Monday, December 27, 2010

When Nothing Seems Right

My friend, Doreen, sat with me over lunch last week and shared that as she read the early chapters of Luke, it struck her that nothing was “right” in the Christmas story. A young couple was about to deliver their first child, conceived before their wedding vows were given. Knowing that the birth could occur at any moment, they traveled a great distance with Mary riding a donkey. THAT had to be pleasant! Trusting in God for their provision, when the couple arrived at their destination they found no place to stay and had to settle in a manger. You know the story, and as you think through it one last time before turning your calendar to 2011, I think you will agree that there was not much going right for this family.


Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t catch a break? Like somehow God turned His back on your needs? When disappointment came in waves, have you felt like one more let down was going to be the end of your sanity? Or your hope?

2010 was a trying year for the McIntosh family, particularly the last 6 months. I have, indeed, felt like we couldn’t catch a break and that I was ill equipped to handle one more disappointment. I felt like quitting and, truth be told, there was a day when I did quit. Thankfully my merciful Father in heaven reminded me of His call on my life and I quickly un-quit. (I am struck down but not destroyed! 2 Cor 4:7-9)

Doreen’s words soaked into my spirit with refreshing encouragement that day. Sometimes when things seem the most upside down, the Lord is preparing us for something wonderful. We can rarely see what lies ahead, but we can trust in Him and know that our hope is secure. After all, the victory is already His!

When I returned from lunch with Doreen, I sat at my desk and opened a few e-mails. I received this reminder from someone that I consider a friend although we’ve never met:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Honestly, isn’t God amazing? The way He orchestrates people in our lives to support us when they don’t even realize it, and how He reveals His loving mercy to us is nearly more than I can bear.

When nothing in my life feels right, I will trust in Him and receive His joy and peace. I will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I fervently pray that you will do the same.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Immanuel - God With Us

It’s a melancholy day today. We learned at about midnight that one of Taylor’s good friends was killed in a car accident. Our hearts are aching, we are praying without ceasing for the family, our own blessings are being counted, and we’ve stopped often during the day for quiet embraces. Madison Middleton was 19 when she lost her life yesterday morning. I never met her personally, but knew of her as a beautiful young lady who extended a graceful hand to my daughter when she was new to the school. They developed a quick friendship that extended beyond sharing a high school.


It is in times like these - when we hear of untimely tragedies like a teen girl who was killed while driving to meet her Mom for a family baking day less than a week before Christmas - that we often wonder, “where is God?” Our answer: He is here. He is Immanuel, God with us.

There are many miracles discussed and contemplated during the Christmas season: appearances of angels who proclaimed good news of great joy; fulfillment of Biblical prophesies which foretold the coming of our Savior; signs and wonders in the night sky; Elizabeth’s pregnancy; the virgin birth, and many others. The word Immanuel cries to my heart this year as the most blessed miracle of all. For while Jesus found pleasure in coming to the world as an infant and literally walking the earth alongside His creation, His visitation to us did not end with his death.

Jesus lived the perfect life as fully man and fully God. When the world rejected Him to the point of His brutal crucifixion, He rose from the grave and walked among His disciples once more. He conquered death and Hades. Even death could not make Him break His promise to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and He is with us to this day. On top of that, He sent The Holy Spirit, our Counselor, Guide, and Comforter who indwells all believers. His Holy Spirit lives within His believers! You can’t get more “Immanuel” than that!

He is with us, indeed, in ways that will remain a mystery on this side of heaven. He is here to provide our comfort, give us peace in situations that will never make sense, and counsel us in all things, including how to support to our grieving children. He loves us more than we can imagine and it brings Him pleasure to be with us. Immanuel is not just for Christmas, but is to be embraced for a lifetime. When grief nearly tears us apart, I do not know how I would make it without Him here, holding me so close I can almost feel his heartbeat.

"BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." (Matthew 1:23 NASB)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Waiting

The world had awaited their Messiah for thousands of years and when the proper time had come, He entered the world as a baby birthed by a virgin, just as written in the Scriptures.

Even when we know the truth that God's timing is always perfect, it is often hard to trust as we wait for His promises to unfold in our lives. Perhaps you are waiting for a loved one to surrender his life to the Lord. Maybe you wait for reconciliation with a family member. Our congregation awaits the fruition of our God-given vision that includes, in small part, a church building that we can call our own. A church in Laramie, Wyoming awaits the means to install a steeple on their roof and a dear friend of mine waits for the next opportunity to see her missionary children and grandchildren.

