Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thirst-Quenching Thursdays: Numb and Numb-er


One of the things I dread the most is having dental work done. Ugh!!! I hate the thought of my mouth being propped open for long periods of time, not being able to move or swallow easily. To be honest, it makes me very anxious.

This time, though, wasn't so bad. I even elected not to use the gas that makes you feel loopy during the procedure. I made a conscious decision to only use the Novocain and just go numb.

Those who know me well know this was HUGE! 

Sure, lots of prayers went up the night before, and more throughout the morning. "Hold me close and keep me calm, Lord." I prayed before and during the work. My "after" prayer was one of praise, involving silent confetti throwing, giving thanks to Jesus for settling my spirit.

The Novocain was enough to cause my mouth to become numb and numb-er so I couldn't feel the work of the drill, the file, or the filling of a cavity. But my willingness to abide in the arms of my Jesus was what calmed me down. I was aware that work was happening, but my mind wasn't negatively affected by the activity.

Isn't that the way it is in our spiritual lives sometimes? We're so fearful of the work God wants to do in our lives that we choose to become numb and numb-er instead of being alert and aware of the work He is stirring inside of our hearts.

God wants us sensitive to His Spirit so we can respond in obedience and not fear.

I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit we must be deeply submerged in His presence. It's the only place where we get to know Him better so we can love Him more.

Remaining mindfully aware of His presence and consistently soaking in His Word is how we learn what His voice sounds like. Being submerged in His presence allows our minds to be tuned in to His voice, becoming numb and numb-er to the many voices of the enemy; the voices that seek to turn our hearts away from God. Practicing the spiritual discipline of abiding in Christ (John 15) moves us toward maturity, and gives us discernment between good and evil.

But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV).

By lunch time that day, all was good. My gums were a little sore, but my taste buds were alive and well.

God wants our hearts sensitive to His Spirit and numb to the enemy's. With our spiritual taste buds and eyes wide awake in His presence, we can taste His indescribable goodness and see His transforming grace at work in our lives.


My Pleasure,
Melanie






Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Scribbles: The Beauty of a Shattered Heart

Crash! 

Something of value just shattered. The sound of broken glass came from the formal living room. I hurried to see what had happened and found my husband distressed over dropping something of extreme value. Glass was everywhere. One of a one of a kind pair of antique lamps toppled as he was moving it from a table to the mantle. He was so disappointed in himself, he felt nauseous.

I tried to encourage him with words like, "It's okay, Sweetheart. It's just glass. It's not eternal. It's temporal." My encouragement didn't seem to be helping. He just kept saying, "I can't believe I dropped it. I can't believe I did that."

Not only was the lamp broken, but so was my husband's heart.

I quietly left the room to get the broom and dustpan to sweep up the shattered glass.

Shattered hearts.

Broken beyond repair.

The Holy Spirit reminded me that all hearts need to be shattered before they can be made fully whole and gloriously beautiful.

All. Hearts.

Yours.

Mine.

His.

Hers.

This shattering takes place the further we move into the presence of the Holy One.

Remember Moses and the burning bush? (Read Exodus 3-4) As Moses stepped closer and closer, investigating as to why the bush was on fire but not being consumed, He was not aware at first that he was moving deeper into the presence of God. At a certain point, God stopped him. He told Moses to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground.

On holy ground, God chose Moses to do something extraordinary - to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. In God's holy presence, Moses responds by voicing his weaknesses in the light of God's holiness.

Moses was shattered by weakness.

But God didn't leave Moses in a state of not measuring up. He gave Him what He needed to accomplish his purpose. Moses was set apart for God's glory and given something beautiful! A heart filled with the power of God's presence. God sent Moses out in the Name of, I AM.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah describes his vision of the Lord. He says, "I saw the Lord." Isaiah responds to God's holiness with fear and trembling. As Margaret Feinberg states in her study, Wonderstruck, he (Isaiah) becomes deftly aware of his own inadequacies.

Isaiah had been drawn so close into God's presence that he cried out, "Woe is me. I am undone." (vs.5) Feinberg explains undone as ruined.

