A Better Dance Partner

I am not a dancer.

My sister revoked my “Black” card a long time ago.  She said that I had absolutely NO rhythm.  I could not argue, but that is not why I am not a dancer.  Not really.

It’s because I tend to lead.

In many types of partner dance, lead and follow are designations that need to be respected and adhered to.  Traditionally, the male leads and the female follows.  The lead guides and initiates changes and transitions.  The lead also chooses the steps and the direction.  When the follower matches the lead, the dance is smooth, coordinated, enjoyable to participate in and beautiful to behold.

But when the follower tries to lead?  Oh, that is a different story.

The troubled church in the book of James provides both an example and a lesson for us.  In this text we find a church out of sync – unresolved issues of who will lead and who will follow.  Specifically, James writes, “[Y]our passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4: 1-4 ESV)

The church, the people, want to lead.  When we read verses 7 and 8 we learn the real problem – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  They want to have things their way rather than yield to God. They want to choose the steps and determine the direction.  They want to lead while God follows.

It doesn’t work that way in dancing.  It doesn’t work that way in life.

In dancing, the follower must respect, trust and give into the lead going wherever he leads.  The dance manuals tell us that “partner dancing requires awareness and clear communication; the follower must maintain a centered readiness to the leader watching for and ready to obey visual and physical cues; the leader will give clear direction.”  Additionally, the manuals say, “Physical contact is the most effective means of communication between the lead and the follower.  While the lead’s steps differ from the follower’s, the follower need only mirror the lead’s footwork.  The partners must work together to create synchronized movements.”

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Suzie Eller says, “[T]here’s a gift found when you let God take the lead. You start to understand His rhythm in your life and in your thoughts. Your will begins to align with His.”

How do we draw near to God?  Just as the dance manuals tell us  Be are aware of Him and His communication.  Study to know His Word and His ways.    Maintain a centered readiness watching for and ready to obey His cues.  Listen and expect to hear Him speak to you.  Physical contact is the most effective means.  Meet with Him in Prayer.

THIS WEEK determine to become a better dance partner.   Begin by knowing your Lead, your Heavenly Father.  Trust His lead (James 4:6) and develop a centered readiness for His cues (James 4:7) watching and being ready to obey (Luke 11:28, 1 Peter 1:14, Deuteronomy 11:1, 2 Corinthians 10:5, John 14:15, Romans 2:6-8). Then let Him lead, and enjoy the dance!

 

 

 

 

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A Million Miracles

Since my second retirement, I’d become addicted to daytime television.  Not the trashy, mindless, dribble (though I believe you have to keep it ALL in balance –  see an earlier post confession – Television 8, Prayer 1), but rather I try to watch what I believe will teach, help, inspire and grow.  Such is my justification for my near addiction to the daytime television show, The Doctors.

Daily I am amazed by the miracles of life – not of the individual doctors, though I am in awe of the knowledge, skills and wisdom that God has imparted to them.  But it is the miracle of the human body that most astonishes.  If we would stop and consider, likely we witness millions of miracles on a daily basis.  Just think about the miracle of conception – a sperm and an egg uniting then dividing to become a human being.  Think about the miracle of birth.  I once heard a neurologist share a presentation on all the ways and all the junctures at which “something” could go wrong from conception to birth.  He said it was a miracle that anyone was born alive much less born with a whole and healthy body and mind.

Burn yourself and watch the body heal.  I’ve been very cooking challenged lately and bear the scars of burns to prove it.  A seemingly small and innocent burn on my hand blistered, festered, oozed and ached.  But after a few weeks, it has healed – smooth to the touch and pain free.  Though discoloration remains that, too, is fading with each passing day.  Break a bone, cut a gash, stretch a tendon.  The body has a whole unique system for dispatching white cells, regenerating red cells and doing tons of other things that I couldn’t begin to understand much less explain.

I’ve had a few different surgeries.  Imagine someone cutting you – not just a nick at the surface but deeply through layers and layers of skin and tissue then playing around with some of your organs, cutting things away, “lasering” and “lanceting” and cauterizing things and then STAPLING (who thought that up?!) you back together perhaps adding a few needle and thread stitches along the way.  And after all that you’d think you’d have to lie in bed not just for days or weeks, but months, possibly years!  But if you’ve had surgery, you know they get you up and out of bed walking – sometimes within hours of all that. If that’s not a miracle – what is?!!!!

