Thursday, February 28, 2013

Don't just kill it - roast it!

One of the verses that jumped out at me today is not one you’d see in a Hallmark card, but it may just become one of my new favorites!

The lazy man does not roast his game,

    but the diligent man prizes his possessions. (Proverbs 12:27 NIV 1984)

I wanted to look at it in a couple of other versions:

Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,

    but the diligent man will get precious wealth. (ESV)

A lazy life is an empty life,

    but “early to rise” gets the job done. (The Message)

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious. (KJV)

You may wonder why I bothered... However, I just thought this was such a weird verse, and I wanted to see how on earth it could apply to my life! I don’t hunt, so it’s not an allusion with which I can identify. Jon Courson to the rescue! I looked in his commentary to see what he had gleaned from this (other than the fact that we should be diligent, not lazy). Here’s what he had to offer:

The slothful man stalks his game. He fires his shot. He likes the chase, the excitement, the adventure. But he doesn’t like dressing the animal or building a fire to roast it because those jobs are tedious. In the same way, many preachers spend hours in preparation but only moments in prayer. In the Word, prayer is often symbolized by fire. Therefore, in your own Bible study, make sure you “cook” what you find in the fire of prayer. We can be intrigued by theology, interested in systematic study, amazed by God’s truths practically. But if the Word of God isn’t cooked in our own hearts by the passion of prayer, our study and our preparation is only half-baked. Anyone can hunt and make the kill. Only the committed will bother to do the real work of roasting it. May God give us substance by making us diligent in all we do. (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Old Testament, Vol 2, P. 213)

Ouch! I hear you, LORD!! I needed that! The cooking is in the prayer time! I can spend hours studying His Word, and being blessed out of my socks by the encouragement, comfort, and practical applications I find in it. But if I’m not baking my study in prayer - seeking what it is He wants to tell me, what He wants me to DO about it, and asking for the strength and courage to actually do it - I am never going to truly be changed or help change my world. And it isn’t the kind of two-minute, “show me what You want me to know” prayer. In order to roast something, it needs slow turning over the fire. It requires heat (passion) and time.

And, even more important than looking for strength and guidance from God, is the seeking of His face! This is the kind of prayer that Jesus prayed when He would get away from the crowds. He wasn’t just trying to determine God’s will - He was seeking time with His Father. He wanted intimate communion. He needed as much of His Father’s presence as He could get to face the tasks the Father had given Him. Jesus not only knew completely God’s Word, He is the Word! So, it wasn’t more knowledge that He sought - it was more of God the Father!

So, this silly verse, that seemed so random to me at first glance, has now become so much more to me. God is showing me that there is a spiritual laziness in my life. I’m all over the excitement of reading His Word - the adventure of finding new treasures. But I don’t want to do the truly hard work of devoting LOTS of time in prayer seeking my Father. I’ve always been willing to leave that truly intense prayer time to those with the “gift” of intercession - to turn my prayer requests into the prayer chain, let the elders pray over that. That’s their job! Not that I don’t pray, “cuz I do - and I love praying for the needs of others. But if I’m going to be truly transformed, I need to spend that personal time not only talking to but listening to my Father.

LORD, help me with this commitment! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prayer update and requests!

I have an update on my sister, Jodi, with praise to God for his goodness. Jodi is getting in on a promising new treatment for the multiple myeloma, which includes a new drug that costs $15,000 a month! But after working with her medicare, Part D, it’s knocked down to a mere $5,000 a month. My brother-in-law, Ed, got busy tracking down support from the drug manufacturer and the Chronic Disease Fund, and found out the the drug had just come on the CDF’s formulary list, so she will be able to get it now for a $40 per month co-pay! Plus, Jodi has finally been feeling great again for the past four weeks, is strengthen, energized, sleeping at night, and finally socializing again. Thank you, LORD! This is great news!!

Then, I received yesterday a prayer request from my dear friend, Carrol, who meets us here every morning, and she asked for prayer for her 90 year-old mother, who recently fell and hit her head. She has recovered from the injury and is temporarily in a skilled nursing facility. But she has become depressed, not wanting to eat, take fluids, or get out of bed. So many of us are at this point in our lives with our parents. Carrol and her sister, Linda, who lives in Hemet with her mom, are going to bring her home and pay for in-home care. This has put a lot of weight on Carrol’s sister, since Carrol is two hours away, so please pray for Linda and Carrol as they seek to honor their mother and care for her. Carrol’s mother is ready to actually go home and be with the LORD, so just pray that God’s will would be done in her life.

