Friday, October 15, 2010

The Key to the Missionary’s Work

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world . 1 John 2:2

This is the simple gospel. It is not about how kind Jesus is, or that he heals..or even what He has done for me. It is about Jesus dying on the cross as a propitiation for our sins.

I have to admit that sometimes I dance around this when I share my faith with others. It happened yesterday. I met up for lunch with a girl I went to library school with. She does not know Jesus. She's very depressed, is in a bad marriage...and generally stressed out about life in general.I knew that I should somehow share Christ with her. I listened to her. Mentioned my faith vaguely. I'm afraid the conversation really amounted to nothing. How do I get to the root of the message?

The key to the missionary’s message is the propitiation of Christ Jesus— His sacrifice for us that completely satisfied the wrath of God.

A missionary is someone who is bound by marriage to the stated mission and purpose of his Lord and Master. He is not to proclaim his own point of view, but is only to proclaim “the Lamb of God.” It is easier to belong to a faction that simply tells what Jesus Christ has done for me, and easier to become a devotee of divine healing, or of a special type of sanctification, or of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But Paul did not say, “Woe is me if I do not preach what Christ has done for me,” but, “. . . woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). And this is the gospel— “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

My prayer today is that I will be a true missionary to my friend as well as to others. That I won't do the "share my faith dance" around the key message.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Sphere of Ministration

He said to them, "This kind [of unclean spirit] can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting" Mark 9:29

A quote from Chambers just to start us off:
We can remain powerless forever, as the disciples were in this situation, by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature.

I think I am guilty of doing this very thing quite a bit. My own nature is flawed. I am not a perfect person. That imperfection gets in the way of serving Jesus. I get "weary" of people. I have to admit this. I am quite the introvert and sometimes I find it just easier to go away by myself. Then I don't have to deal with loving them the way the Lord calls me to. When I go away by myself, I do things for myself-like read, or take a walk, or surf the net. Jesus sometimes got away by Himself-but not for himself. He would go away to pray, seeking to get closer to his Father. He would go away because He was loving people the way He was supposed to. He was empowered by His Father to serve.

Another quote:
Your duty in service and ministry is to see that there is nothing between Jesus and yourself. Is there anything between you and Jesus even now? If there is, you must get through it, not by ignoring it as an irritation, or by going up and over it, but by facing it and getting through it into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Is there something between Jesus and me? I am currently examining myself to answer this question. I aim to get through whatever it is.

We must be able to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), but we must also know how to come down. The power of the saint lies in the coming down and in the living that is done in the valley.

I don't always like living in the valley...but that is where I am called to live. My retreat is on the mountaintop, but he has built my house in the valley for me to dwell in and live in...and love people in. That is when I am forced to call upon Him for help.

Chambers was so good today that I just wanted to quote the whole thing. I'll end with his final thought:
Can I face things as they actually are in the light of the reality of Jesus Christ, or do things as they really are destroy my faith in Him, and put me into a panic?

Photo of my husband and daughter on Mt. Cardigan, NH.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Sphere of humiliation

"...but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." Mark 9:22

Today we talk about the valley of humiliation after being on the mount. How fitting after a week like mine. I have been doing my practicum at a primary school nearby under the supervision of a school librarian who has been doing her job for about 20 years. Last week I was on the high. My lessons went really well, I was smart and savvy and knew I could be a great school librarian some day. Then this week started. Blunder after blunder after blunder! By Wednesday I started wondering if I had made a mistake in trying to do this job. I even had a nightmare that practicum was a disaster and that my supervisor had called UB because of some serious issues with me. Luckily I woke up and was able to regroup when I realized that things weren't all that bad.

I'm thinking that this is the way the disciples felt after that mountaintop experience. They came down...and faced a big blunder when they couldn't cast an evil spirit out of a boy who was brought to them by a desperate father. I'm sure the disciples were thinking, "Am I cut out for this job? Has Jesus made some sort of mistake in choosing me." Nope. He chose them and I'm quite sure that he was well aware of the big challenge facing them when they came down from the mountain. In fact, I think it was all part of the plan.

