Thursday, February 28, 2013

Renounce Selfish Ambition

Quote of the Day:

“We shall not be permitted to make self, as heretofore, the center of all our thoughts and all our aims.” Hannah Whitall Smith

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:3-8

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Sense of Sin is the Work of Grace

Quote of the Day:

"...when sin is seen and felt, it has received its deathblow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the afflicted soul. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness or more hopeful than contrition. We must confess that we are 'nothing else but sin,' for no confession short of this will be the whole truth; and if the Holy Spirit is at work in us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty about making such an acknowledgement--it will spring spontaneously from our lips...Digging out the foundation is the first thing in building--and a thorough sense of sin is one of the earliest works of grace in the heart."Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

I can personally attest to these words. It was only when I heard the truth of sin presented to me that I understood that sin was my problem! And the answer, too, was presented to me: Jesus. All my life I had been trying to help me when "me" was the problem! Only when I understood that sin is my problem and Jesus my only help did I begin the journey of transformation and regeneration into a new life. Praise God.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:1-9

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 1 John 1:8-10

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Possessed by Possessions

Quote of the Day:

“There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets ‘things’ with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease.” 
A. W. Tozer

Job said:
 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” Job 1:21

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’
Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ 
Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” 
Luke 12:13-15

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” Luke 12:22-23

Friday, February 22, 2013

Be of Strong Mind

Quote for the day:

“A man who has a stong mind can bear to be insulted and only resents the wrong when a sense of right demands his action. The weak mind is irritated at a little; the strong mind bears it like a rock that doesn’t move though a thousand breakers dash upon it and cast their pitiful malice in spray upon its summit….Dear reader, what is your condition this evening? Can you by humble faith look to Jesus and say, ‘My substitute, You are my rock, my trust?’” 
Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:7-8

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trust in God May Not Solve But it Does Help

I once heard someone make the comment that, when their pastor preaches on how God can minister to our anxieties, they let that preaching go right over their head because the pastor doesn’t understand their anxiety. I’m sure the pastor does not fully understand their specific struggle with anxiety, but God does. No doubt that's the pastor's point! 

The confidence found in Psalm 88:7a is this: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” We are not to interpret this as “I am cured; problem solved; no more worries!” The verse does not say that. It says when our heart trusts in God we are helped, in whatever form of help that may be, but especially in the form of His comfort

I am convinced that even in the case of physical and mental disability, to put our trust in the Lord is help, i.e. comfort, for whatever we go through, chronic or temporary. It does not mean we shun doctors, exercise or healthy eating to help us recover. It does not mean we refrain from seeking friends for support. It means we don’t remove our trust in God based on our thinking that, because we are suffering, God can no longer be trusted. Our trust in God doesn’t mean we will never suffer. It means we will never suffer without His provision of grace, comfort and mercy to endure. That's what we miss out on if we turn away from Him.

Psalm 88 ends with an assurance that “The LORD is the strength of his people” (v. 8a) and a prayer that He “be their shepherd and carry them forever” (v. 9b). Sometimes we take pride in our daily struggles to the point that, maybe without even realizing it, we’ve come to have an attitude of “my issue is bigger than God.” And the nature of tragedy and crisis can, from a worldly perspective, seem insurmountable. But to think anything is ever out of the purvey of God is, in my mind, an even darker place to go. 

Do we not require perseverance to endure? Has trusting in the world or our own selves provided steady unshakeable perseverance? How has going it alone worked out for us? Why would we ever think that what we have deemed too big for God is manageable for us

We will experience every kind of hardship under the sun, regardless of whether or not we have placed ourselves under the loving Lordship of our Savior Jesus Christ. So we can go it alone without Him, and see how comforting that is, or we can endure with Him, without fear, “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46: 2-3).

“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5

Monday, February 18, 2013

Unanswered Prayer

Since January, my husband and I have been enrolled full-time in graduate classes at Moody Bible Institute, which explains the dearth of posts lately. Going forward, I hope to simply post quotes from the grand Christian sages of old, like Hannah Whitall Smith, Charels H. Spurgeon. C.S. Lewis and A.W. Tozer. That will be fun.

Right now, however, I will share excerpts of today’s reading from the monthly devotional, In Touch by Charles Stanley. Titled, “Learning to Wait,” it is by far the best and most succinct guidance I’ve seen on how to understand unanswered prayer.”

“We must realize that God doesn’t see us simply in the here and now; He perceives the big picture all at once—where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. He knows exactly how every little decision, action, or blessing will impact our lives. Do you think God wants to bring something into your life that would absolutely destroy you? Of course not! He knows that what may be a tremendous blessing for you later could completely wreck your life now. For this reason, though the Lord hears your prayer, He often pauses to give you time to prepare for that blessing…If we try to make something happen on our own after God tells us to wait, then we’re heading for disaster. The Lord blesses obedience—even obedient waiting.” from In Touch

I love this because, even though one would think it to be obvious, I had never really internalized this concept of God’s hearing our prayers in the wider context of our lives. While we may think we are ready for A, B, or C, God knows we aren’t. I can’t tell you the number of times I got ahead of God, trying to force His hand. Even though God brought maturity out of those times, He also honed me through those not-so-great experiences and outcomes to learn to discern when He is telling me to do something and when He is telling me to wait. You get burned by your own enthusiasm and initiative a few times and waiting doesn’t sound too bad!

That’s exactly what happened with our attending Moody. In the fall of 2011, my husband and I began talking about studying there full time. But we both got definite red lights, to the point that I was sure that option was taken off the table permanently. Lo and behold, exactly one year later, the Moody option did, indeed, return, and much to our amazement, God gave nothing but green lights! That’s how I know that going to Moody when we did was God’s doing and His timing. One month in, I am experiencing the peace that comes with being in God’s will. I think we all know what it feels like to push on ahead of God and not feel His peace in what transpires. When it is God’s will and timing, peace will accompany. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or without challenge: it means peace will prevail.

The joy of unanswered prayer is being confident that God is accomplishing a work via the non-answer. It could be a work in my life or someone else’s. It is in those times of waiting where I’ve found my pride whittled down to the bone, my ideas and plans turned to dust and God brought back to the fore. For that, I am grateful. It means all the obsessions, infatuations, agendas, avoidances and self-centeredness I bring to God in my prayers are burned away in the waiting. His denial of my desired answer is what He uses to bring my sin to the surface to be dealt with in renewed submission to Him. I can only imagine what He is doing in the lives of those I pray for!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7.

“Be still and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:a