Archive for June, 2008

“As for me, it is good to be near God”

Monday, June 30th, 2008

You know Lord, sometimes it seems that the wicked, those who don’t acknowledge You, are the ones who are prosperous and have nothing going wrong in their lives. It can seem that way and sometimes we wonder why that is. You spoke to my heart while we were in Kentucky on Sunday morning at our church in Arjay. We had the privilege of hearing Brother Lee teach the adult bible study class before we led the worship service. His teaching is always genuine and heart felt and was again this year. He has a deep love for Your word and you can tell that he spends a lot of time with You. There are insights You give to those who sit quietly with You for extended periods of time – mysteries, treasures that You save for those who earnestly seek You. We don’t unearth those deep treasures unless we make sitting with You a priority in our lives. You bring to mind a statement by Robert Murray McCheyne in the front of Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest. He says, speaking of Chambers, that “Men return again and again to the few who have mastered the spiritual secret, whose life has been hid with Christ in God. These are of the old time religion, hung to the nails of the Cross.” You know Lord, I want to know those spiritual secrets. I want to know You in those deep ways.

Brother Lee unearthed in a new way some of those treasures for me from the 73rd Psalm Sunday morning regarding the “prosperity of the wicked.” It goes along with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The Psalm was written by Asaph, a leader in one of the temple choirs. He begins by making a statement, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Surely God would be and will be good to His people. They are His people, the sheep of His pasture, the scripture calls them. Certainly He would be good to those who are pure in heart. And He is good to His children but we don’t always see “good” as God sees good. Asaph goes on to say that his feet had almost slipped. He had almost lost his foothold because he was looking at the arrogant, the wicked and their prosperity. It seemed to him that they had no struggles – their bodies were healthy and strong. They were free from many of the burdens common to man. It didn’t seem like they were plagued by human ills. They were proud and had callous hearts. They were violent and the evil of their minds knew no limit. They scoffed and spoke with malice. They were proud and their mouths laid claim to heaven. It seemed as though they possessed the earth. They mocked You Lord, and questioned Your knowledge. It seemed they were carefree and their wealth continued to increase.

And then Asaph looks at his own life and begins to ponder that perhaps he has kept his heart pure in vain. Perhaps he has kept his hands in innocence for no reason. It seems as though his life is plagued all day long and every morning he is re-punished. He goes on to say that when he tried to understand this, it oppressed him. It just wasn’t making any sense from his earthly perspective. Why would You allow him to plagued when he was trying to honor You?

And then in verse 17, he turns a corner when he says that he didn’t understand. . . UNTIL. . .  he entered the sanctuary of God. And then he understood the final destiny of the wicked. What a powerful little statement! He could not understand until he entered the sanctuary of God. We will never understand the things of this earth until we look at them from Your eternal perspective – from the viewpoint we get from being alone with You in the sanctuary. Only then can we understand. Because You don’t see, don’t think, don’t act like we do from our limited “earth” perspective. Then it all made sense to him.

What Asaph came to understand was that the feet of the wicked are on slippery ground. They will suddenly be destroyed and completely swept away. Asaph acknowledges in v. 21, 22 that he was senseless and ignorant when he looked at things that were happening through his own eyes, apart from You. He recognized his own foolishness and called himself a brute beast before You.

And then he acknowledges what he KNOWS, not what he feels. He acknowledges that he knows he is always with You and that You hold him by his right hand. You guide him with Your counsel and You will take him into glory. You are the one he desires to be with in heaven and he understands that earth has nothing that he desires. He acknowledges that his flesh and his heart may fail him but he also acknowledges that You are the strength of his heart and his portion forever and ever!

Those who are far from You will perish. That is based upon the eternal truth of the word of God. You will destroy all who are unfaithful to You.

And the conclusion of the Psalm is Asaph’s statement of faith when he says, “As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all Your deeds.”

I love that Father!! As for me, it is so good to be near and close to Your heart. I have made You my refuge and I will continue to tell of all Your deeds and Your goodness to me! Bless Your Holy Name, Father! Thank You for continuing to teach me through Your word and challenge me through those who spend time in secret with You! Allow the passion of my life to be You and You alone! In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen. 

 

        

Don’t lose your purpose…

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Last night my 4-year-old niece, Matti was playing nerf basketball in our living room with Clay and Caleb and she was wound up (to put it mildly). She had the nerf basketball and was trying to get it in the goal that hangs over the back door. Matti is a tiny little thing but she was DETERMINED to get that ball in the basket. Clay and Caleb started picking at her (imagine that) and she started running from them through the living room, into the foyer, into the dining room, in one door of the kitchen and back into the living room through the other door, back to the dining room, back to the foyer, you get the idea. She was trying to keep the ball from them. Her goal was to get to the goal and shoot the ball before they could take it from her. The problem was about half way through her long run to safety, she dropped the ball and didn’t even realize it. I was trying to tell her that she had lost her purpose but she didn’t have a clue what I was saying. Finally when she made it back to the basket she went to shoot and then realized she didn’t even have the ball. At last I had her attention and I told her that she had a purpose but during all the running from the bad guys she had lost her purpose.

