"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Psalm 111 "Thankful Whole Hearts"

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart...
Just asking 5 questions gives us such rich teaching about WHOLE hearts able to give thanks...
1. WHERE is whole heart thanks given? the Company of the Upright the Congregation
It's amazing how specific God's Word is about the assembly that gathers to give thanks to the Creator. It is a special group. A people that has received from God changed hearts by their reception of His Son's blood atonement for the forgiveness of sin. They are whole hearts now recognizing God's gifts. They humbly grasp their reliance on His hand for every good thing.

Just this thought shows how vital the instruction in Hebrews 10:25 given to whole-heart people.  It is these gatherings where whole hearts consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. We're instructed not to "neglect to meet together", where whole hearts find encouragement in uncertain times. In togetherness times, this community hears God-focused praise with thanksgiving which causes unity in Christ, and builds confidence in hearts.
So, the congregation is a gathering of God's people, redeemed with His Son's blood, forgiven, and made complete in Him. Each has been made whole. When Christ makes a person whole, the power of God enables thanksgiving. (Jn 13:10; 2 Cor 7:1; 2 Tim 3:17; Heb 10:14; Jas 1;4)
We see a distinct contrast in Romans 1 describing the degenerate heart. Those who are perishing have calloused, divided, unbelieving hearts. They do not honor God as God, nor do they give thanks to Him. Their foolish hearts are darkened.
Darkened hearts are only made whole through the "LIGHT", Jesus Christ who came into the world to bring those in darkness to his gracious and merciful God. His redemption cleanses them of all unrighteousness, creating a new heart in them. This wholeness enables them to turn and give thanks. (Lk 17, Jn 13:10; 2 Cor 7:1; 2 Tim 3:17; Heb 10:14; and Jas 1;4) Cleansed hearts who have been made whole unite with others to proclaim with thanksgiving the goodness of their faithful and just God!

2. WHO should receive whole heart thanks?
The Lord receives thanks.
            Prayer (communication with the LORD or vertical speech) is made in the company of the upright, the congregation. This gives each one in the congregation opportunity to HEAR and agree with other whole hearts, thanking and praising God. This creates spiritual unity where Christ also promised to be in the "midst of them".
            Precise vertical speech is directed to the LORD in the presence of the congregation for the building up of the body of Christ.
            Proclaiming vertical speech "attains the unity of the faith"
            Prepared vertical speaking shares "the knowledge of the Son of God and gives the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, maturing all to manhood".
Just think...little ears hear the wisdom of God and will learn praise through imitating the prayers they hear! They will learn through prayer to proclaim the Word of God. They will experience the unity of the faith, encouraging them to mature to manhood. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Whole hearts give thanks to God, benefiting the hearers.
3. WHY do whole heart give thanks?
In order for thankfulness to spill out of mouths, there must be a study of His Works, His Word and spoken in His Wisdom. Simply from this one Psalm, we learn that those delighting in the LORD'S works speak to the LORD in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8-9) in the presence of the congregation, proclaiming His goodness and greatness.
Each one speaking one attribute or action of the LORD mentioned here would cause agreeing hearts to be wholly participating in His Praise directly from His Word...
      1. The LORD is gracious and merciful.
      2. The LORD provides food to those who fear Him.
      3. The LORD remembers His Covenant
      4. The LORD has shown His Power
      5. The LORD sent Redemption.
      6. The LORD commanded His Covenant.
      7. The LORD'S name is holy and awesome.

4. HOW does a whole heart give thanks?
      1.True thanksgiving only flows through the whole heart given in Christ by salvation. Then God places this new whole heart in "the company of the upright" for the opportunity to join the chorus of thankfulness.
      2. Gathering together in the congregation, whole hearts delight to hear the works of the Lord. Thanksgiving erupts as God causes His wondrous works to be remembered and those who bear His Name recall how gracious and merciful is their LORD.
      3. Praise verbally communicated by his people proclaims His Provision and Power shown to them in very personal ways.
      4. Whole hearts agree as they hear His attributes spoken directly to Him in prayer.
      5. Whole hearts consider the works of his hands.
Just pondering creation emphasizes afresh His grace in creating their whole hearts to see His works.
      6. Whole hearts hear His Word read in company time. They are taught - equipped to perform His Word.
      7. As they perform His Words, whole hearts are empowered with His Wisdom.
When the congregation comes together to hear the studies of those who delight in the LORD'S works, the LORD graciously opens the eyes of whole hearts to see His greatness and goodness.

In Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), the congregation will even see the response of any outsider or unbelieving heart who wanders into this company. Unbelieving hearts become convicted and called into account by all because the secrets of his heart will be disclosed. He will fall on his face and worship God, declaring the Presence of God among this congregation. Even the promise of opening the outsider's eyes reveal this thanksgiving only comes from God's people. He will see his degenerate heart and his own personal need to be made whole. This exposure will lead him to receive the gift only God can give.

by "Sharing the power of Jesus"
Through thanksgiving in the congregation, whole hearts learn more how to please God. By faith, they gain confidence to go back into the world because the Church, the congregation, has accomplished its responsibility. (Ephesians 4:12)
Each member has been equipped to do the works of ministry in the marketplace. They will have been reminded...
      1. His WORKS.....are to be PRAISED.
      2. His WORDS....are to be PREFORMED.
      3. His to be PRACTICED
5. WHAT should result from Whole Heart thanks?
      His Praise endures forever...on the lips of his "whole heart" people!

Taking the time to delight in His Word, I pause to thank God for all I have IN JESUS. I am especially filled with gratefulness for the whole heart HE gave me to see "His wonderful works to the children of men."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ADJUSTMENT: A Reason for BIBLICAL Church Business Meetings

God's Word is too rich to be ignored! 

Yet constantly His precious bride puts aside His way of life and his appropriate garment, to adopt the ways of others and dress like them. Constantly in the OT, the chosen people of God are rebuked for their desire to be like other nations. Following their tendencies, even after the cross and with the offered help of the Holy Spirit, His people look to the rules of those around them to their own detriment.

How many churches are cracked and broken by a schism in a business meeting? 
How many carry grudges and have been wounded by harsh words or hurried votes?
How many members neglect business meetings because sad memories of previous fights erupting or manipulating incurred? 

How many other members agree to anything proposed just for "the sake of peace"?
And the world? 
Jesus warned..."all who see it begin to mock..."

Our small group offers a memory verse each week to correspond to the lessons to be studied. The one for this week feels untethered. Wanting to grasp the meaning, I sought the Scriptural content and found Jesus in a "dinner conversation". He had just observed guests vying for positions, honor, and control and opened a dialogue with heart probing, rhetorical questions. One of which was:
"Which one of you, in making plans, does not follow procedure and ADJUST his life accordingly?"
His leading stories show the possibilities his disciples could possess in Biblical Business Meetings/Gatherings because control vying would humbly bow to 'following' a Sovereign Leader. The clothing provided (Luke 24:49) described as the "Power at work within you" (Eph 3:20) could adjust thinking to Kingdom Rules of Conduct and the Leader's Sovereignty. 

In Luke 14: 27-34, I believe I found the Real Reasons God Calls His Body to a Business Meeting is a step by step process that brings unity and saltiness.

1. Desired Proposal - items, wishes, desires, needs are brought before the group to be considered.
2. Debt Projected - questions erupt over the costs, labor, time and a prepared board would discuss the projection they created on paper and answer questions patiently to the listening members.
3. Determined Position - Leaders would give their opinions, persuasive arguments on benefits as they state their position on making a move to go forward, table it, or refuse it because of the projection. 
4. Deliberate Power - equipped members would discuss how it could be accomplished, the tools needed, the funds raised, and the schedule of a finished project.

Then, they would not rush a VOTE, but call for..

5. Delegate Prayer - members would be asked to take the time to "seek God diligently" (Heb 11:6) so that when they come back together, any move they make will be made in FAITH. This time allotment would give time for real prayer, soul searching for heart adjustments needed to accomplish project in unity and peace. The Holy Spirit would be sought individually and also in corporate agreement, asking for guidance and God awareness.
6. Disciple Prepared - real conversations (encounters) with God (immersion in God's Word and prayer) would reveal any individual "crisis of belief" and needed spiritual adjustments. Conversations with each other could encourage Kingdom focus, especially when "seeing" causes doubts and expressions. Even TEAM (togetherness, empowerment, accountability, & mentoring) would be considered as the whole body moved forward in considering the proposal and what would be needed for accomplishment.

The spiritual process of "growing in grace and knowledge of the LORD Jesus Christ" would lead to...

7. Delicate Partnership - real conversations partner us with God and would allow HIM to work, faith to grow, and hearts prepared for the sacrificial opportunity or what each one is "giving up". 
Partnering with God gives opportunity for the Holy Spirit to teach each one the principle of "LETTING GO....LETTING GOD" 
The memory verse for this week in text: "anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" would be practiced as they came empty-handed, all eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:1,2), willingly committed together to follow the King, The whole process would be adjusted to Kingdom work, with each giving up everything he has, to FOLLOW Christ's LEAD as a true disciple. 
ALL would have adjusted. 
Some would learn to offer. 
Others would learn not to hinder. 
ALL would "give up" control (what he has).

