Monday, January 17, 2011

Please Pray for Joanne

I've never met her, but I feel a tremendous amount of love and concern for her right now and I've been praying for her as if I've known her all my life.  Her name is Joanne Heim and she is a wife, mother, speaker/writer and sister in Christ who suffered a stroke on January 11.  Her husband, Toben, has been updating her blog throughout the week and I am so grateful God is giving him the strength to do so because it is so good to have updates so we can know what is going on and how to pray.

According to her blog, there is substantial swelling in her brain from the trauma of the stroke.  Toben is asking for prayers that the swelling would go down and that in God's timing, she would wake up. He has specifically asked for us all to read Psalm 46 and pray this for their family.  His heart and deep love for his wife is absolutely precious.  On January 12, he wrote "My heart is more full of love for her than ever. With all the tubes and hoses she is still so beautiful to me. Every minute now is a gift."  What a reminder to never take any moment for granted with those we love. 

The reason I'm blogging about this is because I'd like to ask for you to join me in praying for this sweet family.  Though I do not know them, they are family to me, as they are my family in Christ.  If you are a believer, they are your family, too - and they need God's healing touch, the peace that passes understanding and God's perfect wisdom and direction as they go through this valley.  Thank you, in advance, for your prayers.  God hears every single one of them!

Father,
Thank you for hearing our prayers!  What an awesome privilege it is to be able to come boldly before Your throne with our requests and burdens!  You are so good...so faithful...so amazing.  Today we come before You on behalf of our sister, Joanne.  Lord, you know the healing that needs to take place in her body and we pray that You would grant healing, in Jesus' Name.  We pray You would give the doctors and nurses wisdom and discernment as they treat her.  

Father, we pray the swelling would go down in her brain and that there would be not a trace of trauma left.  We pray for this miracle, trusting that if it is Your will, Father, it will be done!  We lift up her family, her husband and her two daughters, and ask that they would feel Your awesome presence in a mighty way today, Father.  We pray they would experience the peace that passes understanding and that they would find rest.  

As her daughters begin school this week in a new school, we pray You will provide grace and acceptance and that you will allow them to adjust to this new change from their homeschool schedule easily and quickly.  God, You are good - and even though we do not know why some things happen - we trust Your sovereignty.  We pray, more than anything, Lord, that You would be glorified in this.  Just in reading what my sister, Joanne, has to say about You - I know she wants that more than anything else in the world.  For that, I praise You!

We pray the words of Psalm 46 for our sweet sister and her family today. YOU alone are our refuge and strength.  Be their refuge, Father - be their strength. 

In Jesus' Name,
Amen

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Slipping Through the Turnstile

Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) always make me shudder: "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." Just how narrow is that gate? Why does He say that?

I read something once about the narrow gate being kind of like a turnstile. You can only enter one at a time - not in groups. Salvation is a personal decision, one that is made by an individual and just because the ones around you have chosen to follow Jesus that doesn't make you a Jesus follower, too. Also, when you go through a turnstile, you have to leave your things behind. No room to carry baggage with you going through one of those things!

Same as going through the narrow door to salvation - we must leave everything that seems to matter behind to follow Jesus.

Why is the road to salvation so narrow anyway? I decided to go on a treasure hunt and look for some answers, so I went to Strong's Concordance. A really good way to figure out the meaning of words in the Bible is to go to their original Hebrew or Greek meaning and context. So I looked up the word "Narrow" in Matthew 7. The Greek word that was originally used in that sentence is "thlibo" and it is used many other times in the New Testament, too.

What I realized today was that the word "thlibo" is the same word used for tribulation, trouble, affliction and distress! It was the word that was used to describe the persecution the disciples and apostles experienced and even the word "throng" which was used to describe what the angry crowds wanted to do to Jesus Christ as He went around preaching, teaching and performing miracles.

No wonder few are able to enter the "narrow" gate. It promises to be gate that opens a life to tribulation, trouble, affliction and distress! Who in their "right mind" would want to enter a gate like that? I tell you something, only a right mind would! We are so sure that comfort and a life free of any tribulation is the best way. God says that's not true.

God does say the way is tough, filled with tribulation and trials and all that stuff we try to avoid - but He also says "I will never leave you or forsake you" and He says it will produce in us endurance and build our faith (James 1). That is why He gives us JOY in abundance - joy is contentment IN SPITE OF circumstances. Happiness is contentment as a result of circumstances. Happiness doesn't elude the follower of Jesus Christ, but it doesn't define us, either.

The Lord promises peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5) when we enter the narrow door and into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Those are some serious benefits. I'd say they far outweigh any persecution or tribulation that could come our way.

Yes, the gate is narrow. Yes, we will have tribulation. Yes, it will be hard. But hear these words of Jesus Christ, words He says to you: "These things I have spoken to you, so that IN ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world".

It might seem crazy to the world to enter through a narrow door that seems to be leading to a life of troubles and tribulation. The thing we miss in all of this is that the tribulation and troubles that are on this side of the turnstile also exist on the other side of it! But without Jesus, the trials are going to be experienced without the joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self- control, faithfulness, love, and kindness that God provides to those who drop their baggage and slip through the turnstile into His loving arms.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Prayer for My Children

As I pray for my children today, I was led to ask you to join me in praying for yours, as well.  Will you join me?

Dear God,

You have given me such a precious gift in my children.  I love them so much and I am always going to count them as one of the most amazing blessings you've ever given to me.  That is why my prayer today, and every day, is for wisdom for me and my husband to raise them well.

Father, in this day and age, being a parent is offering up many new and confusing challenges.  I've often said that I think the kids today have more obstacles to overcome than ever before.  I sometimes hear from others that nothing has changed, all the generations have had to face challenges and temptations.  But I know that no other generation has had the challenges this generation have in their lives.