Mary waited. She was given the promise, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:31-33 NIV) And with this promise came periods of waiting. She waited for Joseph to accept her story as truth. She awaited the birth of her son and waited for His life to unfold before her. And just as written in the Scripture, the events unfolded little by little, just as the Lord promised.

It is difficult to wait… and to keep waiting… when we see no progress toward that for which we hope. And the truth is, sometimes we will wait our entire lives and never see the promises fulfilled. Hebrews 11 is full of people who waited with anticipation, trusting that what the Lord promised would be true, but did not live to see them fulfilled. The whole of God's Word tells us that what He said did, indeed happen and there is no reason that we should expect anything less, whether we live to see it or not.

May I encourage you today with the words offered from Elizabeth to her cousin, Mary: "Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45 NIV)  God promised a Messiah and in ways that the world least expected, the promise was fulfilled. He came to us. Immanuel, God with us. And the world was forever changed.

Hold fast to your confidence, my friend, and trust that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why am I afraid?

He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Matthew 8:26



As believers in Christ, we have come to love our Lord. We have learned to put our trust in Him and He is proved faithful through His work in our lives. We have seen Him perform modern-day wonders and bring us through hardships, trials and heartaches. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He is incapable of dishonesty yet at times we can still be filled with fear.

I’ve read Matthew 8:26 many times, but a few days ago, it jumped off the page and knocked me right in the head… so hard it made me cry, to be honest. It hit me like a “spiritual 2 x 4” as I call it – one of those “duh!” moments that teaches me something I should have learned ages ago but it somehow didn’t sink in.

Why are we afraid when Christ has proven Himself so faithful? Why do we fear when the Lord of Lords is on our side? What is it that makes us waiver in our faith?

If you said to my face, “Cathy, you are a woman of little faith,” I would be deeply offended and vehemently argue with you. I would describe myself as having great faith. In fact, faith is my most prominent spiritual gift. However, truth be told, if you said I was a woman of little faith, you would be right. When I am troubled to the point of becoming fearful, I have little faith. Jesus said it Himself in Matthew 8:26.

As I ask the Spirit to guide me into all truth (John 16:13), a word picture comes to mind. If Jesus were here in the flesh, standing next to me and holding my hand through my trials, would I be afraid? I believe not. I think I would be filled with an outrageous amount of confidence and endurance to fight the fight. I believe through Matthew 8:26, Jesus reminds us that He is here, just as He was in the boat during the great storm on the sea. When He is with us (and He always is) what reason do we have to be afraid?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Well, Doesn't Everyone?

I keep a ketchup bottle, full of ketchup mind you, in my china hutch. Many visitors have tried to put it away in my cupboard for me, but I don’t allow the correction. It’s there on purpose. I finally added a blown glass cross ornament to the bottle so that it doesn’t look to be a misplaced grocery item.


Here is the very abbreviated story: My family lives in the house where I grew up and that my father built with his own hands. Shortly after my Dad passed away, we moved in and began a huge renovation that required nearly all of our energy and resources to pull off. When the renovation was only about 80% complete, we moved away in order to transfer our son to a better-suited high school. Some new friends of ours rented our home while we lived in a neighboring city for about 18 months.

What we found when we moved home was a disaster. The one important detail to this story is that there was ketchup and gum everywhere. On the carpet, on the walls, in the basement, on the window blinds, on the stairwell, in the cupboards, on the outside of the refrigerator. I do mean everywhere. The entire situation made me nauseous and I’m embarrassed to say how profoundly I lost my composure. One afternoon, after several days of heavy cleaning, I pulled into my driveway and saw a gift bag just outside my front door. Inside the beautiful bag was a brand new bottle of ketchup.

I hope everyone has someone in their life like my friend Lori. She brings laughter with her biting wit and can crack me up in two words or less. Lori makes me laugh because she’s funny, and because she helps me laugh at myself. While she didn’t include a card or let me know who the gift was from, there was no doubt in my mind. The beautifully gifted bottle of ketchup was Lori’s way of saying, “That’s enough wallowing in self-pity, Cathy, and it’s time to find some humor in the situation.” But Lori said it without the use of words, without including a card, and without making me feel like a self-centered heel. I love her to pieces and the bottle of ketchup is one of my life’s most cherished gifts.