Isaiah was shattered by uncleanliness.

In the light of God's holiness, Isaiah was forgiven, and then set apart for God to use for His glory. Chosen to proclaim the words of God to the people of Israel, Isaiah would become one of God's greatest prophets. God purified Isaiah's lips with a burning coal from heaven's altar, giving him what He needed to accomplish God's design for his life.

This shattering brings a spiritual nauseousness deep in our souls; a lamenting over what hurts the heart of God.

We we begin to see God as He really is, we begin to see ourselves for who we really are.

But, God doesn't leave us shattered and ruined.

When we respond to His holiness with fear and trembling, He reaches down, cups our tear-stained face in His nail-scarred hands and, with a holy Love like no other, says, "You are forgiven. You belong to Me. You are Mine." 

Romans 5:8 ESV says, but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." That means that while we were still shattering His heart, He was dying for ours.

God shattered His own heart to repair ours. 

He wants us to come closer, step by step, removing our sandals in His holy presence, to get a glimpse of who He really is. Pure Love, Pure Hope, Pure Joy.

Holy.

To move from broken to beautiful requires a right response in the presence of a Holy God.

ruin of repentance.

Our repentance moves God to mend our shattered hearts into beautiful reflections of His own heart - Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord, please ruin me so You can be. 

My Pleasure,
Melanie










Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thirst Quenching Thursday: Retreat, Replenish, Refocus

Welcome back to Thirst Quenching Thursday!

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: (Luke 6:12-13 NKJV)

That same day, as crowds gathered to hear Jesus speak, He was moved to come to where the people were so they could hear. He came down from the mountain, refreshed, and ready to speak words of truth and power so they could hear and be close to Him. On level ground, His speaking and healing began. The people were thirsty for His words. When they heard them, they trusted Him, believed Him and were healed - healed from all types of diseases, and freed from tormenting, unclean spirits. Wherever He went, people were clamoring to hear Him speak; to hear the Word of God. (Read Luke 6:17-19.)

Let's ask ourselves some Thirst Quenching Questions:
  • Am I clamoring to hear the words of God?
  • On Sundays: Am I hearing the rich, deep Words of God corporately?
  • Monday - Saturday: How am I spiritually fed during the week privately?
  • Am I invested in small group discipleship, or one on one mentoring, which involves more than mere fellowship and topical discussions, or gossip?
  • Am I thirsty and hungry for more?
 For a few months, I've stepped away from leadership roles in my church for a season of prayer, spiritual self-examination, and reflection. I'm growing more and more concerned about a consistent thread in conversations, articles, and books. The common thread is about the growing number of churches that are shunning the Word of God from being the most central part of corporate worship - how the powerful preaching of the Word is being replaced with entertainment and a soft gospel message. Instead of hearing the Words of God from Scripture proclaimed and taught, and observing people's lives being healed and transformed, many are watching in dismay as the Biblically illiterate nod in ignorance and applaud the emptiness of hollow words. Others leave shaking their heads wondering what in the world is happening? 

No evidence of  lives changed. No evidence of lives healed. No evidence of repentant hearts. Just pew or chair fillers coming and going each week like lifeless robots.

This breaks my heart. How about yours?

I've taken a step back to examine how I'm investing and cultivating my passion for Christ, His Church, and His Gospel. I've retreated from the rigorous to replenish spiritually.

Spiritual renewal is vitally important as to how we continue ministering, and pouring ourselves into the lives of others to make disciples - fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus needed to take a break and head for the hills to spend quality time in prayer with the Father, how much more do we need to retreat?

Although Christ was fully God, He was also fully human. He experienced weariness, low energy and strength at times. Where did Jesus go specifically when He needed to be reenergized?

Jesus went where we all should go. 

A place to still.

A place of quiet.

A place to listen.

A place to pray.

Where would that place be?

The presence of His Father. 

The only place where our hearts can be renewed, refreshed, and refocused is in God's presence. 

Inside His loving embrace are words of truth, power, strength, and encouragement which lead to conviction, repentance, and healing. 

In His presence, He cheers us on to stay the course.

