Thursday, June 30, 2011

Welcome the sifting!

Luke 22:31-32  Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.
The process of sifting wheat involves putting the harvested wheat into a sifter, similar to a large blanket tossing and shaking it back and forth. The wheat is sifted until the chaff (husks) are separated and all that remained is the best part of the wheat. This process enables the undesirable parts to be ‘winnowed out’ without destroying the wheat. Without sifting, the wheat is unusable. 
In this passage, Jesus is referring to all disciples, not just Simon. Satan asked God for  permission to sift all believers. Our enemy wanted to break us, make us weaker and cause us to lose our faith. But, as with all things that are intended for evil, God will turn it around and use it for our good and for His glory. The sifting process is not fun, but it removes the unusable parts and makes us more like Jesus.
“We can imagine a picture like this: Satan has a big sieve with jagged-edged wires forming a mesh with holes shaped like faithless men and women. What he aims to do is throw people into this sieve and shake them around over these jagged edges until they are so torn and weak and desperate that they let go of their faith and fall through the sieve as faithless people, right into Satan's company. Faith cannot fall through the mesh. It's the wrong shape. And so as long as the disciples hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan's hands.” (John Piper, Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church)
But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon that your faith should not fail. 
Jesus prayed specifically for Simon. I love that Jesus went to His Father and interceded for Simon so that during the time that he stumbled, his faith would not be completely destroyed. Jesus knew what Simon was about to do, but Jesus also knew that the power of God could help Simon come out on the other side of his transgression.
We all make mistakes. We are human and God knows we are going to trip even before we know. But, He will never leave us or forsake us. He will be there through it all and He will be there on the other side with loving open arms and a high-five.
So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.

What a great example of my Pastor’s favorite quote, “failure is not final”. In a sense, Jesus was saying, “Yes, Simon, I know you are going to mess up, but I also know that your heart is true to God. I know you will repent and turn your face back towards Him. When you have been sifted and are made stronger, teach others to do the same.” 
We need to encourage one another. We need to be honest about the times we are tripping or stumbling. Perhaps our lessons will help another follower avoid the same trap. Perhaps our sifting will encourage someone else as they are being sifted. We need to be transparent about our struggles because as Christians, we are all being sifted and we are all working towards the same goal.
Father God, I know that you never leave me, and that knowledge, gives me hope during the difficult times. Thank you for helping me stand strong in my faith. Teach me to have stronger faith so that it will not fail. Help me to see the lessons that I am learning through the sifting process and help me to pass what I have learned, to others. I welcome the sifting because with each shake of the sifter I am more like Your Son Jesus, Amen.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are you sure about that?

Painting by LaDonna West
Saul was the bad guy. In the movies, Saul would be the one wearing the black hat and riding the dark horse... er... donkey. The disciples knew about Saul, his reputation and the list of atrocities he had committed against Jesus’ followers. So, when the Lord spoke to Ananias (one of Saul’s targets) and told him to go and help Saul, you can sense the fear and concern in his voice. “Are you sure about that?” Ananias asked. But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name.” (Acts 9:15)

I know there have been times when I acted just like Ananias. “Are you sure about that God?” As if I was bringing something to His attention that He had somehow overlooked or forgotten. But of course He hasn’t. I do not see things the same way that He does. It is not my responsibility to question. Like Ananias, it is my job to obey.

What Ananias didn’t comprehend, was grace. God planned to use Saul’s past to demonstrate His amazing grace. As human’s it is not always easy for us to see that or understand it. Sometimes it seems easier to hold on to anger and judgement rather than extend forgiveness. But God does not do that, ever. If we are truly sorry for the wrong we have committed, God is faithful to forgive. Nothing we do is beyond His grace.

But, God takes it a step further than forgiveness. Saul did terrible things in opposition to Jesus, but God used Saul’s mistakes to bring others to salvation. From the pit, God chose Saul. Even before he was saved, God picked Saul and gave him the words and the ability to bring people to Jesus. God will forgive us and then use our mistakes for His glory.

There is nothing you have done that He cannot use. You may be wondering how. The how is not up to us. We are only responsible for the what. So what do we need to do?

Confess our mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

Receive and believe in His forgiveness.

Obey His next steps.

Trust that He will be with you through it all. He did not bring you this far to leave you now.