And I would add the same request for my father-in-law, Frank. He went to the ER last weekend after a fall. He had crushed a vertebrae, but is not in any pain, so he was sent back to the assisted living home. He also just turned 90! Goodness! This is painful to watch! His mind is really faltering at the same time. LORD, be merciful!!

Thanks for your prayers! Study to follow tomorrow!!!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Proverbs 12:19-22 It's easier to tell the truth!

I have a poster in my classroom that quotes Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

Abraham Lincoln, who probably learned this from his years as a lawyer, said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”

Our passage today speaks to the importance of being truthful:

Truthful lips endure forever,

    but a lying tongue lasts only a moment... 

The Lord detests lying lips,

    but he delights in men who are truthful. (Proverbs 12:19, 22)

Sometimes telling the truth is REALLY hard! And it’s so easy to slip into lying. Little “white lies” aren’t really too bad, are they? Is just not telling all of the truth the same as lying? If I tell the truth, I’m going to get in trouble! If I tell the truth, what will others think about me? Yikes! Do you see how fear can be the basis for lying? I know it’s what drives my students to lie! It’s amazing to me how hard they will work to avoid telling the truth, because they think they will get in trouble if the truth comes out! The reality is that by the time I finally get the confession, I’m so irritated with them for lying, they have just doubled the trouble! They have wasted my time and destroyed my trust!

Our verses today tell us that God values the truth and He hates lying! We know this! Yet, why do we find it so hard to come clean? Even more than I can tell when a 10-year old is fibbing, God reads my heart like a book! He knows better than I do what’s in there, and He knows when I’m lying. What can I possibly gain by lying? Lying kills my integrity and certainly destroys any witness I have! It just magnifies a problem and gives Satan a foothold in my life as he holds it over my head! Because, as soon as I’ve told the lie, I now have to worry that it will be found out!

The truth sets us free! It may be hard to confess a truth, but it will free you from bondage to the lie! And God will delight in you! I can’t promise God I will never lie - that in itself would BE a lie! But as I freely confess such sin, God will continue to strengthen me against it and free me from it! 

My prayer? LORD, help me to immediately see when lies enter my speech. Keep my mouth from spewing forth lies and exaggerations. Help me to maintain my integrity before You!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Proverbs 12:12-18 Brush it off!

There are so many gems hidden in this chapter, but I’m going to just pull out two this morning, that seem related:

A fool shows his annoyance at once,

    but a prudent man overlooks an insult... 
Reckless words pierce like a sword,

    but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:16,18)

Impulsiveness may be a fun thing once in a while, when you step out and do something daring - doing a random act of kindness on a whim, cutting your hair by several inches, or buying a dress that is totally different from anything you’ve ever worn. But impulsive behavior is never a good idea when tied to anger. Verse 16 teaches us that a wise man knows when to control himself. He overlooks the insult of another, rather than trying to answer back. Instead of decking someone who insults you, this verse tells us to brush it off! Get over it - and get over yourself! A quick fuse will just land you in trouble!

And the hardest part is keeping your mouth shut at such a time! My best friend in high school and I were very sarcastic and we were constantly looking for a “snappy comeback.” When someone has insulted you, you just yearn for the right words to put him in his place. Don’t do it! Resist the urge! So much is at stake - especially your witness for Christ! Insults usually come from a heart of insecurity or jealousy, so think how much better it would be to answer an insult with kindness instead! Such words could definitely bring healing and blessing to the hearer as well as the speaker.

The fool is reckless! He acts on his impulses and serves up piercing words at exactly the wrong time. If someone insults you, look beyond the action to the insecure heart that produced the insult. Let the words fall off your back! That’s what Christ did - and it’s what He wants us to do! We don’t need to rush in and defend ourselves. He is our defense. Choose to speak a blessing instead!  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Proverbs 12:9,11 "You got to be somebody!"

The verses we will look at this morning remind me of the South Orange County mindset. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s the area or a generational thing, but there are characteristics that distinguish this area from the North OC. And these verses seem to capture the problem:

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant

    than pretend to be somebody and have no food... 

He who works his land will have abundant food,

    but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment. (Proverbs 12:9,11)

Verse 9 tells us that when we try to look like we are someone special in the world’s eyes, we put ourselves in financial jeopardy, living a lifestyle beyond our means - to the point that we can barely put food on the table. This is the very picture of what many young couples did when they jumped into large mortgages in homes that required two healthy incomes in communities like Ladera Ranch. That South County community developed at the height of the housing boom, so many that moved in there did so with high interest-only or adjustable interest mortgages, with the assumption that house values would continue to rise and that their incomes would keep pace with the interest increases.