Amazingly, NT "EACH OTHER"S would have prominence in the BODY because as members "let go", spiritual eyes (Mt 13:11,16) would see the need to "bear one another's burdens" while "bearing his own cross" (Lk 14:27). 
Establishing, equipping, and encouragement would build up each other in unity of faith. (Eph 4)

Just think of this awesome scenario: A biblical business meeting could be LED by the Holy Spirit who wants to take us through the steps of knowing our:
Call of God....."What is God asking of us?"
Conversation with God....."What is the clear (straight) path of the Lord?"
Commitment to God...."Has the Holy Spirit of Peace brought unity to our group?".
Community of God....."working together (each others) and enhancing the "flavor" of everyone. 

And all would say "THIS IS OF GOD!" in SALTY unity. (Luke 14:34-35)
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (vs 35 should remind us of Matthew 13:11,16)

The results of a biblical business meeting...
rather than the warning of mockery, this procedure has the promise of: 
those who see it will  "know that you are my disciples". John 13:34

Monday, September 14, 2015

Marred in His Hands

"Just because you're drawing fire doesn't mean you're out of God's will." 
"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 'Go down to the potter's house and there I will give you my message. So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 
Then the word of the Lord came to me:...
'Can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord.

How often we hear only the good visible "blessings" of being in God's will! The riches, the peace, the rewards, and all the joy. Everything is happiness! We evaluate the physical, the appearances, the circumstances. We consider only the external. Everything working out perfectly in and for our personal lives. 

Yet, continually God's Word paints an internal transformation which often involves pain and suffering, tears and brokenness, and definite marring. The same question comes from our precious Father, 
"Can I not do with you as this Potter does?" 

Faithful servants celebrate
Faithful servants testify with a resounding "YES!" encouraging others to let Him "shape you into another pot, shaping you as seems best to Him! 

But our own expectations remain jarred with these words: "the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in His hands". 

How can that be? 
Why would a loving God allow such a thing?

Or we hear...
This can't be of God...
You must be out of God's will... or worse...
He isn't a very faithful God.

"marred in his hands..." 
Jean Barsness' story
Recently, an elderly missionary friend shared the rest of her story. 
Surrendered to the Lord while very young, she felt his call to "Go" to a foreign country to proclaim the gospel. She obeyed. She prepared and was sent. 

In the center of God's will, obedient to his call...all going as expected with language studies and cross-cultural changes. She was in His hands.

Then, she was marred.
Shocking news that her beloved husband had been murdered. Stabbed 11 times and left in a gutter along the canal. 
Cracked, broken, wounded, hurting, not understanding...she was marred.

Jean Barsness
At first, she may have questioned her marring, but with strong determination and by faith, believing God was her Potter, she blindly trusted Him. She had begun her journey with the prayer: "Anywhere, Any time, Any cost"; her life remained in his hands. 
Through the years that followed, she experienced His shaping her into another pot.

Now...40 years later, she stands before a crowd who admire such a beautiful pot, a strong pot, and a very used pot. 
A pot that has carried many other lumps of clay to the precious hands of her Potter.  
Her Potter was faithful. 
He continued to keep her 'in His hands", forming her into another pot, shaping her as seemed best to Him. 

And our 2015 Home Coming Celebration ended with her beautiful words...
"all for HIS GLORY". 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Reflecting His Friendship

I learning that Life's trek takes on a variety of challenges, storms, peaceful sights or rainbows, yet races forward like a steam engine. Each scene creates emotion, an effect on the soul, and leaves behind a variety of memories.
The Guide's companionship offers an awesome quietness of soul as I gaze beyond the horizon, and steadily leads me gently over rough and jagged terrain.
I've learned that the empty pages in a journal may speak even more loudly than many words on a screen. My personal hard copies are full of praise for His faithfulness and goodness, although often tear-stained pages show my struggles to follow without fear.
Yet, for more than a year I've enjoyed many hours of refreshing JOY in solitude oasis, PEACE and rest beneath His everlasting arms, and found a quiet GENTLENESS develop in following Him.

Encouraged by the Prayers of Blessing from a fellow hiker, I began to flip through my handwritten journal of Affirmation Prayers.
What pleasure I've found in the beams of sunlight which have brightened my summer trek with simple biblical words such as 'clothed', 'pleasing', 'once for all time', 'perfect', and, most of all, "FRIEND". My hand has become more comfortable clasped my Father's welcoming hand, and bathed in a deeper sense of confidence, my steps have found sure footing on the rugged path a culture continues to carve on this mountain path.

