June 28, 2010

Trading Sisters

This is my sister and I on New Year's Eve, 1995.
"A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."  Isaiah 53:3

Have you read the book "Hinds' Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard?   It's the story of Much-Afraid on a journey away from her fearful family into the Shepherd's "High Places."  She's given two companions along the way.  They are Sorrow and Suffering.  At first they are dreadful to look upon!  Indeed, how many times do we cower in fear in the face of Sorrow and Suffering?   Naturally, no one wants to take the hands of these two sisters, Sorrow and Suffering.   At first, the grasp of their hands is excruciating.

As a child of God, I've been on a journey too.  This journey has had its share of ups and downs, but it wasn't until 1997 that I was first introduced to Sorrow and Suffering.  At the time I did not realize that Sorrow and Suffering were to be my new sisters.  But you see, God did.  When He suddenly took my 22 year old sister, Sherri, home to be with Him, He replaced her with two more sisters:  Sorrow and Suffering.  They've been with me ever since.  Sherri's loss came without any warning; we couldn't prepare. . .it just happened, but in my eyes, it seemed like "it SHOULDN'T have happened!"   Even though I still don't have the answers as to "why," the Lord has been faithful to reveal some good that has happened as a result of her untimely death. 

Every year, as the anniversary of her passing would come around, I'd take "the good that came from her loss" which He had begun to reveal to me and mentally place that "good" on an imaginary scale.  Then I'd place the grief of losing my sister on the other side.   For many years Sorrow and Suffering would tip the scales...The grief from losing Sherri far outweighed any good that God had brought from her loss.

Like clockwork, another year would roll by, and still, the good never outweighed the bad.  But deep down, a tiny glimmer of faith that He would bring more good out of this devastating loss kept me hanging on to hope.  "My child, this too shall be worked out for thy good and My glory, if you allow Me to." (Rom. 8:28)

June 21, 2010

When the Ink Runs Dry

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 
Jeremiah 2:13

What comes to mind when you read the following phrases:   Ran out of steam.  The end of the line.  Nothing left to offer.  End of your rope.  The well's run dry.  Empty as last year's bird's nest. 

All seem to conjure up a feeling of an empty hopelessness where human strength has run out and you're at the mercy of circumstances, right?   Well, that's exactly how I was feeling this evening.   Ironically, when I picked up my pen to begin writing some thoughts on a passage of Scripture I had read, I could only write the date because my pen ran out of ink.  "Lovely!  How fitting for the moment!" I thought.   

But it's true.  When we try every avenue, seeking God's will, but in the energy of ourselves, and not RESTING in the power of His Holy Spirit, we will run dry...all energy is zapped, and we're "down to nothing."  

June 16, 2010

Who's Being Exalted?

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 
I Peter 5: 6, 7

We're all familiar with these verses of Scripture.  It's especially helpful to remember them when we're facing difficulties that are beyond our abilities to handle alone.   To realize that we have no control over the circumstances of "tomorrow" can be humbling, especially when we have a tendency to fear the unknown.
I was pondering the idea of "being exalted in due time."  Why would The Almighty God even want to exalt US at ANY time?  The Greek word for exalted is "hupsos" which means "to lift up."   One can glean from this the idea of God encouraging us, lifting up our spirits, in due time.   But could there be a deeper, hidden truth that we're missing?  HHmmm.

Well, He says, "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you."  So, I did just that.  "Father, You are the only One worthy to be lifted up or exalted, and yet here Your Word says that if we humble ourselves under Your mighty hand, You will exalt us in due time.  Why would this even be necessary?  We should be lifting You up."  

God's sovereignty deems everything that happens to us as being a part of His higher plan for our lives, even the "bad stuff."   Even if He did not cause the problem, He sure does allow it to happen, for our greater good, and for HIS glory.  So as we cast our cares upon Him, it's helpful to remember His purpose in everything:  to purge the dross from our lives and make us more like His Son. . .which leads me to this verse:  "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me."  (John 12:32) 

That's when He showed me: "Tammi, when in your storms you humble yourself before Me, that's when I begin to purge that old nature of yours and make you more like My Son, Jesus.   Then, as the purification process evolves, less of you is evident, and more of My Son surfaces---therefore, when I 'exalt you,' I'm really exalting My Son's life IN YOU.  I can tell when it's 'due time' when I see more and more of My Son's image in you.  That's why it is safe for Me to say I will lift you up.  Of course to lift you up, just you, would not be wise.  I am well aware of that!  But to lift MY SON up, IN YOU, that is when others will be drawn to Me through what I do in and through you.  Just rest and yield to My plan.  Soon My very Son's life will be evident in your life.  Be still, My child...and remember He must increase and you must decrease." 

I'm so thankful for God's omniscience...He is all knowing!  SO wise, unlike any other!

