The beauty of church

I went to church yesterday feeling tired, heavy, and regretful.

I taught my 5th graders in Sunday school about 3 superheros named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  Even in the face of great pain and death, they stood up for what was right, and because of their conviction, others could literally see God, and came to believe that He was the Most High God.

What is the worst thing we can do about this story?  Forget.  Without reminding ourselves of what God can do and has done, we forget that we can be delivered from the fiery furnaces in our own lives.  We forget that if we stand up for and believe in God, even in our painful situation, others may be able to see God and come to believe that He is the Most High God, as well.

During the church service I was reminded that anything I can’t stop thinking about is an idol.  I could list several things that my mind couldn’t shake at that moment.  Do I want to be a servant of regrets, money, sickness, fashion, or cultural acceptance; or do I want to be a servant of the Most High God?  If it’s the later, then I need to be thinking about Him.  Trusting in Him means thinking about His goodness, His faithfulness, and His constant provision and abilities.

I then heard a testimony that reminded me that I am still alive because I still have work to do for Christ.  I don’t need to become so distracted that I forget why I’m here.

Last night I was heard that the Lord made dry bones live (Ez. 37), and that if He can bring dry bones back together into a perfect person, breathe life back into them, and join their ranks into an exceedingly great army; then He can breathe life back into the places that feel dry in my life, and that rivers of Living Water can still pour forth from me to reach those in need.

I was still tired when I left church last night; however, I was tired from being taught and ministered to all day long.  This morning, I feel the rivers stirring around in me.  My hope is not cut off.  I am not dry and desolate.  I am full of the Lord and His goodness, and because I am choosing to stand on His promises, I believe that others will be able to see Him in my life.

What’s the big deal about going to church?  Had I sat home with my heaviness and regrets yesterday, this morning would have looked a lot more dismal.  When you go to church and focus on God, allowing yourself to be open to His wisdom and encouragement brought in unexpected ways, He will minister to you, dust you off, and breathe life into you for the rest of the journey ahead.

I’m so thankful for a place to refuel, and for those who encourage and pray for me.

Gushing,

jamie

 

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Choose not to be the kindling

Pr. 26:21:  “As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”

My husband has been working on mastering the art of fire making.  He now only technically needs 1 stick to start a fire.  From there we only have to add more wood to turn it into an entire campfire.  If we didn’t douse the fire with water afterwards, it could spread and grow even larger.

Words can be the same.  Sometimes it only takes 1 or 2 words to kindle strife.  That strife then has the potential to grow larger and larger.

As the wood that ignites the fire, we can be contentious, provoking others by arousing and igniting anger and conflict.  Conversely, we can take preventative measures when speaking, possibly even quenching the fires already beginning to catch their lives ablaze, by allowing rivers of living water to flow out of our hearts.

When we believe in Jesus, He fills us with Living Water, and He said those waters will flow from our hearts.  (Luke 7:38)

We certainly have the option of holding that back from others, kindling strife through harshness, unforgiveness, meanness, disdain, indifference, apathy, impatience, intolerance, and blame.            (Sorry, I was on a roll)

Or we could, instead, recognize the thirst in others around us, and choose to pour forth the living water through forgiveness, compassion, empathy, grace, mercy, and understanding.

Remembering that first and foremost, God is love, we can realize that we are all broken and imperfect, and offer His love to those around us.  Those words we speak are either kindling a fire of conflict and strife, or refreshing and encouraging a thirsty soul.

Before speaking, we need to think ahead, and do our part to prevent strife.  Everyone could use a refreshing douse of living water to extinguish the fires and quench their thirsty soul.

Pretty thirsty myself,

jamie

The Word of God

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”  Ps. 1:1-3

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is pure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb, moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.”  Ps. 19:7-11

We don’t read the Word of God because we want to impress the preacher.  God doesn’t urge us to read so that we are burdened with 1 more thing to do each day.  Having the most elegant Bible study isn’t the point.  The Word of God makes us wise, coverts our souls, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, gives us strength, increases our hope, and fertilizes our hearts for the Lord to bring forth fruit in its season.

Certainly we are warned in the Word, and encouraged to keep from things like standing in the path of sinners and sin; but more than that we are rewarded daily by the Word of God.*  His Word is life, and it is strength to our bones.  He will satisfy in drought, shield us from fear, and light our paths each day.

