Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"What Do You Do When God Says No?"

May 30, 2006
"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1)

I was praying for something this week. I was praying for something everyday this week. I was praying for it several times a day, as a matter of fact. I was praying according to Philippians 4:6 by presenting my requests to God with thanksgiving. Just like David in Psalm 5, I was laying my requests before God in the morning and waiting in expectation. And waiting and waiting and waiting some more. Not that it's anywhere near as dramatic, but figuratively anyway, the Red Sea was before me and the Egyptian soldiers were behind me and that's when God said, "No."

This wasn't one of those things where I could comfort myself that the answer would come some other day. The need was now and the answer was no. Okay...deep breath...now what?

In situations like this we are faced with a few choices. Some are godly choices and some are instigated right from the pits of hell. I know you've been there before. When the enemy whispers in your ear, "See, He didn't come through for you. He says that He'll supply your every need and guess what, He didn't." Well, soldier, that's all I need to hear to make me mad! I am on a journey of mind renewal. According to Romans 12:2, I am not to be conformed any longer to this world but I am to "be transformed by the renewing of my mind." I have come too far and fought too hard to let the master liar get my mind going in the wrong direction. If we are well acquainted with the word of God, we can fight this battle instantly by replacing those thoughts of the enemy with God's word. Speaking truth kicks the butt of the devil's lies. And God's word is truth. So when God says no, speak the Word out of your mouth...wield that Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6: 17). Draw near to God and resist the Devil and he will flee from you. (James 4: 7)

The second choice is not to get discouraged. I read a story about Satan having a "going out of business" sale. He had all of his tools spread out on a table. Tools of hatred, envy, pride and deceit. There was one tool that was very well worn and was more expensive than any other tool on the table. Someone asked what the tool was and the answer was, "Discouragement." When asked why it was so expensive, Satan answered, "Because it is more useful to me than any of the others." Discouragement can paralyze you. It can render you ineffective for God's service, for your family, your job and your church. It's a "what's the use?" attitude that accomplishes nothing for God but a whole lot for the enemy camp. Satan doesn't really care if you go to church. He doesn't care if you go to Bible study. He doesn't even care if you work in God's service. What he doesn't want is sold out, in love with Jesus believers who refuse to give up and whose trust in God cannot be shaken, no matter what. So if he can get you discouraged with God...he's got you. Whose side do you want to be on? ...I'm on the Lord's side, so I WILL NOT get discouraged. So when God says no, don't get discouraged.

Understand that God is not a vending machine. Just because I ask and try to punch the "right" buttons or use the right system or program out there that is supposed to get prayers answered, doesn't mean it's going to happen. God is our loving Father. Just as earthly parents don't give in to every one of their children's requests, so God doesn't either. A wise parent knows what is the best for his child and so does God. So our third choice is to trust that our Heavenly Father knows what's best and that He will never harm us in any way. And even though it's hard to understand when He says no to our prayers...we must choose to trust that His way is best.

Last but most important of all....when God says no, praise Him anyway! I was talking this morning to a dear brother named Charles. He was telling me that he had a pretty rough week and he just had to come to church this morning to praise God. He is on the praise team and led some awesomely Spirit filled worship in spite of his week and in spite of his disappointments and struggles. He came to praise God. I shared with him that my week hadn't been going quite the way I wanted it to either. But we both agreed that when you Praise Him, it just all goes away. We just gotta praise! "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922) Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I praise Him." (Job 13: 15). We praise God not only for what He has done for us, but because He is God and is worthy to be praised for who He is. So even if God says no, Praise Him Anyway!