Unfortunately, the housing bubble burst, and these couples have been crushed by the recession that followed. Homes have been lost, jobs are gone, and marriages have fallen apart under the stress of trying to keep up.

At the same time as housing prices boomed, so did social networking. And with that increased ability to make yourself known online through You-tube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., there is a sense that anyone can become famous instantly and garner a “following” on par with a celebrity. What a trap that can be!

In the world’s eyes you are only a “somebody” if you have walked the red carpet or have all of the trappings that we identify with success: the big house, the clothes, the cars, the vacations. But the Bible assures us that our worth does not come from the things that surround us or with the accomplishments of our own doing. Our value comes from our Maker. We are already “somebody” in His eyes, even if we are “nobody” in the world’s view. He chose us before the foundation of the world - not to become famous ourselves, but to make HIM famous - to glorify Him.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Often the desire to become “somebody” is coupled with the idea in Proverbs 12:11, which speaks to chasing fantasies. Fantasies usually include not only gaining instant fame but also instant wealth (hence the allure of Vegas, lotteries, and Ponzi schemes). People are so easily fooled into believing they can get the big bucks without the big work. Dreamers load up on lottery tickets when the prize money increases, even though their chances of winning significantly decrease as more clamor to enter the lottery. Students coming out of college fantasize that they will earn six-figure incomes right away. No one wants to wait - and no one wants to work.

The Bible is abundantly clear that the we feed our families by labor. We were meant to work for it. Even Paul continued to work as a tentmaker, although he was an Apostle chosen by Christ.

Now, what about me? These verses don’t just speak about “those people.” They speak directly to you and me. What are the areas in my life where I’m seeking easy answers? Where am I trying to get out of the hard work that God requires of me? How am I trying to “keep up” beyond my means - and those means have significantly changed since Don retired! My fantasies may not have anything to do with a bigger house or celebrity-like fame, but am I using my gifts for God’s glory or my own? That is a constant prayer for me: to do whatever I do to magnify HIM not ME! This world is full of traps. We need to walk through it with our eyes on Him, because He has promised to go ahead of us and behind us to keep us on His path. Walk carefully!  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Proverbs 12:2-8 "Wicked!" It isn't just a musical!

Before I start this morning, I wanted to give you a link to my daughter, Molly’s website where she posted photos and her perspective on Emmy’s Choose Joy event. I had just put on my makeup for the day when I read it. Now I need to redo! 

Chapter 12 of Proverbs has much to say about the wicked. You know, there are lots of people in this world who don’t believe there is such a thing as evil. They believe that because God is all good, there can only be goodness everywhere. They refuse the concept of sin - preferring to use words like “mistake.” I spoke with a sweet gal several months ago who believes that everyone will go to heaven and that all of us have good inside. And I thought, “Really? You want to spend eternity with Hitler and Stalin and Charles Manson?? Would a good God not deal out justice?"

Well, Proverbs shows that surely there are truly evil people in the world. Yes, we are ALL sinners. But those who have believed the gospel have been made righteous by God’s amazing grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There are, however, some who embody wickedness through the choices they have made to reject God and to exalt self. And Proverbs speaks about them:

A man cannot be established through wickedness,

    but the righteous cannot be uprooted... 

The plans of the righteous are just,

    but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.   

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,

    but the speech of the upright rescues them.   

Wicked men are overthrown and are no more,

    but the house of the righteous stands firm.   

A man is praised according to his wisdom,

    but men with warped minds are despised. (Proverbs 12:3, 5-8)

See all those “buts” in there? A perfect example of comparing and contrasting. The righteous stand firm and are strongly rooted, but the wicked will overthrown (NOT sent to heaven). The righteous affirm, encourage, and treat others with justice, but the wicked speak destruction and seek blood. The righteous have wisdom, but the wicked have warped minds. Huge differences! And very different ends!

In John 14, Jesus promises He is preparing a place for His own, and Revelation 21 speaks to the joy that awaits us in that place where there will be no more tears and no more death. But Revelation 20 tells us that those who are wicked are doomed to the eternal lake of fire that God has also prepared.

Oh, yeah, there is evil all right. And I’m so very grateful that God is continuing to root it out of MY heart!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Proverbs 12:1 The S-word!