Some quotes to think about from Chambers:
We see his glory on the mount, but we never live for his glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed.

"If thou canst do anything..." It takes the valley of humiliation to root the skepticism out of us.

When you were on the mount, you could believe, but what about the time you were up against facts in the valley?

Image Source: Picture of Death Valley by Ken Lund, Creative Commons flickr

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's the good of temptation?

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

So today we talk about temptation (hence the picture of one of mine).

Something Chambers wrote made me stop and go, "huh?" I am finding that is pretty a common reaction. I think he had a much higher way of thinking than me...making me wonder about how God has an even higher way of thinking than Chambers ever had. A lot of times I think, "Wow, I never would have thought of that." So bring it, God!

Many of us, however, suffer from temptations from which we have no business to suffer, simply because we have refused to let God lift us to a higher plane where we could suffer temptations of another order.

What in the world? You mean, I should be striving to get to a place where the temptations are totally different-like more academically challenging (in a Christian sense of course)-than the "lowly" ones I suffer from now? Yep! According to Chambers: each person's temptations fit their particular disposition. Temptations come from the inside of a person. What a person possesses in his/her personality, determines what he/she is tempted by on the outside. This totally makes sense.

I see it in the small children I work with. At school, we make the children line up to check out their books and then line up to go back to their classrooms. At this age (grades k-2), temptation abounds to be first. Budging in line is very prevalent. We are constantly telling the children that they need to go to the end of the line. As adults, most of us are not really tempted by that. Although standing in line and waiting our turn can be an inconvenience, most of us get at the end of the line without too much of a problem. We have matured!

So what about in other areas of our lives? Shouldn't we be letting go of some of the petty temptations that throng us daily? How does this come about? By being changed on the inside!

Also, we should remember that temptation is common to man. It's normal. Never think that you are being tempted more than another. We will never escape from it. The enemy knows who we are and exactly which buttons to push. He will keep trying it...every day!

God does not save us from temptations; he succours us in the midst of them.

succour (British spelling)
succor (American spelling): to help or relieve

photo by paco.esteban, creative commons flickr

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The divine region of religion

More stuff on prayer! Prayer prayer prayer! I really need to get a different perspective on it and Chambers is helping!

Matthew 6:6-7 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not make vain repetitions like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Chambers talks about Christians having the desire to be known as a praying person. I don't feel like I struggle with that, so I am not going to spend a lot of time on that one. However, he does make some excellent points (as usual). One thing he says is the main region of religion is "Your eyes upon God, not on men." I have to admit, when I pray out loud, sometimes I feel conscious about what I am saying because I know people are I guess that it is just as bad as wanting to be known as a praying person. I guess I want to be known as a pretty good prayer at the very least. So...I am guilty of it after all!

I remember in one of my previous posts that Chambers said that the main purpose of prayer is to get to know God. So here he is again today: Have no other motive than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to conduct your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer.

So then...what about this "vain repetitions" stuff? I guess I admit that sometimes I do repeat myself in a if I need to stress the point with God. Doesn't He know all things? the other day I was leaving the house and kept repeating to my daughters what I expected them to do before I came home again. I also wrote it on a note. They were getting exasperated with my repetitions. Should I be treating God that way? Like He is obligated to complete a list of chores or demands? Chambers says "God is never impressed with our earnestness."

So what is prayer if not a place to ask? (and yes...we are to simply ask) "Prayer is getting into perfect communion with God."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Imagination vs. Inspiration

I have managed to miss a day of this devotional. I am a little disappointed in myself...but willing to forgive myself too. I have decided to stop numbering the devotionals and just put the title up.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from our sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Are things always clear to you? Not to me. Sometimes when God gives me directions I say, "Are you sure, Lord?" Or sometimes I try to think through the reasoning of the direction and if they don't make sense, I can convince myself that I must have misunderstood...or that it couldn't have been God after all. What is Chamber's take? From his own words: You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. And of course, I had to think about that sentence until the meaning was clear since it was a little muddled at first.