God used ketchup to help me surrender my home to Him. As I said, we poured our hearts and lives into the renovation and we were making our home something to be very proud of. But the house along with the energy, ideas and resources to renovate it, were never ours in the first place. They all belong to God and I learned a lesson of surrender through a mess of ketchup smeared all over what had become an element of pride.

Now when I feel like a “Negative Nancy” or like I can’t stand up under my circumstance, looking at a simple bottle of ketchup reminds me that God is growing me deeper with Him through every situation I face. How can that possibly be a bad thing? My faith is fueled and I use His strength to find joy in my trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3 NASB

Monday, November 22, 2010

When You Think You Are Standing Firm...

I am a recovering worry-holic. I grew up a worrier, trained by one of the world’s best mentors in that arena – my Mom – who taught me that there was always something worthy of worry. In my early driving days we had no cell phones. Mom had me so well trained that if I didn’t remember to call her when I arrived to my destination, I would be overcome with worry that she was in a fit of worry. I worried about my friends, my teachers, my siblings, and especially about my pets. Worry increased daily over college, my future husband, my finances – you name it, and I could worry enough for the both of us.


Please don’t misunderstand. I am not Mom bashing here, nor am I hinting that there is no cause for concern for the ones we love. But Jesus taught that we should not worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25). In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he contrasts anxiety with peace. Worry is the enemy’s way of robbing us of the peace we have in Christ.

Since I was not a follower of Christ when my worrying skills were being perfected, I had no idea that there was another option. Praise the Lord that He began to teach me otherwise. Philippians 4:6-7 was one of the first passages of Scripture that I memorized: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) Little by little, with God’s help and by using this verse to push away the worry, I overcame the sin.

Well, at least I thought I did. When I thought I had “arrived” and literally told someone that I “just don’t worry anymore,” guess what hit me. Yep. Worry. I struggle with worry to this day. Not to the same extent by any means, but there are times in my prayer life when the Spirit cries to my heart, “this is called worry!” Together, my Savior and I walk the familiar path of casting my cares upon Him and I wonder if He’ll ever get tired of playing this game. It brings me to my knees when I realize that His mercies are made new every morning. This promise is as true for me today as it was for those in Bible times. He does not tire of my shortcomings and reaches to help me as often as I’ll call to Him.

I have a long list of areas where I believed my heart was fully His. Truly, I thought I’d “made it” on at least a few points, but am reminded more and more that there is still work to be done. We never “arrive,” nor reach a place where we can stop growing. Our salvation is secure, but our transformation will not be complete on this side of heaven. 1 Corinthians 10:12 teaches, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Ouch. That’s a tough lesson for me. But verse 13 continues, “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB)

Temptation will come and we will fall. Of that we can be sure. But our God is there to walk with us and we are equipped to endure by His strength through us. Praise His Holy Name that as Believers we can consider ourselves recovering sinners!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to follow my blog

Hi, Friends. I've shared my blog with a few people now and have asked that you "follow" me on blogger. I have to admit; I'm new to the blogging world too and haven't been able to offer much advice on how to follow or why you should follow. I've done a bit of research and have learned a couple of things that I can now share:

At the top right of the screen, you'll see an icon to "SIGN IN." By clicking this, you can create a "blogger" account. When you are signed in, you'll be able to keep tabs on the blogs you follow on your "dashboard." (Just like your car, it's where you see the controls to your blogger account). The blogger account is free. You can use it to view blogs or even create a blog of your own.

Once you are signed in, you can click the "FOLLOW" icon on my blog (just to the right of where you are reading). It is referred to as a widget. Do you remember studying widgets in Economics class in high school? They used this term to refer to an imaginary product that could be bought or sold. Why they call the "FOLLOW" icon a widget, I have no idea, but I'm learning that I don't have to find all of the answers to my "why" questions! Especially when it comes to technology!

You'll have an option to follow publicly or privately. Public followers will have their profile photo (if you add a photo to your profile) shown on a separate widget below the "Follow" widget. Private followers will not be listed on this widget. I'd love it if you'd follow me publicly – it would be great to know who is reading!

Once you're signed into blogger, you can leave a comment on any of my posts. You'll have to choose which profile you'd like to display (most likely Google). In other words, which screen name would you like displayed with your comment? Type your comment and click "post comment." I have my blog set up so that I have to approve comments. We're a family show here and I won't allow anything inappropriate. Comments must be God-honoring.

Go ahead – give it a try! Sign in and leave a comment to this post to see how it goes!