Thank You, Father, for knowing the little questions we have as we walk with You.  Thank You for even taking the time to answer us in our quest to know You more.  We can trust You because this process is purging us of ourselves, and making us more like Your Son, Jesus.  Thank You that He was lifted up on Calvary on our behalf, so that we may not only have the hope of eternal life with You, but also the joy of getting to know You now and being used by You, for Your glory.  Help us quietly yield to Your hands.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

The Best for Last

And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.  John 2:10

Are you married?  If so, how long have you been married?  Newlyweds--you're excited on this new journey the two of you have embarked on.  Or are you like me--been married for fifteen or more years?   If so, maybe you've experienced a lull in your marriage, or worse, you're running on empty, just as the couple from Cana experienced at their wedding celebration.   Everything they had was gone...their resources had run dry.  This was a big problem!  Just as it is for any couple who has used up all their financial resources, or their emotional "banks" were depleted many years ago.    A problem?  Yes.  A Big Problem!

The Holy Spirit nudged me to "pause" at a verse that I'd overlooked in times past:   Verse five:  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Mary knew Who to go to when the problem occurred--She went straight to her Son, Jesus!   And not only that, she knew to tell the servants, "Do whatever He tells you."   How many of us have loved ones who are in the presence of the Lord right now?  I do---many loved ones, including a dear sister.  We know if they could call us on the phone, they'd tell us, "DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU TO DO!"  We too, should be able to say to another struggling Christian brother or sister, "Do whatever He tells you, because He is worthy of your trust and is all powerful!"   Wow.  We are his servants, so we should be encouraging each other to Obey the Lord, ESPECIALLY in the midst of life's biggest storms!

Now, what about the "no more wine" situation?   Everything they had to offer was GONE.  Jesus told the servants to "Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. (vs. 7)  Now keep in mind these jars were typically used for ceremonial washing, not your "containers" for wine.  I wonder if we would just follow this simple command, and allow the Holy Spirit's Living Water to FILL us up to the brim and apply the cleansing power of Jesus' blood to our lives, would our lives then be a sweet outpouring of His love?  Hhmmmm.

Look at verse 8-- "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”  Draw out--- Aren't we supposed to be drawing out, or pouring out our lives as a living sacrifice to our Heavenly Father, the Master of this banquet?  Living for others' by lifting up Jesus, Who will in turn "Draw all Men unto Himself?"  Yes!  We are.   And oh, when our Master "tastes" of the sweet outpouring of our obedience to Him, through the filling of His Holy Spirit, will He not take the Bridegroom (our Lord Jesus) aside and reply, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but You have saved the best till now.” 

Our Lord wants to do the same thing for us in our marriages and in our lives.  He has a  specific purpose for us, as married couples, to serve Him and further His kingdom, and that purpose is something only we can fulfill.  It requires us to be cleansed by the saving blood of Jesus Christ, filled to the BRIM by His Holy Spirit, and then poured out---draw our souls out to all mankind and lift up JESUS.  "He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him."  (verse 11)  All so that others will put their FAITH IN HIM!

It is never too late!  He seems to be telling us that He specializes in saving the best for last! 

Oh Sovereign Father, the Master of this Banquet, we come to You with empty vessels that need to be cleansed by the ceremonial washing of Your Son's precious blood!   Please pour Your Living Water into our vessels, and then spill us out to be "tasted" by all You bring our way.  May others, AS WELL AS WE OURSELVES, remember our past, the futility of using up all our resources, and not relying on Your Holy Spirit to keep us filled to the brim.  And in remembering, may we see the marvelous miracle You have done in our marriages and families, for Your GLORY!  Jesus, You are our Bridegroom---we want our Heavenly Father, the Master of this Banquet, to tell You, "My Son, You saved the best (part of their married years) for the last!"  Get the glory out of the years we have left to serve You, in our individual lives as well as in our marriages!  As with Your miracle at the wedding in Cana, may this too be JUST THE BEGINNING of YOUR MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMING POWER in our lives!   The Best, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is yet to come! 
We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen!

June 8, 2010

Mood for Food?

"But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." John 4:32, 34

The other day my daughter stood at the cabinet and just stared. I'm sure we've all done this on occasion. She said, "I'm in the mood for oatmeal, but we don't have any." She then made it expressly known that "no other food appealed to her" at that point. I laughed and said, "Oh my, you can't base your choice of food on your mood!" We have to choose from what we have available.

I wonder how it is possible for us to be "in the mood" for certain foods anyway? I've "been there" too! I'm feeling like something Mexican tonight! Or what about that old TV commercial for a product by Knorr, "I feel like Chicken Tonight!"

