Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Knowing Your Heavenly Father

What kind of Dad did you have growing up?  How would you describe him?  Was he stern but loving?  Did he tell you he loved you or did he expect you to just know it?  Was he interested in you?  Did he just put up with you?  Does the word Dad dredge up horrible memories or fond ones?  How would you describe your relationship with your father?

I knew my dad loved me.  He had a way of making each one of us, his three daughters, feel special and he was creative in his love for us.  I knew that he understood me, that he had studied me like a good book and was familiar with who I was deep down inside. Sometimes, I liked that and other times I hated it!  

I was blessed with a very special gift in my Dad.  For many people and maybe you’re one of them, this was not the case.  Maybe your dad didn’t love you.  Maybe he was cruel and hurtful, causing lasting scars that you continue to carry. 

What I've observed is that we all have a tendency to allow our earthly father “experience” to cloud our perception of our Heavenly Father.  Even if we’ve had a good experience our understanding of God can be skewed. 

Even the very best father here on earth is only a faint image of our True Heavenly Father.

I've discovered that the place I need to go to get a clear picture is God’s Word.  Only there will I discover who my Heavenly Father truly is and be able to grasp an accurate image of Him based on the truth of Scripture rather than from my own warped and distorted viewpoint.

Look at how God is described in Zephaniah 3:17, “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

What do we learn about God from this passage of Scripture?

He is living among us!  He is not a distant God who created the world and left it to it's own demise.  No! He makes His dwelling with you. Where you go, He goes.  Your cares are HIs cares, your joy, His joy.   He makes Himself available to all those who seek after Him.

He is a mighty savior.  He rescued you from certain eternal destruction by sending His only Son to take your place and to die a brutal death so that you might live with Him for all eternity.   What more could He do to prove His love for you?  He is your HERO, your GREAT REDEEMER, your MIGHTY SAVIOR!

He delights in us with gladness.  He’s proud of you.  Your pictures are on his refrigerator and in his wallet and when the angels ask about you he pulls them out and brags about you.  His heart swells with love and His eyes light up when He meets with you. He loves being with you.

With His love, he calms our fears.  When fear threatens to overtake you, when you are overwhelmed by your circumstances, He points to the cross and whispers, “Remember! Remember, my love for you!  I love you with an everlasting love; a love that has no conditions and no end.”

He rejoices over us with joyful songs.  God is singing over you from a heart that is overflowing with love. It is His pure expression of joy as He celebrates you, his treasured child.

Have you ever thought about God like this?  Do you struggle with God as your Heavenly Father?  I encourage you to pick up your Bible and get to know your God.  He won't disappoint!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pride Goes Before a Fall . . .

 “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.”  Proverbs 16:18 (NLV)

 When I was in my first year of college, I had a job on campus as an outreach coordinator.  At the Bible school I attended we were required to do service projects throughout the year and my job was to help people get connected with the right organization to do these projects.

Every year we would have different organizations come to the school for a “ministry fair” of sorts.  They would be able to talk with students about how they could serve in their organizations and the students could explore whether that specific ministry would be where they could best serve.

During one of those ministry fairs, I was taking one of the organization leaders to their specific room where they could interact with students and as we were walking across the campus he began to ask me questions about the school.  Even though it was my first year at the school, I was fairly informed and was able to answer most of his questions.  When we got to the room, I turned to tell him that it was nice to meet him and that I hoped everything would go well for him.  He then asked, “What year in school are you?  You seem so mature are you a senior?”

I told him that I was just a freshman and he seemed quite surprised.  Well,  as I’m sure you can imagine, that went straight to my head.  I told him thank you very much, stood up much straighter and walked out of the room with a very fat head!  And then promptly tripped and fell down a whole flight of stairs!


I lay at the bottom unhurt but much humbled.  I couldn’t help but admit how appropriate that fall was for me and that verse from Proverbs about pride going before a fall popped into my head.

Years later, pride still continues to be a struggle in my life.

Just the other day, my sister pointed out to me how arrogant and prideful I have been in my interactions with people I work with.  Unfortunately, I had to admit that she was right. 

Just when I think that I have conquered an area of sin in my life, it pokes its ugly head out of the hole and I am once again facing my sinful nature in all its depravity. 

I can't help but wonder if this isn’t right where Satan wants me to be – thinking I've conquered an area of my life and won’t have to be concerned with it anymore. (Pride once again!)  How vulnerable and susceptible I make myself when I've  let down my guard by taking my eyes off of Jesus and putting them on myself.

I’m reminded of another Proverb (Proverbs 26:11 NLV) that says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”  Isn’t that one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible – NOT!  This picture is horrible!  And it's even worse when I think that I am like that dog when I return continually to my sin.

How do I keep from returning?  By staying on guard; surrendering to the Holy Spirit with my ear tuned to His leadings and my eyes focused on Him.