These Affirmation Prayers are statements of TRUTH directly from the Word of God which I have made my own by thanking God for each of them and applying them to my daily life. This is the walk of FAITH. Each prayer is a new step of believing God's declarations. All these passages are confirming my bold belief in His intent for me to know Him personally and intimately in unbroken and intimate relationship.

Admittedly, these months have been lonely. Gray shadows tugged my spirit forcing determined slashes through the tangled underbrush of a deceitful culture. Snags and scrapes made me recall an epic burdened pilgrim side-tracked by interlopers and destroyers of faith, yet my 'Faithful' comrade witnessed deeper gratitude in affirmation prayers.
Conversations with the Father became more confident as I repeated His Son's precious words of promise. I heard him whisper his bold declaration, "You are my Friends" (John 15:14) and turned many times to my Friend's recorded requests for me in the Garden prayer. (John 17)

Being a child of God means ACCESS into His throne room any time and for any reason!
He is my Father. He is my Friend.

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...There's just something about that name...
Master, Savior, the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...Let all heaven & earth proclaim
Kings and kingdom will all pass away, but there's something
about that NAME!" I praise His precious name!

Monday, April 28, 2014

READING a little deeper...

This weekend, in order to fight JET LAG from my recent Malaysian trip, I entertained my mind by creating BUTTONS for a list of book reviews found on the internet about Mesu Andrew's latest book, In the Shadow of Jezebel.

Fifty-seven reviews were posted about this biblical fiction book, in the Mesu Andrew's BFF group. I read many of their posts and hunted for a specific quote that revealed a little snippet about the story and also summarized their review. Then, I took that quote and matched it up to my understanding of lifestyle Christianity in our modern age of Grace. Some of the quotes were best used to characterize the author, Mesu. I think she revels in God's attributes and His Truth as she prepares and researches the treasures hidden in the true stories of Old Testament characters.
I enjoyed reading this novel and doing my own review about it on my blog, but these other reviews refreshed my mind on many of the scenes and characters that impacted my own thoughts during my reading. Many biblical passages came to my mind which re-enforced the truth God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ. 

These caused my meditations to reflect on the Grace of God which placed me securely in Christ for all eternity. 
My heart was full of gratitude as I re-read Romans 3:21-24 and heard again God's declaration 
              "Not Guilty"...

Nothing but thanksgiving and praise can I give to such a loving God. I am overwhelmed that on top of all His Grace and Mercy, he chooses to use His justified children as Ambassadors in this world. He makes His appeal through us as we implore others to be reconciled to our holy and loving God.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter on the Island

My week 6 of island living ends with the joy of Easter shown on the grandchildren's faces! Their exuberance for celebration always makes planning the event so much fun. 
I enjoyed conspiring the treats for this special event with my daughter for her little ones. 
She is so clever and always looking for ways to teach spiritual truths. 
This weekend was no exceptions.

Throughout most of my visit, we've been having devotionals with the little ones using object lessons to teach LENT through the life of Jesus Christ. 
Each evening has been so good as we stopped and contemplated some event that led up to Jesus dying on the cross. This week, we focused on Jesus' last week and his arrival in Jerusalem.

Finally, on Friday evening, we celebrated a Passover meal of remembrance. We tasted bitter herbs to remind us of how bitter slavery was for God's people. We tasted salty water to remind us of the tears shed during those bitter years and sugar water of God's goodness. We tasted several more items, culminating the progression with a delicious supper of lamb and culminating with the remembrance of the Last Supper.
It was a big deal to even have our shoes on - something seldom done in Asian homes - but even this was a reminder of God's people prepared for travel on that fateful day when the angel of death passed over and God gave the command to "GO".

To prepare for Easter, their mom gave each of the girls a dirty bucket and they collected 5 rocks each for their bucket. During devotions, she talked about SIN and how our hearts are like stone with no love for anyone but ourselves. On each stone, they wrote a sin they considered a struggle in their lives. The little girls were so honest and precise, surprising me with their understanding of what doesn't please God in their daily interactions.

Then we read how God promises to take our old stony hearts and give us new hearts that love Him. He promised to make us 'new creations'. We put the old dirty buckets in the center of the table with the white candle which represents the Lord Jesus as "the LIGHT of the world". 