Matthew 11:25 ...Jesus said, "I thank you Father , Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

We must think like little children...not needing too much explanation for everything. Little children trust their parents. If their parents say something is so, then it must be so. Life is much simpler for a child because they let their parents take care of things and make all the decisions. It is hard to become childlike in this regard, but that it is exactly what we need to do.

Another quote from Chamber's: When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God's will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 20-Spiritual Confusion

Matthew 20:22 "You don't know what you are asking." Jesus said...

Chambers has us looking at three different passages of scripture today. Luke 11:5-8, Luke 11:11-13, & Luke 18:1-8

He talks about how sometimes God will not seem like a friend or a good Father. He will sometimes seem like a callous judge who does not hear or care when we are hurting. I understand this. There have been times in my life when thing don't make sense. I have called out, "Why, Lord? Why?" There have been times when I was sure that what I asked for was a good thing...and that what was happening around me wasn't fair. I didn't understand! Why wasn't God there for me? Even now I can still feel the pain of certain events in my life.

I really loved the study today. It was so applicable to me. I loved Chambers' reminders to hold on in faith and to trust that God has a reason for not answering us the way we want him to. Some will all make sense, but perhaps not in this lifetime.

Some quotes from Chambers today:

You will think He is an unkind friend, but remember He is not; the time will come when everything will be explained.There is a cloud on the friendship of the heart,and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller communion. When God looks completely shrouded, will you hang on in confidence in Him?

If there is a shadow on the face of the Father just now, hang onto it that He will ultimately give His clear revealing and justify Himself in all that He permitted.

Will He find the faith which banks on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand off in faith believing that what Jesus said is true, though in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. He has bigger things at stake than the particular things you ask.

Photo by Jimharmer, creative commons flickr

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 19-Ministering as opportunity surrounds us

John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.

Everyday, God calls us to serve Him in the mundane things. How are we doing? consider the following:
The things that Jesus did were of the most menial and commonplace order, and this is an indication that it takes all God's power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. I make dinner, do the dishes, laundry and take care of the house the way He wants me to? Do I wipe up that spill once again in His spirit? How do I interact with people? Does it please Him?

These are scary questions for me because I quite often do not feel like doing any of these things and I know that I do not always do them with a joyful heart. Can I step up to the plate and be the servant He wants me to be? I can see now the truth of what Chamber's wrote...that it would certainly take all of God's power in me to serve in the way He desires.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day18-Worshipping as occasion serves

John 1:48 "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."

I ended up going to Matthew Henry's commentary to look more closely at this scripture and the verses around it. There is much more to this little exchange than meets the eye. In the verses preceeding this one, there is an exchange between Nathanael and Philip that indicates that these men have been studying the scripture and looking for the Messiah. When Nate says, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (v. 46), it may not simply mean that Nate thinks Nazareth is just a rinky-dink town of nobodies...although that could be part of it. More likely, he probably was very familiar with scriptures that indicate that the Messiah is to come out of Bethlehem.

In any case, Jesus was very familiar with Nathanael before they had even met. He already knew that Nate was a man to be commended for his integrity. By His very statement, Jesus proves to Nate his omniscience. Nate recognizes Jesus at once and exclaims, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." (v. 49)

So how does this tie into Chambers' devotional today? Ch talks about taking that time in private to spend getting to know the Lord.
The private relationship of worshiping God is the great essential of fitness.

Nate had done his homework; worshiping, praying, studying scripture: thereby getting to know God. He was then able to recognize who Jesus was and follow Him into a bigger ministry. He was ready to serve God because "in the unseen life which no one saw but God, he became fit."

Don't think for a minute that you will be strong enough to bear up under the pressure in tough times or be strong enough to serve Him effectively without having done that private and unseen homework first.

I leave you with 3 chambers quotes:

...big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into you.

If you have not been worshiping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be useless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.

The workshop of ministry munitions is the hidden, personal, worshiping life of the saint.