Hmmm, I said to myself. I just might have to use that tomorrow. So here I am sharing it with you. Don’t get so busy running away from and being distracted by the enemy that you drop the ball and lose your purpose. When Matti found the ball under the table she grabbed it and held on for dear life! That’s what we have to do. We have to take the ball of purpose – God’s plan for our life – and we have to keep our eyes on the goal and hold on for dear life! Yes, we will be distracted by “big bad guys” and will be tempted to run out of control in every direction possible. But we must keep our focus. We are here for a purpose and the ultimate goal is to reach the goal and score! Until then, hang on for dear life so that you do not arrive and realize that somewhere along the way you lost your purpose.

“Be strong and very courageous…do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2 & 3).

Hope

Laying down my rights…

Friday, June 27th, 2008
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

It’s not all about me. Yeah, right! That all sounds good but can we say that with a pure heart? When our feelings get hurt or someone wrongs us or when anything that could go wrong does – it’s so easy to say, or at least think, “I have a right to feel this way,” or “I have a right to be upset.” But the pure-hearted reaction is to lay down our own rights. That is the reaction of a meek spirit. Meekness is a blessed virtue, and one that can come only from God’s Throne of Grace.

I’m going to practice doing this over the weekend, laying down my own rights. It’s easy to do with Caleb because we’d sacrifice anything for our children. But it’s not so easy to do with a husband or siblings or aging parents or close friends. Suddenly it becomes all about me! Blessed are the meek, yes, a blessed virtue.

Hope

Don’t cry…

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

When Caleb was little and he’d fall down or get his feelings hurt or things just didn’t go his way, I’d comfort him by saying, “Don’t cry, baby” much like you have comforted your child or were comforted by your parent. Quite often when I said, “Don’t cry” I was saying that I could not necessarily fix the problem but I cared about his pain.

Look at this passage…

“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother” (Luke 7:11-15).

When Jesus said to this grieving mother and widow, “Don’t cry,” He wasn’t just comforting her, He was letting her know that He would fix the problem. And He did. The Christian comedian Mark Lowry says that Jesus knows how to mess up a good funeral. When the dead sits up the funeral’s over! As comical as that is, it is true. But does Jesus always fix the problem in the immediate? I think we can all attest that the answer that question is, “No!”

As we’ve discussed many times before, there’s always a greater plan and sometimes that plan includes an earthly miracle. But sometimes the greater plan can only be fulfilled by earthly death. There’s no question that Jesus hated death. When He was crucified He conquered death and stole the keys to death, hell and the grave. But until the ultimate plan is played out, we will contend with death. So to us Jesus says, “Don’t cry” because He knows we’re hurting and He wants to comfort us with the assurance that He feels our pain and He will fix everything, in His time.

Hope

Walk away the excess pounds…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I’ve been walking in my neighborhood for the past several weeks but just this week started a video workout with my friend, Carmela and my sister, Teresa. The workout is called, “Walking away the pounds.” The instructor is all skinny and hyper and full of energy, and we make fun of her through the entire workout. I’m sure more out of jealousy than anything, but she is a little too loud and energetic that early in the morning. This morning I thought about her motivational push to not give up, “Keep walking! Even when you think you can’t go on, keep going! Before you know it those pounds will have disappeared! Come on! Walk with me! You’re doing great!” Knowing she can’t see me and has no idea the huffing and puffing going on. Nonetheless, the motivational push does work.

Let’s relate that to our spiritual walk with the Lord. If we’re faithful in our walk with Christ, we will walk away the excess pounds that so easily weigh us down. A faithful walk – daily prayer and Bible study, gives us energy, lifts our spirits, keeps our focus on what matters, and keeps us fit for the kingdom. It can be very easy to wake up early still tired and talk myself out of working out. But if I discipline myself to stick to the workout schedule, I feel so good the rest of the day. And it also helps me to eat properly. The last thing I want to do is hit the “Undo” key on my workout by splurging on something fattening or sweet. The same principle applies to my spiritual workout. If I spend time in God’s Word and prayer, it makes it much easier to keep a good attitude, steer away from impure thoughts, avoid inappropriate conversations, etc. It’s all about discipline!

