Monday, July 29, 2013

What's Your Focus This Week?

The sermon I heard yesterday was part of a series and the basic text was Ephesians 2:1-10. The preacher stuck with the passage while expanding the theme across three Sundays. 

  I. The Problem - sin that brings death and separates me from God
 II. The Provision - redemption that brings me life both now and forever
III. The Proof - my heart and hands intentionally yielded through the Savior

But, you know, as rich as these messages were and the amount of Scripture they covered, one single verse is occupying my thoughts today. Let's see if I can explain in as few of my own words as possible.

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

His very words

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

His Name, Position, Role, Power, Presence

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

His message to me

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

His worthy uniqueness

We humans have all kinds of things we're willing to substitute as a type of god; alcohol, drugs, sex, control, work, friendships, marriage, family, children, power, activities, future, possessions, image, ministry, reputation, or _______________. 


I'm as guilty as the next person of substituting my love and duty toward the One True God with an infatuation that I somehow think will require less of me and still take me places - mostly unintentionally of course. 

I'm as likely as every other Follower to treat work for the kingdom in its many forms as a substitute for a dedicated relationship with the One True God.

Let's consider the Truth one more time and commit to re-order the week.

"This is what the LORD says - Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty; I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."  Isaiah 44:6 (NIV, 1984)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Is Your Delight Meter Doing?

It was only a quick trip ...

a dessert run for a house guest from Korea.

She said ice cream was her very favorite thing so we jumped on the metro and headed downtown. 

It was getting late and the heat of the day was beginning to ease as we pursued our goal.

We were surprised to find that our special shop had grown to three times its size. Besides a wide variety of ice cream flavors BOOM now offers cold drinks and other kinds of snacks. I prayed our new friend would really enjoy the refreshing treat.

We took our bowls and sat down at the little wooden outside tables. 

"What flavors did you choose?" The answers to that question led to sharing tastes back and forth. I smiled in pleasure that God had allowed us to touch the heart of His young servant.

Since it wasn't too late we asked Miss H if she would like to wander a little bit. When her eyes lit up we headed along the narrow street in synch with the other wanderers moving past the riotous procession of storefronts.

When the passageway opened up into Old Town Square we stepped back and let the eyes of this new visitor travel along the beautiful facades before us. She was appropriately impressed as we pointed out the intricacies of the Astronomical Clock.

We wound our way through the loose gathering of folks around us toward the center, the marker for the Prague Meridian. I silently asked God to alert Miss H to every single facet of the historic jewels arrayed before her. 

That's when I looked up at the view above. 

As usual my favorite building drew my focused attention.

The sights and sounds around me were stilled as my breathing slowed. 

My inner ear heard the Still Small Voice.

"Sandra, you're heart is overflowing with the desire to show your love for Me by serving others. I see it. I understand. It's time to stop and receive My love through the blessings I have for you in the midst of that service."

I was caught totally off guard. 

I suddenly realized I'd been shutting out every opportunity to delight in God or His loving gifts as I applied myself to the responsibilities I saw before me. My heart followed my eyes heavenward as I fell down in humble and grateful worship of my faithful Father.

Have you been caught in this cunning trap? Let's share strategies for how to avoid or break out of it.

Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.
I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety. I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
Ezekiel 34:20-26

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blessings for the Week/Weak

     Unrepentant                                    Redeemed
offspring are cut off                  dwell in the land forever x2
abandoned by God                 are never forsaken
condemned at trial                   protected forever
cut off x2                                   inherit the land x2
fade away quickly                   have a future
cannot be found                       saved by the LORD
will be destroyed                     God is stronghold in trouble
                                                  helped and delivered by God
                                                  saved from wicked
                                                  God is refuge

             Psalm 37:27-40

                 Of David.

Turn from evil and do good;
   then you will dwell in the land forever,
For the LORD lives the just 
   and will not forsake his faithful ones.

They will be protected forever,
   but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
the righteous will inherit the land 
   and dwell in it forever.

The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, 
   and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart;
   his feet do not slip.

The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
   seeking their very lives;
but the LORD will not leave them in their power 
   or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

Wait for the LORD
   and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
   when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
   flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
   thought I looked for him, he could not be found.

Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
   there is a future for the man of peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
   the future of the wicked will be cut off.

The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
   he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
   he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
   because they take refuge in him.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are your eyes open for God?

How casually it began.