Photo by "the 5th Ape", creative commons flickr

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 17-Do it yourself: determinedly discipline other things

Today we focus on the same verse, only concentrating on the second half.

2 Cor 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I must admit that I found Chambers' study to be a little difficult to grasp the meaning of. I think he is cautioning against becoming involved in knee-jerk decisions to "minister." Sometimes doing something in the name of Christ sounds so good, that we do not stop to consider whether that is where God would have us serve or not. We quickly sign up to be on a committee or join a group or send money...all in the name of Christ. He gives the example of Christ who did nothing apart from the will of the Father. Jesus was so in tune with what the father would have him do. We are reminded that: " The Son can do nothing of Himself."

If Jesus couldn't do it on His own, why are we?
True earnestness is found in obeying God, not in the inclination to serve Him that is born of undisciplined human nature.
We are apt to forget that a man is not only committed to Jesus Christ for salvation; he is committed to Jesus Christ's view of God, of the world, of sin,and of the devil, and this will mean that he must recognize the responsibility of being transformed by the renewing of him mind.

Photo taken by me.  Detail of gate of cemetery in village of Naples, NY.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 16-Do it yourself: Determinedly demolish some things

2 Cor 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I love Chamber's first sentence in the devotional:
Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from human nature.

Wouldn't that make it a whole lot easier if we were delivered from human nature? We'd probably never have church splits! Instead, we still wrestle with flesh and blood. Christians still have a whole lot of problems. Sometimes we don't get along, sometimes we lose our tempers and say the wrong thing, sometimes we are tempted to give in to something we know would compromise our faith.

Because we still have a human nature, we are called to take a proactive stance against anything that stands against God. We all have our weak spots. Mine is negative thinking. The enemy knows this and sometimes starts whispering negative thoughts in my ear. Unfortunately, sometimes I listen. This is an area that I have to take a strong stand against. I can't just sit quietly waiting for it to pass. I need to squelch it with scripture and prayer!

At the same time, I cannot squelch it on my own strength. I need that divine power of the Holy Spirit spoken about in verse 4!

Photo by Wolfrage, creative commons.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 15-Springs of benignity

John 4:14 ...indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Today's devotional is much the same as yesterday's...reminding up to "keep at the source" of the river that the Holy Spirit puts in us. It is not our job to make the river flow or make it move through us and touch others. It is our job to keep our relationship with the Lord on track.

He will make the river flow through us. He will do the touching.


If you find your life is not flowing out as it should, you are to blame; something has obstructed the flow. Keep at the source and-you will be blessed personally? No, out of your will flow rivers of living water, irrepressible life.

We don't measure our relationship with the Lord by our wealth, health, etc.

Keep at the Source, guard well your belief in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow for other lives, no dryness and no deadness.

(On a side note: Chambers is also increasing my vocabulary skills.)
Benignity (noun)
1. the quality of being benign; kindness
2. a good deed or favor; an instance of kindness

Photo taken by me of water fountain at Kershaw Park, Canandaigua Lake.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 14-Keep at the source of the river

I think that the theme of rivers was a big one with Oswald Chambers. This is at least the third time he has made reference to this verse.

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

So when I saw that it was this verse again, I almost expected a repeat devotional...but Chambers surprised me and gave me something new to think about. He wants me to think about the source of a river and the nature of a river.

A few weeks ago, my family went up to the city of Rochester on a Saturday night to watch a laser show at the high falls. While I was listening to the narrator of the show, I heard him say that the source of the Genessee River is in Pennsylvania. It actually starts out at a relatively small trickle of water. It ends up becoming 157 miles in length and disharges into Lake Ontario. What strikes me in particular is the power this river has and how it meanders through many different counties in NY and PA. There is many a farmland that can thank this beautiful river for it's fertility.

