Friday, December 30, 2011

A Pastor's Wife Confesses

I have a confession to make. It's kind of embarrassing to admit because I've been a Christian since I was 9, have been in church all my life, SS teacher, choir, the whole nine yards. But here it is: It's tough for me to set aside time to read the Bible and pray. It’s hard enough to make that commitment once a week or even once a month, never mind trying to do it every day. And man, can we come up with excuses.

I should know. For years I figured since I was so busy doing things for God, teaching Sunday School, working in the nursery, singing in the choir being a pastor’s wife, for Pete’s sake, that I assumed didn’t really need to spend a lot of time with God actually asking His opinion about what I was up to. After all, it was good stuff done for my church, family & friends. Just a quick "God," should do it, right?

It’s not that I never read the Bible or studied it. I was in BSF for over 15 years and I wrote my own curriculum for my middle school SS students. But to take time each day, just me and Him, hearing God’s voice by reading His word and talking to Him in prayer. Well, obviously I didn’t have time to do that. If I did, how would I ever get all my good works for Him done.

I’m not proud of that attitude. I’d been taught better, but it took a crisis in our lives for me to realize that though I thought I was helping God out, my works for Him, were really nothing. Just busy work. Only by God’s grace and mercy did He choose to overlook my self-centered failings and use it to His glory anyway. (That's how much He loves His children.)

I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one who's had problems putting the busyness of doing ahead of the quietness of seeking.

So now here we stand on the eve of the New Year, when life feels like it’s giving us a chance to begin again, I want to share things changed when I began to figure out how to daily/faithfully seek His presence. I love to help you begin a conversation with God that will never end.

My home church preacher once said, “Never fall asleep without having read God’s word that day.” I heard this back in the 1970s. Then one day, I heard it with my heart heard it. "Okay, let's give it a try," I thought. I sat my Bible by my bed and at bed time, if I hadn’t read it before then, I grabbed it and at least read something right then. A tiny baby step, but guess what—God allows baby steps and even holds your hand as you take them!

Another bigger, step occurred much later. This time I was studying an Old Testament story of King David. Seems he needed some land on which to make sacrifices to God and made a offer to the land’s owner, Ornan (story & scripture after post.) Ornan wanted to give the land to David. David’s answer is what God used to really pierce my heart:

“I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:22-24)

Did you hear God saying "Ahem?" I did.

I realized that for all those years of struggling to seek God in a personal quiet time, I thought it should cost me nothing. I somehow thought the time I spent with God would be “spare time” leftover from when I had done everything I wanted/needed to do. I was offering to God only “that which cost me nothing.” No sleep loss, no newspaper not read, no TV show missed—I had to ask myself was I really unwilling to give up ANYTHING to better know and love the One who died for me? Suddenly I “got it,” and I saw the need to make a change.

The next time I got up early and didn’t want to leave my nice, warm bed (I live in Iowa and that can be a BIG deal,) I said to myself,“I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing,” got up, put on a robe and opened my Bible. And guess what—God was there waiting for me and He wasn’t even mad about all the times I’d missed. In fact, He was just dying to bless me, to know me, to love me and be my friend. When I gave up trying to keep all my time, my life for me, and give Him nothing, I found in His presence more than enough to make up for any “loss.”

So I write you today, at this incredible time of year, with a new beginning just around the corner, to share the offer God makes to us all. "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."(Jer. 29:13) And believe me, there is no better way to start than by treating yourself to time with your best Friend, your Savior and Lord, Jesus. Let this be the year you stop doing so many things for God and start becoming who God designed you to be It will be the beginning of the best years of your life.

God promises to meet you where you are today. He's waiting for you.

One Bible story that changed me:

1 Chronicles 21:22-24

22 Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the LORD. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.”23 But Ornan said to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.” 24 Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”

Disclaimer: I AM a morning person. I have my time with the Lord early when I first get up because I am pretty much brain dead by 7 PM. I go to bed with the chickens. BUT it doesn't matter WHEN you spend time with the Lord--Just Do It! Just didn't want to discourage any of you night owls--MANY spiritual giants I've known spend their time w/the Lord after 10 PM.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Immanuel--God with Us--"My ADVENT-ure"

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 quoting Isaiah 7:14.

A military crisis, a faithless king who refuses a sign that God's promise will be fulfilled. Yet God, himself chooses a sign--Isa 7:14. Through the shadow of disbelief God's incredible promise to be with us shines out. A virgin will have a child and he will become
GOD with us, Immanuel.

Of all the prophecies of the Messiah I think this must be my favorite. What gift could God give us that would be greater or more precious than the gift of His presence?
Immanuel--God with US.

Think on it--God with us. Today, daily invading our time and space, our very existence He comes. But only if we invite Him in. What will you do today? Who will you be?
Immanuel--God WITH us.

Our God, so pure, so high above,

Is pleased to come and dwell.

Come see the mystery of His love:

A Child, Emmanuel.

The One whom time cannot contain

And mind can never trace

Has touched our lives with tender hands

And shown a human face.

Words by Frederick H. Martens, Ken Bible, and John F. Wade
Music by Pietro A. Yon, Rowland H. Prichard, and John F. Wade
© 1998, 2009 by Pilot Point Music. CCLI Song #2529804.