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.                                                                                   Ps. 119:103

*For your reward and strength, see the Word of God.

jamie

Feeding the hungry

Pr. 10:21:  “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.”

This verse instantly makes me think about my Pastor.  Give or take a few services, he feeds thousands of God’s sheep in the pews 144 times each year.  Not only that, but he ensures that we are being fed during the other services, equips us with daily devotions, sends out blogs almost daily for extra nourishment; and for 40 extra days each year, at his urging, we gather as a church for very personal and intentional time with the Lord.

Certainly, our Pastor disburses to us the Bread of Life and the Living Water on a continual basis.  Anyone who is truly hungry or thirsty for eternal things, and encounters our Pastor, will find provisions awaiting them there.

How does our Pastor feed so many?  I think part of it can be summed up in a declaration he made several years ago.  He declared that Jesus is the true Pastor/Shepherd of our church and our earthly Pastor is merely the servant charged with carrying out God’s will in our midst.  He has submitted his life and his will to the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a result, the Bread of Life literally moves throughout our midst without hindrance.

He also diligently studies the Word of God.  His study of the Word is intensive and intentional, and his eyes are continually opened in new ways to “old” verses and passages.  He is open to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit in not only his life, but in his studies.

He is also unafraid to ask listen to and ask questions of others around him with regard to scriptures.  He truly wants to know what others have gleaned from the scriptures and is constantly seeking more from God.

I read Luke 2:46 today which says, “Now so it was after three days they found Him [Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.”

This is a wonderful example that Jesus set for us.  Vs. 47 says, “And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”  When we get into the presence of God, when we diligently seek Him in the temple, when we ask questions of and listen to those who are laboriously in the Word, and when we seek answers in His Word, we find understanding and answers.

This Proverb says that fools die for lack of wisdom.  When it comes to learning more of God, we cannot afford to be headstrong, proud, hardened, or unteachable.  We must be willing to submit to Him in order for Him to reveal Himself more and more to us.  We must be willing to consider the teachings of those whose job it is to dig into the Word, find the answers, and guide us through that understanding.

Most importantly, though, we must know the Word and be willing to be led by the Holy Spirit, so that we may, in turn, begin to feed those around us.  People around us are hungry for the Bread of Life, and thirsty for Living Water.  Sometimes it is up to us to release those things to them.  We must feed some people ourselves, but we must have something to offer.  We can’t leave it all up to 1 Pastor.

Dig in so you can dish it out!

jamie

The flowing brook

Pr. 18:4:  “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook.”

We are not born wise.  Just this morning, as my children began their day and sat down for breakfast and a Saturday morning TV show, my daughter was rude to my son 3 times in about 3 minutes.  Him making a noise was the reason she couldn’t count.  His coughing, with his mouth covered, meant he was coughing on her.  Her putting her finger in his face was just a joke.  Apparently this is the day when she is entitled and everything he does is absolutely wrong.

I had to remind her that her attitude was showing that her heart was not housing kindness or love, and invited her to pray about it and stop, or go back to bed.  She is still sitting at the table with us, so I am hoping that means that wisdom is taking over.  Time will tell.

There were a few verses in Pr. 18 that would have been appropriate with this situation, but I like this one best.  I like the positive note of this particular verse.

It is true that the words of our mouths come from deep places.  The deep, secret places of our hearts contain what we truly feel and believe.  Out of those places, flow the words we speak.  It is clear that deep in my daughter’s heart right now there are places of pride, selfishness, bitterness, and dishonesty.  Now, not to pick on my baby girl (who just yesterday offered to buy the same brother a new Batman sword as he cried over the pieces of the one he had just broken) the same could probably be said of any of us.  We are all imperfect in our flesh.  We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world and will not be perfect until the Lord makes all things new.

What is encouraging to me is that with time, experience, study, prayer, and teaching, we can become people whose hearts are filled with more and more of God.  As we read the Beatitudes over and over, we are reminded that the peacemakers, the merciful, the meek, and the pure are blessed.  Spending years of our lives in submission to God reminds us that He is ultimately in control and will fulfill our every need.  Filling our hearts with His love, His wisdom, His percepts, and His promises cleanses the deep places and purifies the waters.