Speaking of rivers:
A river is victoriously persistent, it overcomes all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, then it comes to an obstacle and for a while it is balked, but it soon makes a pathway around the obstacle.
Do you ever come to an obstacle in your life and it feels as if God cannot use you? Chambers urges us to keep paying attention to the source of our river-The Holy Spirit of God. Keep at it! The Holy Spirit can overcome any obstacle. If we allow the Holy Spirit to flow rivers through us, we water many around us. However, at the source of a river, those destinations are not known. This little trickle of water empowering an electrical dam? Watering farmlands? Causing huge waterfalls and beautiful scenes along the way? Even being the source of good fishing and other forms of recreation?

Don't let anything come between you and Jesus. He is your source. Let him choose the river's path and to whom it is a blessing.

Photo by Ken Gallager

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 13-The Missionary Watching

Matthew 26:40-41 Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he said to Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

I guess what I see in this devotional is that the disciples were not really able to keep watch. They really didn't understand what Jesus was going through. They didn't know what was going to happen...but most of all, they did not have the power of the Holy Spirit yet. But then again, would Jesus have asked them to do something that they were not able to do? Maybe they could have...but they would have been going on their own strength.

Anyway...the final point that chambers makes is that soon afterward, these same disciples were baptized by the Holy Spirit. A profound change happens. They are able to go the extra mile for Christ. No longer are they running and hiding. They were enabled to "watch with Jesus" for the rest of their lives.

Photo: My husband and daughter on Mt. Cardigan, NH

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 12-His

John 17:6 I have revealed you to those who you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

I don't belong to myself, or my husband or...anyone. I belong to God. I am His.

If I truly belong to Him, then...I should act accordingly. I should give over everything to Him because it really is His to begin with. Piggybacking on yesterday's devotional, why on earth would I ever dare to clutch a blessing to myself?

Yesterday I was in the car with my teenage daughter. She wanted to go to Wendy's to eat. I told her that might be a nice idea and left it at that. However, by the time we ran a few errands, I realized that we would not have time to go to Wendy's and told her that we would be just going home. I needed to drive to Buffalo by a certain time and going to Wendy's just wasn't realistic. She was quite disappointed and said, "You owe me a lunch!" I told her that I did not "owe" her anything. I reminded her that as her parent, everything I give her is a blessing. Everything she "owns" is really because her father and I have given it to her.

I belong to God. Everything I "own" or am able to do is because of His blessings. I should be grateful and thankful...and act in a way that is pleasing to Him. I am His daughter and represent Him because...I am His. In the same way that I want my own daughter to please me by her actions in this world. I don't want her to misrepresent me with shame because she is "mine" (that being said loosely since she actually belongs to God).

Chambers puts it simply:
Be entirely His.

It is also reassuring to me that I do belong to Him and that He is ultimately responsible for me.

Photo: My two daughters walking on Charlotte Pier, Rochester, NY

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 11-What blessing can I pour out for the Lord?

2 Sam 23:16-17 So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. "Far be it from me, O Lord, to do this!" he said. "Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?" And David would not drink it.

I read the story that went along with this verse. David and his men were encamped near their enemies, the Philistines. David was very thirsty and said, "If only someone could get me some of that water at the well near the gate of Bethlehem." The problem order to get to that gate, the lines of the enemy would need to be broken through. I don't think David was seriously asking someone to take that risk for a cup of water, but three men took it upon themselves to take it very seriously.

At first, I was like: Why didn't David drink it? He was thirsty! After all these men went through to get it, it was the least he could do to show his appreciation. I know that I would have drank it. I am that self-centered. David was far more spiritual than I. He saw that the cup of water represented the very lives of some of his men and could not drink it. For him, that would be like drinking the blood at an animal sacrifice. He offered the cup up to the Lord instead.

So the question that Chambers makes me ponder today is that of offering up a blessing to God...rather than hoarding it for myself. There are a lot of quotes from Chambers today that I'd like to share.

You can never sanctify to God that with which you long to satisfy yourself. If you satisfy yourself with a blessing from God, it will corrupt you; you must sacrifice it, pour it out, do with it what common sense says is an absurd waste.

Until I pour these things out before the Lord, they endanger those I love as well as myself because they will turn to lust.