When I first became a teacher, I taught first grade for three years, before moving to fifth grade, where my sarcastic sense of humor is much more appreciated and doesn’t make students cry! I taught first grade in the years of 32 in a classroom (gee... we are back there now...), and I used to compare it to having a birthday party all day long for 32 six-year olds all by myself!

It was exhausting, but truly fun, as first graders say the darnedest things! Like the little girl who told her tablemates that her parents were going to get a “bivorce,” then proceeded to give details of a screaming match at home. Thinking to comfort her, one of the other girls at the table said, “That’s nothing! Once my mom threw a whole box of crayons at my dad!” :) I had to step in and divert the conversation! { Note: the first girl’s parents did not get a “bivorce,” but the second girl’s did. Put the crayons down! } 

But one of the things they would say always put me on the alert. First graders love to tattle and they were constantly saying things like, “Alexander said the M-word,” (you don’t want to know), or “David said the I-word.” Turns out the I-word was “Idiot!” It didn’t take me long to figure out that the “S-word” was “stupid!” PHEW!!! I loved that some parents had taught their children that such words were “bad” words, that should not be used! Someone had better tell Solomon:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

    but he who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1) 

Sometimes the S-word is the perfect word! Those that will not listen to words of correction or rebuke truly are stupid! These are the ones who must touch the wet paint or the hot stove!

When we had our second child, Emmy, it baffled me that she would throw tantrums when she was a toddler. She never got her way by kicking and screaming, was always sent into time out feeling ashamed and humiliated at having lost control, but she would repeat the behavior. She learned at a very young age that she needed to pray for self-control. But as all mothers of toddlers do, I wondered why she needed to learn the lesson the hard way. The good news is she grew up to be an amazing, godly woman - who now has to deal with her own daughter’s tantrums - the good news there being the “godly woman” part!

As parents we sometimes watch our children choosing to go down a disastrous path, maybe even one we have been down before, and we have to just entrust them to God, because they will not listen to us. It is heartbreaking to see people we love refusing to receive instruction, and hardening their hearts to God’s wisdom. You want to shake them and shout, “You’re being STUPID!”

You know, I’ve never seen a necklace or bracelet or even a plaque with Proverbs 12:1 written on it, but I’m thinking it just might be the perfect gift for someone you love - or maybe to hang over your own desk??? It could be a companion verse to Jeremiah 29:11 to give a high school graduate???

Lord, help us to receive correction as a GIFT from You!  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Leadership, a pig's snout, & refreshment??!

We are flying through the final half of chapter 11 this morning! There are plenty of jewels in these verses, but this morning I’m going to focus on three, which are completely unrelated. The first one is a verse that I believe Dr. Ben Carson quoted when he was the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month.

For lack of guidance a nation falls,

    but many advisers make victory sure. (Proverbs 11:14)

There seems to be such a dearth of leadership in the world today! Where are the leaders with vision who can inspire a nation? It seems like for the past several presidential and gubernatorial elections the voters have been given choices among the least of evils. As politics becomes increasingly partisan and divisive, there are few who seems prepared to actually lead this country or our states with the necessary moral conviction that is so needed!

This Bible verse tells us that a vacuum of good leadership will ensure the fall of a nation. Rather than shrug our shoulders and say, “We’re going to hell in a handbasket,” what should be the response of Christian’s? We need to be on our knees for this country and to be praying for righteous leaders who will submit to God’s authority. We need to pray that our leaders will surround themselves with godly advisers, who can help guide this country and hold our leaders accountable. We know that we are just traveling through this place, and it is not permanent, but God has given us our government that we might live in peace as we serve Him. In your prayer time, don’t forget our leaders!

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout

    is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (v. 22)

Now there’s a verse you can sink your teeth into! No matter how you dress her up, a woman who is indiscrete, who gossips and indiscriminately spreads confidential information, is no prettier than a pig! She can’t hide her lack of character by adding more makeup or Botox! The latest hairdo and the perkiest body isn’t going to cover up what we are inside! We all know this, but I do like the way Solomon puts it! 