As our hearts become more full of God and less full of ourselves, His wisdom can take over and the brook that will flow from our mouths will indeed be a wellspring of the wisdom deep inside.  If you’re not perfect today, take heart, each moment that you spend with God purifies you deep inside.  The wellspring within you grows purer and holds more Living Water.  Until we are made new, we will never be perfect, but God can use us now to be a wellspring for those around us.

Cheers!

jamie

 

 

Don’t push your garnish aside

Pr. 8:8:  “All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”

Do you remember when almost every plate of food you were served in a restaurant had a sprig of parsley on the side?  It was not just added to make the plate look pretty and add some color.  After your meal, you could chew on the parsley to freshen up your mouth and aid in digestion.

This verse about wisdom reminds me of that parsley garnish.  There are so many undesirable things that surround us, with which we can fill our mouths.  We can choose to allow rank, sour, and noxious words to pour forth from our mouths, or we can choose to seek the wisdom and will of the Lord and freshen ourselves up.

Wisdom has nothing crooked or perverse in its mouth.  All the words of wisdom are fresh, pure, and excellent.  But remember what Jesus said about what comes out of the mouth…it is what has been stored up in the heart.  You must be intentionally storing wisdom, fear and love of the Lord, and a desire to do God’s will in order for your mouth to bring forth fresh words.

How do you do that?  Read and study God’s word.  Delight yourself in Him and obey His precepts.  Pray and spend time in the presence of the Lord.  Allow yourself to submit to His will and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  When you are so full of God that you cannot move without Him, the words that pour forth from your mouth will be refreshing springs of living waters that reach out to everyone around you.

Don’t push aside wisdom, as many pushed aside their garnish.  Savor and enjoy the wisdom of the Lord.  Not only will it help you digest this life in a more satisfying way, but it will be pleasant and delightfully fragrant to those around you who need a breath of fresh air.

Freshening up,

jamie

What are you consuming?

Pr. 4:17:  “For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.”

This is what the wicked are said to do in Proverbs 4.  It could be easy to type the contrasting words, “Christians eat from the Bread of Life,” but we all know that’s just not the plain facts.  All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God.  If we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  Thank God for the Lord’s mercy and the forgiveness that came through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Let’s pause this morning, and ask ourselves what bread we are eating right now.  Are you eating the bread of wickedness?  Is there a sin that seems tasty right now?  Are you savoring the morsels of a sinful act?  Your heart has been deceived and the bread you are eating will turn to ash in your mouth.

David told the Lord, in Ps. 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  You can once again taste the sweetness of the Lord and His Word.  Turn to The Bread of Life and ask Him to forgive you for finding pleasure in lesser things.  Ask the Lord to fill you, to satisfy the depths of your soul, and ask Him to help His word to become sweeter to your taste than honey.  He is faithful.  He will not only forgive you, but He will fill you so that you won’t hunger for lesser things.  (John 6:35-36)

What have you been drinking?  Have you been drinking the wine of violence?  Are you being so consumed by violence and wickedness that you are drunk on it?  Sin can be so consuming that it seems there is no way out.  Satan gives us one taste, and if we don’t turn back and repent, we can become addicted and consumed.  It seems that life without our sinful pleasures is no longer possible.  This is a lie.

If we drink of the living water we will never thirst for lesser drink.  Jesus said the living water that He gives will become in us a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.  Sin causes us to cling to dust.  When our souls are parched, dry, and thirsty, the only thing that will truly satisfy our thirst is the Living Water.  The Living God revives us and pours life into our souls.  The fountain that will spring up within us springs up into everlasting life.  Are you thirsty?

Thank You, Lord, for providing salvation for us.  Thank You for your love.  Thank You for Your faithfulness; for being the same God yesterday, today, and forevermore.  Thank You that Your proven Word reminds us that You do not change.  If You said Your water would cause us not to thirst, then its true.  You said that the one who comes to You, You will by no means cast out.  It is impossible for You to lie.  Thank you for this promise.  Thank you for everlasting life that comes through you.  We are all sinners, but You loved us so much that You wouldn’t leave us without a Savior.  Help us, Lord, to accept that gift and rely on Your strength and Your truth to hold on to it and not become drunk with sin ever again.  Holy Spirit, consume us, and make us new.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray.  Amen.