And here is the one that really got me thinking:
If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you clutched it for yourself; whereas if you had poured it out unto the Lord, you would have been the sweetest person out of heaven. If you are always taking blessings to yourself and never learn to pour out anything unto the Lord, other people do not get their horizon enlarged through you.

I think I have done a lot of clutching blessings to myself. I think that is a big problem with me. I can think of specific examples of it in my life. Ouch! How can I stop this pattern? What am I clutching to myself now? How can I pour it out before the Lord?

Photo: Underneath Rainbow Falls.  Watkins Glen, Ithaca, NY

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 10-I'm not a beautifully rounded grape...but is there sweetness within me?

I guess my first confession is to admit that I almost forgot to do this today. I got up and ran off to clean a house. On the way there, I had to drop Alicia and a friend off somewhere. After I cleaned, I was running late to pick Alicia back up. When I got home there was a message on the phone asking me if I would please pick up Sarah when I picked up Audra. I then ran off to pick up Audra (and Sarah). I got home and took a shower, sat down and read some thing and started to fall asleep. I then rushed around to make dinner. Allen did not come home for dinner. Jamie did not come home for dinner. Alicia said she didn't feel like eating. Audra kept me waiting at the dinner table. I started eating by myself. Dinner was tasteless and dried out.

Now I need to run off and pick up Allen.

Now I am back. I guess this goes to show me why people do quiet times first thing in the morning. They do it because it is built into the quieter part of the day...before things get hectic.

John 7:38 "Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow within him."

Somehow, I am not feeling the flow. Is God pouring anything through me? I don't feel spiritual or like a light. Is my light shining before men? Can they see it? I often only feel failure.

Here is an interesting quote from Chambers:
It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us.

Is sweetness coming out of me? I can think of people whom I consider to be sweet. Am I one of those that others thinks is sweet?

I'm just trying to take a good hard look at myself lately and ask myself if I am someone who is positive to others. Do people like me? Do they want to be around me? Are they attracted by the light within me?

Photo by Mulsanne, flickr creative commons

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 9-Destiny of holiness

I Peter 1:15-16 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."

Holiness is a tall order, but it is the ultimate goal of God for our lives. We are to examine every area of our lives and cull anything that detracts from the goal. What I read, think, watch, and do. I am a work in progress. Yesterday I picked up a video from the library, intending to watch it some time when I get the chance. This morning I returned it, unwatched because I just didn't think it would be something that would spur me on toward holiness. In fact, I thought it might hold me back from holiness.

Am I holy? No. I'm too human and too imperfect. Yesterday I yelled at my teenage daughter in a fit of impatience with her. Was that an example of holiness? No. I fell short. I needed to apologize to her...and hoped that the damage done wasn't too great.

Holiness is a process of the Holy Spirit changing me and it begins with my acceptance of the God who is working change in me.


The one thing that matters is whether a man will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs a man must be rightly related to God.

Never tolerate through sympathy with yourself or with others any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means unsullied walking with the feet, unsullied talking with the tongue, unsullied thinking with the mind-every detail of life under the scrutiny of God.

From Webster's dictionary:
1. to soil, stain, or tarnish.–verb (used with object)
2. to mar the purity or luster of; defile: to sully a reputation.
3. to become sullied, soiled, or tarnished.–verb (used without object)
4. Obsolete . a stain; soil.–noun

Photo by ammgramm, flickr.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 8-My joy....your joy

John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.

Today we talk about joy. I am trying to understand that the joy referred to here does not necessarily mean happiness. One can be filled with joy even in the most dismal of circumstances. So what is joy and what brings it? This is not an easy concept for me.

According to Chambers the joy that Jesus had came from "the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which His Father sent Him to do."

From the verses preceding the verse above:
John 15:9-10 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.

So joy comes from following the will of God. It sounds simple on paper, but actually living and doing the will of God on a daily basis is hard work.

