Archive for God’s Ways

Aug
16

Looking for the Open Window

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Recently a greeting card had me laughing in the middle of Wal-Mart. A man and his wife were in bed for the night when a bald old man with a long white beard and moustache came up to their bedroom window, smiling. The woman was shrieking in horror at the sight of the stalker? intruder? murderer?

The inside of the card declared, “When God closes a door, sometimes He opens a window.”

It's often said that when God closes a door, He opens a window.

It's often said that when God closes a door, He opens a window.

It reminded me all too much of myself these days. I’ve had about seven years of seeing closing doors. That’s a long time to be looking for the open window…or skylight…or crack in the wall, even. Now, behold! God appears to be at the window, and I am a bit like the startled woman on the greeting card.

For quite some time I’ve needed employment that would bring in the kind of income that would pay for my home and household expenses. I have a degree in music performance that was not going to help me now. In the business world of the 21st century, my skills as an office worker in the 1980’s were laughable. The jobs on line were all looking for my resume. What resume was that? I didn’t really have one. And I loathed and dreaded the prospect of returning to school. One run through the gauntlet of academia was enough, and then some, as far as I was concerned. So when I prayed, “Lord, you know I need a job,” it was not the same as when I was in my early twenties and needed work. I was praying for some specific conditions that would meet the needs and abilities I had now, which were very different.

This year I became distracted from my financial needs. My son has had a very difficult year so far and that took up my energy. When there was flooding in the spring, I was one of those with a lake in my basement, and many hours were devoted to repair before we could return home, and more repair afterwards. When there was finally a break in the action, I looked at my finances and realized the situation had become dire while my attention had been diverted. Now the prayers became really urgent and heartfelt. Something had to open up – now.

I want to tell you what happened before and after that prayer. God prepared me for that moment of prayer, and as I said above, it looks like the window is opening for me at last.

BEFORE:

Just a couple of weeks before the financial crisis, God brought me to a place where I could heal from the guilt of my divorce. I’ve written some things before about this wonderful moment when I finally realized that God was not punishing me. It came to a head because guilt was stopping me from believing God could have an answer for me, or blessings for me. Guilt gnawed at me when I knew that all I could do was go forward from here. Guilt even gnawed at me although I knew in Christ I was forgiven. Counselors would write evaluations of my son and mention that his troubles began when our marriage became difficult, and my heart would sink. Some circumstance would go wrong and I would think, maybe my plans fall through because of the divorce. The idea of a curse became a superstition with me.

God sent me back to the Bible to see that there was no verse that said for some sins God punishes continually even if I repent. Then I found a humorous coupon that author Steve Brown has on his website: A certificate entitling the bearer to three free sins. Laughing, I immediately knew what I wanted my first free sin to be. Then I began to see his point: because of the blood of Jesus, I don’t need a coupon to be free from the consequences of three sins. I have been freed from the consequences of all the sins I have been mourning.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” – Psalm 32:5

Moreover, I am not cursed, but blessed:

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” – Psalm 32: 1 & 2

PRAYER:

When I prayed for the financial help I desperately needed, I called on God in the brokenness of my situation, not awash with the guilt of my past. I could not fix it. Only He could.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

This was a huge difference in my attitude in prayer. Because of what had been lifted from me in “BEFORE”, now I believed God had forgiven me and He would be willing to bless me again. Sometimes I got anxious, sometimes I cried, but I kept turning to the hope that God would bring the answer.

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” – Psalm 62:5, KJV

AFTER:

My great friend Michelle called me seven days later. She had heard from an old friend she hadn’t seen in years. The woman wanted to know if she knew people who needed a job, who were worried that they would lose their home. She wanted to hire some people and give them professional training in her trade.

This certainly seemed to fit a lot of my prayer requests. I was someone who needed a job and whose house was on the line. The offer came through a friend rather than the route of a want ad or resume, where I couldn’t compete. The education was going to be one on one, where skills can be “caught” rather than taught. This was the way I learned music and is my favorite method of learning. I could work hours that accommodated my daughter’s transportation needs for school. As I became skilled, I could earn a substantial portion of my budget this way.