A generous man will prosper;

    he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (vs.25)

Finally, this morning, as opposed to weak leaders and pig-like women, the generous man (or woman) stands out as a breath of fresh air! He is the one who puts others ahead of himself. She is the perfect hostess - the one who makes sure everyone else’s needs are taken care of before she allows herself to sit down. He is mindful of those around him and sensitive to their feelings and their circumstances. He knows how to encourage and lift up others. This man (or woman) will surely be refreshed himself. I’m so blessed to know many like this. These are the ones you love to be with - the ones you want to invite over. The ones who truly would give you the shirt off their backs. These people can’t out give God. He just pours more blessing on them as they continue to let it flow through them. Thank you, God, for such people!!  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

His love endures forever! Happy Valentine's Day!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

Valentine’s Day is a day of high expectations - and, therefore, sometimes a day that disappoints! Don and I somehow both agreed when we were first married that we would not be bound by commercial holidays, so Valentine’s Day has NEVER been a big day for us. I just like the way he has shown me over and over during the past 42 years how much he loves me by what he does for me daily. We are nowhere close to having the perfect marriage, and there have been many times when we have looked at each other and thought, “How did I get stuck with you??” However, I have never doubted his love and commitment to me EVER! And in that way, he truly has modeled God’s love for me!

So we don’t do the hearts and flower thing at home. But school is another matter! I LOVE this day with the kids! They get so excited (even in the upper grades) to pass out their Valentine’s and candy! They come with boxes decorated with hearts and doilies, with the mandatory slot for receiving their mail. Parents come with heart-shaped cookies and all kinds of gooey frosting and unhealthy treats to pile on the cookies. Luckily, we always celebrate at the end of the school day, so they head off to their parents on the sugar high! I’m pretty sure that a couple of days a year (Valentine’s Day and Halloween) sugar is good for you!

The celebration is fun, and receiving Valentines seems affirming to students and teacher alike - even if your name isn’t on the card and it just has a quick signature from a student! :) But it comes nowhere close to the love of God that flows over us 24/7, day after day, year after year, into eternity! I’m overwhelmed that His love for me is constant and unchanging, and does not depend on my worth - but actually gives me my worth! He isn’t surprised by my unfaithfulness - He expects it! That’s why He sent His Son!

I did nothing to deserve His love. I’ve pretty much disappointed on a daily basis. Yet His love has been poured over me continually. He loves me so much that He refuses to leave me the way I am. So He is slowly transforming me into His image - and He promises me that, when I finally see Him face-to-face, I will be like Him. I will finally see the family resemblance! So, enjoy the day! Celebrate with hearts and flowers! But should you be disappointed somehow today, remember that our Heavenly Father loves us beyond all measure - even knowing us better than anyone! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His love endures FOREVER!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proverbs 11:8-13 Listen up!

“God gave you two ears and one mouth so you could listen twice as much as you speak!” Have you heard that one? It’s a favorite of parents and teachers who want to quiet children! But it has been my experience that the most frequent violators of this rule have been adults. Because I’m so social, and love to hear my own opinions, I have had to learn to REALLY fight my tendency to want to speak and consciously choose to listen. One thing that really is annoying is to be in a “discussion” with a group when one person talks over everyone else.

In today’s passage from Proverbs, three verses are dedicated to the mouth and what comes out of it: 

With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor,

    but through knowledge the righteous escape...   

Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,

    but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.   

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor,

    but a man of understanding holds his tongue. 

 A gossip betrays a confidence,

    but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. (Proverbs 11:9, 11-13)

The mouth can be so destructive! It can decimate a person’s life through gossip or slander, and our verse 11 tells us it can even destroy a whole city! A betrayed confidence can ruin many relationships. I’m always telling my students to avoid telling secrets, even to your most trusted friend, because a secret is the hardest thing in the world to keep. The temptation that is inherent in knowing a secret is that you want others to know that you know! It’s powerful to be the one who “knows.” So, the urge to repeat a secret is very great, indeed! When you have found a friend who won’t violate your confidence, you have truly found a jewel! I’m so grateful for mine!

Which brings me to the listener! One might assume that if you are an encourager you should be speaking lots - blessing everyone with your words as you go through your day. But the reality is that a true encourager is someone who can listen! In order to sincerely bless someone, you must know what her needs are. You need to listen not only to what she speaks from her heart, but you also must hear the Holy Spirit to give encouragement that truly lifts up and strengthens.

The best training I ever had in restraining my mouth was during my years as a discussion leader in Bible Study Fellowship. We were asked to NOT participate in the discussion of the lessons so much as to facilitate them. It was hard for me to keep my lips shut, but it so trained me to listen! And it has helped me as a teacher to allow my students to drive discussions in the classroom!

I don’t know about you, but I would not have minded it had God designed us with four ears instead of two!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Proverbs 11:4-7 Money won't save us!

Our money won’t save us - but it sure seems to help! Right?? With our economy still flagging, it seems I’m encountering more and more who have been without work for an extended period of time. Unemployment can be a marriage killer! I’ve been spending time with three different women whose husbands have been without work or only sporadically working for a long time. We’ve been discussing the negative impact of financial insecurity: a husband shrinking inside when he cannot provide; and a woman, who has been trying to bolster her husband’s confidence, becoming more resentful as time goes on. It’s rough!

