Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beauty in the Clouds

“Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you.” (Job 35:5)

          Isn’t God’s creation breathtaking? I took this shot this past summer just when the sun was about to set. Before I focused on the sun, this cloud formation captivated me. One thing I’ve learned is that the sky never looks the same from one day to the next. God always surprises us with his endless, infinite creativity. He paints the sky with a variety of colors and hues, uses broad and fine brush strokes to add interesting elements, such as the puffy white clouds, highlighting them with various shades of light. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Waiting Upon the Lord

“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) AMP

        Are you waiting for something big from God? Something you’ve been praying about for a long time? Or, maybe a short time, and the answer hasn’t yet come?
        I am. And I know others who are doing the same. You may be praying for the salvation of friends and family members, a new job, healing, the right husband, the right wife, guidance and direction, wisdom, resources for ministry, a more loving marriage, your children, or a breakthrough in your finances. Whatever you’re praying for, it’s tough to wait on the Lord, isn’t it?
        I’m waiting on the Lord right now for something to come through this week that I believe may not happen because of a possible mistake I made. God made all the arrangements, but because of what I did, now it may not happen.
         But the Lord is telling me to wait on Him and trust Him to act on my behalf. Stop worrying and be confident that He has heard my prayers and will answer my prayers according to His will and based on His perfect plan for my life. Such an awesome message, but oh so hard to do.
        As we wait on the Lord, always remind Him of His promises as we pray (Isaiah 62:6). When our prayers are based on His promises, we can be sure we will receive an answer (Psalm 145:13b; 1 John 5:14-15).
        Are you waiting on the Lord for something big? If so, trust that He’s listening, and that He will answer you in His perfect timing.
        Let me know if you’re waiting on God for something special and how you’re handling it. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen! 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Surefooted as a Deer

“God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” (Psalm 18:32-33)

        On a beautiful, hot sunny day last month, my husband, son, and I headed to a nearby park to eat a picnic lunch, go for a scenic drive and take photos with my new camera. 
       The lush green rolling hills and the variety of tall trees took my breath away. The best part of the trip was getting to see the deer grazing peacefully along the roadside. We got up close and personal, and they didn’t flinch.

"A loving doe, a graceful deer ..." (Proverbs 5:19)
       For some reason, I love deer. They fascinate me. I believe they’re one of the Lord’s most elegant creatures on earth. They’re pretty. Graceful. Regal. Some, almost statuesque.
       From the car window, I snapped several pictures, using my 200-mm zoom lens. Got great shots.
       As I marveled at the pictures I took of the deer, I remembered God’s promises to us when we’re feeling weary and stressed because of life’s many challenges. We’re to ask Jesus for renewed physical and emotional strength whenever we need it, because He’s the only one who can give it to us. He promises to make us “as surefooted as a deer.” That means He won’t let us stumble or slip. Instead, He toughens us up and makes us confident — and competent. He promises to help us "stand on mountain heights." That means, we’re able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble.

"I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my
strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He
will make me walk on my high hills." (Habakkuk 3:18-19)

       What more can we ask for? Obviously, God knows something about deer that we don’t. Deer generally have lithe, compact bodies, but long, powerful legs, suited to walk, run and climb rugged woodland terrain. That's the kind of power we all need to navigate the sometimes rough terrain of our lives. The good news is that God can give us that power. And as long as we receive it from Him, we will be victorious!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can God Really Move Mountains?

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” (Isaiah 40:3-4)
“I am so exhausted!” said my dear friend and prayer partner some weeks ago. “My job takes everything out of me. The meetings. The long hours. The paperwork. My boss.
“I feel like God wants me to go to seminary and serve in leadership in my church, but I don’t know how that’s ever going to happen. I don’t have the energy or even the time to take that first step.”
Unfortunately, I often feel the same way my friend does. Overwhelmed. Stressed. Anxious. Frustrated. Worried that I’ll never be able to serve the Lord the way He wants me to.
After speaking with my friend and spending some time alone in prayer, the Lord assured me that He could move the mountains in our lives to not only serve him in ways we never dreamed of, but we could ask Him for the seemingly impossible and He would do it (Luke 1:37).
First, the Lord reminded me that all we need is faith as small as a mustard seed and say to the mountains in our lives, “Move from here to there, and [they] would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20-21). But God said only his Spirit would move our mountains, not our own strength (Zechariah 4:6).