Saturday night, his light was out because He had died for those sins and taken our stony hearts to the cross. We covered the old dirty baskets of stones with red fabric - and the little girls went to bed understanding that Jesus' blood covered all those sins listed on their rocks. 
As they walked away, my daughter explained that just like they hoped those dirty buckets would not still be there in the morning, so the disciples of Jesus had hoped for a miracle as they walked away from the cross and tomb.

That HOPE is the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ...and new life promised in Christ to those who believe that God has raised Him from the dead.

Under the RED fabric this morning, each girl will find a beautiful decorated bucket with fun gifts inside. We removed the stones and placed them in a bucket labeled for Jesus and filled their new buckets with 'peeps', tootsie pops, toys and a sweet piece of jewelry. 

We will talk about how Christ's resurrection brings new life to our hearts. God has promised those who believe will receive a new heart and be securely placed "in Christ".  
Old things like stones should be "put away" because God took them. We should never reclaim them.

Later when tensions flared and the little one was getting angry, I asked her if she was taking one of her stones back from Jesus. With a precious expression, she exclaimed, "! He can carry it this time!" and ran off to play happily.

I was really challenged by this devotional and hope to carry it through the year with me. Just like the little one, I can decide to have my own way and take back a stone that I've already given to Jesus to remove as "far as the east is from the west". 
OR I can remember my Jesus promised a NEW HEART and took on himself my whole dirty bucket of stones. If in child-like faith I believe Him, I will run off JOYFULLY to live with so much gratitude for His burden-lifting GIFT. 

THANK YOU, Jesus...for Easter!
Romans 3:24 "Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty
He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins." NLT
THANK YOU for the message so simple that even a child can grasp all YOU accomplished in your death on the cross and the GIFT of a new heart through your RESURRECTION!

                         "He is risen, indeed."
And from this island and 13 hours time zone difference....Happy Easter, dear loved ones!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reading A Book of a Thousand Days

Coming to a tropical island while my mid-western home is surrounded by snow has so many benefits, especially when each morning I'm greeted by the happiest 4 children I've ever met in the early hours of dawn!
They begin their day before the sun peeks over the mountains and only drop when the mid-day schedule requires their little bodies to rest on their beds or it's night time again.

There is hardly time for leisure, personal reading, and never a quiet moment to just stare at the ocean, but I've enjoyed the laughter and play a wonderful beach and sunny days offer children.

I'm so busy with these 4 all day or else, I'm trying to be helpful to one very busy set of parents who are not only running a household, but schooling their kids, holding contacts as a priority and beginning a business that requires hours of reading and computer. I think I've fallen into bed each night very exhausted while their lights still burned over a desk or two, but I also feel exhilarated and happy to have so much time just to love my family.

Once bedtime arrives,  I've tried to set aside time to just read for pleasure. Although you may be surprised by this statement - I'm thrilled to find so many English printed books available for the family! The reason for my thrill is because a former home didn't have such wonderful benefits and resources.
I browsed the bookcases and found several books to add to my summer reading list, but this one was handed to me as a good read when returned by a co-worker. My daughter's shelves have become a "lending library" but this one looked too good to just put back on the shelf. I read it in 3 days!
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is written as a journal by a servant girl who took an oath to serve her genteel "lady"completely and wholeheartedly. She begins her journal scared and huddled in a totally bricked-in tower, imprisoned with her "lady", with not even a window to show her blue sky to her. She took in her surroundings and situation, evaluated the blessings she was given, took stock of supplies on hand to serve her "lady" and then, planned how to get through the banishment hoisted upon her by the choices of others.

Her journal keeping allowed me to see into the depths of her thoughts, struggles and personal victories, but most of all, see the real young servant's heart. I was so impressed at how natural her thoughts of servitude flowed, even when circumstances threatened to squeeze the very life from her. I was amazed at her unquestioning submission and obedience to those who were to be served, but I also chuckled when she realized how simplistic and normal gentry really were in their private lives. Her gentle and fore-bearing spirit forgave their flaws so quickly which to me made her the genteel lady of grace.
I liked how she thought through the commands, clarifying right or wrong, and made choices of right for her own personal life.

Photo snapped of page 289 
In all her trials, she never lost her own personal heart integrity. She struggled when 'gentry' forced her to lie for them, yet did so because she lived under their command. When commands made her cross her own boundaries of rightness, she endeavored to make her actions right in some little way, without hurting or displaying the faults of
the ones that had crossed the lines by their commands.

I'm glad she was loved but even more so, I was relieved to read that she realized how much she was loved and appreciated for her loyalty, sacrificial giving and her love of others.

It was a pleasure to peek into this precious young life's journal.