It can be a real struggle to lay financial burdens down before the throne of God, to trust Him completely to take control. The reality is that He IS in control, whether or not we acknowledge it, so we may as well trust the One who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. Our money is NOT what will save us in the end.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,

    but righteousness delivers from death.

The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them,

    but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,

    but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes;

    all he expected from his power comes to nothing. (Proverbs 11:4-7)

God’s Word tells us that our money is worthless when it comes down to the end. It cannot prolong our days, it cannot buy entrance into heaven, it cannot follow the hearse to the graveyard. Money is the means we use to purchase necessities. The money itself is a gift from God. And because we know God’s love for us endures forever, we can be assured that God will ALWAYS provide exactly what we need to keep going. So much easier said and believed when the bank account is full!

But if we are consumed by worry and fear about finances, we are not trusting God. And we are robbed of peace and joy. Our security is in God. HE is our Rock. HE is our strength! HE is our solid foundation and our refuge. He is our Provider and He is also our Provision. We need to believe Him when He tells us that the righteous will never be forsaken:

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)

If you are in the midst of financial ruin, keep your eyes on God. Look to Him to provide and to give you the faith to trust Him and the hope to wait expectantly for His provision. He will not let you waste this time of struggle. You will see Him as you never have before. Hang on, dear friends! God WILL provide!  

If you have a story of how God met your needs during a rocky time, please leave a comment to encourage all of us!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The God of all comfort...

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

It is amazing to me how God can use our sorrows to transform us into His image, and how He then allows us opportunities to draw on the pain to help others who are going through something similar. This weekend my daughter, Emmy, finally had her Choose Joy event at our church. Emmy and Nathan had problems with secondary infertility that caused them to wait for 8 years before they adopted their sweet baby, Penelope. It was a long, frustrating, agonizing waiting, marked with painful and fruitless fertility treatments, ending in the removal of her tubes and all chances of getting pregnant. But, with that door finally closed tight, they were able to see the door that was opened, and they proceeded to adopt Penelope.

From that waiting period came Emmy’s desire to help others who are going through this process, often feeling alone and ashamed. And so Choose Joy was born. Saturday was the culmination, and if you know Emmy, you know it was planned down to the silverware and napkins. It was a beautiful presentation, with a luncheon that was superb, prepared completely (for 120 or so people), by Emmy’s longtime BFF, Brooke King. But it wasn’t the surroundings or place settings, as creative as it all was, that made the day so special. It was the full tables of couples and would-be moms, sitting around those tables pouring out their hearts and being encouraged by speakers and each other that made the day such a God-thing!

Each person who came to the event was specifically drawn there. Many came reluctantly, but all left feeling a sense of hope and community. I loved that the keynote speaker, Lesli Westfall, author of Dancing on Barren Land, is a woman who had NOT received the “Yes” from God that she had hoped for. At 48, she still has no children - although she said she’s not dried up yet!

At the end of the day, there was a raffle, and a darling girl won a jar stuff with money donated by all who were there and other donors - about $2,700! This girl had also not wanted to come (she drove up with a friend who dragged her there from San Diego). The $2,700 was the exact amount of the final payment she and her husband need to pay to for their adoption fees!!! Only God can do that!

It was a wonderful day for me as a mom to watch. Molly and her Throne of Grace crew were there with prayer cards for those who are facing this issue. How blessed I felt to watch Molly supporting her sister with cheers and tears! And the best part for me was to see the men in their own breakout group supporting and encouraging each other, with Emmy’s husband, Nathan, and two other friends leading their group. Emmy was the final speaker - with lots of humor and many tears. Then, when the raffle winner came up to get her jar of money, Nathan led a prayer of blessing to close it.  I'm so grateful to all  who helped make the day possible (Lori, what a sacrifice of your time), and to the God of all comfort who was so present in all the details - even the napkins!

Okay, LORD, my cup runneth over! You can take me home any time now!  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Proverbs 11:1-3 Caught in a lie!

Here’s my own proverb this morning: Two things doth a teacher hate: cheating and tattling! - Sally White, teacher :)

This morning’s verses speak to the first:

The Lord abhors dishonest scales,

    but accurate weights are his delight.   

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,

    but with humility comes wisdom.   

