Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus #177

#177 "Oaks of Righteousness"
November 30, 2010
"They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor". (Isaiah 61: 3)
Good Tuesday morning to you dear ones! I hope that today finds you out of your tryptophan coma, with the house cleaned up, and some hours of relaxation planned before the frenzy of Christmas settles in. In spite of having a cold trying to get the best of me, I'm deliberately setting out to have a week of rest while it is still November. Somehow, doesn't it seem that when we turn the page on the calendar and see "DECEMBER" written there, our body kicks in to full-out adrenaline mode?
I have been blessed to see that many of you took last week's challenge, and only praised and thanked the Lord in everything, leaving your heart's desires silent before Him. It wasn't easy, was it? I have heard from those of you in particular, who were going through some rough stuff this past week, but you held to the challenge anyway. Bless you!! Know that I set the challenge aside, and took your needs before the throne of grace, standing in the gap for you. I know how full my heart was when I reflected on you, blessing Christ with your praises. I imagined how tickled pink He was with all of the praise and glory that you were laying at His feet each and every day. My prayer is that He has tangibly shown you that He knows your needs, even when you don't ask. That He sees the deepest desires of your heart, and that you will see His answers manifested in your life.
A few weeks ago, my man said something to me that has haunted me ever since. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with all of the problems facing our family. None of them were particularly my own issues, but they each affected me in a profound way, because when the enemy comes against anyone in my family, I feel the direct hit. I was telling Chuck how overwhelmed I felt, and asking out loud why I felt that it was all on me to be strong for everyone, to make everything okay for everyone, to support, and encourage, and "fix" it all for everyone. I can still see him sitting in his chair, answering quite matter of fact, "Because you're the rock". I don't think that I ever replied. But whoa, Nelly! I have pondered that statement over and over again, ever since.
I am not the rock. Jesus Christ is the Rock on which this pebble stands. That's a whole 'nother sermon, for a whole 'nother day. However... I may be an oak. In the days following that conversation, I was led to one of my favorite chapters in Scripture in Isaiah 61. It was there, at the end of verse 3, that God voiced His desire for us to be called "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor". I always focused on the display of His splendor part of that verse. But this time, I thought about why the Holy Spirit, through the prophet Isaiah, would use the metaphor of an oak. Why not an elm, or a pine tree?  An oak. What was it about an oak tree? Let's look.
Oak trees provide the wood for lumber. Their wood is durable and tough. The wood of the oak tree is valued in shipbuilding and construction and for flooring, furniture, railroad ties, barrels, tool handles, and veneer. (www.about-oak-trees.com) Oak trees are a symbol of strength and endurance. They are known for their great strength and hardness.  I am not the rock, but God wants me to be an oak. He wants me to be durable, tough and strong. He wants me to be able to endure. He wants me to have great strength and hardness.
"Oaks make lots and lots of roots. No matter what, they stand a chance for survival. Within the first year, the taproot of an oak can reach more than a foot in depth. If a growing root encounters a stone, it may compress slightly, deflect to one side and return to its straight line once the obstacle has been passed. Or, it senses the slenderest crack in the rock; it may splay out thin and grow right through the fissure to the other side. They know where they are. They know how deep they are in the soil, because they test the amount of oxygen and water around them. Where there is more oxygen and sufficient water, there is more growth. Yes, you could describe this as intelligence". (goldcountryhomes.com/home-garden/auburn-garden-club/oak-trees-roots-illustrate)   If you damage the roots of an oak, you are doing damage to that on which the oak tree's life depends.  I am not the rock, but God wants me to be an oak.  
In order to be durable, tough and strong; in order to endure, my roots are the only things that give me a snowball's chance at survival on the soil of planet Earth. Psalm 1 tells me that if I will meditate on God's law day and night, I will be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit in season, with leaves that don't wither, and whatever I do will prosper.  
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
The key to being an oak, my friend, is in where you've sunk your roots. I can be an oak and so can you. God desires that for you and for me, according to His Word. When we spend time meditating and studying the Word of God our roots go down to amazing depths. When we encounter obstacles in our way, we can maneuver and return to a straight line once the obstacle has passed. We will know just where we are, because we will never lose our sight when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. Our roots will be deep in God-soil, breathing the heavenly oxygen of His love and drinking the living water of His Word and His promises.  Our life-blood is in trusting Him. When we are breathing His oxygen and drinking His water, we will grow. We won't just endure...we will grow. Our lives depend on it.
For the display of His splendor. I am not an oak so that you can admire me for my strength and endurance. I am only strong and able to endure because my roots run deep in the soil, oxygen and living water of my Savior. I need His Word more than the air that I breathe. It's my only chance of survival. I trust Him even when I can't see an inch in front of me. My confidence is in Him alone. I display His glory...His splendor. He is the Rock. I can be an oak. So can you.
Lord, let Your face shine on us like the sun, until our faces are radiant with Your glory. Fashion us into oaks of righteousness, for the display of Your splendor. Amen.
Living the Word along with you,
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Tuesdays with Jesus on Wednesday