What are you praying for? A spouse? A child? A financial reversal? A new job? A healing for yourself or a loved one? Whatever it is, I pray that God will answer your prayer. He may, but then again, He may not. He may tell you yes, He may tell you to wait, or like me, He may tell you no. But let me share with you that the Egyptian soldiers didn't catch up to me and the Red Sea didn't drown me. I'm still standing. He led me to "the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61: 2c) I couldn't reach it by myself. God led me there and because He led me, I am safe. I am standing on higher ground. And come to think of it, I am better off, because this experience lifted me up to a new level of closeness with my Rock, my Refuge, my Fortess and my Deliverer. So in essence God gave me what was best for me when He told me no. And because of this, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1)

Donna Schultz

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"The Supreme Pursuit"

May 23, 2006
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1: 5)

I have no idea what today holds. What conversations I will have, what circumstances I will find myself in. What joys, pleasures or pain will come my way in this next twenty four hour span of time. Because of this it has become very important for me to pray James 1:5 to the Lord each morning. He has already been through my day. He knows it all and He knows the wisdom that I will need to live these hours in any semblance of a godly manner.

My Bible tells me that "wisdom is supreme" (Proverbs 4:7a). That means that it is highest in authority and superior to all else. Nothing can compare with wisdom. Because it is supreme it is well worth all of the effort and cost involved in acquiring it. (Proverbs 4:7b) The benefits of wisdom are spelled out in the book of Proverbs as well. A few of those benefits are victory, success, and protection. It saves from the ways of the wicked. Long life and prosperity are results of wisdom. Prosperity (salom) often translates "peace" which is broader in meaning than material prosperity. It suggests wholeness, health and harmony in every part of our lives. It brings blessing and honor, life and favor. Wow! No wonder Solomon asked for wisdom and not earthly promotion and riches. (See 2 Chronicles, Chapter 1)

So how do we go about getting this wisdom? Let's take a look. We will spend a lot of our time in the book of Proverbs. This book provides both a goal and a route. The goal is successful living and the route is the way of wisdom.

Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 tells us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". In the Hebrew that means that it is "the start". It is the essence. In 9:10 it means that the fear of the Lord is the "prerequisite" to wisdom. Commentators say that this is what makes the Hebrew concept of wisdom so unique. It is not just morality, but living that stems from a right relationship with God. You cannot gain knowledge of spiritual things (assuming we are looking for God's wisdom) if you begin at the wrong point, refusing to fear the Lord. You must revere Him, trust Him, worship Him, obey Him and serve Him. Apart from God a person is ignorant of spiritual things (Rom. 1:22; Eph. 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14). That's step one.

Step two is to ask. Our verse in James says to ask. Jesus says, "Ask and it will be given to you, ..for everyone who asks receives. (Matthew 7:7-8) According to the Word, it is available for the asking. As far as wisdom is concerned however, effort must be expended. We can't just ask and sit passively and wait for it to come by osmosis. Proverbs 2: 1-4 tells us to first of all accept God's word. We must be open to it. Next, we are told to "store it up", retain it and memorize it. We must then, apply it to our lives. Beth Moore, popular Bible teacher tells about her time on a mission trip to Angola. People were given seed to plant for the food they so desperately need. They were so hungry however, that instead of planting the seed, they ate it! They did not sow the seed into the ground, therefore there was no harvest of crops. In Mark, Chapter 4, Jesus says that the seed is the word of God. We must not only receive the word, we must sow it into the ground of our lives. James 1: 22 says "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." We must know the Word and sow the Word! We are told to "call out", "cry aloud", "look" and "search" for wisdom. Search for it like hidden treasure and Proverbs 2: 6 says that "the Lord [will give] gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

We are unable to do any of the previous steps without time spent in the Word of God. Our lives cannot be based on the wisdom of the world. But if we never spend time reading and studying the Word we will only know the world's way. The world's ways will lead us astray every time. The god of this world, Satan, is a liar and the father of lies and he rules the world system. Read the word, memorize the word, study the word...LIVE the Word. God's Word IS wisdom.

The primary and most frequent word for wisdom in the Hebrew is "hokmah". It is used to refer to skill. A wise person is knowledgeable, efficient and experienced. Wisdom is being skilled in the art of godly living. It is leading an aggressively dynamic life...a full life. Her results are lasting. Wisdom will reward you. (Prov. 9: 12) Alfred Lord Tennyson stated, "Knowledge comes, but wisdom stays."