I dug a little further than Chambers and found this gold nugget:
"Happiness is a consequence of good things happening around us; it is superficial. But Joy comes from inside, from knowing that God has not forsaken us and that He does indeed love us. That Joy can come from no one but the Holy Spirit." Ruth Senter

That brings a little more light on what Jesus means by joy. I guess I can understand this when I think about my father dying last year. I certainly was not happy about it, but there was a supernatural peace and joy about it. It was God's plan that my father's life on earth was at the end. I can submit to His will in this and find joy in knowing and trusting Him about that.

Too often I am looking for happiness in this life. What's in it for me? That's wrong! I need to look to Jesus for His joy. What does He want me to do? What's in it for Him?

Photo: My laughing daughter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 7-Am I convinced by Christ?

Luke 10:19-20
...However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

I think I am a lot like these disciples. I get excited when I know I've made a difference in the world for Christ. I somehow think I deserve a star. "Look what I did because of Christ!" Although, I am quick to point out that I didn't do it on my own, it is far better to acknowledge that Christ has shed his grace upon me by allowing me to become his child. It is too easy to slip into a little bit of pride.

I like what Chambers pointed out:
Keep your relationship right with Him, then whatever circumstances you are in, and whoever you meet day by day, He is pouring rivers of living waters through you, and it is of His mercy that He does not let you know it.

...remember that wherever you are, you are put there by God; and by the reaction of your life on the circumstances around you, you will fulfill God's purpose, as long as you keep in the light as god is in the light.

My favorite part of todays' devotional is underlined above. I am glad that He doesn't let me know. Sometimes He does let me know years later. A couple of years ago I was talking to a man I had gone to high school with. I had not seen him in years. He has since become a Christian. This is an amazing would never have believed he would ever become a follower of Christ had you known him back then. What surprised me was that he told me that he remembered me being a "good Christian girl." I guess I was of some influence on him. I never would have guessed it. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't know because I probably would have gotten in the way of Christ working through me.

My job is to walk in the light of Christ....period!

Photo: Corbett's Glenn. Brighton, NY

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 6-The testing of faith

John 11:40 "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Can I trust God when common sense calls me to reason away my trust in Him? When He says, "It can be done," do I cry out, "Impossible?"

So many times, it just looks like things are not going to work out. That I should cry out in despair and give in to worry. When our finances look very bleak and we have three hungry little birds with their beaks wide open crying for more more more. When I hear bad news about the economy. When senseless tragedies happen. Do I trust Him or do I say that it is time for me to take matters into my own hands?

Chambers: "Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense."

And here's another gem, "Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict."

Remember this one: "The final thing is confidence in Jesus. Believe steadfastly on Him and all you come up against will develop your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, and the last great test is death."

That last quote from Chambers reminds me of my father. He really faced that last test with absolute confidence in Christ. That memory will stay with me forever. Dad believed and he saw the glory of God throughout his life...and in the end, face to face when the clouds parted, the sun broke through and he was taken home.

Photo: My father.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 5-What's the good of prayer?

Luke 11:1 "Lord, teach us to pray."

Today's topic in my devotional is prayer. I actually groaned inwardly when I read the topic. I'm just trying to be brutally honest here. God knows that I I am telling you that I did. When I hear about prayer, I sometimes liken it to doing some strenuous exercise. For me that would be like forcing myself to do sit-ups repeatedly.

I really don't do well with prayer...and I know it is an intricate part of walking with God. I don't do sit-ups: hence I have very weak abs. I don't pray: hence I am a weakling spiritually too.

Actually, throughout my Christian life, I have gone up and down in my prayer life. Just like with exercise. There was a time when my prayer life was the bomb! (at least I thought so) What happened? Somewhere along the line, I stopped doing it. Just like with exercise. There was a time when I trained for a 5k race and did it. Now...I couldn't do it if my life depended upon it.

What does Chambers say about prayer? Here are some quotes from him concerning the topic.

"We look upon prayer as a means for getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself."

He goes on to say that we are apologetic and apathetic when approaching God and ask for very few things in spite of the scripture that says, "Ask and ye shall receive." We ought to become childlike in our asking.

"When a man is at his wits' end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get into touch with reality. Be yourself before God and present your problems, the things you know you have come to your wits' end over."