Surgery or no surgery, that your heart beats, that your eyes see, that your ears hear, that your brain interprets the sights and sounds, that you walk, that you think, that you speak – those are miracles!

Today I watched a new version of The Ten Commandments – not the Charlton Heston version that I grew up watching, but a much less Hollywood version. I happened to flip the channel just at the point when the newly fleed from Egypt Israelites were complaining about not having enough food to eat.  Grumbling, they actually said they might as well have stayed in Egypt and died (Numbers 14:2 NIV).  In Egypt they declared, they sat around pots of meat and ate all the food they wanted (Exodus 16:3 NIV).  And when God GAVE them manna, they detested it and called it miserable (Numbers 21:5 NIV).  At this point in the movie, I had very unholy thoughts.  I actually telephoned my sister to tell her about the movie and my thoughts declaring that I would have told the Israelites to just take your little ungrateful, manna detesting hips back to Egypt then.  That is why I’m not Moses.  (I have since repented.)

There are miracles all around us all the time!  Yet, we find so much to complain about.  God evidenced great patience with the Israelites, and thankfully, He does with us as well (me included).

THIS WEEK as many of us celebrate the Easter season, pause and reflect on the million miracles that God performs daily in our lives including the gifts of grace, mercy and salvation and the “Egypts” He has delivered you from.  Repent of your grumblings, and recommit your life to His service.  If you do not currently have a personal relationship with Christ, there is no better time.  Please click the SALVATION tab above to learn how you can invite Jesus into your life as your Savior and witness firsthand the miracle of Salvation.

Do You See What God Sees?

Years ago a colleague (Mary) said, “One day you look in the mirror and you ask yourself who in the world is that?  You feel so young in spirit and even in mind, but your neck, hands and that person in the mirror will tell you otherwise!”  I laughed, and Mary simply said, “You’ll see.”

It’s 23 years later, and Mary’s “prophecy” has come true!

I tried to blame it on the mirror.  You know, since research has proven that there are “skinny” mirrors (sometimes used in dressing rooms to make you appear slimmer in clothing and to boost sales), I figured there must be “old” mirrors though for the life of me I cannot imagine why someone would create one.  And who would buy one though obviously I had one?  But there they are…crows feet, scratching all around my eyes.  Take heart, they’re not alone; the gray hairs in my brows are keeping them company!

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Do you see that you were fearfully and wonderfully made? (Psalm 139:14)

Do you see the apple of God’s eye? (Psalm 17:1)

Do you see God’s treasured possession? (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Do you see that you are made in the image of God? (Genesis 1:27)

Do you see what God sees?

Satan offers us trick mirrors.  He would have us see ourselves as less than our God created us to be.  In his mirrors we see all our shortcomings. We see our struggles and inferiorities.  We see shame and embarrassment.  We see the stain and guilt of sin.

But if our life is hidden with Christ in God – if we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, then whenever God looks at us, He sees Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God covering us.

Superstition says it’s bad luck to break a mirror, but I say smash whatever mirror Satan keeps holding before you and look into the mirror of God.  See what He sees – YOU – His child. (John 1:12)  A new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  A fellow heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)  The righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)  A temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17)  One who is chosen, holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4), redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10) and dearly loved (Colossians 2:12).

Now that’s the mirror you need!

THIS WEEK, take a look in the mirror.  Do you see what God sees?

Who Have You Told Lately?

LIfeWay Research (2012) indicates that “61 percent of evangelical Christians do not share their faith regularly” – even though they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Further, nearly half of those who responded to the LifeWay survey said they have not invited a non-Christian friend to church in the past six months.

Whoa!

That’s frightening, unsettling, distressing, disappointing, concerning, alarming… I’ve got a whole list of adjectives and adverbs that I could wrap around this one!  And when we butt this body of research up against a study by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in collaboration with LifeWay (2009), we find that “67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Another 63% say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be effective.  This same study reports that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are very or somewhat willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.”  A similar LifeWay study summarized in Discipleship Journal (2008) reported 75% would be wlling to listen to someone talk about his/her Christian beliefs and 78% would enjoy an honest conversations with a friend about spiritual beliefs even if they had other beliefs.