Begin your pursuit of wisdom today. Don't delay. The quality of your life depends on it. Fear the Lord. Ask for wisdom and pursue it with all you've got by immersing yourself in God's Word and purposing in your heart to apply what you've learned. Remember, know the Word and sow the Word! Put forth the effort. Wisdom is "more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor." (Both of her hands are extended to you...she is generous) "Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed." (Proverbs 3: 14-18) I don't know about you...but that sounds like a great deal to me!

Pursuing wisdom,

Donna Schultz

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

#46 "Let Them Come As They Are...God Does!"

May 16, 2006
"Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulin had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God - the Lord, the God of his fathers - even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." (2 Chronicles 30: 18-20)

What impresses you the most about a person? What do you think impresses God? I think that the answers to these two questions are often very different. Today's society is very looks-conscious. Things don't have to appear the way they really are for someone to be held in high esteem. Wealth, glamour, intelligence and fame are the standard for measuring a person's importance. And unfortunately the same standards often apply within the walls of the church.

Hezekiah was one of Judah's greatest kings. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians and many people had been deported. The southern kingdom of Judah was under the judgement of God because of their idolatry and disobedience. So Hezekiah wanted to bring his kingdom back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He purified the temple and all of it's articles. He then proceeded to have the people consecrate (set apart) themselves to the Lord. Sacrifices for sin were made according to the regulations that the Lord set forth. He revived the Passover celebration that had not been observed for many years. He even invited the remnant of northern Israel to participate. Though they were not ceremonially cleansed according to the Law of Moses, they ate the Passover. Hezekiah noticed this and prayed that the Lord would pardon them because they had hearts that were seeking God. He prayed on their behalf that God would be more impressed with the sincerity of their hearts and motives than with matters of ceremonialism. The essence of God's grace is seen in His favorable response to the king's prayer...showing us what really impresses God.

Psalm 51: 17 tells us that God will not despise a broken and contrite heart. This is a heart that is sorrowful for sin, repentant and crushed. The same psalm says that He doesn't so much delight in sacrifice as He does a bankrupt spirit. Pride, arrogance and self-righteousness have no place in what draws the heart of God. You notice that Jesus never gave much time to the Pharisees of His day. He was always drawn to those who were broken, battered, rejected by society. He wasn't impressed by all the Law keeping. He looked at the heart and He still does. He even went so far as to say, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." and "You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23: 25-27) When God was looking for a king He told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 7) God doesn't look at your programs, your ceremonies, or your building...He looks at the heart.

What do you look at when you consider a person? What if they don't look like you? What if their skin is a different color? What if their clothes are out of style or worse yet, dirty and threadbare? What if they smell less than favorable on a Sunday morning when they come in to your church? Do you run and find someone to "take care of them" and keep them as far from the mainstream as possible? Or do you embrace them, introduce yourself and let them sit in the pew right next to you..right among your polished friends? What do you do? What have you done? To use a worn out question, "What would Jesus do?" I suspect He wouldn't look at their appearance but would consider their heart. And each one of us is called to be like Christ. We don't need to send the hurting to the pastor or the outreach director. You are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger in and visit the sick and those in prison. (Matthew 25: 35-46) Not someone else...you! Whether or not they look like you, talk like you or smell like you. What you do for one of the least of these.....

The Christian group 4HIM sings a song that says, "I found out the measure of a man is not how tall you stand, how wealthy or intelligent you are. I found out the measure of a man - God knows and understands - He looks inside to the bottom of your heart. And what's in the heart defines the measure of a man." I encourage us all to search our hearts this week and ask God to show us how we have been measuring the man. If it has been by appearance, prejudice and judgement, may we truly repent and ask God to change our attitudes and responses to one's that are like His. Ask Him to give you His heart for His people. Look at your own heart, your family's heart and your church's heart for people. In His strength, make the necessary adjustments.

Look, here he comes. Dirty, tattered clothes, smelling less than favorable on a Sunday morning....seeking...hurting....interrupting your program....what will you do now?

Until next week,

Donna Schultz

E-mail Savemom@aol.com if you would like to be added to the weekly "Tuesday's with Jesus" list and receive the devotional in your inbox each Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

#45 Are You A Turkey or An Eagle?