The integrity of the upright guides them,

    but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:1-3)

I realize that Solomon is speaking of true grown-up cheating and dishonesty here, but the signs of deceptive character appear in early childhood! Kids lie! They lie for different reasons: most lie for self-preservation, because they don’t want to get disciplined. This is the normal behavior of most children at one time or another, but usually you can easily get them to ‘fess up, and they will demonstrate true remorse. When this happens in a classroom, the issue is quickly resolved and over. Grace covers it, a hug is given, a lesson has been learned, and we all move on.

But for some children (who eventually become adults) lying has become a pattern of behavior, because they have never suffered any real consequences, and a confession requires police-like interrogation before the child will finally admit his guilt. But even then, there is no remorse, or excuses continue - the favorite being, “But he did it, too!” The problem for children and adults who continually get caught in lies, is that no one trusts them, so that even if they DO tell the truth, everyone is skeptical.

Someone who is willing to lie or cheat in insignificant things that really don’t matter, is probably going to lie or cheat when it counts. What about “white” lies?? There is no such thing! So when I tell my husband that the outfit that I bought, which cost $69, only cost me $60, does it matter? Of course it does! Especially when we do this in front of our children. Has anyone ever said to their kids, “Don’t tell Daddy we...” Oh my! When we do that, we are demonstrating that sometimes lying is not only okay, it’s necessary!

I’m not going to get into the whole ethical issue of lying to protect someone’s life. I’ll leave that kind of dilemma to theologians. { But didn’t Rahab do that when she hid the Jewish spies? And she’s in Christ’s genealogy! That doesn't mean it was right, but it was certainly forgiven!} However, our integrity is important because we represent Christ to the world. Let’s be careful to be truth-tellers! Little ears are listening - and God’s ears ALWAYS hear us!  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Proverbs 10:22-32 Blessings with no regret!

Do you have any regrets in your life? Don’t we all? Some are minor, but some have long-lasting consequences. Have you ever done something that you were sure would bring you happiness or pleasure, but afterwards you just felt sick? That hot fudge sundae looked so tempting on the menu, but when you finished it, you just wanted to puke! You were physically glutted and you were sick at heart that you had just stuffed your body with a gazillion calories!

Maybe you entered into a relationship with someone who you were sure would fulfill your every need, but in the end you were left feeling used, hurt, and disappointed with yourself for being so stupid! Some things that look like they will bring blessing, actually end up being curses. However, in today’s section of Proverbs, several of the verses speak of blessings that come from God that satisfy and strengthen. I‘m going to highlight just a few, using both New International Version 1984 and the New American Standard Bible version:

It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich,

And He adds no sorrow to it. (Proverbs 10:22 NASB)

When God brings us a blessing, there is no regret with it. God’s blessings are always for our benefit. Now, we may not always recognize what comes our way as being a blessing. You may be going through a trial right now that seems like a disaster! Are you experiencing trouble in your marriage? Is your child bringing you grief and frustration? Are your finances in ruins? Have you just been given a scary diagnosis? Are you miserable in your job? Hmm... none of those sound like blessings! Yet, James promises us that we can count it all joy, because God is using our trials to complete us and bring us to full maturity (James 1:2-4).

What the wicked dreads will overtake him;

    what the righteous desire will be granted.   
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,

    but the righteous stand firm forever. (vs.24-25 NIV 1984)

When the Bible speaks of the righteous, it is talking about those who are right with God, those who have been made righteous by what Jesus has done for us, not by our own good deeds. And those who are the righteous of God do not need to fear. Whatever your worst nightmare is, nothing can shake you if you are in Christ. Evil will overcome those who have said. “No thanks!” to God’s invitation to come to Him. They have no foundation upon which to stand - they will realize their worst nightmares, they will be swept away in the end.

The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous,

    but it is the ruin of those who do evil. 

The righteous will never be uprooted,

    but the wicked will not remain in the land. (vs.29-30 NIV 1984)

God is our rock, our stronghold, our refuge. We stand firm and we will not be shaken. Choosing to believe Him, to take Him at His Word, brings us the stability and strength we need to persevere and survive anything. If you need encouragement today, know that God is with you. He loves you more than you can imagine. His blessings for you, whatever form they take, are for your good, because God is good. Believe it!  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Proverbs 10:16-21 Ouch!

I don’t know about you, but these Proverbs kind of overwhelm me! There are so many different thoughts in each passage - each one so pointed - that I have a hard time focusing! This is why I am not forthcoming daily - not that I’m not in the Word - just wanting to wait on God for what He’s trying to teach me! This next set of proverbs, however, is mainly about one of my biggest problems: my mouth! 