Mountain-moving Power
The Lord showed me just how powerful He is when it comes to moving mountains in the book of Zechariah concerning Zerubbabel, whose mission was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the release of the children of Israel from Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel faced great opposition, but the Lord assured him, “Nothing, not even a mighty mountain will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will flatten out before him!” (Zechariah 4:7) In other words, the temple would be rebuilt by the power of God, and nothing would stand in the way.
God reminded me of a similar situation Nehemiah faced when the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem following Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah, a mere slave at the time, prayed his heart out, asking God to give him favor in the eyes of the King so he could ask him for the seemingly impossible: to take time off to oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls that were destroyed during the Babylonian invasion; for protection while he traveled to Jerusalem; for permission to haul timber to reconstruct the walls and build a residence for himself (Nehemiah 1; 2:1-8).

Overcoming Obstacles
And guess what? The Lord gave him favor, and the King gave Nehemiah everything he asked for (Nehemiah 2:1-10). But the story doesn’t end there. Nehemiah faced great obstacles. The enemies of Israel fought him and the Jewish people tooth and nail to stop them from rebuilding the city walls. But despite the fierce opposition, the walls were eventually rebuilt. God’s ultimate will prevailed (Nehemiah 4, 5, 6).
The lesson for us all is that no matter what mountains or obstacles we face (ex., a tremendous workload, a job loss, limited resources, family opposition, physical/mental exhaustion, or even depression), just know the work God has prepared for us to do will be completed. His work through us may experience delays, but in the end we will complete all the tasks he gives us as we persevere and don’t give up. And if we ask Him for the seemingly impossible, He will do it. Why? Because God’s plans can’t be stopped (Job 42:2)!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emotional Aftermath: Tiger Woods' Divorce

“ … and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:18b-19)

            “Money can’t buy happiness. Or put my family back together,” lamented Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods’ now ex-wife, in an exclusive interview with People magazine, in which she opened up about her marriage and how it all fell apart. After reading the highly publicized article, “My Journey,” which graced newsstands the week ending Sept. 6th, I gained a brand new perspective of Elin as a mother and as a married woman.
            Some people may say, “Huh, she has nothing to worry about. It’s better to be divorced and rich than divorced and poor.” That may be true, but as Elin said no amount of money can put her marriage and family back together. Not even the reported $100 million plus settlement she received from Tiger.
            I feel compassion for Elin. Tiger’s adulterous affairs rocked her world, breaking her heart. “I loved him,” Elin recalled. “We had so much fun. … Our wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life.”
When she found out about Tiger’s multiple sexcapades, she said she was in “absolute shock and disbelief.” She didn’t suspect a thing. Which is quite possible since Tiger often traveled.
“It’s hard to think you have this life,” Elin said, “and then all of a sudden — was it a lie? … I have been through stages of disbelief and shock and ultimate grief over the loss of my family I so badly wanted for my children.”
I can’t imagine what it must be like to find out your husband (or wife) had never been faithful throughout your entire marriage. Elin said, she went “through hell” in the months leading up to the divorce.

Foolish Choices
            What in the world was Tiger thinking?
            Did he actually believe he’d get away with such egregious adultery? He didn’t just have a one-night stand or a relationship with one woman. He had ongoing sexual relationships with at least three women in the early years of his marriage and sexual relations with 10 others — or maybe more!  “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28) The answer is no.

            The Lord gives men a stern warning about falling into adultery: “Keep to a path far from her; do not go near the door of her house. … Many are the victims she has brought down” (Proverbs 5:8; 7:26). If only Tiger had heeded that warning. His life would’ve turned out differently. His marriage would still be intact; he wouldn’t have had to split up his children (See “Restoring Fathers to Fatherhood” below) or his finances, and he wouldn’t have lost his reputation and his integrity.
            How could Tiger not have known that being married and having affairs was wrong and that his behavior was risky and destructive? That he was in grave danger of losing everything? “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32-33).
            His shame will never be wiped away?!
            Tiger held his head in great shame when he made his public apology to the world in February. And he’s been holding his head in greater shame on the golf course in recent months, as he’s long lost his winning streak: He didn’t come close to winning the Masters, and he scored 18 over par and tied for 78th place at the W. G. C. Bridgestone Invitational, the worst golf game he’s ever played in his entire professional career.
            It’s amazing when the truth of God’s Word unfolds right before your eyes.
            My prayer for Elin, Tiger and their children is that they would come to know the forgiveness found in Christ, and that the power of Christ would heal their broken hearts, restore their lives, strength and peace. In His Name, Amen!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Restoring Fathers to Fatherhood