May 9, 2006
"...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

When the storms of life bear down on you, are your reactions like an eagle's or like a turkey's? "A turkey and an eagle react differently to the threat of a storm. A turkey reacts by running under the barn, hoping the storm won't come near. On the other hand, an eagle leaves the security of its nest and spreads its wings to ride the air currents of the approaching storm, knowing they will carry it higher in the sky than it could soar on its own. Based on your reactions to the storms of life, which are you? A turkey or an eagle?" (unknown source)

Turkeys really can't fly. Their wings cannot support their considerably great body weight. They are too burdened down to fly. The troubles of this world weigh us down too, don't they? Sometimes they just seem too heavy to bear. We find it so hard to get up and keep going, let alone to fly! I don't want to spend a lot of time on the turkeys because that's not where I want you to be. Let's just say that they spend a lot of time flapping their wings, hiding and hoping for the best. Sometimes we are just flapping our wings when we should be soaring in high places.

The eagle is among the largest and most powerful birds. Their wingspans range from 3 to 8 feet across. They dwell in high places, rocks and cliffs. Eagles can glide at altitudes of over 2500 feet. Without flapping their wings they soar gracefully high in the air and glide great distances. As they ride the winds they appear to be soaring almost effortlessly. They are strong, swift, courageous and have been seen to be soaring almost motionless in hurricane force winds. I have heard it said that when there is a storm, the eagle flies above it. The more turbulent the winds, the greater is the lifting power for the eagle to fly higher. The higher he flies, the bigger is his view. He is at a level that no one else is at. The winds allow him to fly faster and stay in flight longer.

Our verse tells us that if we hope in the Lord we can soar on wings like those eagles. I'd like to call one wing "surrender" and the other one "trust". When we surrender, we yield to the power, control or possession of another, in this case, God. It means to give up completely, to give oneself up. When we trust we place confidence in God. We depend on Him and are confident in Him. We rely on Him, expect from Him and believe Him. If we believe that He is sovereign over all and that He is all-powerful and that His Word is truth, then we need never fear that our problems and difficulties are too much for Him to handle. If we pray and wait with trust upon Him we will receive all that we need.

We need to allow the storms of our lives to lift us up, not drag us down. Just like the eagle, if we "go with the flow", so to speak, the winds of adversity will bring us higher. No trial should ever be wasted in worry, anxiety, doubt or fear. Hard times should always be seen as an opportunity to soar. To be uplifted emotionally and spiritually. To drive us closer to our God. I've had many pity parties in my life and you know what? No one ever came. I have vowed to not waste the time that I'm spending in the trials of life another day. I ask.."What can I learn? What is God trying to teach me? How can I grow in the middle of this?" I want to come out of the storm more mature, more complete, and with more wholeness in my life than when I entered it. And the more turbulent my storm, the higher I want to fly.

We cannot even try to fathom God's wisdom in directing the courses of our lives. But if we ride those winds with prayer, surrender, and trust we will soar. The rest of the verse tells us that we won't even grow weary or tired and we'll never give up and faint. God will give us the stamina and strength that we need to endure the storm. And He gives in great measure. We will progress, grow and come out better for having experienced the storm. I believe that this is what it's like when the eagle flies above the storm. He is higher than anyone else and he sees things from a bigger view. When we stay inside ourselves and our own misery and never look to God, we will never desire to grow in the storm and He will never let us see things from His perspective. God isn't interested so much in our comfort as He is in our growth. And He will use any means possible to make us more like Him. I want God's eye-view.

Are you hiding today? Running under the barn and hoping that the storm will go away? How fast are your wings called "fear" and "worry" flapping? Are you a turkey? Or are you soaring like the eagle? Graceful, dwelling in high places above the storm, effortlessly riding the winds of adversity? Remember, the more turbulent the winds, the higher we will fly. Spread your wings of surrender and trust and ride the wind and the storm. And all the while, know that underneath you are the everlasting arms of God.