No, Really...Give Thanks

From the archives: #21 November 22, 2005
Read Psalm 98

How typical is it to write about Thanksgiving this week? Doesn't surprise you does it? Well, I think that you may find this to be a little different. Are you up for a challenge? The Lord has asked me to do something this week that is quite out of the ordinary and I invite you to accept the challenge with me. From today until next Saturday evening, give thanks. "Easy enough", you say. No, I mean ONLY give thanks. Don't ask God for anything - ONLY give thanks.

"Sing to the Lord a new song" (v. 1). The "songs" we typically sing are full of our requests and petitions to God. I would guess that your asking time outweighs your praising and thanking time when you go to God in prayer. Let's sing a new song - one of ONLY giving thanks. No whining, no complaining, no begging, no asking - ONLY thanks!

Do you believe that your Heavenly Father knows everything you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8)? Just because you aren't asking for a few days doesn't mean that God will not be aware of your needs. He's not going to say, "Gee, I haven't heard any requests from Sally and Joe today - wonder what's going on, wonder what they need?" How absurd! No, your Father knows! Yes, we are told to pray but I believe that it will be refreshing and pleasing to God's ears to hear nothing but our heartfelt thanks for a few days.

We can thank Him because He has done marvelous things (v.1). His right hand and holy arm have worked salvation for Him (v. 1b). He is righteous (v. 2). He is love and faithfulness to all the ends of the earth (v. 3). He is our King (v. 6). He is the judge who will judge in righteousness and equity (v. 9). He forgives all your sins, heals all your diseases, redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion, satisfies your desires with good things (Psalm 103: 1-5) and on and on we could go. Thank Him - Praise Him!!

When I'm talking thanks, I'm talking real thanks. Look at the commands of Psalm 98. Verse 4a says, "Shout". To shout is to utter a sudden loud cry (Funk and Wagnalls Home and Student Dictionary, 1989 by Merriam-Webster, Inc.). "Burst into jubilant song with music" (v. 4b) Bursting is like an explosion - jubilant is rejoicing in triumph, so explode into triumphant rejoicing over your God! Sing - shout for joy (v. 6)! When David brought the Ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem, he was leaping and dancing before the Lord to the point that the Bible says his wife despised him. He told her, "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this" (2 Samuel Ch. 6:16,21-22). The sea, the mountains, the rivers, the whole world is commanded to sing before the Lord (Psalm 98: vs. 7-9). Jesus said that if the people didn't cry out, "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40). Don't be put to shame by the rocks! The praise and thanksgiving set forth in God's word is not quiet, reserved or afraid of what other people think about it. It is shouting, dancing, joyful music, exuberant praise to the One who is worthy!

