Nov 21

FOR FAITH: Clear Direction…Sometimes

compassSometimes we ask God for clear direction. And sometimes He gives it.

Jim and I have wanted to sell our house, downsize and move to Idaho. We started this process by listing our house for sale in 2008. Then the housing market collapsed. We followed the market down for a few months and then concluded that the time to sell was not right.

We waited for the housing market to recover and then listed our house for sale again in 2011. We found a buyer, opened escrow and started packing. A week later, the buyers backed out. A week after that, our daughter and son-in-law asked if they could move in for a year, to save up to buy a home of their own.

The time to sell was evidently still not right.

The year came to an end. The kids started house hunting. We started sprucing up the place intending to list again but once more the kids asked for a bit longer. The market for them was still not right.

Last month, they bought a home of their own. This month our son was given the go ahead to move to Idaho and open a geology office. He’ll be gone before the end of the year.

All kids will be gone soon. And one kid will live in the state we intended to move to. Clear direction?

The house is on the market again. Maybe it’ll sell this time. Or maybe God will have a new idea. Either way, His will is perfect.

We have loved having our grown up wonderful adult kids live with us. We would have missed all that fun if we had determined to follow our own plans, instead of recognizing God’s clear direction.

Whatever God’s plan is…it’ll be awesome. Because God is awesome!

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Has there been a time in your life when God seemed to say “no” or “not yet” to your plan and the result was better than if you had plowed ahead?

 

 

Nov 17

FOR FAITH: The Lord’s Prayer

Lords prayerJesus taught us how to pray.

Even when we don’t know how to begin or what to say, we always have this one.

It’s always appropriate.

God always hears it.

Always understands it.

Then searches our hearts to find those prayers that sit unable to be put into words that human ears can hear.

Thank you, Jesus.

Nov 14

OZ AND I: Sacrifice

OZ AND I image copyOur pastor once complained that too many of us only love “happy Jesus”—you know, the image of Jesus surrounded by children all sitting in a field of flowers. I think our pastor would have appreciated Ozwald Chambers’ point this morning:

“How dare we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! We are saved from hell and total destruction, and then we talk about making sacrifices!”

That quote is a terrific example of how Oz whacks me upside the head and makes me pay attention. It reminds us that while Jesus does love us and that we can sit at his feet, more than that, Jesus is the Son of God. He is powerful. He is mighty. And what He has done for us can never be truly understood, repaid or even deserved.

So when we talk about making sacrifices for Him? Uh…piddly.

Jesus was not just a prophet. Not just a man who lived a good life. Jesus was, is and always will be God. The God of heaven and earth and everything in it is the one who did the sacrificing. For us. Unworthy though we are.

  • Jesus sacrificed Himself by leaving His glory in heaven. Do we get that? God voluntarily left heaven—the most perfect, wonderful, beautiful place in the universe. And He came to live on earth—where evil exists and where Satan has dominion.
  • Jesus also sacrificed Himself by living a human life. Jesus—God Incarnate, holy, pure, embodying the words glory, majesty, beauty, might—came to earth as a fragile babe. Powerless. Living in a family of meager means. Possibly shunned as the illegitimate child of “that Mary.”
  • Jesus also sacrificed Himself by taking upon Himself all of the sin of humanity. We sin. Jesus takes it on Himself as His own. Jesus—pure and holy—takes our sin upon Himself.
  • Jesus also sacrificed Himself by being cut off from the Father’s presence on the cross. Jesus spent His earthly life in close communion with God through prayer. But during those last moments on the cross, He bore our sins alone, crying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus and the Father sacrificed their holy communion so Jesus’ sacrifice was that much more worthy.
  • Then Jesus sacrificed His human physical life by dying. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden, when God sacrificed two animals to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, God has required a blood sacrifice. By dying, Jesus Himself provided the only adequately worthy blood sacrifice to Himself that would satisfy God’s own requirement for saving us from ourselves for all eternity. Not just to “cover” sins, but to forgive them entirely, thus allowing us entrance into holy, perfect, sin-free heaven.

