Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Obviously, I'm not getting the chance to post much on the challenge blog these days with our out-of-town trips and our move. Many of my challenges are coming from my thoughts on Proverbs which I am trying to type up when I have the chance. So, for the one or two of you who have enjoyed and missed these posts, head on over to Reflections on Proverbs and enjoy the thoughts shared by myself and a couple of others on our daily Proverbs readings.
Posted by Ann at 8:03 AM
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Psalm 73:21-22 (NASB) This Psalm begins with the Psalmist acknowledging that he had begun to stumble because of envy over the success of the wicked. They disregarded the Lord continually, and yet seemed to prosper. He, meanwhile, struggled and suffered while being diligent in obedience. Then, in the verse that really stood out to me yesterday, he came into the presence of the Lord and truth was revealed to him. When his eyes were opened, he was not only able to see the future of the wicked in clarity and truth, but he was also able to see himself. He saw that he was "senseless and ignorant...like a beast before" God. There are so many times when I am restless and dissatisfied. I want. I crave. I long. I feel as though others have everything and I have nothing. Even what I have I cannot appreciate because it's not what I think I want. That is how I am when my heart is wrong. When my heart is envious and embittered. In those times, I must enter the Lord's presence! I must be willing to not only get my focus straightened out so that I realize I have everything because I have Him, but I must also be willing to see myself for who I really am. I must be willing to be exposed before Him that I may also be cleansed and restored before Him. We don't like to be examined and evaluated, but that is the key to being restored. That is the key to being yanked from our bitter misery. I must be willing to see others and myself through His lens. Then and only then will I be free from my embittered outlook.
Posted by Ann at 9:04 AM
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Every now and then the Lord challenges me in a strange way. I always go back to His Word to ensure that the challenge is in line with Scripture - otherwise it isn't from Him and isn't valid. But, the challenges aren't always initiated by what I read in His Word. Sometimes they come from other directions. Today's challenge is just such a thing. Yesterday I felt overwhelmed by chaos. Everything seemed out of control and I seemed to be spinning that direction as well. I really needed a reminder to be at peace. As the day ended, I felt the Lord bringing me back under control as I opened myself up to Him. But, in the night He seemed to increase that peace even as I slept. Last night I dreamed about some dear friends of ours. I dreamed that we were able to go and spend some time with them. That's a pretty big deal because they are thousands of miles away! As much as I would love to go visit them, it's even less conceivable than getting to go visit my parents in Jordan, which is a pretty difficult prospect itself. So, the sudden image of being with them, of visiting in their home, was one of great delight. But, the feeling I had that came from just being their their home was even more incredible. As soon as I walked in their front door, I was overwhelmed with peace. Everything about their home and their beings radiated the peace of God. And, yes, if you were to know the family, you would know that they are like that in reality, not just in the dream world. They are a family of peace and have a home of peace. Are they perfect? Do they live their lives without conflict and stress? Not by any means! But, they crave and hunger for peace, and that shows. So, I woke up not only overwhelmingly blessed but also immediately challenged. I want my home and my family to be that haven! I want people who hunger for peace to find it here. I want it to radiate so greatly that just dreaming about being with us brings that peace.
Posted by Ann at 9:10 AM
Monday, October 19, 2009
When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Psalms 73:16-17 (NASB) The Psalmist is speaking here of the pondering of why wicked people seem to make all the progress in life while the righteous struggle. But, as I read these verses, I realized that many ponderings can fall into this category. I struggle to figure things out. Whether it's figuring out how to do something, what decision to make, or why something is happening, I strive – often in my own mind or with people around me – to make sense out of it all. How many times do I struggle for no reason? I think it's many more times than I would care to admit! Like the psalmist, I need only to enter the presence of God, and suddenly the things I struggle to understand will become clear to me! I need only to get my focus off the issues and onto Him. Then He gives me clarity of sight regarding my struggles. Oh that I would just go to Him first...how much striving and struggling would be resolved from the very beginning.
Posted by Ann at 9:49 AM
Friday, October 16, 2009
When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Prov 16:7 (NASB) If I were to begin seeing threats to my life in one way or another and were asked by those investigating these threats if I had any enemies, I would probably say no. But, the truth is that there are people who just don't like me or the way I do things. As a result, frustration, discord, and yes, even enmity sometimes exist between myself and others. As someone who has to fight the tendency toward being a people pleaser, this is a hard thing for me to deal with. But this verse brings both encouragement and challenge to me. The encouragement is in the fact that the only one I have to please is the Lord! If I can be pleasing to Him in all I do, He'll take care of the rest. He will work out the relationships. He will restore peace where my actions have caused enmity. The challenge, however, lies in the same fact- I have to please the Lord! If I see a struggle or tension between myself and someone else, can I stand before Him with a clean conscience? Or, is there something I need to confess and deal with, both before Him and before my "enemy"? If I am clean before Him, peace-making is His responsibility. If I'm not, then it's mine. To be honest, I'd much rather the responsibility be His! He's much, much better at it! So, my goal? To live with a clear conscience before Him that He may be the peacemaker in my relationships!