You might be expecting me to say that I then wrestled to determine the Lord’s will. And you might be surprised to learn that I can’t say I did. I have done that in years past. Instead, this is the attitude I took: I prayed, something that held answers to my particular requests appeared, I will thank God for it, and I am going through the open door to see what God does here.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21

Either 1) This is the way God has for me to ease the financial burden; or 2) I will see God teaching me something here, but in time leading me to something else.

Am I cut out for this new endeavor? We will have to wait and see!

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Aug
13

When He is Doing Something New

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K-LOVE, the Christian rock radio station, sends me a Bible verse of the day. Last week many were about God doing new things. A couple of examples:

Tuesday was

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” – Isaiah 43:19

And Thursday brought

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” – Habakkuk 1:5

I thought this was pretty interesting, because in my week every day brought new things. Really new.

"We pray, and we wait, for God to move. Then God acts all at once. The landscape, and the very earth beneath us, changes."

"We pray, and we wait, for God to move. Then God acts all at once. The landscape, and the very earth beneath us, changes."

We pray, and we wait, for God to move. Then God acts all at once. The landscape, and the very earth beneath us, changes. Monday was one of the most difficult days I’ve had in a long time. God really did do something new at my house on Tuesday; before the sun was up, the feline population here had increased from two to eight. Everyone’s life changed dramatically, and not pleasantly, on Thursday. My head was much clearer Friday, but my clarity of thought gave me some jarring insights. One day was despair and the next brought relief. It was exhausting.

I tend to think that new is good. I suspect that’s a cultural attitude we hear all the time in advertising. You know, “new and improved.” Every day held something drastically new, but some of the “new” was bittersweet. Some of the “new” changed the whole playing field. I felt like one of the bad guys in Popeye, being swung over Popeye’s head and slamming onto the floor on either side. Was it good? Was it bad? It sure was happening fast. God was moving, and my kids and I (and a lot of cats) were along for the ride. And the ride’s not over yet.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…. Romans 8:28a

But sometimes as “the good” is being worked out, it doesn’t seem like it’s good.

When I looked at the passage above from Isaiah, God was promising obviously good things to Israel: water is coming to the desert and wasteland, times of refreshing. Conversely, the prophet Habakkuk is asking God for justice against wrongdoers, and the new thing God promises him is undoubtedly working for the good, but it’s terrifying: The Babylonians are coming to conquer as a judgment. “They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence,” God tells him in Habakkuk 1:9a.

All I knew was to hold on tight to God, to trust that He had everything well in hand and He would see us through. Things might not work out as I would like them to be, but God has a plan, and He would direct.

While I feel the discomfort of all the change, what stays steady is our God. Change startles and confuses us, but the Lord is not surprised. We often say, “He’s always there.” When you yourself are in the storm you can feel like asking where “there” is. David says,

If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast. – Psalm 139:8 – 10

“There” is right where you stand now.
“There” is above you and all about you, protecting you in the storm.
“There” is beside you, waiting for you to turn to Him and let Him take care of the changes that are so frightening.

We get surprised or ambushed. We tremble or weep at the things drastically changing around us. But Hebrews says

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

Just as we need Him every day, He is present every day, the Rock that hides us in the storm, the Rock on which we stand when change comes.

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Jul
30

Self Abandoned to God

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I was looking at an Oswald Chambers lecture recently entitled, Arriving at Myself. You may know Chambers from his enduring work, “My Utmost for His Highest”, a daily devotional book. Chambers’ wife wrote down many of his sermons and classroom lectures to seminary students, leaving us a rich trove of his knowledge and wisdom. This lecture hit me because, like so much of his writings, it seemed so relevant; it was delivered in 1915 , but it could have been written yesterday.

Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers


Chambers is one of my favorite writers because his every thought brings you back to Christ. He pinpoints even subtle attitudes of secular thinking, and confronts them with truth. There you are, confronted with the words of Christ, the Godly perspective, the attitude that the Christian should have. In one hundred years the spiritual battleground has not changed so much as we think. It is just uncanny how these ideas are still around, pervading and warping our thinking.