If you subscribe to a blog as a "FEED," this means that when a new post is added, it will show up in the your "favorites" section of Internet Explorer under feeds. There would be no need to log in, but you'll get to read the blog anyway. This makes reading a blog very fast and easy!

Thank you for the comments and support that you've shared via e-mail. It's a great encouragement to me! I told you that I invited some of the sweetest people I know to be my first followers… I was right – you are the sweetest people I know!

Love and hugs,

Cathy

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am praying for you

You know her: the woman in your congregation with a downcast spirit. Maybe she is a widow, suffers from health problems, has a special needs child, or is married to an addict. Financial difficulties may be stealing her joy, or maybe she has a prodigal child. Whatever the concern, she suffers greatly and her emotional load is heavy. While you may not always know what to say to her or how to help, you feel a need to pray for her. We often say, "Prayer is the least I can do," when, in fact, intercessory prayer is one of the greatest things we can offer to those who are hurting.

It took me a while in my early Christian walk to realize this. I remember people saying to me, "I'll pray for you," and thinking, "that's it? You're not going to help me?" It is amusing to consider how much I took for granted then, and how I now cherish the prayers of the saints!

During a recent family situation we were blessed with a victory through the power of prayer. The next morning, I felt crippled with anxiety. Since we'd just won a battle, I imagined that our prayer warriors were no longer on their knees. The heaviness was immense and I cried out to my Savior to help me walk through the day. Not 10 minutes later, I received a text message from a dear sister in Christ: "How are you today? We are praying for you." I cannot express the weight that was lifted from my heart in that moment!

Praying for others is a blessing, but telling them you're praying increases that blessing a hundredfold. A quick look through his epistles shows us that Paul reminded the churches often that he and his "ministry team" prayed without ceasing. Paul didn't stop with the words, "we're praying for you," rather, he listed the specific ways that he petitioned the Lord on their behalf (see Colossians 1:9-12, for example).

When you see the woman in your congregation with a downcast spirit, pray for her, yes, and then accept the challenge to let her know. How? It's easy. Tell her with a hug on Sunday morning and a quick whisper in her ear. Send her a card and let her know specifically how you've asked God to bless her. A flower bouquet or covered dish delivered to her home with a note would be warmly received. Post a message on her Facebook wall (that will spur others to do the same), or send a simple e-mail message.

She may be as I was in my early walk, wondering, "can't you do more than that?" But soon, she'll see the value and will come to appreciate that her burden is shared with others around her. In God's time she'll understand, and her heart will be encouraged.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God Is Good All The Time!

We've all had a mountaintop experience; the one where we want to burst with excitement that something wonderful and grand has just happened in our life. We've experienced the joy of leading someone to accept Christ as their Savior, or have somehow been used to help a hurting marriage. Perhaps the excitement stems from being hired for a new job... or being released from one where the joy was gone. Certainly we've had mountaintop experiences when we gaze at the wonder of a newborn (especially when the newborn is our own), or when our children show evidence that they understand the sacrifice that Jesus made. God gives us many reasons to celebrate!

When we sit atop the mountain and celebrate good that's happened, Praise to the Lord rolls easily off our our tongues for that all He has done. His hand becomes clearly evident and oftentimes we can think back and see, step by step, the works of the Lord that brought us to this place. It is an enjoyable, celebratory time!

It's often said from the mountaintop that God is good. Indeed, God IS good. But what about when our world has crashed and the depths of sorrow, regret, confusion, and doubt knock us off our feet? We've all had those experiences too. Do we just as easily praise the Lord during our times of trial?

Over the last 3 months, Mike and I have been hit with wave after wave of trials. We've walked in an almost constant state of confusion, struggled with periods of despair, anger, and pain. Our trials seem to have hit us from out of the blue, stemming from life situations that we imagined to be on solid ground, only to feel that ground suddenly shift and slide directly beneath our feet. These can be described as the opposite of a mountaintop experience, but we can rest assured that God is still with us. One of my favorite Psalms teaches, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." (Ps 139:8) The comfort that comes in knowing God's presence is always with us helps us to stand against the trials that we face. While we walk through the ugliness of life, we keep our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Our trials make us stronger and increase our faith. (James 1:2-3) And just as with a mountaintop experience, when we look back on our trials we can see, step by step, the works of the Lord that have revealed his mercy, protection and faithfulness. It's easy to look for God in the good times. I am so grateful for His reminder to also look for Him among the trials. The trials often drop me to my knees in praise to Him and in humility. They tend to remind me of what I truly deserve - hell - and what He provides - peace. Even amidst a storm, His ways are great and when we look for Him, we will surely see Him.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set
you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior  Isaiah 43:2-3

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Have I served her well?