Not only will days of nothing but thanksgiving be pleasing to the Lord, but I believe that it will be beneficial to us as well. Try something for me - say your name five times in your head. Now try and think about your address while still thinking your name. Can't do it, can you? We can't think about two things at the same time! While thanking God, we cannot worry. While expressing thanks, we cannot complain. We can't fret. We can't murmur or grumble. We can't work our own plans to take care of our problems. Praise God! There's freedom in the midst of the thanksgiving!

I believe that our joy will increase and overflow as we thank. If we really concentrate on what we have been given, we will become joyful. Our focus will shift from what we don't have to "every good and perfect gift" that God has given us (James 1:17).

You may be thinking that you don't have much to be thankful for today. Oh, my friend, you do! Start with your spiritual blessings; the Cross, salvation, God's love for you. His faithfulness, His mercy and compassion. The forgiveness of all of your sins. The Blessed Holy Spirit living on the inside of you. You have been blessed with a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food to nourish your body. I praise God each morning for eyes that see, ears that hear, lips that speak and a body that moves. Each breath, each heartbeat - a gift from God.

Hate laundry? Thank Him for a husband and children who wear those clothes and the means to buy them. Hate house cleaning? Thank Him for providing shelter. Hate your job? Please don't!! Thank Him that you have one -- so many do not! You get the point...

You say, "But Donna, you just don't know what I'm going through right now. It's so hard to be thankful." The Bible tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All -- not some. Even in bad situations thank Him that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Thank Him because "the testing of your faith is developing perseverance (patience). When perseverance has finished it's work you will be mature, complete, not lacking anything" (James 1: 3-4). Don't see the end from the beginning? Thank God for teaching you how to trust Him!!

Today is Wednesday. Won't you join me for the next five days on this journey of total thankfulness? It won't be easy, I assure you. We're not used to it. That old, ugly father of lies may even put on a stronger attack. Let me make a few suggestions:

When you have a thought or situation that would cause you to worry or fret or complain, just say "Jesus". There is power in that name. "There is power in the very Name, something all pagan religions know. To know someone's name means to have power over them, however external: they will, after all, turn round for you if you name them aloud, stop in their tracks, look up. Jesus has freely given us his name, which means "Savior". It has extraordinary power: do we use it?" (Sister Wendy Beckett, The Mystery of Love, Harper Collings (1996) p. 56). Say, "Jesus" and then begin to thank Him, once again.

If you are in a prayer group this week, dare to be different - tell the others that you're doing nothing this week but thanking Him. Who knows? It may catch on....Hallelujah! won't God be pleased!

Even thank Him for what He WILL do ahead of time, "calling things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). Thank Him for that healed marriage. Thank Him for that saved son or daughter. Thank Him for the provision He is sending...right now!

Put your laundry list of requests in your pocket, immerse yourself in the Word to see all His benefits (Psalm 103:2). Shout for joy even if you don't feel like it. Be undignified! Let "Thank you Jesus!" continually be in your mouth! Then go to worship Him on Sunday morning. Praise, sing, dance if you're not embarrassed. You will have "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

I believe that God is going to do some mighty things in our lives this week. I really do. Won't you try it with me? And I would love to hear from you. E-mail me and share the awesome way that God has worked in your life and situations as you spent a week in thanksgiving. Then we will rejoice and thank Him together.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day,

Living the Word with you,
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Friday, November 05, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus

No friends...it is not Tuesday. Whatever day this reaches you, I pray that it finds you well, living the Word of God, and eagerly anticipating seeing His glory right before your eyes.
I will be unable to write to you this coming Tuesday because we will be in Florida for the funeral of my father-in-law. He passed away early this morning after a long battle with severe emphysema and cancer. He will be missed greatly by his children, grandchildren and many friends. I will miss our little phone chats and how he would always tell me to hurry up and jump on a plane right then and there to come and visit.
Tomorrow we will hurry up and jump on that plane with sadness in our hearts. We were so blessed to be able to make a visit back in July and spend time with Dad for what we knew in our hearts would be the last time. Mixed with the sadness is a joy that those who don't know Jesus cannot fully understand.
Today Dad inhales deeply, and his lungs are full of the sweet air of Heaven. Today he has no pain. Today He is in the presence of the One I long to see.
Because you are so dear to me, I didn't want to miss writing to you without an explanation. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel. Pray for the comfort of all Dad's family and friends, and above all else, that Chuck and I will be nothing short of Jesus to each and every person in our midst.
Living the Word along with you,

