Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beautiful Scars

 "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much." -Luke 7:47 

A forgiven heart is the fountain of beauty.

A number of years ago I was hiking along the Salmon River and came across a grove of pine trees that had been partially stripped of their bark. I knew from a friend who is a forester that the Native Americans who hunted this area long ago had peeled the outer bark and harvested the underlying layer for chewing gum. Some of the scars were disfiguring, but others, filled with crystallized sap and burnished by wind and weather, had been transformed into patterns of rare beauty.

So it is with our transgressions. We may be scarred by the sins of the past. But those sins, repented of and brought to Jesus for His forgiveness, can leave behind marks of beauty.

Some people, having tasted the bitterness of sin, now loathe it. They hate evil and love righteousness. Theirs is the beauty of holiness.

Others, knowing how far they fall short (Romans 3:23), have tender hearts toward others. They rise up with understanding, compassion, and kindness when others fail. Theirs is the beauty of humility.

Finally, when acts of sin are freely and thoroughly forgiven it leads to intimacy with the One who has shown mercy. Such sinners love much for much has been forgiven (Luke 7:47). Theirs is the beauty of love. -Dave Roper

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me--
All His wonderful passion and purity!
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. --Orsborn

(taken from the March-April-May 2012 Issue of "Our Daily Bread")

Monday, June 18, 2012

Give us your eyes Lord.

May God give us the eyes to see the missing, the hearts to care, and the grace to be bearers of His reconciling love.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

God will reveal His plans to you.

1 Corinthians 2:9

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him--
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Be firm in your faith. Withstand the devil.

"Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.
 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you."

(1 Peter 5:9-10 The Amplified Bible)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Don't give up on the dreams God has planted within you.

In the far east, there is a tree called the Chinese Bamboo. When you plant it you must water and fertilize it for five years before it grows. But in the fifth year, there is a five week span of time where it will grow ninety feet. The question is, did the bamboo grow ninety feet in five weeks of did it grow ninety feet in five years? It grew ninety feet in five years! Many times we quit watering and fertilizing our dreams during the first four years and miss the blessing of the will of God for our life at the end. When you are tempted to give up, continue to water and fertilize your dreams, plans, and those visions from God that He has placed within you.

1 Corinthians 15:58,
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vein."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How having a strong faith in God could be the difference between seeing God's blessings in your life or not.

The passage that Pastor Gene Tanner (Pastor of VNC in Valparaiso, IN) preached on a while back has been taught to me in several different ways over the past few months. Coincidence? I think not. In fact, shortly after I heard someone else speak about that very same passage, relating it to parenting. It became a transforming story for me during that season of life that God kept bringing it to my attention. It is one I can easily relate to, and identify with, on many levels.

Pastor Tanner preached from Numbers 13:1-14:45. This is the story where God told Moses to send 12 spies to the land that God had promised them-- Canaan. After spying for forty days, the spies were to bring back food from the land and suggest the best plan of attack for taking over the land. When they came back to share their report only two spoke out of their faith-- Joshua and Caleb. The other ten spoke out of their fear and their inadequacies because what they saw reminded them of how terribly small they were. If you are not familiar with this story, you might be interested in reading one of my older posts that goes into more depth on the details of how this historical tragedy all went down, before reading this post.

God has used this story multiple times throughout this year to speak to my heart about how I view myself and my circumstances. God used one of Susie Larson's blog posts on this passage, back in November, to show me that there are times in my life when I have to trust God even when my feelings suggest otherwise, and even when those around me suggest otherwise. This would have definitely been one of those times for the Israelite people. My focus at that time was on how we influence each other (for better or worse) by the attitudes we allow ourselves to possess. My application was that we must practice discernment when choosing who we listen to, and we have to be careful knowing that we will influence those around us when we speak out of our disbelief.

Something different stuck out to me the last time I heard this familiar story.
I found myself wondering if the story would have been different if those other ten spies had faith as strong as that of Joshua and Caleb. I felt like God was telling me that we must intentionally create a spiritual discipline of trusting HIM more than our feelings over and over again in the small things, until it becomes second nature to operate out of that faith with the big things. I want you to think on this for a minute because what I am talking about could be the difference between grabbing hold of the blessings that God is trying to place in your life, and stomping away from them in bitterness, while hanging your head in disappointment!!! That is a VERY BIG DEAL! The stakes can be quite high here. We should be careful not to downplay the radical difference having a strong faith makes!!!
When we do not think, speak, and operate out of our faith in the small things, we are creating a bad habit of focusing inward that will leave us feeling significantly inferior. That is going to be the very mindset that will keep us from boldly grabbing hold of the blessings God has for us.

When we step forward in fear, we feel weak and vulnerable. We start with the mindset that we are hopeless and if we're hopeless then what is the point? I am convinced that no feeling is worse than the feeling of being hopeless. I know, because I have been there. Hopelessness is a "cowering in the corner" kind of feeling that keeps us from experiencing the satisfaction of God's blessings in our lives.
Luke 6:45 says, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
You may have heard this children's song sung in your church when you were little:
Oh, be careful little mouth what you say.
Oh, be careful little mouth what you say.
For the father up above, He is listening with love.
Oh, be careful little mouth what you say.

And with Luke 6:45 in mind I say, "Oh, be careful little mind what you think."
Where does your mind seem to go on a regular basis? Or rather, where do you allow your mind to go???
Your mouth is going to give proof of where your mind has been... eventually.
Has God ever placed a blessing before you and you wanted it, but you didn't go after it because you allowed yourself to feel worthless, not good enough, smart enough, big enough, pretty enough, or important enough?? It can be hard to get out of the pit of despair. We find ourselves there when we pull out the shovel and dig up one inferior thought after another. The further we dig the harder it is to pull out of.
Alisha's "You will be blessed by your faith" Progression:

Wherever your mind goes, your heart will soon follow.
Whatever you pour your heart into, you will soon give voice to.
The things you allow yourself to say will directly impact the amount of faith you have.
Faith in God will give you courage when there are obstacles in your life that could keep you from grabbing hold of God's blessings.
When you act out of that courage, God will move and you will be blessed.
We should "...live by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7) ...
...and that starts with allowing our minds to dwell on God's strength 
and His endless resources more than we dwell on ourselves and our limited resources, trusting that He is working on our behalf and has our best interests in mind as we pray to him, depend on Him, and lean on His strength.

May God bless you in abundance as you develop your spiritual discipline of thinking, speaking, and acting out of your FAITH in HIM!!!
On a side note:
Isn't it so interesting how we can pull so much from one story in the Bible? We are blessed with RICH wisdom when we dig into the Bible and digest all it has to say to us. While I am sure that there have been thousands of sermons done on this passage all throughout the generations, here are just three that have personally impacted me that I would recommend:

  • To hear Pastor Gene Tanner's sermon from this Sunday you may click here.

  • To hear Adam Stadtmiller (author of the new book Give Your Kids the Keys) talk about what we can learn as parents from this passage, you may click here.

  • To read Susie Larson's wonderfully written blog post on this passage, entitled "Silence Your Unbelief," you may click here.