Sunday, October 19, 2008

How lovely is your dwelling place...

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." Selah --Psalm 84:1-4

Is there anyone besides me who thinks church is the greatest place in the world? I love church! Have I had bad experiences with church -- with THE CHURCH? You betcha'. Plenty. I've seen Christian people do some awful stuff -- adultery, hypocrisy, gossip, slander, struggles for power, you name it. And yes, it breaks my heart. We ought not treat each other like that.

Here's what I love about church: I meet God there. We talk all week and we work together. He corrects me and shows me how to correct the kids. He loves me and shows me how to love others. We work out my salvation all week. But on Sunday, aahhh Sunday.

On Sunday, we rest. I get dressed up -- not because I have to or He thinks I look cuter in a dress, but -- because today is special. I'm going to meet Him in His house. On Sunday, I sing to Him, for Him and because of Him. I drop the week at His feet.

Then I go sit down with the other pilgrims, aliens if you will, and we talk about God. We love Him. We love to talk about Him. We want to know more of Him, so we sharpen each other and we check each other for truth. We encourage each other.

Here are some other things I love about church:

donuts, fresh fruit and coffee - Does that seem shallow? I hope it doesn't. It's part of how we rest together at my church. It's a pleasure to be in my Lord's house. (Isaiah 25:6)

people smiling and laughing - For a lot of reasons, because it means, "It's all good." "We're family." "We're all in this together." "Yeah, I love Jesus, too." "Girl, you're salvation is looking good. Keep on running the race."

kids everywhere - I love it because another generation is meeting God in His house every week, resting with Him. He's writing their love story and I get to see it.

my pastor - He is just a man and he knows it. He loves Jesus and he wants everyone to know Him. He's about grace and mercy, something I'm short of quite frequently.

My church is the building I go to to meet with my Lord each week and my church is the people in it. And I love it, maybe because God loves it so very much. Jesus died for it. The Holy Spirit lives in it. I hope you love it, too.
If you don't love the church, ask yourself why. Is it because someone hurt you there? Does it bore you? Do you sense hypocrisy there? I implore you - forgive, ask for a fresh fire in your spirit, and pledge to stand as an example to the weaker brothers.
Father, make us one. Give us an undying love and loyalty for our brothers and sisters, for Your Bride. Help us not to forsake meeting together. Make us one. Amen.

Acts 2:42-47
Ephesians 5:23-32

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just try to outgive Him, I dare you...

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." --Luke 6:38

A wealthy man is about to die. He's holding on to his gold and insists upon taking it with him to heaven. The angel with him says, "Well, OK, if you must." The man gets to heaven and meets Paul at the gates. The man once again insists on bringing his gold into heaven with him. Paul looks at him real funny and says, "You brought pavement?"

Why are we so afraid to give to the Lord what is already His? We hold onto every penny so tightly. We live like misers in the kingdom of God. How many times must our Father prove that He is our faithful provider? Some of us give occasionally. Some of us even tithe, feeling ourselves very righteous. Though when we tithe we are only being obedient to one of God's most basic commands.

Ask yourself how many times you've given sacrificially. How many times have you allowed God to have control of your finances; to prove Himself faithful; to show you what a blessing it is to operate within God's economy?

My husband and I recently switched banking institutions. Our new bank handles their online banking differently from our previous bank. I was just getting the hang of things when I realized one day that I had paid twice on a tithe from a bonus check. The amount was a big one for us and I panicked when I thought about double paying it!

The next Sunday, I spoke with our church accountant and explained the error to him. He very sweetly offered to write us a check for the overpayment. Whew! Good thing I took care of that.

But then I began thinking about that money. Was it an accident that the additional money had been given to our church? I pondered on that money. I thought of paying bills with it, but not for long. I knew God wanted to show me what He had in mind for that money. It was something special.

Another Sunday rolled around. That morning, our financial accountant stood to speak. He began to tell us how faithful the Lord had been to one of our church family in the passing of her husband. Through our church and others, she and her family were being well cared for. They would be OK. I knew immediately where God wanted our money to go.

God knew I wanted more than anything to help my dear, sweet friend, but I never would have dreamed of giving her the amount of money that had "mistakenly" landed at church.

Friends, it was one of the greatest joys of my life to see God use my family to bless my sister in Christ. I'm just sorry God had to trick me into it. Our family's "sacrifice" has been blessed.

Guess what? I want to do it again! I am jumping up and down, saying, "Pick me, God. Pick me. Let me bless somebody. I want to see what you're going to do next!" Once again, God has shown me that I cannot outgive Him. It is impossible. What a wonderful, generous, loving, compassionate God I serve. Can I get a witness?
Father, thank you for including me in your kingdom plans. You are sweet and good. I love how You work things out. May Your wonders never cease! Amen.

Malachi 3:8-12

A great book to read: The Blessed Life, by Robert Morris

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Water, water everywhere...

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." --Isaiah 55:1-2

"Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." --from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I went to the mall today. When I was young I went to the mall at least once a week, usually more. That's when I thought what it held could satisfy me.

Now, I am extremely overwhelmed by the choices set before me. I must've looked at 20 pairs of red high heels today. Scores of dresses. Heaps of necklaces. I didn't even know I wanted those things until today. But today, I found myself wanting them. Imagining how it would feel to wear them. How people might look at me differently if I had them.

Then the Holy Spirit caught me. "Do not run after these things. You know they will not satisfy nor will they make you happy. Remember the conflict you feel when you buy foolishly, remember the debt and how it imprisons you. Remember the lies you have to tell yourself to rationalize the spending. Yes, and remember, these things will not make you a better person."

My experience today made me think of a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink." We are in a boat surrounded by an ocean of temptations. All the worldly things look so good and we are so thirsty. We think surely possessions will make us happy, so we drink from them. It doesn't work. We get thirstier. Then we drink from relationships and manipulations of relationships. We grow thirstier still. And if we continue to dip into this ocean for satisfaction, we will die.

Satisfaction from anything but Jesus is a fleeting illusion. He is the only one who offers living water that we may thirst no more. Oh, give me Jesus. You can keep the shoes!

Dear Jesus, yours is the sweetest name I know. Forgive me when I think anyone or anything could give me what only You can -- contentment, satisfaction, abundant life. I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.

Jeremiah 2
John 4:10-15
John 7:37-38

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things too wonderful for me to know...

"Then Job replied to the LORD : "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'" --Job 42:1-6

How many times have I said this very thing to the Lord, God Almighty?

All the times I've cried and said, "Surely I don't deserve this. I've been good. I'm trying to please You, Lord. Where is the blessing? This isn't working. It doesn't make sense. I just want to die."

Then He reveals Himself. The Maker of heaven and earth, "I Am", quietly asks, "Who are you, Jennifer? You dare counsel me on how things should go?" And then I am still.

Then I know. I did not see Him before - not like this. In this battle, this trial, this hurt, this sickness, this agony, I SEE Him. I can almost touch His robe. I can almost feel the holiness in me reaching out for His holiness, like deep calls to deep.

Jesus, lover of my soul, has me now. I am close to Him. I desire Him, yes, I long for Him. I want Him. My beloved is mine and I am his.

"Yes, Jennifer, I will use any means, even Satan himself, to make you ever more mine. I will go to any lengths for my beloved - you, Jennifer. I work all things together for your good, even the things you don't understand, the things too wonderful for you to know."

Father, God, help me to trust You with the things "too wonderful for me to know." Help me to refrain from counseling You, almighty God. I repent of my complaints. I love you. Amen.

Romans 8:28
Jeremiah 29:11
Hebrews 2:5-18