Enough of the numbers; let’s cut to the point best summarized by Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Research and Ministry Development, “[M]any of your unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to conversation.” THIS is clearly the point for the question raised in Romans 10:14 (NLT), “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?

Hello Someone!

Yes, you!

Who have YOU told lately?  With whom have YOU shared the good news of God’s Gospel?

Let me share another tidbit from the 2009 LifeWay data.  “Out of 13 approaches tested, personal invitations from family members or friends is the only method that a majority of Americans say would effectively draw them to church.”  Television, radio and newspaper all have an impact as do visits from congregational teams, but the most effective method is one-on-one personal communication with a family member or friend.  Church advertising and outreach methods clearly take a back seat to personal testimony and invitations.  And consider one final extract from LifeWay’s data, “At particular points in life, people are more open to considering matters of faith, the survey (2009) found. The Christmas season is the most common time for people to be open to spiritual matters. Nearly half (47 percent) are more open to considering matters of faith at Christmas. Americans are also open to matters of faith during the Easter season (38 percent).”

Hebrews 3:15 cautions us not to harden our hearts when we hear while James 1:22 admonishes us to be doers of the word.  And we know that Matthew 28:19 commands us to go, teach and make disciples.  I’m thinking perfect storm – THIS is the ideal time for you to hear this word just weeks before Easter, the season when many hearts are open and eager to hear God’s truth.  THIS is the ideal time for you to share!

THIS WEEK pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right opportunity and the right methodology to share your faith.  Unsure how to get started?  Explore the following resources.  Share your experiences as well as your encouragement for others using our blog’s comment feature!

RESOURCES

Share Your Faith Apphttp://shareyourfaithapp.com/

How to Share Your Faith (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association):  http://billygraham.org/grow-your-faith/how-to-share-your-faith/tools/

EvangeCUBE:  http://www.e3resources.org/downloads.php

Roman Road (Teen Mission International):  http://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/

FAITH Outlinehttp://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lifeway.com%2Fev%2Ffiles%2FevF_min_FAITH_VisitOutline.pdf&ei=4_AFVdywOoifNsXvg4gJ&usg=AFQjCNEgBlAI91LGBT5nxvukphTU6VdBdg&sig2=_vrcHO9_89NTcfsxCAfQtg

It’s All Good

It’s all good.

That’s what some people say and what some think when they read Romans 8:28, but look carefully at the New American Standard Bible translation which reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Hmm. Didn’t say everything was good but that God causes ALL to work together for good.

Consider chocolate cake. Now that’s a good dessert! But raw flour – good? Uncooked eggs good? How about a third cup of vegetable oil –  yum, surely good? Maybe a cup or two of sugar is good? No, not even for those who really love sweet things, but I know – a buttered and floured pan is good! Of course not. Good is the result of combining all of these things in the right proportions and in the right way.

And that is what God does for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Even more amazing – the “things” that God is able to work together for good. Most anyone can make a good cake when good ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and oil are used. Romans said God works ALL things together for good. Some of the “ingredients” He uses aren’t so good. How can good come from unemployment? What’s good about rebellious children, spiteful co-workers, arthritis, divorce, foreclosure, flat tires, meddling in-laws, racism, death…?

These are much like the ingredients needed to make a cake – awful individually and on their own. But when God works them all together, the result is amazing AND good!

Things not looking so good for you right now? Trust that God will add this experience, this situation, this season of life to all the others and bring about a result that is good for you – if you love Him and if you are called according to His purpose (can’t leave those conditions out – smile).

What’s In Your Suitcase?

For years my work required me to travel. I remember leaving home once at the end of June and not returning until just a couple days shy of a month later.  Now some would say traveling for 30 days is not that much and, indeed, I have enjoyed vacations longer than that, but this particular trip was actually several trips all combined into one long jaunt.  Over the course of the 30 days I had formal events, casual events, active events, business events, inside events, outside events and everything else you could imagine to attend WITHOUT being able to return home between events.  Now add the fact that I traveled via airplane and train and was thus governed by two sets of travel restrictions and regulations relevant to my luggage not to mention the fact that I was a woman traveling alone.  Who wants to try to navigate with a ton of luggage?  Not me!  Two bags max, preferably one!

Bottom line, I had to really think through packing my suitcases.