I confess I often try to “promote” Jesus. Sometimes I call it a “sacrifice of time.” The truth is that God Almighty doesn’t need promoting. He doesn’t need defending. He doesn’t ask for our sacrifice. He only asks that we acknowledge the sacrifice He has made for us and accept the work He has already done for all people for all sins for all time.

What we do in Jesus’ name is about honoring Jesus’ sacrifice in humble gratitude for all He has done.

Thanks for the head whacking reminder, Oz. Thank you, Jesus for doing what we could never accomplish ourselves. Salvation.

(This post was based on the devotional of Oswald Chambers dated November 13 from My Utmost for His Highest.)

 

 

Nov 10

FOR FAITH: Ruby for Women

Ruby holiday 2014The holiday issue of Ruby for Women magazine is out. And it’s filled with fun. There are stories, devotionals, poems, recipes and crafts. And I’ve got two columns there–Kids’ Korner and Carol’s Book Club.

This issue of Kids’ Korner features my friend and best-selling children’s author Deborah Underwood. I share the fun of her wonderful picture book, The Christmas Quiet Book and share links to some fun, related activities for kids. This great book is destined to be one of those read-again-every-year treasures that kids will love forever.

My column, Carol’s Book Club, reviews two books that our in-person book club has read recently. If you have read either of those books, head up to the menu on this page and click on Carol’s Book Club. Leave a comment about those books, or even about an entirely different book. We people who love books love to hear about books other people have loved, too.

Now, get reading. The New Year’s issue of Ruby for Women will be out before you know it!

 

Nov 07

FOR FAITH: I am Mary

MARY cover PURPLE jpegMary has arrived. Just in time for Christmas. The perfect time to study the life of the woman who gave birth to our Savior is right now–just before we celebrate His birth.

This latest study of women in Scripture looks at Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary; not to deify her but to give her respect and more importantly, to understand how our character and circumstances as modern women may be similar to hers.

God won’t be asking us to bear the Savior of the world. That’s done and completed. But maybe He has something else in mind to use our wee little lives in a way that reflects His great big plan.

Here’s the forwarding note from this latest study in the With Faith Like Hers study.

I am Mary is available at Amazon.com in print or Kindle format. Just in time for Christmas–for yourself or someone you love.

 

F

or those of us without a Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian background, we sometimes feel that those faiths have nearly deified Mother Mary. But that’s us, looking from the outside and not understanding the theology.

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do not deify Mary. Rather, they revere her; they respect the fact that God chose her over all the other women from all generations in the history of mankind to bear the Savior of the world and raise Him to adulthood so He could do what He needed to do while here. Mary did good. That entitles her to respect.

The theme of this book is that our circumstances and character are very much like the woman who bore and raised Jesus, the Christ—or that they could be. God used Mary for a great big thing—bigger than we could ever imagine. Maybe there’s something He could use us for today. God may not use our little lives for something as big as bearing the Savior, but when we think like that, we’re not remembering the character of God.

God is big. Everything He does is big. Mary probably didn’t think her life was big either. But it became big because God was involved. So open your heart to what we might learn from Jesus’ earthly mother, if we have faith like hers.

«♦»

 

Nov 03

FOR FAITH: Ephesians 5:1-2

Ephesians 5 1-2Here’s a memory verse for you today.

We can never have too much of what Paul had to say to the Ephesians.

Plus, Ephesians 5:1-2 is the verse our Bible study class is supposed to be memorizing…and reciting this week.

I need the extra help remembering it.

Nov 01

FOR FAITH: Summing up Ephesians

bible3Two months ago, I enrolled in a Bible study class at church. The study wasn’t Beth Moore or Kay Arthur. It didn’t even have an official study guide. The only book we had was the good one. The Bible. And we were only studying one book in that one. Ephesians.