With all the new technological advances that serve to advance and share Your Truth in the world, come unwanted challenges that have never been faced before by any generation.  Email, Cell phones, Computers, Social Networking, Blogs, YouTube, Chat rooms...and more than I can probably think of - have found their way into the lives of our children.  While these wonderful inventions have tremendous potential to give our children platforms and voices to share Your Truth, they also opens doors that I know give the enemy a tremendous opportunity to tempt them, discourage them and lead them astray. These new forms of communication threaten to steal every moment from my children if I am not fully engaged and aware of their activities.  Forgive me for not always being a good example by having boundaries in my own time on the computer, on the phone or other activities that pull me away from You.

They seem to have no time alone anymore, as their friends are available in an instant.  Gossip and slander can be spread at the push of a send button, with no thought or concern about what the words will do to the person being spoken about.  Please, Lord - keep my children from being pulled into this "drama" and by all means, please don't allow them to be any part of speaking unkindly about others.  Please remind them that their identity comes from who they are in You and that anything said about them from another is of no concern to them.  Give me wisdom and discernment as their mother, I pray.

Some children are being exposed to things on the internet that no child should ever be exposed to.  Pornography is available with the touch of a search button and pictures and videos are being sent through cell phones and on computers that are deeply troubling.  Protect them, Father.  I pray you would never allow my guard to drop in these situations and I pray you would help me and my husband to be open and honest with my children in teaching them Your plan for sexuality.  The world will try to teach them their perverted ideas of what sex is, how they should dress and what is acceptable behavior.  I pray you will give them a double portion of discernment in these matters and that you would surround them with others who love you and desire to honor and please you with their choices.

I ask that you give them a firm and unyielding conscience about these things.  I pray you will send conviction on their heart if they are tempted to stray.  I ask that you would give them a deep rooted passion for Your Word, so they can make the right choices, with wisdom.  Please help me to stay alert in these matters and I ask that you help me to keep them accountable by studying and teaching the Word to them.  I pray that I would be an example to them by always choosing to spend time with You before spending time using these technologies to communicate with others.  I pray You would be their deepest passion - that they would seek You first, before anything or anyone else.  I pray this for me and my husband, as well!

You are faithful and good, Father.  I pray you will watch over and protect my children - and the children of those who are joining me in this prayer, Father.  I love you and am so grateful I can come to you, in faith, knowing you hear me and you desire to answer my prayer.

In Jesus' Name,
Amen

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fleeting Fame

For the past month, they were celebrated.  People dressed them up, told stories around them, prayed near them, lit them up and hung precious family keepsakes on them.  They stood tall, beautiful and lush.

Soon, they will be in a pile, stacked up, lying on their side with decorations taken off of them, lights stripped off and the only thing that is left from their month or so of glory is a few shiny tinsels left on the branches as they sit in the "recycle" pile, awaiting their destiny.

My heart broke as I saw the huge pile of used Christmas trees in my neighborhood.  How could we be so cruel?  What a sight it is - especially for someone like me who loves Christmas so much - to see a pile of beautiful trees who were still green and beautiful, but already forgotten.

I suppose that is how it is in life.  My thoughts turned to the way people chase fame.  People want to be loved, adored, lifted up and celebrated.  If we are honest, this would be something each of us has a desire for deep down in our human soul.  But what does fame really have to offer?

If you look around at those who are famous, you will notice a couple of consistent principles.  First, fame is fleeting.  Just like the Christmas trees, people can be celebrated, adored and admired for a season, but inevitably, the world will move on and the famous one must work even harder to be noticed.  I've often thought that desire to stay in the limelight is what ruins so many people.  Is it better to have had it and lost it or never have had it at all?  We've seen it time and time again - people just don't stay famous once they get there unless there is tremendous effort and marketability.  So many child actors have gone down some dark roads because of this life pattern.

The season comes and goes, and so do the trees.  Next year, we get a new one, maybe even a taller one with lusher branches!  The world always looks for something better, something with more to offer.  It is impossible to please everyone, all the time.

Secondly, even though they are celebrated (almost worshiped at times) those who are famous are often lifeless inside - like the Christmas tree who has been uprooted.  The tree relies on people to keep it alive and watered, just as a famous person must rely on people's attention to remain famous.  But eventually, the trees will die without the root, and so do people.  It may look good on the outside, but inside, there is often a lifeless soul who is dependent on the care of others.

This world has nothing to offer us, in reality.  The desire we have deep down to be loved and adored comes from our deep desire for a relationship with God mixed with a very misled attempt to fill it with something fleeting.  In order to experience lasting love, adoration and celebration, we can only find that in one place - in the arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If we seek Him first above everything else, everything will fall into place in our lives (Matt. 6:33) - including our need for acceptance.  We can find that acceptance and love in the arms of our Savior.

Our tossed out Christmas trees serve as a reminder to us to seek God's approval above all else.  He will never put unrealistic expectations on us.  He will never look for someone "better" or "more attractive".  He will never leave us, He will never forsake us.  He will always keep us as the apple of His eye! 

Even Jesus Christ, the greatest man to ever walk the face of the earth, was rejected by people.  His fame came from His obedience to God, not winning people's approval.  Thank God!  We do not have to be uprooted to find the love we so desperately crave!  Our roots just need to dig even deeper into the true Root, Jesus Christ, where we will find Living Water for our souls.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 This is what the Lord says:  "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord....But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the LORD their hope and confidence!  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit."

1 Thessalonians 2:4 ...Our purpose is to please God, not people.  He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

Galatians 1:10 Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.

1 Peter 2:4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God's temple.  He was rejected by people, but He was chosen by God for great honor.


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