Your fellow eagle,

Donna SchultzSavemom@aol.com

I would like to share some good news with you. I was picked up as a staff writer for a web-zine beginning this month. You can see my work as well as a lot of other great inspirational material by visiting http://handmaidens.org/506. My contribution is on the Christian page. I am giving God the glory for allowing me to reach even more folks with my writing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

#44 "What Are You Waiting For?"

May 2, 2006
"Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do." (1Samuel 10:8) "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, 'When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13: 11-12)

How good are you at waiting? It's kind of difficult in these days of instant everything. We eat fast food and cook at home in a microwave. We get fast cash out of ATM machines. Express lines at the grocery store allow us to get in and out...fast. We drive fast, eat fast, and we expect those who serve us in stores, restaurants, banks and the like to wait on us...fast. We are so accustomed to an instant society that it has become increasingly difficult for us to wait for anything. Especially God.

Saul had the same problem. Samuel had expressly told him to wait for him when he arrived at Gilgal. The Bible says that the Philistines had chariots and soldiers as "numerous as sand on the seashore" (1 Samuel 13: 5) and they pushed the Israelite troops eastward all the way to Gilgal. The Philistines were assembling against Israel and they were in a dire situation. Some hid. Some fled. All the troops were filled with fear. On the seventh day, when Samuel was due to arrive, Saul couldn't wait any longer and he made the community sacrifice which was strictly a priestly duty. What he did was unlawful. (Leviticus 6: 8-13) He also disobeyed the Prophet of the Lord by not waiting. "Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived." (1 Samuel 13: 10). I suspect that it was still the seventh day, just later in the day. Perhaps not as fast as Saul would have liked. He took matters into his own hands and it cost him his kingdom in the end. (1 Samuel 13: 14)

In verses 11 and 12 above you can almost sense Saul's frantic state of mind. (Deep breath) "When I saw that the men were scattering", (Gasp) "and that you didn't come at the set time", (sigh) "and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash", (wiping sweat from his brow) "I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' (Another deep breath...) "So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." Wild eyes, fear-filled words. Also a hint of blame on Samuel for not coming quickly enough.

"Waiting" is staying in place in expectation. It is remaining stationary in readiness. The history of the word puts it akin to "watching". I believe there is action and result inherent in the word "waiting". It is not a useless action. It is expectant and hopeful. Something is at the end of the waiting. I also believe that it is very important how we wait. Are we waiting while we murmur, grumble and complain? Or are we waiting joyfully, with great expectation and a good attitude, knowing that God is in control? Ah, there's the key. Do you believe that God is in control of your situation? Do you believe that you will see His answer manifested in your life? Do you REALLY believe it? If not, fear, blame and disobedience will follow just like it did in Saul's life. And you may miss your biggest blessing. What blessings have we possibly missed because we just couldn't wait on God? (see 1 Samuel 13: 13)

Psalm 27 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Sounds like a command to me. Again in Psalm 37 we read, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." See, it does matter how we wait. The Bible says to wait patiently. Isaiah 40: 31 says, "they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Just as God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55: 9), His timing is not our timing. I have heard it said that God's timing is perfect and that He is never late. I must admit that I have, at times, thought that God was really, really late in coming to my rescue. But you know what? It always, and I mean always, worked out in the end, in His perfect timing. Things never worked when I took matters into my own hands and had to reap the consequences of my impatience. If you haven't learned this lesson for yourself, take it from someone who has been there.

Don't doubt God's goodness. Remember what He has brought you through in the past. Use that memory to boost your faith that He will bring you through now. He is the same God that parted your Red Sea last year and let you walk out of bondage. He is the same God who collapsed the walls of your personal Jericho. But remember that you may have to march around the walls a few times. He releases prisoners. He sets the captives free. He fights for those who are His own. He is for you, never against you. How do I know that? His Word tells me so. He binds the broken hearted and gives you beauty for ashes. He restores the years that the locusts have eaten and gives you a double portion for your former shame. Don't lose heart, my friend. He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves you. There is more to your problem than you can see. But He's got it under control. Trust Him. Wait for Him. Who knows? He could be coming, just around the corner, today!

Still waiting,

Donna Schultz

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