry to me - one of my first ministries - my babies.

The psalm goes on to say:

"Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."

"to the next generation."

My babies. Your babies.

They are kind of a captive audience right now. (Insert semi-evil laugh here)

Maybe you've thought of this before. I'm fairly new at this parenting thing, and I've been many years with God where ministry, in my mind, was not defined as first to my husband, and second to my family, and then third as the Lord directs. My heart has not always had the right priorities ordered as the Lord intends - and if I'm truthful, most days He is still redirecting my heart. Old lies still sound loudly in my ears and I have a forgetful heart.

However, I was so encouraged as this scripture met me right where I am this morning, sitting at my office desk (where I used to try to find purpose and meaning for my life in 'ministry').

The Lord is so gentle and patient with me.

Did you catch part of this passage?
v.15 "My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all."

To me, this was perfect. I so often feel completely ill-equipped and clueless in where to start with my daughter in telling her about my relationship with Jesus. How do I explain it in terms that she'll understand, as a now 3 year old? How do I convey the beauty of His life, the riches I've received in Him, my depravity without Him?

"thought I know now how to relate them all" - or though I know not how to relate them AT all.

YET my mouth will tell. I will ever praise You, Lord. Until I get better at communicating it to all people on their level, to their understanding, to where they are in their specific season in life. I will just continue on, although it is messy and confusing and I will probably get a lot of weird looks.

(Am I the only one that has a daughter/son that can look at you like you're absolutely crazy and it makes you feel like you've been put in your place? Yep - I will press on despite the Natalie stink-eye.)

Please check out the rest of the Psalm as well. What a great reminder this morning of the GREAT God that we have!

And to further confirm to me that God does have a quirky sense of humor, I searched the words again - because more of the verse came to mind and I started questioning whether or not I had even found the right passage.

And I was led to Psalm 34:1, and this is what I found in several different translations, as a preface to the passage,

NIV: "Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left. I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips."

NASB:"A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

HA! So, when we are continually praising God, it may in fact look like we've lost it. Like we HAVE NO CLUE.

Isn't it crazy to praise a God for His faithfulness in the darkness? When there isn't enough money in the bank account and your mortgage is due next week? When you've been praying for healing and there are no signs of change? When it's just so hard that you can't imagine having to face this specific __________ one more day?

"Yet I will ever praise You, Lord. Your praise will continually by on my lips."

Because the next generation is at stake. Our babies have a front-row seat to our lives and are waiting to see how we will respond in the good and the bad, the uncertainty and in the smooth.

And it's not going to look perfect. (Can I just add that here as a permission slip for it to never look perfect?! Am I the only one that may read that previous statement and think, "oh the pressure! They're looking at me!)

It's not supposed to look perfect. It's supposed to look real. Real enough that they will later look back on later in life and can relate to it, and know that it was genuine - know that what they are facing isn't somehow worse or wrong because their mom never seemed to have issues or doubts or trying times. They will look back and say despite that, she did 'ever praise Him."