Walk with the Lord today, and you’ll find that you are walking away the excess pounds of discouragement, disappointment, disgruntal attitude, whatever may so easily weigh you down. Walk with me! Keep going! Don’t give up! You can do it!

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Hope

The view from the other side…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Yesterday one of my web friends shared some words of a song that says, “God sees the storm from the other side.” Last night I was traveling on I-85 and looked up at the storm clouds. They were quite frightening to me. There was an uncertainty in my spirit as I watched the dark clouds thicken and lightning flash all around. I don’t mind storms but I don’t like tornadoes. If I could only be certain that the storm would not be damaging and would not produce tornadoes, I’d probably semi-enjoy them.

Then I thought about the phrase from that song…God sees the storm from the other side. He already knows how it’s going to turn out! He sees the end from the beginning; therefore we must trust Him for deliverance. If only we could get a glimpse of the view from His angle we’d trust Him completely. He’s on the other side looking back. Right now we see in part, but when we get to the other side with the Lord, it’ll all make sense.

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Hope

SOS – Our Source of Strength

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The SOS signal for distress originated as “Save Our Ship” and has been used in more instances than we can imagine. This weekend I heard a message entitled, “SOS – Our Source of Strength.” Once again my mind took off running and went much further and in other directions than where the speaker went.

“…that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:10 & 11) Emphasis mine.

There’s nothing handier than an appliance or tool that runs on batteries. It’s so convenient not to have to look for an outlet and can use whatever it is wherever you need it without plugging it in. A cordless drill, for instance – we used the soup out of Clay’s while we were building our house. He has two batteries for the drill and we kept one on the charger at all times. A couple of Saturdays ago Clay and a few of his buddies from church participated in a “ramp ministry” (they built a ramp for a disabled gentleman). Clay said they spent most of the day switching out their drills because none of the guys had a fully charged battery. He says their workday could have been cut in half had they not run out of power. That’s the downside to a battery.

Then there are the cordless screwdrivers – quite a handy little tool. However, unless it is fully charged it takes as much effort and time as a manual one to get a screw completely tight.

What or who do you depend on for your source of strength? Quite often we depend on individuals – spouses, siblings, parents, best friends, to provide the strength that we need. But much like the cordless drill and screwdriver, those individuals will eventually run out of energy, their battery will run down. They will either move away, die, or you’ll grow apart. You cannot depend on anyone to provide your source of strength other than Jesus Christ. He IS the ground fault outlet! Through Him you will always be plugged in to the main source and will be well grounded. No storm can knock out His power and He doesn’t run on batteries. He’s the juice!

So plug in to the Main Source today and keep your connection. Don’t depend on a battery pack (others) to save your ship from distress. Allow Christ to be your Source of Strength!

Hope

 

Not a luxury, but a necessity…

Friday, June 20th, 2008

While studying the book of Luke I’ve been struck by the many times that Jesus snuck off by Himself and prayed. Jesus was God in the flesh. Why did He pray so often, or why did He need to pray at all? Because not only was He all God, He was fully human. And for that reason, He was totally dependent upon God.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Jesus is our Great Example. The footnote in my Bible says that He taught us that prayer is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. In oder to keep the faith, we MUST spend time talking to out Father.

The father/grandfather of one of the families in our church passed away so we visited yet another mortuary last night. Nicole’s funeral was at 4:00 and was over a little after 5:00. I walked out of the church and to my car and I had my much-needed melt down. For a week I had “shared Hannah’s Hope” with her family and I was emotionally spent. I snuck out the back of the parking lot and skipped out on the graveside service. I didn’t have it in me. I withdrew to a lonely place – I went to the tanning bed and spent that quiet 20 minutes talking and crying with my Father. That time recharged me and provided the strength to visit another mortuary last night. You can believe that I concur with Jesus – I need my one-on-one time with the Father. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Have a fun weekend!

Hope

Accepting God’s will…

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

“When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’” (Luke 5:12).

This is a leper talking to Christ. He was plagued with leprosy, thus outcast from all society. When he saw Jesus, he didn’t demand that Jesus make him clean because of his belief, he said, “If you are willing.” Did the leper have enough faith for his healing? Yes. He didn’t say, “I think you can make me clean” or “Maybe you can make me clean,” he KNEW Christ could make him clean. The only thing he questioned was the will of the Father.