"It's not as warm as we thought it might be. And we'll have more time today than tomorrow. How about if we exchange our dinner meals?" Me

"You mean put together the lasagna for tonight and serve the chicken that's already cooked tomorrow night?" 
Gracious Guest who brought the meals

"Yes. Would that be all right with you?" Me

"Yes, that would be fine." Gracious Guest

We enjoyed the rest of our visit around the city - a trip on the funicular, pony rides, a walk to the monastery, sitting in a blooming rose garden. There's nothing quite like seeing sights through the eyes of newcomers. 

We returned to our flat and, after a short break, Gracious Guest began pulling out ingredients and preparing dinner. It was a blessing to be able to sit and rest my tired legs while a dear friend occupied my kitchen.

My Honey's phone rang. 

It was our Local Friend who joins us for dinner each week on THIS NIGHT.


We forgot to mention that to Mr. and Mrs. Gracious Guests. An explanation and apologies were offered and Younger Guests, also known lovingly as Slaves, set another place at the table. 

The evening was rich in delicious food and friendly fellowship. It could be said that a good time was had by all. 

Next Day

We went to the Prague Zoo which means a lot of walking even though parts of it were closed due to a recent city-wide flood. Exhausted and happy to have so little prep work to do we enjoyed our final meal together on the balcony. 

Not sure what spices Gracious Guest used, but the chicken and rice were superb. The sliced tomatoes added color as we each savored an entire quarter of delicious meat. Dessert was a bit of cake in a bowl topped with fresh fruit and covered with whipped cream. YUMMMM

After Mr. and Mrs. Gracious Guest left for their assigned romantic walk downtown Slave #1, pictured above, helped me clean the kitchen. My hand stopped wiping the counter as a glimpse came into focus.

"Wow! We decided to switch our meals and that meant we had lasagna last night. If we'd had chicken as we planned, there would not have been enough pieces for Local Friend. 

"But instead we had lasagna and there was plenty of food for him. God led us to make the change before we even remembered Local Friend would be joining us. God's plans and timing are perfect. "

"God knows what's coming." Slave #1

Gotta remember that pithy truth.

"for the LORD is a God who knows"  1 Samuel 2:3b

Monday, July 15, 2013

Uplifted by Truth

     The Wicked                                           The Redeemed

plot v. righteous                                    are upheld by the LORD x 2
laughed at by the LORD                        days known by the LORD
use weapons v. poor, needy                 have enduring inheritance
try to kill the upright                              never forsaken
pierce their own hearts                          remain vital in hard times
much wealth                                         little but better wealth
power will be broken                            enjoy plenty during famines
will evaporate like smoke                     steps secured by the LORD
borrow and do not repay                       share generously and freely
will be cut off                                        children fed and blessed

            Psalm 37:12-26

                Of David.

The wicked plot against the righteous
   and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
   for he knows their day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword 
   and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy, 
   to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
   and their bows will be broken.

Better the little that the righteous have 
   than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
   but the LORD upholds the righteous.

The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
   and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
   in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

But the wicked will perish:
   The LORD’s enemies will be like the 
      beauty of the fields, 
   they will vanish - vanish like smoke.

The wicked borrow and do not repay,
   but the righteous give generously;
those the LORD blessed will inherit the land, 
   but those he curses will be cut off.

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, 
   he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will fall,
   for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

I was young and now I am old,
   yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken 
   or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;

   their children will be blessed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cross Cultural Meatloaf

I hope you're not laughing at the title of this post. 

That would make me really sad. 

What I want to tell you about is so much fun.

We were blessed to welcome this Czech family for a return visit to our home yesterday. They're some of our favorite guests because they enjoy the diversity of God's people as much as we do.

There's no better way to explain that than meatloaf.

As we were planning their first visit earlier this year I explained to Jane* in an email that I would like to offer her family a bit of American cooking while they were with us. Since she is brave and gracious she said that would be lovely. I did my best not to be too ethno-centric with my menus. 

My Honey and I decided that meatloaf might be a good choice for a main dish. We introduced dinner by explaining what meatloaf is and why we'd chosen it. It was obvious that the children had been encouraged to enjoy whatever they were served - hesitant looks and small bites. 

As the meal progressed we noticed faces relaxing and conversation increasing. When John* accepted an offer of seconds we figured we'd made a good choice, but it wasn't until the next day that I learned how good. Jane asked about the recipe.