Now, God has given me the ability to actually use my mouth in a good way, to teach, to encourage, to comfort. I have no problem getting up in front of a group and saying something. However, that strength, is also my weakness! I can get myself into so much trouble with my tongue! Going through the book of James at my church’s Bible study has been a challenge, because reading what James had to say about the tongue made me cringe!

Beth Moore points out in her James study that, in most of his letter, James uses the pronouns “you” and “they,” but when he speaks of the evil of the tongue, he switches to “we.” It apparently was a problem with which he, too, wrestled! The combination of a “gift” of gab with an opinionated personality can be deadly! So, as I read these verses today, you can guess where the LORD spoke to me:

The wages of the righteous bring them life,

    but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.   

He who heeds discipline shows the way to life,

    but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.   

He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,

    and whoever spreads slander is a fool.   

When words are many, sin is not absent,

    but he who holds his tongue is wise.   

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,

    but the heart of the wicked is of little value.   

The lips of the righteous nourish many,

    but fools die for lack of judgment. (Proverbs 16-21) 

Is the LORD trying to tell me to shut up??? Well, not exactly. But He certainly is reminding me that “brevity is the soul of wit!” Where a few words will do, many are NOT needed. The more the words flow, the better the likelihood that something stupid or hurtful will come out! And James confirms this: 

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,  but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:5-10)

I grew up in a family in which sarcasm was a perfected art! We thought we were funny (still do), but usually at the expense of someone else! Most of the time we kept that “in the family,” because we all have developed pretty tough hides. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could take back words that impulsively poured out of my mouth in an attempt to be funny. But the damage was already done! I know you can all relate to this. Then there are the many times that a bit of gossip slips out, and the instant it is out there I’m filled with regret! Help me, LORD!

How can we better control this beast, the tongue??? With prayer and dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is not enough to say, “Well, this is just my personality!” No! We are all new creations in Christ, and He has given us His Spirit to teach us and transform us into His image. We need to minute-by-minute surrender ourselves to Him, and we must fill our hearts with His Word, so that our thoughts are conformed to His. (Romans 12:1-2)

Will we ever be able to conquer our tongues this side of Heaven? Probably not! But we must be teachable and be willing to change! Notice that tucked in the Proverbs today is this verse: He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.  Okay, LORD, I hear you!  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Proverbs 10:11-15 "Bless you!"

In this segment of Proverbs 10, the focus seems to be on the mouth and what comes out of it. Our mouths can be used to abundantly bless others or to devastate. We can choose to use them to encourage and lift up others, or we can bring ruin to those around us either by directly putting them down or through gossip.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,

    but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.   

Hatred stirs up dissension,

    but love covers over all wrongs.   

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,

    but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.   

Wise men store up knowledge,

    but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.   

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,

    but poverty is the ruin of the poor. (Proverbs 10:11-15)

The righteous man is the one who uses his words to lift up others. His words are designed to bless and encourage. As a teacher, I know that my words have power. They can have a lasting impact both positively and negatively. I wish that I could say I only use my words to encourage! But there are many times when a rebuke slips out and I know I have discouraged a child. { But, hey! How many times can you find a positive way to spin it when the child shows up for the umpteenth time with no homework done? Aaughh!! } The LORD usually brings me up short and immediately reminds me that I will need to undo that one crushing word with LOTS of positives!!!

On the other hand, I also can clearly see that when I tell one of my students how much I love having him in my classroom, I get a physical reaction as he smiles broadly and soaks in the blessing! I try to stand at my door each morning and greet each child as he/she walks in. After about the fifth student walks by without any reaction whatsoever, I’ll say, “Good morning, Mrs. White, and how are you today???” I have one boy this year who is painfully shy and quiet. He rarely smiles. But one morning recently, he smiled up at me as he entered, and before I could greet him, he said, “Good morning, Mrs. White!” So, I pulled him aside and told him he had blessed my day. Now, every morning I get that wonderful greeting - and the smile to boot!

The key verse to this topic is verse 12, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs.” Dissension and gossip spring from hatred and a heart that is insecure. They leave devastation wherever they are found! But love finds a way to cover up wrong. Jesus covered our sins with his blood. Isn’t that truly the gospel in a nutshell? In fact, “love covers over all wrongs” pretty much sums up the entire Bible! Because our own sins have been covered we need to also cover the sins of others (even homework that is undone) with love.

May we use our words to bless! And may we cover sin, rather than expose it, with our mouths.