Archive for November, 2015

With the memories of the Thanksgiving holiday still fresh in our minds and hearts, we step in to Phase Two of the Holiday Season and all that it entails: more shopping, endless to-do lists, holiday cards, more baking, work parties, family visits, more budget decisions, diets, more decorations… With just a very small step in one of two directions, we will set a tone for the holiday season with our family and circle of friends.  We can choose to move towards Peace or we can step towards Panic.  And, yes, it is our choice to make!

Mary and Elizabeth are two women from Scripture who played a prominent role in the birth of Jesus. Mary was chosen by God to be the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Elizabeth was her cousin, also pregnant by miraculous divine intervention as she was barren and quite old before becoming pregnant with the prophet, John the Baptist.

These two women were faced with intense challenges, and frankly, their day-to-day priorities look nothing like many of our modern issues of this holiday season. But Elizabeth and Mary certainly had a choice to make on whether they chose to step towards Peace or step towards Panic.

Luke 1:26-38 tells us how an angel appeared to Mary with the news that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, and her response to the angel’s appearance was at first “troubled” but by the end of the conversation she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”   In Luke 1:5-25, we see that Elizabeth, upon becoming pregnant, remained in seclusion for five months and she said, “The Lord has done this for me.”  These two women had choices to make in very unique and physically/emotionally/spiritually charged situations:  Peace or Panic.  They both chose the path of Peace and their words indicate how their submission and worship of God led them to make this great choice.

Our expectation is that Christmas will be fun and joy-filled!  We so want this season to be bright and happy, filled with people and gifts and worship of Jesus!  But there are unique challenges we face in this season and we know that, so often, this season evolves in to something more harried and hectic than joy-filled.

So what would Mary and Elizabeth say to us regarding our confused priorities, and what wisdom would they speak in to our various challenges within our modern day holiday season?  Would they roll their eyes?  Would they laugh out loud at the things we find so stressful?  I honestly don’t think so.  I think they would gently take our hand in theirs and say something like this:

You have a choice to make!  In the midst of your physically/emotionally/spiritually charged situations, will you make the bold step towards Peace?  You can do it, but it will only be possible in God’s strength, and with your eyes firmly focused on Jesus Christ and His great mercy and love for you.  In choosing Peace, you can help set a healthy God-pleasing tone for your holiday season… for your family, for your work place, within your circle of friends, and in your neighborhoods.  

In the coming days, may we join our voice with Mary and say, “I am the Lord’s servant,” and with Elizabeth may we affirm, “The Lord has done this for me.”

Verses on Peace:

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  Is. 26:3

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:3

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil. 4:7

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I Samuel 2 and 3 relates the background of Samuel’s dedication to a life of service for the Lord God. The foundation of his faith-walk was grounded in the faith of his mother, Hannah. Whether we are a mother, grandmother, friend or sister, we as women have the opportunity to provide that same foundation of faith for someone today. Because Hannah trusted in a God who keeps promises, she exhibited a praying life filled with gratitude and faithfulness and her son grew to be a Godly man of powerful influence for the people of Israel.

When we celebrate the approaching holiday season and Thanksgiving with family and friends, will others see in us the same trust in a promise-keeping God so we reflect heart of gratitude similar to what Hannah exhibited? Perhaps 2015 has been a year of change and challenges. Perhaps there have been heavy moments of pain and sorrow. Perhaps there have been uncomfortable times and times that were just hard to handle. Perhaps there have been times that were filled with pain and defeat. Whatever we might have faced, we can choose to put our eyes on those moments and remain bogged down in the valley, or we can choose to keep our eyes on the Lord God who reminds us that He is for us and therefore no one can be against us.

May each of us keep our focus on the God who wants to remind us, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the Glory of God” (2 Cor.1:20).

According to one theologian, Scripture contains 7959 promises made by God. Just relying on one promise per day would take 22 years to use each promise once. Caleb and Joshua lived 40 years on one promise. Hannah lived her whole life trusting God’s promise in fulfilling her prayer. In the daily challenges of life, it is easy for us to focus on the circumstances around us rather than keeping our hearts and mind on those promises of the Lord God.  “Promises predict the answers to prayer. They are the molds into which we pour our prayers.”

This week as we celebrate Thanksgiving, may our prayers reflect a grateful heart for a God who keeps His promises and flows grace, mercy, and love into our lives moment by moment in ways we can’t even see or imagine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the life of Hannah (I Samuel 1-3).  We have prayerfully considered the lessons from her life, looking for principles that might help us grow to be more effective for the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily, busy world.

In re-reading Hannah’s story, two phrases jumped off the page. “Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah…” (I Sam 1:7) And the second phrase that caught my attention was the question from her husband, Elkanah, who asked, “What is the matter, Hannah? Why aren’t you eating? Why be so sad just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” (I Sam 1:8)

In this passage, Hannah didn’t respond to the bullying of Peninnah, nor to what appears to be a self-focus and perhaps even emotional neediness of her husband. Instead, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Hannah kept the main thing, the main thing. She was at Shiloh, the religious center of the nation at that time, so she went to meet with her Lord God in prayer at the Tabernacle. Rather than focusing on the mean-girl syndrome perpetuated by Peninnah, or asking God to change her husband in some way, she took delight in time with the Lord and cried out to the Lord for the desire of her heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Oh, this convicted me! How many times I respond to someone who frustrates me, or acts in a way that leads me to become angry, or exasperates me with their self-focus perspective. Yet, Hannah, does none of that. She focused on what her need was and kept that fervently before the Throne of Grace. Because she was so fervent and focused with her prayer, the priest actually accused her of drunkenness. Her honest and confident response communicated her intensity of her focus: “For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” I Samuel 1:16

And, the result was—God heard and God answered. Hannah kept her promise and God not only gave her a son, but multiplied her blessings back to her. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I also suspect that God helped her to deal with the bullying and the self-focus of those who challenged her focus. He will for you and me too.

Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, may I today be all in, like Hannah, and keep my heart and mind focused only on You. Remind me Lord God, that “the main thing” is to bring my issues and concerns to You, and trust You to handle all that comes my way. Remind me today that my focus is to love You with all my heart, soul and mind. Remind me Lord that I am Yours and that  in You I am enough. Bring Romans 8 to mind often—that in You there is no condemnation; that in Christ I am more than a conqueror, and most importantly that when You are for me, no one can be against me! Go before me, Lord. Like Hannah, Lord, I am All In for keeping You the Main Thing. Amen

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Hannah experienced the security and empowerment that comes from walking faithfully with her Lord God. Hannah could rejoice because she had experienced God’s faithfulness. God fought for Hannah and He wants to fight for you and for me. When we remain faithful to God, He reaches out and blesses us beyond all we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Hannah kept her promise to release her son, Samuel, to the Lord’s full time service. Through her faithful obedience, God raised Samuel up to be a man of influence who blessed the people of Israel. Scripture reminds us that as Samuel grew, God was with him and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. God revealed His word through Samuel (I Samuel 3:19-21). Samuel became the voice of God for the people. Would that have happened if Hannah hadn’t been faithful?

The Butterfly Effect, by Andy Andrews, is a small, but powerful reminder of the legacy impact the seemingly small decisions we make have. A seemingly small decision to prevent the cruel death of a slave child years later led to that child growing into the great scientist George Washington Carver. Through his journey as a young man, he worked as a college student often watching over one of his professor’s young sons. That young child grew to later become a vice president of the United States and championed the creation of a laboratory that led to a discovery to bring water to desert regions, which later resulted in 2 billion lives being saved. Did the Carver’s save 2 billion people? Did George Washington Carver think he would as he entertained a young child in a botany lab? Did that young man who grew to be a politician and championed the building of the lab think that what he did could lead to saving so many lives?

Like Hannah, like Samuel, each of those modern heroes were just following the leading of the Lord to do has He guided. Yet, each exemplify a lesson for us, that when we are faithful God not only blesses those we lead, but multiplies our impact on the world with benefits we cannot conceive.

As a parent, we don’t know if our child may be the next Samuel, or the next George Washington Carver, or the next Dr. Salk, or some other great leader. What we can know is that when we remain faithful and raise them in the way they should go, and then release them to fulfill their God-given purpose, their lives will be blessed and our world will be impacted for God’s glory.

Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older they will remain upon it. (Proverbs 22:6)

To read more about Hannah and God’s faithful blessings on her and Samuel’s lives: I Samuel 1-3

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I Samuel 2:1 “My heart rejoices in the Lord! Oh, how the Lord has blessed me!”

Huh! How could Hannah rejoice in the Lord knowing that if she was going to keep her promise to give her child back to the Lord, it meant surrendering him to the priest to serve in the Temple rather than remain at home to be raised by his parents? (I Samuel 1:11)

I am a mom and a grandmother. I remember the anguish of Hannah’s cry when I was a young married woman who had numerous miscarriages, for I made the same plea. When the Lord blessed me with a daughter, I remember crying out that I promised to give her back to Him when and how He directed me. Releasing her back into God’s perfect care didn’t come without heartache and much pain and, as I now watch that precious daughter raising her son to honor the Lord, I reflect often on how hard it must have been for Hannah. Could you do that? As moms, wives, friends, do we entrust our relationships in God’s hands? What can we learn from Hannah’s sacrifice?

First, she kept her promise. Second, because she did, God raised up her son to be a prophet who would lead His people to His love and grace. Samuel became a wise prophet that influenced many. What if Hannah hadn’t kept her promise? Would all of Israel have been lost? We can’t know what would have happened, but we can be grateful this woman of God was a woman of her word.

Third, we can learn a lesson about the blessings that flow from sacrifice. Hannah gave Samuel to serve the Lord without knowing whether she would ever have another child. Because she did, not only did Samuel grow in favor with the Lord (I Samuel 2:26), but the Lord gave Hannah three more sons and two daughters. (I Samuel 2:21).

This week, the author will explore more of Hannah’s journey in obedience to see if there are lessons that we can apply today to our lives. For the moment though, may we let Hannah’s prayer of praise be ours:

My heart rejoices in the Lord! Oh, how the Lord has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, as I delight in your deliverance. No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God. ….For all the earth is the Lord’s, and He has set the world in order. He will protect His godly ones, but the wicked will perish in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone. Those who fight against the Lord will be broken. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives mighty strength to his king; He increases the might of His anointed one.” (I Samuel 2:1-10)

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