After our visit when life slowed down I dutifully wrote out every detail I could about how I make meatloaf in the Czech Republic. Some of the ingredients are a bit different than in the USA. Some adjustments have had to be made for dietary needs. I admit that I sent off the recipe with a bit of trepidation. 

All of my apprehension disappeared when I received an email from Jane the following week. She let me know that she'd made a meatloaf that her family really enjoyed. John was even encouraging her to buy a loaf pan so she could make it regularly. And that's just what happened.

Fast Forward

Last week Jane sent an email offering to bring some food for us to enjoy together. When we let her know that would be a blessing she wrote and asked if we might like to try her Czech version of meatloaf. We said we would be delighted.

We enjoyed God's delicious provision which you can see in our photo. Jane's meatloaf did have a Czech twist or two which is just the way it should be. For one, it's much more appetizing to look at than my meatloaves are. For another, the herbs seemed to be a bit more savory - a delectable change.

We enjoyed our meal and our fellowship along with the view of a spectacular sunset. It was a collection of gifts well worth remembering - brothers and sisters around a table in the Father's presence revelling in the unity and diversity of lives united in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

How loving and gracious God is to grant us so many blessings and so much joy through simply following His directions.

"Practice hospitality."  Romans 12:13b

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."  Hebrews 13:2

*names changed for privacy

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guidelines for Peace this Week

Do NOT                                                                         DO

fret x3                                                 remember opposition will fade
worry nor be idle                                trust in the LORD & do good
be flighty & anxious                           dwell & enjoy safety
look across or down                          delight in the LORD
flounder in own strength                    commit your steps to LORD
rail & complain                                    be still
get angry & wrathful                           hope in the LORD


The wicked will be no more, in a little while.

The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. 

            Psalm 37:1-11

                Of David.

Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD 
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he wil do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, 
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret - it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Lightning Post

Too late to make my deadline.

Too much turmoil to collect my thoughts. 

Too little strength to face what's ahead.

Please take a moment or two to ask the Lord to lift me up along side my Honey. We're off to get some medical advice. Not sure what to think or how to pray.

May God bless you for bowing beside us. Amen

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Keep God Secrets

Before I get to the 'How to' portion of this post I want to make my subject clear.

I am NOT talking about keeping secrets FROM God. 

That idea itself is foolishness since God sees and knows all things. Job 37:16; Jeremiah 23:24; Hebrews 4:12,13

I am talking about keeping secrets WITH God.

By that I mean sharing solely with El Roi, the God who sees.

I've got a few reasons for suggesting such an exclusive relationship.

1) It seems that it's nearly impossible for a human being to truly keep a secret. There are some people who do a really great job of keeping information to themselves, but they're rare. In my 60+ years I've only found two or three.

2) When I'm sharing with a real confidante I admit that I tailor what I say based on our human relationship. Though I try to be as open and objective as possible I know it's still one subjective human sharing and another subjective human listening.

3) There are some things that no human ear needs to hear.

4) There are some things that only God can handle righteously.

Let me give you a for-instance, purely hypothetical of course.

You've picked up your husband's dirty socks for the umpteenth time. It's already been a miserable morning and you feel used and unappreciated. A friend calls or stops by and you just happen to mention how sick you are of cleaning up after another adult. Or worse, as you toss the socks into the laundry basket you voice your complaint loud enough for your children to hear. 

Or try this one.

You told your friend at least three times about the importance of being on time to pick up your child and they forgot. It was already a hectic day and you've got to rush over and collect her. As you explain to the teacher why you're late you make a comment about careless friends. Or worse, as you drive home you go on and on about your friend's thoughtless behavior.

I trust you get the idea, but if you want more examples send me a comment.

Numbers 12 communicates God's position on grumbling. Go ahead and read about Miriam and Aaron in their complaining against Moses.

James 5:9 is pretty clear on the subject too. "Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!"

My latest strategy to erase this habit from my life is to have God Secrets.

1) I run to Him. (Some things MUST be shared or I'll explode.)

2) I tell Him what happened. (God already saw, but wants to hear from me.)

3) I tell Him how I feel. (I can't fool God on any front so I might as well be honest.)

4) I refuse to tattle tale. (Others don't need to hear me vent the ugliness of my fallen nature.)

Jeremiah 29:11 has always been a favorite of mine.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I plan to commit the following two verses to memory.
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:12,13

Care to add anything to my lists? I'm anxious to hear from you.