When I travel by car, I take a lot of stuff.  I can pack outfits in a variety of colors.  I can pack extra shoes and handbags.  I even sometimes take my own pillows.  When I travel by train or air I have to be cognizant of the luggage size and weight restrictions.  I also have to consider rolling that luggage, monitoring that luggage, lifting that luggage, etc.  You want to keep it simple.  You want to keep it light.  You want to keep it at minimum.

But a girl needs a lot of stuff!  You have to be prepared for the what-ifs.  What if I snag my pantyhose?  Got to have extras.  What if my hair flops?  Got to have a curling iron.  What if my shoe strap breaks?  Better have an extra pair.  What if the hotel catches on fire in the middle of the night? Yes, pack pajamas, a robe and slippers! (Yes, I actually think about the hotel catching fire in the middle of the night.)  What if the meeting space is chilly?  Be safe, pack a jacket.  I might get hungry in the middle of the night.  Room service is expensive and hotels don’t always have snack machines any more.  Hmm.  Pack some Nabs.  (Go here if you don’t know what a Nab is:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Inc.  Smile.)

Through the years I have come to pride myself as somewhat of a packing expert.  I can travel light yet seem to have all that I need.  So, I had the bright idea to “kidnap” my friends for a weekend away.  I picked him up from his office and shared part of my plan with him once he was in the car. “I’ve taken care of everything,” I told him.  “I packed for you.”  He was amazed.  Especially when we got to our destination and he opened that suitcase!

That’s how life is for us.  Our life suitcase is packed each night for the next day.  We go out with a destination in mind carrying a bag with unknown contents.  Sometimes there is tragedy and heartache in that bag.  Other times there might be confusion or anxiety.  And sometimes there’s pure joy.  But we never know.

So as a packing expert I’ve learned to keep certain things ALWAYS packed and at the ready.  My luggage (and I have multiple sets) is never empty.  Certain toiletries, lingerie and first aid items are always packed as is a good book.  Pantyhose, socks and shower shoes are always waiting for me.  When I am ready to go on a trip, I simply add the items unique to the given trip.  That’s a good tip for travelers, and that is a good tip for life.

James 4:14 (NASB) says, “…you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.”  You don’t know what will be in that suitcase when you open it.  Make sure, then, that you have packed and have at the ready your own bag of essentials – prayer, faith, Scripture internalization, songs of praise, self-control, love…

Bon Voyage!

Asking for Directions (Part 2)

Today let’s just dive in.

We established in our last blog the importance of seeking God’s direction before we begin each daily journey.  That means we embrace the examples of Psalm 63 1(a) – “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee…” (KJV) and (less we be uncertain what early means) Mark 1:35 “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (KJV

But how do you seek God early?  Look back at Mark, and pick that Scripture apart.  Jesus:

  • Rose before day
  • Went out
  • Departed into a solitary place
  • Prayed

Do you have to get up before the sun? No. Your “early” may occur later in the morning but BEFORE you begin your day in earnest. Remember, you want to seek God before you begin to encounter the world (your children, your spouse, morning traffic, your work place, etc.)

Do you have to leave home (go out)? No. But you do need to go somewhere that is a solitary, quiet place. If you’re home alone – no problem. If your household is overrun with children, animals, extended family…, you need to find a quiet place.   Back porch? Basement? Garden? Bathroom? (Hey, He is everywhere, and a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do to get some solitude.”)

Do you have to pray? Yes! Do you have to pray lofty liturgies? No. Just talk with God.   I say with because it is a conversation in that you are talking and listening. I encourage you also to read the Scriptures, meditate and journal, but mainly I encourage you to personalize this time. Christianity is NOT a legal relationship; it is a love relationship, and just as you personalize your time with those you love, personalize this time with Christ.

POSSIBLE RESOURCES

How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time

Love Worth Finding (Adrian Rogers)

http://www.lwf.org/site/News2?id=10545

 

How to Have a Quiet Time

In Touch Ministries (Charles Stanley)

http://www.intouch.org/you/quiet-time-toolbox/content/topic/how_do_i_have_a_quiet_time_qt

 

How to Have a Quiet Time According to Martin Luther

Christianity Today

http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/advice/faithqa/whats-quiet-time.html

 

Quiet Time: 7 Minutes with God

Precept Austin

http://preceptaustin.org/quiet_time_seven_minutes_with_god.htm