Arriving at Myself is divided into six segments, but two of them especially made me stop and think. The first is entitled, “My Right to My Individual Self.” He explains individuality as the “husk of personality” that protects our personal life.

“But if individuality does not become transfigured by the grace of God, it becomes objectionable, egotistical and conceited, interested only in its own independence.”

We want our own ideas and our own ways from before our Christian experience to stay just where they are – but Jesus is telling us:

“If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24

Chambers wastes no words in showing up our excuses:

“We cling to our individuality like a drowning man to a straw – ‘Of course God will recognize my individual peculiarisms and prejudices.’ “

Then Chambers compares it to God’s call:

“If we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our independent right to our individual self must go, and go altogether.”

It must go, and go altogether. For an example, look at some of the things in Ephesians 5 we are told to change that many of us don’t change because “we just are that way”:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. – Ephesians 5:3 – 5 (Italics mine)

Ouch. Ouch. I fail at both getting all these things out of my life and at replacing them with thanksgiving. I don’t make enough effort to always reflect that I belong to Him.

In college, I roomed at one time with a girl who had advertised for a Christian roommate. I came in one evening to find she was sitting at the kitchen table with a friend, both telling the filthiest sex jokes they could come up with. I took her aside in the hallway and called her on it, but she told me, “I’m a Scorpio, I can’t help it.” (Scorpio is the astrological sign associated with sexuality.) In other words, she was saying, “I want God, but He can’t have my fun, and I don’t care if you’re offended by it, either. I’ve found my excuse, and I’m keeping my individual independence.”

The next section cuts to the deepest point: “The Recognition of My Personal Self.” Its theme is Matthew 10:39

He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.

Chambers’ first sentence clearly shows what he wants us to recognize about the personal self:

We have to recognize that our personal life is meant for Jesus Christ.

But will we give it to Jesus or keep holding on to and examining the experiences, thoughts and emotions that He already knows?

It amazed me that Chambers mentions how this is the opposite of the “modern jargon” of self realization. Evidently people have been trying to look within and draw their feelings out to find the “answers” well before Transcendental Meditation and the various New Age regimens. By giving your personal self to Christ, the Holy Spirit will help you remember what you need to know and better yet, lead you toward Jesus, His love, His cleansing and real answers.

Some methods pull up too many emotions or traumas for a person to handle at one time. It can be frightening and injurious. The Holy Spirit shows you only what you can handle of the things that have been buried deep inside, in the order that you can handle it. Having experienced God’s loving, gentle healing I would never want another method. In the past I have seen a therapist – they can be immensely helpful – but I prayed that God would guide those sessions so they would not become overwhelming.

Chambers warns against using Christian service as a cover. Jesus is not just looking for our giving in service, but in giving our very selves. Chambers writes,

“The great dominating recognition is that my personal self belongs to Jesus….The point is, will I surrender my individual life entirely to Him?”

Chambers goes on to explain that this is laying at His feet not just our sins, but good things. Are our hopes and dreams subject to Him or do we keep them as our own? Are our loved ones in His hands or do we clutch them in ours? Several people in my life have died at an early age, and I have had to learn in my sorrow that they were not mine to keep.

I hope the last paragraph grips you as it did me as Chambers ends by gathering up all our difficulties in life and says that at their root, they are one and the same:

“Jesus Christ asks us to give up the best we have got to Him, our right to ourselves. There is only this one crisis, and in the majority of lives it has never been reached, we are brought up to it again and again, and every time we go back. Self-realisation must be renounced in order that Jesus Christ may realize Himself in us.”

Categories : Anne's Posts, God's Ways
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Jul
28

God’s Economy

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First, I’m sorry blogs were so sparse last week. My computer crashed and I was without it for a whole week. My trusty computer fixer, Ben Burnett, told me there was so much that had wormed its way into our files that it took every trick in the book to restore it. Due to his work, we are back to normal (thank you, Ben), and I am picking up where I left off.