With Hannah we believed with everything in us that God could heal her on this earth. And we entertained no other thoughts, but yet we knew that we wanted God’s will and not our own. The same with my friend Nicole. If believing was all it took for someone to be healed, Hannah would still be here – as would Nicole. The leper was healed. Can God heal? Absolutely. But everything is about His eternal purpose. Sometimes His eternal purpose is fulfilled by healing on this earth. Sometimes His eternal purpose is fulfilled not by physical healing but by the ultimate healing. We were so sure that God would receive far more glory by healing Hannah physically than by taking her to heaven at such a young age. Who are we to presume God’s thoughts and plans? We said over and over and over, “God, You have a great big audience! A host of people are watching to see what you’re going to do with Hannah’s life. Show up!” We were thinking, “Why would He not heal her?” Our finite minds could not wrap around the plan of our Father. We continue to stand amazed at the glory He receives through Hannah’s physical death.

When I first heard on March 14 that Nicole’s cancer had returned and was in her liver, I had a heart to heart talk with the Lord, again. I remember my prayer specifically, “God! What are you thinking? How in the world could it be best for her children to be raised without a mother? How can that be Your plan? You promise that all things work for the good of those who love You. The McGills love You. How can this possibly be best?” Then I cried and cried and then I said, “Your will is always perfect. I know You know what You’re doing, and I trust You with Nicole’s life.” But I’m telling you after going through the “receiving” line last night and hugging on Rex and those three kids, I still shook my head and thought again that it does not make sense. Corie is a 14 year old young lady in desperate need of a mother during these teenage years. Heath is an 11 year old boy – and he’s like most boys, he loves his moma. And Caroline is 5 years old, independent and full of life. She’s at an age that it will take work from the family for Caroline to even remember much about her beautiful mother. What could God possibly be thinking?

But God’s will is always best, even when it makes absolutely no sense. His own Son asked Him to change His mind if at all possible, but then Jesus ended His prayer each time with, “Not my will but Thine be done.” Our pastor said to me on Friday when we realized that Nicole was dying that it’s at these times, times when we don’t know how to pray, that we can default to our Savior’s prayer. He is our Perfect Example. Not our will but His. That’s when we take a huge step - from believing Him to trusting Him. There is freedom in fully trusting our Father.

So Lord, we come to you today bearing our souls and pouring our hearts out to You. We don’t understand and we wish things could have been different for Corie, Heath and Caroline. But God, we trust You and we accept Your will. Even when it is completely mind boggling to our finite thinking. Carry the McGills in Your arms today and may they experience what we continue to experience each day, Your unlimited, unconditional grace. A grace that knows no boundaries. A grace that is greater than all our sin and unbelief.

Hope

 

A Hidden Treasure

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

I have a great story to tell you! I’ve mentioned several times that my Dad was a Baptist minister. He’s been dead a little more than 10 years. He left behind a great legacy – and a lot of junk! He refinished old furniture as a hobby and was the master of rigging something from nothing. When he passed away we spent hours laughing at some of the contraptions (??) he’d come up with. One that stands out in my mind is his work table in his shop. I had never paid it much attention but when we were moving everything we realized the table was an old door fastened to saw horses. The door knob was still attached underneath! He was such a mess. And always a prankster.

A couple of weeks ago my brother asked my Mom if she would go through Daddy’s sermons and find the one entitled “Little Foxes.” She has moved that big stack of sermons several times, organized them by date, packed them in a plastic bin, but had never thumbed through them one by one. Monday she was having herself a first class pity party. She is recovering from carpal tunnel and shoulder surgery and will be out of work for the summer, hasn’t felt well, struggling financially without her regular income, can’t do much with her left hand…you get the idea. Monday morning she poured out her heart and asked the Lord for encouragement. She decided she’d try to find that sermon for my brother. After going through almost the entire stack of sermons she was tired and quit for the day. She said she started crying again and left the bedroom. Then she felt the strongest urge to go back to the sermons. You need a visual here. My dad always used the steno pad size sheets, color coded his thoughts and paperclipped them at the top and bottom. So Mom looked at the small stack she had not thumbed through and she said it was as if she could feel Daddy standing beside her saying, “Keep looking.” She scooped up the remainder and sort of fanned them and when she folded several of them back a stack of money was clipped to one close to the bottom! $760.00!! My Dad was a mess. I guess he figured that was the safest place to hide money. He must have been right! We weren’t at all surprised to find out he had hidden money for “a rainy day.” The $100 bills were all dated 1996 and they were crisp and fresh. What a sweet hidden treasure he had for my Mom – 10 years later. Caleb told her he’d be over this evening to clean out her attic! She’s been wanting us to go through Dad’s books and paperwork for years. We’ll be knocking each other over trying to get in the attic first!

So – hidden among the sermons, amidst the Word of truth was a great treasure. There are spiritual treasures throughout His Word – and God has made them available to us through Christ. Don’t get weary and quit before discovering what He has for you! He’s urging us to keep looking.

“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Hope