Fall is approaching and within the next few days, both of my children head back to school. My daughter (the youngest gem in our family) is starting her senior year of high school. Where did the time go?

She secured her first paid, office job over the summer and worked for a county government agency. With a Mom who operated a home based business for the last 11 years, she knows much about office work. Her skill set is remarkable for her age, and she was well received in an office environment. I knew that I had prepared her well for the work force, but as I thought through all we've done together in an office setting, I began to wonder - did I prepare her as well in a spiritual sense?
In many ways, when I look at Taylor, I see her as a much better person than myself. She's kinder, more loving, more joyful and more compassionate. When I think through the years of parenting, why is it that I'm filled with doubt and uncertainty? Parenting is a task that I wish to complete well - even perfectly - although I understand that's not possible.
The truth is, we cannot be who Christ calls us to be. I want to be pure and blameless because that is how He sees me, but I can never live up to the purity He has given by shedding His blood for me. We do not have the ability, in our own flesh, to perform as He would have us perform. I can't be a perfect person, let alone a perfect parent. It's only through full surrender to my Savior and reliance on the strength that He provides that I am able to walk the path that He has set before me. I recognize my own weakness, but in my weakness I am made strong in Christ. My goal is to walk in greater obedience to Him today than I did yesterday.
Galatians 5:22-23 tell us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. It is impossible for us to completely live this out in our own flesh. Sure, we'll have days of faithfulness, moments of kindness, and periods of peace, but we forever fall short. In order to live in the fruit of the Spirit, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to pour out Himself through us. Moment by moment and day by day. That is the only way.
I could make myself crazy considering how much more I could have done as a parent. I can look back on mountains of regret, or surrender to my Lord, who has all things covered. There is great peace knowing that I cannot thwart His plan! I make millions of mistakes, yet He works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. For this I cannot be more grateful. Truly, this assurance keeps me sane and at the end of the day, I can rest on His loving and perfect promises.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Transforming Power of Prayer

I am sometimes accused of over emphasizing prayer. I have to say, I just don't get it. Prayer is the source of our communion with God. It's difficult for me to understand how prayer can be over used, over advised, or even overlooked as a genuine source of help. Prayer is not simply a "pat answer" that I provide when someone has a need; it's truly the very best thing I can do to help.

For me, prayer isn't about asking God to solve every problem - real or imagined - that surfaces in my life. It's about praising Him in all circumstances, pouring out my heart to Him, and asking Him to help me see things more through His point of view. It's about asking for His will, not mine, waiting on Him for His answer, and obeying the direction He provides.

I have seen many answers - some that I would consider miraculous - to many prayers offered personally or by friends of mine. There is no doubt that God hears each one. When we pray, it is our opportunity, and our great honor, to watch God move as He sees best. By God's grace, He doesn't give us everything we request. Instead, He acts with His eternal purposes in mind and joins us as we walk through this journey of life.

Recently, a friend shared her heart with me and I suggested that she pray very specifically about her situation. Her response was a curt, "I have prayed about this." From her tone, it was implied that she is frustrated with the lack of effect prayer has had in this instance. My answer: stay on you knees and keep praying - maybe it's you that God wants to change and not your circumstance.

Many times when we ask God to change our circumstance, He really desires to change us. We pray and ask for what we want; God sees us simultaneously as who we are now and who He wants us to be. We ask for Him to change the people next to us, but God desires to transform us. Are we willing to be the one He changes? Are we willing to receive His direction to us rather than drumming our fingers on a table until we see a change in someone else?

Even though His way isn't often the easiest or most comfortable path, we can rest in confidence knowing that His will is always best. I praise God for His shepherding over my life and am thankful for trust in Him that multiplies daily!

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful
in prayer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Teach them to obey

I feel very blessed. I believe that our Church has one of the world's best Pastors. In his sincere humility he would cringe at hearing those words, but here's why I think so: Outside of being an outstanding Bible teacher, he loves God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, he is fully committed to making disciples based on the truth of Scripture, and he loves people more deeply than anyone I've ever met. But that's not the point of this post. I was traveling over the weekend and was privileged to hear another wonderful Pastor give a great message.