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus #176

#176 "About Face"
November 2, 2010
"I will listen to what God the Lord will say". (Psalm 85: 8a)
Hello, friend on the other side of my screen! It is such an honor to serve Christ, and you, every single Tuesday morning! I hope today finds you well, deep in the Word of God, and radiant with the light of Christ.
I have so much to say to you. Lately, I, along with some members of my family, have been up to our necks in what T. D. Jakes always called "the vicissitudes of life". I wasn't entirely sure what a vicissitude was, but it sure did seem to be an appropriate word for life in the land of the living right about now. A vicissitude is a change; a variation in circumstances; a reversal; an about-face. Anybody?
When life changes, when circumstances do a reversal on you, you can choose to drown in the lake of vicissitude, or do an about-face on your about-face. How about together, we echo the psalmist's words in Psalm 85 today? "I will listen to what God the Lord will say".
One day, Jesus was teaching His disciples, explaining that He was the Bread of Life. (See John 6) He told them that unless they ate the flesh of the Son of Man and unless they drank His blood, they would have no life in them. The Bible says that His disciples called this a "hard saying" and from that time, many of them turned back and no longer followed Him.      
"I'm sorry, but we're downsizing and the company has to let you go". "Foreclosure Notice". "Your loved one has cancer". "We're calling because we have your son in custody". "I'm leaving you because I just don't love you anymore and I've found someone else who understands me". "The baby died". Hard sayings. Hard words to hear.  Jesus asks you the same question that He asked His running disciples on that day: "You do not want to leave too, do you"? (John 6: 67)
When the hard words come, will you turn your back on Christ, or will you say with Peter (v. 68-69), "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God". I don't know how folks handle the vicissitudes of life without Jesus. I just don't know... Where else would I go? To WHOM would I go? I just don't know.
The prodigal son had it all figured out. Get the money from my father and strike out on my own. No more working the fields. No more putting up with that older brother. I'm going to live the good life. Over the course of time, things changed. There was a reversal and an about-face. Wiping the pig slop from his mouth, he utters the words that would about-face his about-face. "I will arise and go to my Father". (Luke 15: 18 KJV)
When the words cut to the core of your being or when your life takes a complete about-face from what you had planned, make it a habit that before you do one, single, solitary thing, you arise and go to your Father. Don't walk...RUN to your Father in Heaven. While you are a long way off, He sees you with eyes full of compassion. He stands at the ready to run to you, throw His arms around you and cradle you to His breast. To whom else should you go?
Lazarus was dead. Mary and Martha just did not understand why Jesus waited so long to come. But while He was still a few days off, He told His disciples that all of this happened "for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it". (John 11: 4) I am completely, absolutely convinced that every vicissitude of life has the ultimate goal of giving God all the glory that is due His Holy Name. I am completely, absolutely convinced that God would never allow the pain to slice me and hurt so much if His glory was not at stake. I wait to see it. I search for it. I long to see Him glorified in the about-faces of my life. My pain and my vicissitudes will not be without purpose. And their purpose is the glory of my Christ.
If the enemy of my soul thinks that his attacks will turn me away from Christ, he's sorely mistaken. To whom else should I go? I will always arise and go to my Father. His glory is at stake. I will see it. I know that I will. So, bring it on devil! Bring it on!
How about you? You do not want to leave too, do you? Arise and go to your Father now. Ask Him to show you His glory. He will do it.
Lord, let it be so. Let it be so.
Living the Word along with you,
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