Now you're probably wondering, "where is this going, Tammi, and what does it have to do with our walk with the Lord anyway??" Well, thanks for asking. LOL Because just tonight the Lord showed me how the degree of our hunger for God's Word can vary, depending upon what sort of MOOD we're in. In my personal experience, when circumstances are overwhelmingly bleak, I've noticed I tend to just fall apart, and "lose my appetite." That's the same old trick of the enemy---"Why bother? It's no use anyway"---and the Bible and devotional just sit there behind the "closed cabinet door." I'm certainly in NO mood to spend time in the "kitchen" cooking up some quality prayer. Have you noticed a similar pattern in your life too? Discouragement gets the "best of us."

June 7, 2010

Who's Workin' Here Anyway??

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.   II Cor. 4:17, 18

How many times have you been sitting in church, or listening to a sermon on the radio and heard "For our light affliction..." and said to yourself, "Wait a minute! Light? I'm sitting here, bearing a heavy burden, and this doesn't seem like it will ever go away!!" and just turned your ears off?

I confess, "I've been there, done that"--completely missing the entire point. Now, you're probably thinking the "point missed" is the fact that our light afflictions are nothing to be compared with the "exceeding and eternal weight of glory..." But that's not the treasure that is so easily overlooked, or at least has been in my case.

In a day when unemployment is skyrocketing, and jobs are extremely hard to come by, it may be encouraging to know that our very own PROBLEMS can actually WORK for us! Think of it! You, THE BOSS--FINALLY! "Someone's" working FOR YOU, for once! And get this, YOU GET PAID for all "their" work! Go figure!

Okay...this sounds too good to be true right? I know..but IT IS TRUE, because GOD's WORD says so...and that's the only "Because I said-so" we'll ever need! God never lies! God IS Truth!

He gives us the key to making our trials WORK FOR US:  Look at verse 18: "While we DO NOT contemplate the things that are seen." (the "seen things" are our circumstances---the situation that SURROUNDS us.) As long as we don't look at our present circumstances and STOP there, but LOOK past them and ON TO the things that are NOT seen, our problems are working FOR us--doing something GOOD FOR us.

We're to look past the present situation and onto those "unseen" things, which are the HIGHER PURPOSES God has for our lives. Yes..God has a purpose for even these storms. This Higher Purpose has its rewards, which are ETERNAL and worth SO MUCH MORE than what we see now. What a BONUS! The best part is no one can snatch it away from you! You earned an eternal reward by letting your troubles work for YOU! All you've got to do is FOCUS on "what is God's purpose for my life?"

Keep your eyes on the prize--the prize of the higher calling. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever ask or even imagine! He can (and WILL) "work" all things our for OUR good and His glory---as LONG AS we desire to be used of Him, to bring Him glory. (Romans 8:28)

I know--it makes no sense to the common sense mind! But that's the way it is with "walking by faith"--It's completely OPPOSITE of "walking by common sense."

So I've got a question for you: "Who's the Boss?" :)

Dear Father! Thank You for showing me the simple word "while"---that gave me moment to pause and think about this. Our light afflictions ARE WORKING FOR us, but only WHILE we are looking past them and onto what YOUR purpose is for our lives, even in the bad times. If we take our eyes off of Your goal in our lives, we will sink every time---then we'll be enslaved by our circumstances! And Hard Times are Hard Task-Masters! Please gives us faith to see the unseen! In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen!

June 6, 2010

Finger Painting with God

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalm 8:3, 4

Ever found yourself in the midst of loneliness and despair? The troubling times of our economy are enough to bring a person's spirit low! Maybe you're "there" now, wondering if anyone could even help pull you out of your situation. If you're not feeling the pangs of despair just now, more than likely you will be at one point or another.

Thinking back on the storms in my life, particularly when my husband was out of work for several months from a ruptured disc, one thing remains prominent---the sweet sounds of our two little children (who were ages 3 and 1 at that time) playing, completely unaware of the dire situation we were in. Even though we were burdened, and frankly quite scared of our uncertain future, they remained untouched by the stress. Being carefree, they continued in their childhood routines such as choo-choo trains and finger painting.

Even though troubling times are cause for concern and sometimes despair, it may help to think about finger painting. Now I'm not recommending you finger paint---but think about the ease of finger painting. It's totally hands-on, and easy! The pictures are usually simple. Who can forget the mess? But that makes it fun.

June 2, 2010

Divine Guidance

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  John 16:13 (NIV)

Seeking the Lord. He says we shall find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. Wondering where to go, what to do. He says when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth...He will show you things to come. Those two little thoughts just came to me now as I began to write. Asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom, and guidance is the key to our control center.

Jeremiah says our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked....but we are to seek Him with all our heart. How can a wicked heart, capable of deceiving itself, seek and FIND the Lord anyway? The Holy Spirit is the key. Saved or unsaved, Spirit-filled or following the flesh, the answer to that question is The Holy Spirit.