So, where are you retreating these days? How are you falling into the arms of the Savior for renewal? Is your spiritual life dry? Are you thirsty for the things of God? Are you being served on a consistent basis the deep riches of the Word from your spiritual leaders?

If not, it's time to find that place of quiet, stillness, and peace. Ask God for clarity and direction, and for a fresh washing of His Spirit. Find a small group of believers who will take you deeper, helping you mature in your faith. Search out someone to hold you accountable.  And, if you're not being served the deep riches of God's Word on a consistent basis, find a church where His Word is the main course and served up with unashamed love, mercy and grace.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sunday Scribbles - Don't Put Down Your Weapons


My mornings begin with coffee and lots of talking to Jesus.

Every. Single. Day. We are in a battle.

A battle for our minds.

A battle for our faith.

A battle for Truth.

Discouragement can be one of our biggest enemies. The fiery darts of despair cast into our minds, be it from people outside of our heads or from voices yakking inside our heads, can be enough to make us throw down our weapons, give up, and walk away.

I've been there. I've felt defeat. I've also defeated the enemy many times along this journey in the power of Jesus Christ.


And today, again I awake in need of God's weaponry for whatever the Enemy may throw my way.

The Enemy doesn't sleep and is pulling out all the stops to defeat God's people, His Church, knowing THE battle has already been won.

The Cross defeated sin. The Resurrection defeated death. Christ has defeated Satan.

But, Satan is still fighting harder than ever to build his defeated kingdom.

NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER GIVE IN!  The enemy's banner... and ours.

God has not called us to anything where He hasn't already prepared the path ahead and equipped us to accomplish His purpose in us. We must press on.

How do we win these mind games?

With hearts postured in prayer before the Lord.

Surrendered in complete trust, we can stand tall to walk in obedience with courage and confidence, and move forward in victory.

Stay the course. Don't just know about your weaponry, sport it. The armor of God is our friend. It's always in style, and fits all shapes and sizes. It's also guaranteed for life.
Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

In Nehemiah 4, the Israelites were seeking to build back the wall of protection from the mounds of rubble from the previous wall destroyed by their captors. The task was daunting.

The king's men were constantly badgering them with discouraging words. As the people continued their work, the enemy was angered, plotting to cause confusion among them and their plan.

Nehemiah called God's people to prayer. They prayed to God and set a guard in place day and night to provide an alert for when, where, and how the enemy was moving.

The people began to complain, lose strength, and to cast doubt on the work God had called them to do. It was too much. The enemy was pressing in hard, promising to kill them and stop their work.

Nehemiah again called them to prayer - to take up their weapons, to close the gaps, to seal the breaches in areas where they were most vulnerable.

Then Nehemiah said, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes 
(Nehemiah 4:14b ESV).

Verse 15 goes on, "When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work." (emphasis mine)

What is the enemy discouraging you from accomplishing today? Are you willing to frustrate his plan of defeating the purpose God has called you to? Will you kneel your heart with out ceasing before Christ, asking Him for protection, power and strength to defeat the voices of discouragement raging in your mind today and to move forward in obedience, bold and courageous?

Then let's don't put down our weapons. Let's remain armed and alert, ready for battle, to accomplish His purpose in and through us today.

Okay, troops! Christ is frustrating the enemy! Let's return to "the wall."

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thirst Quenching Thursdays

It's rainy and dreary and cold. Just the way I like it somedays. Starting something new seems just the thing to do.

In the world of blogging, many bloggers use catchy titles for a particular day of the week in which they consistently put out content for their readers. For example, Musing Mondays or Worshipful Wednesdays.

One of my titles is Sunday Scribbles for sharing a truth nugget discovered in a sermon, a Sunday School lesson, or gathered from a study I'm working on.

So on this cloud-covered Thursday, I thought it would be innovative to choose another day of the week for initiating Christ-centered conversation and satisfying a spiritual thirst with the Word.

Thirst Quenching Thursdays.

What do Thursdays mean for you?

Thursday is the first day in the week where I have the whole day to do my own thing. I try not to preplan or schedule because I love spontaneity. I can go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, meet someone else for coffee, write, study, stay in my pjs all day, or whatever I choose.