Thank you God for teaching me about Your character. It is comforting to know that the mistakes I make are not final. Thank you for turning my sins into something beautiful that brings You glory. In Jesus name, Amen.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My husband, Dan, is an exercise junkie. He loves how he feels after a great (intense) workout. I have tried to share his enthusiasm and I admit I do feel better when I workout regularly, but I have trouble staying with it. I am really good for a few weeks or even a month and then something happens, and I don’t quite stick with it like I should. For me it is a choice, for Dan, it is a way of life.


As I was doing my Bible study and praying this week, I began thinking about momentum. I’m not sure why God called it to my attention, but I wrote the word at the top of my page and kept going.

I have been reading the Old Testament and I am currently moving from 2 Chronicles into the book of Ezra. I can’t help noticing the repetition. Each time the writer introduces the new king, we are given his name and whether he did good or evil in the Lord’s sight. At one point, I wanted to start keeping score and I even began cheering when someone pleased the Lord. It seemed like the victories were too short lived, however. A king would come in, rebuild the temple, tear down the high places (pagan shrines), repent for the evil everyone had committed and make sacrifices to the Lord. Then, just as things were moving in the right direction, he would die, his son would take over and return to the wickedness his father had worked so hard to combat.

Why does this happen?

I think it is human nature, we get so comfortable where we are, that we forget that we have to keep moving, we have to keep striving for more. It is easy to become complacent. The problem is that complacency doesn’t mean we are pausing and standing still, it actually means we are moving backwards. In the times we are satisfied with our surroundings or achievements, it is easy for pride to sneak in. Pride tells us we are good enough, that we don’t need anyone or anything. This is an opportunity for bad habits and sin to develop.

I began thinking about my life, are there times or places that I have become complacent, comfortable, or impatient?




Bible Study.



Church attendance.


We have finally made it to the last week of school. Monday morning, the kids and I sat at the table eating breakfast and talking about all the fun activities of the week. It seemed like we had been sitting there an unusually long time when I realized the kitchen clock had stopped. We went from enjoying our breakfast to full out craze! We were running, grabbing school stuff and I was shouting, “let’s go! Let’s go!” I took a minute to wind the clock, reset the time and start the pendulum before running out the door. I didn’t want to get caught by that silly clock again.

After getting the kids to school, I came home to clean up the mess we had left behind. I realized that the clock was still not working. I was concerned because it is an antique, hence the winding, and it is costly to repair. I opened up the pendulum case and pushed it to get it started again. Apparently, in my haste to get everyone to school, I had not pushed the pendulum strongly enough. The momentum wasn’t there to keep it going and the clock stopped.

That is the way I am with good habits that I want to establish (like exercise). I get started, but don’t stay committed. I don’t give it enough of a push to get the momentum going and it dies out. It is the same with faith. It is not enough to do things a few times and then decide it is good enough. We must keep going, keep striving for more, keep learning and keep it fun! We need to stick with it even before we see the results. The pendulum always moves before the hands! We need to have faith that God is working and that the results will come in His time.

What situation needs your attention to get the momentum going?

Father God, thank you for teaching us through your Word and through life. Please speak to us and show us where we need momentum in our lives. Thank you for providing everything we need to live a life of victory. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Withered Fig