Posted by Ann at 9:32 AM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. John 4:6 (NASB) Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples were saying to one another, "No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?" John 4:31-33 (NASB) These verses wrap around the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and it fit so well with what I felt God challenging me with yesterday. God knows what will satisfy my need, and He will guide me to that satisfaction if I wait on Him! I believe the Bible when it says that Jesus was weary. But, unlike His disciples, Jesus knew that His restoration was not going to come from food. It was going to come from being where His Father wanted Him to be - from doing His Father's work and will. When I feel a need coming on, am I willing to wait, listen to the Lord, and let Him satisfy my need His way? Or do I just assume that it is a fleshly need with a fleshly solution? He knows me better than I know myself. I must let Him guide the fulfillment of my needs!
Posted by Ann at 9:43 AM
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want. Prov 13:25 (KJV) What do I crave? Do I truly crave soul satisfaction, or do I crave satisfaction in other areas of my life? To be honest, there is frequently stuff that I so greatly want that I just don't think I can live without. I crave food that I know is not good for me and that will not help me with my health goals. I crave time off, and it never ends up being enough. I crave more sleep and then always end up just as tired, if not moreso. I need to focus on satisfying my soul, not my flesh. When I do, the other things will be satisfied - either because the wants will no longer exist or because the desires line up with the ultimate goal of glorifying God in all I do. That's where I want to be!
Posted by Ann at 9:37 AM
Monday, October 12, 2009
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalms 56:3-4 (NASB) We often work hard to gird ourselves up for the hard times. We read verses like these in the good times, and then try our hardest to dredge them back up when we are going through the rough patches. We are thankful for the comfort of the words of David when we are going through hard times because we struggle with coming up with the words ourselves. David, however, wrote this in the middle of a very rough time. He had been captured by the Philistines, and was truly doubtful as to whether or not he could escape with his life. The Philistines did not like David. Why would they let an Israelite hero who had struck a huge blow against them escape with his life? In the middle of these circumstances, David wrote, "What can mere man do to me?" The "mere man" he referred to could take his life. That's what they could do to him! Oh, how I long to have the faithfulness of David in the midst of a challenge. This is how I want to be! This is how I want to live! Oh, may I be able to say from the depths of my heart... In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.
Posted by Ann at 9:08 AM
Thursday, October 8, 2009
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. Luke 20:20 (NASB) But He detected their trickery...Luke 20:23a (NASB) When I first read verse 20 this morning, I scoffed at such a ridiculous move. As I've read through the Gospels, I've seen multiple examples of Jesus knowing what was in the hearts of the Pharisees, scribes, and teachers of the law - times when He could discern their thoughts. They had experienced this, and yet they still "sent spies who pretended to be righteous." Come on, people, how dumb can you be! But, as I was making a few notes on these verses in my journal, I was hit hard with the reality of my own pretenses. How many times have I come before the Lord in my prayer time, Bible reading, and even in public situations with a pretense of righteousness, knowing deep in my heart that I was not walking in communion with the Lord? He can see right through me, but I still put up my pretenses. I still claim to be all that, even with that uneasy feeling in my gut that reminds me He is not fooled. The spies walked away amazed and silenced because of their foolish approach to Him. As His child, that is not what He desires for me. I am His. He has chosen me and drawn me to Himself. He desires for me to relate to Him. To sit at His feet and hear His voice. He knows my junk. He knows my unrighteousness. He knows my sin. But, He chose me anyway, and He cleansed me. I don't have to put up pretenses - I just need to be in His presence. No more pretenses of righteousness, before Him or anyone else!
Posted by Ann at 11:04 AM
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I'm studying Psalm 51 this week for Sunday school. The first thing that slammed me in the face was this...how do I view my sin? So often I view it as "not so bad." David had a very different perspective. He viewed it as a horrid blemish that he couldn't escape. It was continually staring him in the face. He viewed it as something that separated him from God. He viewed it as something from which he needed to be purified and cleansed. I have had to stop and think about how I handle my own sin. And, I'm sure I will have to continue processing and growing in that area. I do know that God has walked me through some "dealing" with my sin this week. Being honest before Him. Recognizing my sin His way. It's easy to brush some sins aside as trivial, but all sin is separation from my Savior. All must be dealt with. All bring about the necessity of purification and cleansing. So, I'm reminded again to honestly allow Him to seek me and cleanse me from all sin.
Posted by Ann at 10:56 AM
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come immediately and sit down to eat”? But will he not say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink”? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done." Luke 17:7-10 (NASB) This whole concept bucks against our western mentality. We would argue that no one should be treated that way. We argue against it in our churches, our workplaces, our homes, and our marriages. Once we have performed some major duty or job, we feel as if we deserve a break, or at least some recognition. In our marriages, we have this mentality that we do so much, and our spouses need to at least contribute their part, if not wait on us hand and foot as reward for all we do. We teach our children that they deserve reward for obedience, rather than simply teaching them that obedience is their responsibility, whether they receive reward or not. I know I live with this mentality. I know my gut reaction is to say, “Yes! Give that slave a break, get out of that chair, and get your own supper!” But, that is not a biblical attitude. The attitude presented by Christ Himself is one of continued perseverance, without reward and without rest. He teaches endurance to the end – and frankly, the end just doesn't come on this earth. I am challenged to have this type of mindset. I am challenged to work with no thought of reward or rest. I am even more challenged to teach my children this concept starting right now that they may not have to retrain their hearts and minds as adults. Oh how we as individuals and as the church must have the mindset of slaves!