So far today, I slept a little late, had my hair cut and colored, finished a book, met hubby for lunch a washed some bath rugs, and did some writing.

Thursday.

It's not the beginning of the week (Monday), nor the end (Friday), nor the halfway mark (Wednesday). It is a day all to itself with no preconceived notions.

For our Savior, Thursday was a day of emptying in preparation for the moment of reconciliation between us and the Father.

Thursday was a precursor for the cross.

It was on Thursday when Jesus served His disciples the Last Supper. As He spoke about the bread and wine, He spoke of His body which would be broken and His blood that would be poured out for the sins of all mankind. It was the last time He would demonstrate with the disciples what a true servant's heart looks like as He humbled Himself to wash their dirty, crusty feet.

Later that Thursday evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest, Jesus emptied Himself before His Father in heart-wrenching prayers of despair, pleading with His Father that if there was any other way, to please make a way.

Thursday.

Through tears and blood-drops of grief, Jesus surrendered His will to His Father's will, got up from His knees, and never looked back.

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2 NKJV).

Hope to see you back next Thursday for more thirst quenching!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Better Way to Whine

When my daughter was very young, her whining was strictly for attention. Her whine sessions could be very annoying when there really wasn't anything wrong.

One day, as my patience was being tested, I decided to try a new remedy. I called it, "The Whine Bag." Anytime she began to whine because she wasn't getting her way, I would hand her "The Whine Bag." Then I would direct her little self to the staircase in our hallway by the kitchen. She was to stay seated on the bottom step (where I could still see and hear her) and whine into the lunch size, brown paper bag. She was not allowed up until she completed her whine session into the sack.

When she got up, signaling she was finished, she could return to her playing or joining in whatever we were doing. If the whining started back up, I handed the bag back to her and guided her to her designated whine spot on the stairs.


Amazingly, after just a few short sessions, the remedy worked. It didn't take long for her to begin associating whining with being alienated from where she really wanted to be. All I would have to say was, "Do you need the whine bag?," and she would settle down pretty quickly, realizing life wasn't all about her.

Whining is exhausting and pity parties can be lonely. Trying to make sense of the senseless can be all-consuming.

So, could there be a better way to whine than just wallowing in self-pity and despair?

In my Wonderstruck Bible study this morning, I was challenged to whine or lament by writing my whiny words on paper. Not the usual kind of whining and complaining like a toddler, but a real "Why-ning" before the Lord.

David spent many hours asking hard questions, desperately desiring to know why he was in the place he was. He penned many why-nings using his lamenting to be honest and real before God who understood his every thought.

The crux of a lament isn't about letting everything hang out with God or embracing a good cry, but embracing the work of reflection and soul-searching, a kind of spiritual self-examination. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, pg. 40)

Each of David's why-ning passages begin with the release of emotions but always conclude with praise to the Father.


Psalm 13 begins in verse one with, "How long, O LORD, will you forget me forever?," and ends in verse 6 with, "I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me."

His Whys directed him to the Who. The Who, David knows, is in complete control and the only One who can help him come to terms with his desperation. His whine session allows exposure, an examining of his heart, uncovering his restlessness before His God in an honest and real conversation.

I can honestly say that the beginning of my semester sabbatical so-to-speak these past few weeks has opened my eyes to the need to lament. I need a time-out to vent my whines, but not in a bag. I need to have an honest Why-ning before the Lord, asking some tough "why" questions which I desperately need answers for. I need Him to examine my heart and my God-trust level. I want my whys to direct me back to the Who - the One who already knows my heart and thoughts.


If you need a time of Why-ning, why not get a journal and begin the process with me? I will be following the pattern in Psalm 13 to direct my lament in a healthy fashion as described in the Wonderstruck study.

I have a feeling the time spent penning our whys will direct us to the One who will give us clarity and refresh our spirits.

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, (Psalm 13:3 NKJV).

If you decide to journal your lament following the pattern in Psalm 13, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you and what you learned.

My Pleasure,
Melanie