“A father to the fatherless …”  (Psalm 68:5)

            I had the pleasure of visiting my former church home this past Labor Day weekend. This was the church where I responded to an altar call 12 years ago and received Christ. The church will always have a special place in my heart.
            I got a chance to hug the pastor and his wife and say hello to a few others I hadn’t seen in years.
The praise and worship songs were awesome. My son and I, and my father felt God’s power and presence. We all clapped our hands during the worship songs and held hands and prayed as the Pastor and others on the pulpit prayed.
But the best part of all was the powerful message. The Senior Pastor preached on Restoring Fathers to Fatherhood. He stressed the importance of fathers in the home; how important it is for fathers to be married and serve as godly husbands, providing for their children, and being there for them spiritually, emotionally, educationally, socially.
Too many of our children grow up without fathers and the social, emotional, and spiritual repercussions are shocking. Young boys are more likely to lead lives of crime, be incarcerated, experiment with drugs, drop out of school and have behavioral problems compared with those who grow up with fathers in the home.
Young girls are more likely to become pregnant before marriage and pursue unhealthy dating relationships because they are starved of the love of a father. And what’s even more heartbreaking is that they are more likely to be sexually assaulted because of the boyfriends their mothers allow without discretion in their homes. The Pastor said these tragedies disproportionately impact the lives of African Americans and Hispanics.
According to the Word of God, the family unit should include a mother and father to raise children. It isn’t right for young men to have babies without first being husbands, because God calls all men to be husbands first and fathers second. Not the other way around.
In order for fathers to ensure the emotional, educational and spiritual well being of their children, the Pastor said they must do the following:

1. Provide for their children and family. (1 Timothy 5:8)
2. Pray for their children
3. Protect their children (Matthew 17:15)
4. Encourage their children (Matthew 3:17)
5. Discipline their children (Proverbs 22:15)
6. Portray a godly role model.

The Pastor encouraged everyone that even if you come from a fatherless home, there is still hope. After all, God watched over many of you your entire lives and enabled you to succeed despite the odds. He reminded us that God will never leave you nor forsake you and is there for you to heal you and carry you along the way (Psalm 27:9-10).
To those of us who grew up with their fathers in the home, the Pastor said to thank them for being in our lives. So after service, I thanked my dad. And I thanked my Heavenly Father for having the privilege of growing up with a loving, supportive father in the home.
Thanks daddy. I love you!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for everyone who grew up without a father in the home; who didn’t experience a father’s love, security and encouragement. Shower them with your fatherly love and compassion, heal their broken hearts, and bless them in every aspect of their lives. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Marveling at a Sunset

"My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun" (Malachi 1:11)

    In the beginning of the summer, I revisited my long lost hobby of photography. It had been almost 25 years since I had a 35-mm camera — or in today's terms, a DSLR — in my hands. Despite my hectic schedule of working long hours, caring for my family, and fighting debilitating exhaustion at the end of the day, I decided to wind down each evening with a stroll around my neighborhood with camera in hand — taking photos of people, places and things. That's when God opened my eyes to the beauty of the trees, flowers, landscapes, the sunrise and sunset He created. I never took pictures of a sunset or sunrise before or even thought much about zooming in on the intricate details of flowers and trees. But that was the Lord's means of directing my attention away from my troubles to Him and Him alone through the lens of my camera. And through that tiny lens, I saw the greatness and majesty of God!
     While focusing on Him as I walk through my neighborhood snapping away, my stress disappears and my strength and energy return.
     Imagine if we all did this at the end of a busy, trying day. Not necessarily take up photography, but perhaps focusing on God by listening to your favorite worship music, meditating on a bible passage, or praying with a friend. Whatever gets your attention on the Lord is all that matters, because when we focus on Him, He speaks to us when we least expect it and promises to give us rest.

     Prayer: Heavenly Father, may you help us direct our thoughts toward you in the morning and at the end of the day so our strength will be renewed. Amen!
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