Posted by Ann at 8:50 AM
Monday, October 5, 2009
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Luke 16:9-13 (NASB) I realized this morning that somehow I have never read this passage in NASB, which is the translation of my current primary Bible. Or, if I have, I've not really paid attention to it. I have only really been attentive to this passage in translations that refer to the wealth mentioned as "worldly wealth." So, when I read it described as "unrighteous wealth," it really stood out to me. It's easy to brush "worldly" off as simply being not heavenly. It's of this world. Well, of course wealth is of this world. The wealth of heaven has nothing to do with money! But, when it is labeled as "unrighteous," it introduces a shift of thinking. Not only is it of this world, but it is also not neutral. It is not something that can be good or bad. It's just unrighteous. But it can be used for righteousness, and that is what we are called to do. I am reminded of George Muller. This amazing and incredible man of God had literally millions of British pounds flow through his hands, but he continually lived in such a way as to only hold back for his day to day needs. Every bit of what he didn't need immediately flowed through his hands to someone who did need it. That is what dealing righteously with unrighteous wealth is all about. And that is how I am challenged to live. Faithful with unrighteous wealth that I may be trusted with true riches. Lord, grant me wisdom! May I prove faithful with Your guidance!
Posted by Ann at 8:37 PM
Sunday, October 4, 2009
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Psalms 23:2 (NASB - emphasis mine) I know that this might not pass an exegetical test, but as I reread and studied this well-known and beloved Psalm this week, I was struck by the word "makes." What do I crave, and does it match up with what the Lord wants to give? Does He have to make me receive what is good for me? Doug and I have been trying hard to really concentrate on healthy eating. We have realized that even though we as a family had healthy eating habits in general, there were still many things that we consumed that were not healthy choices. We've improved on that a great deal. But, still, there is frequently the craving for those foods that aren't good for these temples. Sometimes my body needs a fantastically delicious meal of salmon, broccoli, and rice, but I would much rather sink my teeth into a huge bacon cheeseburger with a mound of cheese fries. I think there are times I do that spiritually as well. I wake up blah or restless, and all I want is to get in the van and go somewhere, or find a way to spend money, or eat chocolate to my heart's content. The true answer is to immerse myself in the incredible presence and Word of the Lord. In that moment, I'm ashamed to say, it seems so "un-fun" to sacrifice my road trip, shopping spree, or chocolate binge to be in the Word. But, if I actually do make the effort to enter His presence, I find that my desire becomes for Him and I am surrounded by the most incredible satisfaction imaginable. And, to be honest, sometimes He has to make me go there. Sometimes He literally has to drive me away from the inferior weedy grass that I think I want and move me to the beautiful green pastures that I truly need. Oh, that He wouldn't have to make me! Oh, that I would just choose His presence first and foremost every time! Oh, that nothing else would even hold any sway over my heart and mind! That is where I long to be.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Luke 12:35 (NASB) But if that slave says in his heart, "My master will be a long time in coming," and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk... Luke 12:45 (NASB) How do I live my daily life? Do I live in readiness? Or do I go about life as if I assume my Master is going to be a long time in coming? I should be living with an urgency, but I don't really. I live as if I know this world will keep on turning. In some ways, that's okay. I mean, I can't just give up and stop paying my bills and educating my children because I'm convinced that Jesus might return any minute. I must persist in living. But, in the ways that matter, it's not okay. I cannot just sit on what I know! I cannot just go through my life in my self-centered way thinking that someday I'll get out and tell. I have to be ready now, today. I have to be bold and vocal now. My challenge and my passion is to live like I am ready and to spur others on to readiness as well, whether it be believers around me or the lost world.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. Luke 9:44-45 (NASB) I have always been a bit lacking in the boldness department. I think maybe it has hinged on the concept that I have doubted my ability to be persuasive. This can be a great hindrance to witnessing or to proclaiming the truth into any situation. Earlier this year, though, as I read through the prophets, I was reminded of something that I have really always known but have not always lived out. It has nothing to do with my persuasiveness and everything to do with my obedience. Jesus knew that. He was in tune enough with His Father and with His followers that He knew they were not going to understand. He knew that the truth was being concealed from their hearts. But that didn't stop Him from saying what He had to say. Why? Because He knew that at some point it would make sense to them. At that point, they would remember and the words would make an impact on their lives. I have to remember that, too. What I say may or may not be received. It may or may not be persuasive. It may or may make any sense to the receiver. I may or may not even be heeded. But, that has nothing to do with me. That's God's business. My business is to say what He has for me to say and let Him do the rest. Grace is a pretty awesome, isn't it? The fact that God is ultimately the One who is in control of it all is pretty freeing, isn't it? Now, to "simply" adjust my life that I may truly live this way!