I had looked at the account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 to see what God is looking for in our hearts when we think about possessions. Jesus also assures his disciples that those who have left behind possessions or loved ones for His sake

“will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” – Matthew 19:29b

But He also cryptically tells them,

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. – Matthew 19:30

Then I noticed that Jesus continued on, saying,

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. – Matthew 20:1

So begins the parable of the workers. The incident, and the teaching, evidently sparked the parable to shed light on what had just happened. The young ruler couldn’t bring himself to let go of his wealth and possessions to give to the less fortunate, and he leaves. Jesus explains how greatly those who give up earthly things will have them restored. Now Jesus is giving those who remain a lesson in how God runs His economy.

The master of the story is in fact a rich man, a vineyard owner. He goes into town at dawn, and in a manner that is still in use today, he gathers up unemployed men to work for the day for a coin, a denarius. Today a denarius is worth about $20 in the USA, and it was commonly the day’s wages for unskilled labor. At about nine in the morning, what the people in Jesus’ time called the “third hour,” the landowner returns to town and finds more men to work for him. He promises to pay them “whatever is right.” Again at noon, at three, and even at “the eleventh hour,” or about an hour before sunset, he brings more idle men to work his vineyard.

At sunset, the work day ends. The men who came last and only worked one hour are given a denarius. The men who have been harvesting all day take this as a sign that they will receive more, but they are paid only the promised denarius. They complain that they did the brunt of the work, but the master says to one man,

“Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? Matthew 20:13b – 15

This isn’t a satisfying answer in our way of looking at things. Shouldn’t it be “a day’s work for a day’s pay?” If it looks lopsided to us, don’t we deserve to know why? Well – no. Notice that many grumbled, but the explanation was only given to one man. Beyond knowing that the master chose to be generous, we don’t know why things worked out the way they did.

How different from the health/wealth doctrine that says if we have enough faith, we can definitely have certain rewards here on earth. God is not bound by what we expect to be rewarded with.

But sometimes we feel that God “owes” us something. Our faithfulness, we think, should have guaranteed protection against the hard times we face. We think, won’t you take a barter, God, for the healing of a loved one? We invent terms we hope we can get God to accept, thinking that we can fulfill them. These are not God’s terms. He doesn’t have to accept them. We were not saved by anything we have done, and we cannot trade our works for an arrangement with Him.

We do know, however, that He watches over and takes care of those who love and follow Him. Psalm 34:19 says:

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…

It’s the righteous person, cleansed with Jesus’ blood, that God promises to deliver, not the one who has made a deal with God promising to do this or that.

Another example of God’s division of wealth comes from the Old Testament: 1Samuel 30. David is not yet king, but he does have a camp of men who support him and follow him. The Amalekites raid their camp when the men are not there and kidnap their wives and children. David and the men “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” 1 Samuel 30:4 They are outraged and pursue the Amalekites. Between their grief and their strenuous pursuit, 200 of the 600 men are completely exhausted and cannot go on. They stay with the camp supplies at the Besor Ravine as those who can keep going catch up to the raiders, kill most of them, regain their families and take plunder.

When they return to camp, some of the 400 men expect to keep the plunder for themselves. But David tells them:

“No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” – 1Samuel 30:24

I believe David is saying that all these men were following David for the same purpose, and God had blessed them all through the victory, so the blessing of the plunder belonged to all of them. I’ve wondered, too, if this was because the men who stayed behind had done all they could do, and they were not going to be penalized for that. It’s another moment when God’s economy is not our economy.

The tax collector Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree in Luke 19:1-10 to get a glimpse of Jesus over the heads of the crowd that followed Him, offered half of his possessions to the poor and to repay those he had cheated four times the amount involved. Nothing was said about that portion being unacceptable. On the contrary, Jesus says,

“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” – Luke 19:9

Why was the rich young ruler told that for his heart to be right before God, he had to give it all? Zacchaeus’ heart attitude was evidently in a very different place, and Jesus treats him accordingly.

This is the reason, I believe, why the parable of the workers is tied to the conversation with the young ruler. Jesus is showing us that

“My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways, My ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8 & 9

We can look for and expect His blessings, but we cannot define them or control them. What we do know is that the Lord is generous, and when we see God’s generosity blessing us or someone we love, we can rejoice in it.

Categories : Anne's Posts, God's Ways
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