What area of struggle do you find yourself going back to continually?  Where have you dropped your guard and given Satan a foothold?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Treasure from Junk

I have friends, maybe you’re one of them, who can look at an old dilapidated end table found at a flea market and envision what it would like in their house with a little tender loving care.  But when I look at that same old table, I tend to see something that really should’ve been hauled off to the dump a long time ago.  I struggle to see the beauty in junk.  And I think I find myself believing that God has that same outlook when He sees me.

But then, I think of Peter.  (I’m so glad God chose to have his story put in Scripture for our perusal.)  Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends and just before Jesus went to his death Peter proclaimed to all the disciples that He would be with Jesus to the death. 

 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”

And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”

 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”  (John 13:36-37 NLV)

Then just hours later, Peter denied Jesus, not once but three times.  How devastated Peter must have felt!  Was there anything worse than disowning Jesus?  I wonder, did Peter feel like he should be hauled out with the garbage?  I’m sure he felt that there was nothing redeemable in His life.

But after the resurrection, Jesus comes to Peter, fixes him breakfast and asks Him not once but three times if Peter loves Him.  From that moment on, Peter is different. He becomes a powerful spokesperson for the gospel of Jesus Christ and God uses him to turn hearts to Him.  What Peter saw as junk in his life; his biggest failure was what God used to make him stronger, more determined and more driven to follow Jesus and proclaim the Good News to the world.  God took Peter’s junk and turned it into treasure.

When I look at my life, the mistakes, the poor choices, the failures and the damage I’ve caused in my own life and in others, I see a huge mess.  A pile of junk!  And there is no way I can envision anything good coming from it. 

But just like God did with Peter, He sees my pile of junk envisions something beautiful and accepts the challenge of turning my mess into something truly spectacular.  Look what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Isn’t that amazing about God!  He doesn’t just see our junk but remarkably He uses it to make something beautiful!  We, as finite beings, cannot see the whole scope of God’s plan.  We only see the here and now, the failures, the mistakes, the regrets but God sees them and He uses them to accomplish His great plan for us.

Look at what God does in nature:  He changes an unsightly caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly and an ugly duckling into a magnificent swan. 

If He can do that to a caterpillar or an ugly duckling, think what He can do with us! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Who Are You Working For?

 “Where is the fax that came in yesterday at 4:25?”  He angrily demanded.

Unsure why his anger was directed at me, I replied, “I don’t really know where it is since I left the office yesterday at 3:00.”

“Well, you are responsible for all faxes that come in whether you are here or not! I expect you to know exactly where they are because each one is vital to this company!!”

This was the way it had been ever since I had started working there. The accusations had run the gamut from not knowing where faxes were to stealing, lying and even embezzling money from the company. I thought this job was going to be the perfect solution for my family. It fit well with my kid’s school schedules and it was an answer to our prayers but I was beginning to wonder about that.

Unknowingly I had stepped into a very sticky situation. My boss’ wife had been working as the office administrator and it really wasn’t her forte. There was tension between she and her husband because of it and she had decided to look for another job.

When I started, the office was in shambles – it was jumbled and chaotic. My first order was to get the office organized and running smoothly, which I did but then another problem raised its ugly head. My boss’ wife began to feel threatened by the reorganization; she felt it made her look bad.

She began leaving me nasty notes and it seemed I was constantly put in no-win situations. It would start when she would call the office and want to talk to her husband. And I would then ask her to hold because her husband was unable to talk immediately. Then she would hang up and call him in on his cell phone. And the next thing I knew, he was in my face demanding to know if I had told her he was busy and couldn’t talk right away.

Day after day this went on and day after day I wanted to turn and run. I didn’t need this insanity in my life. But each time I brought it before the Lord; I would feel Him say to me, “Who are you working for, him or Me?”

(Sigh) “You, Lord.”

“Then why are you running?”

“The pain is too raw; I don’t think I can bear it any longer! I’ve been accused of so many things that aren’t true. I don’t deserve this.”

“My dearest daughter, I didn’t deserve it either but I did it for you! I know about the pain you’re experiencing and I know you are much stronger than you think you are. I have a plan, do you believe that? I understand about being accused of things that are untrue and having people destroy your reputation. But remember, your reputation is my reputation. Do you trust Me?”

With hesitancy I promised, “Yes, Lord, I will trust You!”

And I did but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done! I worked for 9 months and nothing ever changed, well that is nothing except me! God was at work in my life; molding and making me into a stronger, more determined, more passionate woman of faith. Each day I made a choice not to run but to follow; to fully surrender my life completely to His will. My mantra became: “My reputation is Your reputation and I trust You.”

Was I perfect in this situation? Not even close but I learned to lean on God; to ask Him for strength when I was weak and discernment when the way seemed unclear. And He was faithful!

Let me ask you, what do you do when you find yourself accused of something you didn’t do? Do you have the tendency, like me, to want to run? Do you find yourself second guessing the decisions you’ve made when things don’t work out the way you think they should, instead of embracing the struggle and opening your heart to what God wants to teach you?

In the Old Testament, Joshua stands before the people and says, “ . . . choose today whom you will serve. . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NLV)

“So who will you serve?

Without reservation, holding nothing back, I choose Jesus! What will your choice be?