The aim of the class was to learn the Bible study process known as homiletics. It’s the process used by many pastors when preparing their sermons. It’s about reading Scripture and looking closely at what it says. Yes, we can look up words. We can dig into commentary. But ultimately it’s about prayerfully meditating only on what is written right there as we’re reading.

No helpful guided questions. No inspiring videos at the end of class. No colored highlighter pens to hint at what’s going on. Just us and Scripture.

Ephesians was a great book to begin learning how the process of homiletics works because it’s only six short chapters. Still, it’s filled with a whole lot of great big truths and important insightful things to apply to life.

Part of the homiletic process is to condense everything into a single sentence of 10 words or less. One sentence for each chapter.

Next week, our class will have a summary discussion. We’re to come to class with one sentence of 10 words or less to sum up the entire book of Ephesians.

Here’s my stab at it: You belong to Christ so live like it.

Ta-da! Only eight words. I even have two left over for someone else to use.

The discussion next week will be lovely. Can’t wait to hear the insights the other ladies have to share.

Oct 24

FOR FAITH: Verses for Life

Do whatever he says

My new favorite “life verse” from Scripture.

This spot-on advice comes from Jesus’ mother Mary. Seven words sum up 7,000 years of Scripture and the whole of how God wants us to live.

Leave it to a mom to have the perfect answer for handling every situation

.

Oct 20

FOR FAITH: The Best of Mary

MARY cover PURPLE jpeg

 

I am Mary will be out in time for a Christmas study.

This latest book in the With Faith Like Hers Bible study series, looks at the character and circumstances of Jesus’ mother to see what we modern women (and men) can learn from the woman God chose for his own mother.

Mary teaches us loads of great lessons, but here are three of my favorites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. After the angel told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah by miraculous means, she asked how that would happen. The angel explained (sort of) and then assured her:

“No word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37)

God’s word will never fail. We can count on God to do what He says He will do. We can trust Him. Always.

 

2. The Magnificat, also called “Mary’s Song,” lists the ways Mary praises God for her circumstances.

 

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).

 

Here are a few of the lessons in Mary’s Song:

  • My soul glorifies the Lord
  • My spirit rejoices in God
  • God has been mindful of me
  • I am humble before Him
  • I am blessed
  • God has done great things for me
  • God is holy.

3. My favorite and the most powerful lesson I have learned from Mary is one we should always and in every circumstance take completely out of context and apply:

“Do whatever Jesus tells you” (John 2:5).

John 2:5 pretty much sums up the entire Bible and everything God desires for our lives.

«♦»

Stay tuned for information on the release of I am Mary in November.

 

Oct 13

OZ AND I: Atop the Mountain

OZ AND I image copyOne of the coolest things about morning devotionals is that so often they are exactly the thing you need to read that day. Oswald Chambers has a special knack for timing his daily devotionals (from My Utmost for His Highest) to my life. Usually that knack includes a head whack. But other times it’s exactly right without the whacking.

Recently Oz helped me flesh out a future book I plan to write.

 

I had decided to write a Bible study with a working title of Atop the Mountain. I had a vague idea of taking events from Scripture where Jesus happened to be on a hillside or mountain top—the Transfiguration, the Sermon on the Mount, Calvary Hill, for example.  I wanted to have some sort of connection between the truths Jesus revealed on mountaintops and our lives down here in the valley.

As I tried to put this into words, I realized that my vague thesis needed a whole lot of fleshing out before I could get started writing. And I found myself struggling.

The very next morning, Oswald began a series of four daily devotionals about how we are not to remain on the mountaintop with God but that we are to take what we experience about God down into our everyday valley lives.

Here are snapshots from those four devotionals:

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, where we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 1)

 The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God—that is where our faithfulness is revealed. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 2)

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. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 3) 

There are times when we do know what God’s purpose is; whether we will let the vision be turned into actual character depends on us, not on God. If we prefer to relax on the mountaintop and live in the memory of the vision, then we will be of no real use in the ordinary things of which human life is made. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 4)

 

Thanks, Oz. I needed to hear this that day. We all need to hear this every day.

 

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