I have a heart for obedience. I strive to be obedient to God in all ways (hear me well, I fall short all the time) and desire to teach others to obey all that He has commanded (Matthew 28:20). In my role as a teacher, obedience is a point that I hit on time and time again. So, when the topic of obedience came up during the message, my ears perked up.

As we live out obedience in our own lives, we can become "ritualistic" or act as the Pharisees acted. For them, obedience was a hefty weight, a burden, and a task that could never be accomplished. It is impossible to follow all commands simultaneously. We are wretched, fleshly humans and most of us can barely touch our feet to the floor in the morning without falling short of pleasing God in some way (slight exaggeration, I know).

So how do we teach disciples to do the impossible? We live life together alongside them. We live it out and talk it through when we fall short. We lean on one another, and we admit our frailty and shortcomings to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a teacher -standing at the front of the classroom - doesn't make me less of a sinner than anyone else, it makes me more visible! That can be a frightening position, but I'm grateful for a group of ladies who laugh with me, not at me, and hold me accountable when necessary. It's a life journey and I'm thrilled to be part of a loving Body of believers.

Yes, I feel very blessed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Abba, Father"

Watching my grown children hurt is like having my heart ripped out. The complexity of what is bringing them pain is unimportant, because when I see them suffering over any issue, I simply want to cry. The irony is that I want God's blessing for both of them and I realize that as children of God, we all have to experience times of suffering in order to grow in Him. I would never want them to miss His blessing. In turn, I fully understand that times of suffering are necessary and will be turned to good by our faithful Father. As I watched my son struggle a week ago I prayed, "Lord, have your way with him... but please be gentle, " then cried the hidden tears of a loving Mom who could do very little to help.

Since we are God's children, I wonder how God feels when he sees us hurting. Let's look at Jesus, God's only begotten Son, as an example. He is described in Mark chapter 14 as "very distressed and troubled" in the garden just before His arrest. In prayer, Jesus cried out to the Father, calling Him "Abba." This is an Aramaic word for "Papa." When Jesus was suffering, He called out to His "Papa," His loving Father who is caring, gentle and compassionate.

A "Papa" can be thought of as a father who comes to his child when called, stands alongside during times of distress, and does not wish to see his child suffer. Unlike me, God could have stopped His Son's suffering since all things are possible for Him. Instead, He kept the bigger picture in mind, the salvation of God's people for all eternity, and allowed the pain.

God doesn't enjoy watching His children suffer, in fact, I believe it breaks His heart. But as a loving parent, He allows things that bring discomfort to accomplish His eternal plan. As Joseph said to his brothers who had tried to murder him, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20 NASB).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"I Want That!"

If someone said to me, "pleroo," I would politely say, "God bless you!" Many words that I don't recognize sound like sneezes to me. But dismissing this term with a casual joke would be a shame, for I would then miss an important gift from God.

Our Father desires that we be made complete - or filled - in may significant ways. "Pleroo" is the transliteration of the Greek word meaning: to fill to the full, to cause to abound, or to fill to the top so that nothing shall be wanting, to full measure, fill to the brim.

Think of the familiar illustration of a jar that is filled with rocks. The jar looks full - as if nothing else can be added. But we can now pour a large amount of sand into that jar and the sand will, indeed fit into the nooks and crannies of the rocks, especially if we gently shake the jar so that the sand will filter to the bottom. All of the spaces now look filled. But, if we pour water into the jar and add enough water so that it is level with the brim of the jar, NOW, the jar is truly filled. It has not been left wanting and is, indeed filled to the top. We cannot add anything else to the jar without causing the water to run over the sides. The jar is complete or filled and meets the definition of pleroo.

Paul prays that believers in the church of Colossae be filled with knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. King David is quoted in Acts as saying that the Lord fills us with gladness in His presence. Also in Acts, believers will be filled with the Holy Spirit. The first letter of John is written so that our joy may be made complete and Jesus, Himself prayed that we may have His joy made full.

When my daughter was small and spent time toddling around the house, the music from a TV commercial would often catch her attention. She would stop whatever she was doing, stare at the TV for a few seconds and give her full attention to the commercial, which was usually trying to sell her a toy. At the end of the commercial she would say with certainty, "I want that!" And within seconds, she was back to her toddling. Her words return to me often, mainly when I read a promise from God or see the light of Jesus shining through one of His people. I say to myself, "I want that." When I study what it means to be complete and filled with what God wants for me... peace... knowledge... wisdom... comfort... understanding... joy... gladness... and so much more, my spirit cries, "I want that!" And God is ever faithful!