"It is not so true that prayer changes things as that prayer changes me and I change things. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things. Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man's disposition."

Well...I definitely need to change the way I look at things. I said on Day 1 that my outlook is rather negative and that my marriage is lacking. I know it is because of my faulty way of looking at things. I know I need the Holy Spirit's help in changing this. Prayer looks like the right path to get on to change this.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 4-Theology alive

Sometimes I have been given glimpses of revelation by the Lord. Maybe it came in the form of a conviction, or an idea. I admit that I have many times not acted upon these messages from Him and therefore the conviction or idea fizzled away. Of course, I am not proud of this, but it is the truth. I have not always acted in the way that a daughter of the King should. Sometimes the result of not acting was obviously negative...but other times the results appeared to be not much at all in the end. I use the word "appeared" because maybe this isn't true. Where would I be now, if I obeyed His every word? I think I should see any negligence of obedience, however small, as disastrous.

The scripture given in Chambers today is from John 12:35 "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."

Here are some thoughts from Chambers:
"The second you waive the question of sanctification or any other thing upon which God gave you light, you begin to get dry rot in your spiritual life. Continually bring the truth out into actuality; work it out in every domain, or the very light you have will prove a curse."

"If you say you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it is shown in the life."

Photo: my husband and cousin. Taken in Mukles' Garden, Trumansburgh, NY

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 3-Are you ever disturbed?

I have a lot to be worried about right now. I have been attending grad school and have amassed a fair amount of debt. Six months from graduation, I will be expected to start paying it off. School library jobs are few and far between right now. I just got a message on my Facebook account from a classmate who lives in Rochester and finished school in May. She said that she has not had a single interview yet. (And I consider her to be one of the best students.)

From the words on John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
It's hard not to be disturbed by all of these worries. We have bills to pay. We have three kids to take care of. We would like to see those three kids go to college too. We have a house that needs some major repairs. We would like to be able to relax a little with our budget, instead of stressing so much.

Jesus should be my peace, not money. Not getting a good job. Most of the time, I look for peace in the wrong place. Here is a quote from Chambers.
"Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him.If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself. If you allow anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you, you are either disturbed (worrying) or you have a false security."

So I am going to try not to worry. As I admitted yesterday, I cannot do this on my own. On my own strength, I will just think about it in worldly sense. And then I will receive the peace that the world gives...which is no peace at all. I must look in the face of Jesus Christ.

Photo: Taken during hike on Beach Mill Pond, Lowville area, NY.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 2-The fruitfullness of friendship

"I have called you friends." That is what Jesus said in John 15:15. I have no doubt that Jesus is my friend. The bigger question is this one: Am I a friend to Jesus? Am I willing to do what a friend does? Am I willing to lay down my life for Him? Do I delight to do His will?

To be honest, I know I can't do any of this without the Holy Spirit's help. On my own, I'm just too selfish.
"Come, Holy Spirit. Fall fresh on me!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 1-The spiritual index

They say it takes 90 days to develop a new habit. Hence...the exercise programs that are designed around 90 days. So, am I thinking about developing a new habit of bodily exercise? Well...that would probably be good, but no. I have become convicted that my spiritual walk has become very poor. I am becoming weaker and weaker in my faith and prayer life. I have pulled out the old classic by Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. I thought maybe I could commit to 90 days of this and then see what happens.

what I have observed of myself lately:
  • time with God is nil
  • relationship with husband is lacking
  • I don't have a willing servant's heart
  • I don't have a cheerful disposition
  • prayer life? What prayer life?
  • I am struggling more with negative thoughts.
I fully expect Satan to try to sabotage this decision.

Today's scripture is Matthew 7:7-12, focusing on the 9th verse.
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
Chambers is quick to point out that if we don't align ourselves as children of God, we cannot expect blessings when we pray. Verse 12 says, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you...

Chambers words: "I am a child of God only by regeneration, and as a child of God I am good only as I walk in the light....It is no use praying unless we are living as children of God."

Photo: My daughter on Canandaigua Lake, Canandaigua, NY.