Thursday, November 27, 2014

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2: 13-14)

Happy Thanksgiving! As I write this message, I ponder my own lack of thankfulness over the past year. I tend to focus on what is not going well rather than choose to see God's presence in my life each day. Yesterday, I complained about the geese that leave messes on our lawn and keep us awake at night with their quacking. This morning, as I ran, I saw a huge flock of birds undulating in unbelievably artistic formations. They moved in and out of bizarre patterns, and I stared in awe. I felt as if God was reminding me that He works even through the birds that leave messes on my lawn. 

Reading 2 Thessalonians, I am reminded that we have much to be thankful for. We were chosen by God to be saved through His Spirit by our faith in Him, not because we are good, smart, or well-known, but because of God's grace. Notice the repetition of the word "through" - through the sanctifying work of the Spirit...through belief in the truth...through our gospel; through Christ, we are saved. Christ took on our sin and sanctified us. We are saved from sin and death. We are saved for eternal life in which we were called to share in Jesus' glory.

Even when life is tough and presents us with disappointments, we are blessed, because our Savior loves us unconditionally. Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4: 4-8:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Dear God: Thank You that You have chosen me to be saved. Not only that, but You call me Your own and allow me to share in Your glory. I give thanks to You for the blessings You continue to bestow on me. Help me to have a thankful heart and to rejoice always in You. Please guard my heart and give me Your peace. I choose today to concentrate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable. I choose to abide in You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Negative Self-talk or God's Voice?

Do you ever think to yourself, "I can't do this! I'm not good enough! I'm not smart enough! I am worthless!" Often, these sorts of thoughts fill my mind when I'm in bed and can't sleep or while I'm driving in my car or sitting at the computer.

Negative self-talk can bring us down and fill our minds with doubts and fears. How easy it is to surrender to these thoughts and lose heart thinking that we are destined to fail and that our lives lack meaning and purpose.

But wait! Another voice tells us this is wrong! We do have purpose! We aren't in this struggle alone. We read in Philippians 2:13, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

God is walking with us. Yes, we can and do have free will to make choices, but we can either listen to our own negative self-talk or abide in Christ and listen to His voice.

God can use us even when we are weak, for He is strong despite our weakness. God tells us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 9, NIV). When we place our trust in God and rely on Him, He gives us strength to do what may seem impossible. " I can do all things through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13, ESV).

Help me, O Lord, to listen to Your voice and not to my negative self-talk. When I walk with You, I am strong. Your grace is sufficient for me. Thank you, that I can rely on Your voice and Your strength to guide me. In Jesus' Name. Amen

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Love the Adopted Child

I recently read an article about the ugly side of adoption, written by an adoptive mother who is struggling with her adopted child. Many of us have an idealistic image of adoption before we go through the long process of paperwork, wait and wait some more, and then finally bring our child into the family. We take personal pride in the knowledge that we will be bringing hope and love to a child whose life may have otherwise been spent working in the rice paddies, eating with other orphans in an orphanage, living in an abusive home or even surviving on the streets. The picture we imagined of the perfect family, however may soon become replaced with a painful image of life with an emotionally injured child. We want to love the child and make them whole, but they have a subconscious awareness that they were abandoned, and the feelings of abandonment play out in deceptive behavior and rejection of those who want to love them.

We know that our redemption was paid for the by the sacrifice of our loving Savior, and that God chose those of us who follow Him to be blessed and whole in Him: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Gods grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ to be put into affect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1: 7-10).

Why then, if we have faith and are obedient to Christ, don't we have that "unity" in our family? Why must adoption continue in its path of pain? Should it be difficult to love? I must remember, when my child is not acting lovable that I too am blemished, but perfect in God's sight because of what Christ did for me on the cross.  I also know that my daughter was created in the image of God, and that He loves her with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). I draw strength from the Word and am comforted with the reminder that His strength is made perfect in weakness: But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9). And, I am empowered as I read that He who works in me will fulfill His purpose: being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).

Dear Father, You made my child in Your image, and love him/her with an everlasting love. Give me Your strength in my weakness so that I can be the loving parent my child so desperately needs. Thank you that You are my confidence, comfort, and strength in hard times. In Jesus' Name. Amern

Thursday, November 6, 2014

God's handiwork

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God  - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 1-10)

When looking up sites on Google, frequently, on the side of the screen,  frustrating flashing commercials are displayed that distract my attention from what I'm trying to read. I often see one commercial that displays a picture of an older woman with leathery, wrinkled skin. Next to the woman with skin damage is a picture of the same woman with a smooth, flawless complexion. The advertisement is likely promoting a beauty cream that, if I were to purchase it, would supposedly transform my skin in the same manner. First, I'm irritated, as this shows that either my age is used against me by advertisers, or some product I've purchased through the web is being leaked to advertisers. What an invasion of privacy! On the other hand, I'm irritated, because I'd like to look like the woman with the perfect skin. I waste my time wondering whether it really is possible to so transform one's face.

In reading Ephesians 2: 1-10, I see a more valuable lesson on transformation. Without Christ in our lives, we are swayed by the concerns that the world places on us. We "gratify the cravings of our flesh and follow its desires and thoughts." There is nothing wrong with wanting to look my best, and I do try out all sorts of anti-aging creams - not that they actually work! Yet, here we read about the transformation that occurs when we confess our sinfulness to God, open our hearts to Him and allow His grace to cleanse and renew us.

So often, Ephesians 2: 8-9 is emphasized to remind us that we should not take credit for any good deeds that we do. Our salvation, our forgiveness and our talents are bestowed on us by our Savior who bore the cross to give us freedom from imprisonment to sin. Recently, I took a longer look at verse 10: For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We are God's handiwork - He created us to live a life of fulfillment in Him. The works we do, God knew about before we even do them. He prepared these works for us to do! What an amazing thought! Christ-in-us transforms us into one of those advertisements of perfection. It is His doing, and He wants us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, because this is the way our Creator designed us - knowing that we would do good, not because we are good, but because of who we become in Him.  He sees us as righteous, and He can work in us to do good deeds. In Philippians 2:13, Paul writes: For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
God can and does transform us when we open our lives to His good works in us.

Dear God,
How exciting it is to know that You prepared me in advance to do good works for Your kingdom.  You can work in me to fulfill Your good purpose. I want to glorify You and give You praise and honor for what You have done to transform me. Thank You that I am perfect in Your sight.
In Jesus' Name. Amen