Jesus cursing a fig tree. This story intrigued me. It is just a tree for crying out loud, what could it possibly have done to you, I wondered. 
Not knowing anything about fig trees, I started there. When fig trees are in season, they grow leaves and fruit (figs) at the same time. This tree stood out from the rest of the trees because it was not the season for the trees to bloom. Against the backdrop of the other barren trees, this tree stood out, calling them. Jesus approached the tree believing that he would be treated to a fig. However, the abundance of leaves did not lead to an abundance of fruit. There was not one fig to be found. The absence of fruit was the cause of the curse.
Of course, the problem was not the literal lack of fruit, Jesus was concerned with the absence of Spiritual fruit. The people of Israel, God’s chosen people were given more opportunities than any of the other people of their time. Instead of loving God and obeying His commands, they repeatedly turned to their own ways and ideas. Their biggest mistake, was rejecting the Messiah.
The Jews and Pharisees were covered in leaves; ceremony, creed, history, doctrine, show, tradition and reputation. All of these things were for show. They lacked what was truly important, faith in God. 
God says that if we are truly in Christ and He is in us, we will display the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us exactly what fruit we should bear: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I know we cannot be perfect all the time, sometimes we will have a bad day and not bear good fruit. God knows that and He forgives us when we confess our failures. Failure is not final, however, God forgives us and we move on. But daily, we should be living through Christ, relying on his power and his ways, striving, to grow Spiritual fruit.
If we are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit, we need to take a look and see why not.
Am I obeying the guidelines God has given us?
Am I seeking God and all His ways?
Do I trust God and all of His words?
Am I living through His power or struggling on my own?
I recently heard a message about living life through Christ. Accepting Christ does not automatically mean life is easier and we are now living just like Him. We have work to do. Daily we have to give up our fleshly desires and the ways of the world. We have to seek Him and learn His ways, so that we will become the people He created us to be. At the end of the message, the Pastor asked a question that I will carry with me for quite a while.
Are people closer to Christ by talking to you?
I have decided to make this my mission. I don’t want people to see me as a tree full of beautiful leaves that bears no fruit.
Thank you God for sending your son, Jesus, to show me the right way to live. Thank you for the Holy Spirit that teaches and guides me daily. I want to grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit, I don’t want to live without sharing your love with others. I want to live my life for your glory, so that others will be drawn to you. Amen.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday Wisdom

Proverbs 8 (MSG)

Lady Wisdom Calls Out
32-36 "So, my dear friends, listen carefully; 
   those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; 
   don't squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, 
   awake and ready for me each morning, 
   alert and responsive as I start my day's work.
When you find me, you find life, real life, 
   to say nothing of God's good pleasure.
But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul; 
   when you reject me, you're flirting with death."


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Father's Work

I went to school to be a Graphic Artist. I always loved art and the thought of being creative all day seemed like my dream job. After graduating, it took me a couple of years to actually get a job in Graphic Design and when it finally happened, I loved it. I was working for a screen printing and embroidery shop. I enjoyed the people I worked with. I delighted in creating artwork and I loved working through problems to find the perfect solution. Eventually, I began to notice changes around the office and in my heart. At one point, I can remember thinking, “I am decorating t-shirts, how am I making the world a better place?” 
I was laid-off from this job while I was 9 weeks pregnant with our first child. Although I was devastated, I eventually learned that God had a better plan. It has now been 8 years since I worked outside of our home. 
Today as I was reading John 17, I started thinking about the work that God has given me in this season. As a stay-at-home mom, sometimes I get caught up with the monotony of the laundry, cleaning, dishes, homework and activities routine. But as I thought longer today, God reminded me that there is more to mothering than providing for my children’s physical needs. God has called me to disciple my children, to share the Good News with them. I need to be a good witness to them whenever I can and I need to talk about Jesus at every possible opportunity.
Before Jesus died on the cross, it was his responsibility to preach to the Jews, give proof that he was the Messiah, and teach the disciples how to follow God without being caught up the the laws being taught by the Pharisees. Just before being arrested, Jesus was praying, and he said, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4
That passage really jumped out at me today, because that is what I want more than anything. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say to God, “I brought you glory by finishing the work you gave me.”
There are days that I feel overwhelmed by the work He has given me. Thinking about everyday until the end of my life is too much to absorb at one time. I need to break it down into smaller pieces. I realized that I want to live everyday that way. At the end of each day I want to say, “I brought you glory today by finishing the work you gave me to do”.
This seems much more doable for me. I will do my best today. 
And then God reminded me. I am not alone. There are big things God will ask me to do, but He doesn’t expect me to conquer them alone. God has already worked things out for today. He knows exactly what I need for today and He will provide everything if I ask.
As for those times I feel overwhelmed, I often realize that I am trying to tackle my work alone. I have not asked for God’s power or blessings or the provisions that He wants to give me. Ultimately, my job for today includes trusting in Him and relying on His perfect provision for whatever we face.
God thank you for Jesus and for giving me the tools I need to be a good disciple and a good parent. I confess that I have not followed Jesus’ example the way that I should. I want to change that and I want work better today. I want to bring you glory by the work that I finish this day. Thank you for providing the power, patience, wisdom and strength that I need and thank you for being with me through each task. Amen.



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