Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"More Than Just Lip Service"

Doesn't it just bug you when someone just gives you "lip service?" You know, when a service rep on the phone is suppose to really help you and says they're going to look further into your problem and get right back to you or resolve an issue right away? Then to your irritation, a few hours, days or weeks later you find the issue has never been addressed because the problem is still evident?! I hate that!

If we're really honest in looking at ourselves, how many times have we done that to others including our own family? I know I've done that. When someone asked me to do something or pay attention to their conversation and I "say" I'm paying attention by my words ("Yeah, yeah. I'm listening. " or "Yeah, I'll get right on that" but,in reality, I'm paying more attention to the task I'm involved in and NOT listening. Or,I have no clue what they just asked me to do and so inevitably it never gets done.

What about when you've been hurt deeply by someone and they ask for forgiveness? You "say" you forgive them but in your heart you're keeping score against them in case there's a next time. (Being human...there's always a next time)!

Jesus addressed "lip service" over and over again during his ministry on earth. He always dealt with the heart issues. In Matthew 18:15-35 Jesus addresses the issue of being hurt and granting forgiveness. In verses 21-35 Peter asks Jesus, "How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?" Jesus replies, "...not seven times but seventy-seven times." In other words forgiveness is ongoing...never held back from anyone, no matter how many times someone asks us to forgive them. It's just like God dealing with us. No matter how many times we ask for forgiveness, through Christ, God cannot withold it from us, as His children. But, God is perfect, just, righteous, compassionate. We are not and so it is always a heart issue. Jesus goes on to tell a story of a king who forgave the debt owed him by a servant. In turn the same servant was owed money by his own subject but would not forgive him his debt. Instead he had him thrown into jail until the debt was paid. Matthew 18:35 Jesus says, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from you heart." Matthew 6:14 is similar, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Does that mean if we don't truly forgive someone then we will not truly be forgiven? Not so literally, I don't think. Two ways this has been explained to me is this: (1) if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we will stop the flow of communication, honesty and blessing from the throne of God himself into our lives. (2) God knows when our hearts are not aligned with our words and will hold us accountable.

As an author, I use words to communicate an emotion, an image, etc. Words are powerful. However, the heart behind those words is MOST powerful and it is the heart that God is most interested in

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Do Nothing. Be Quiet."

Eighteen months ago I suffered a concussion from an accident at work. It went undetected for two weeks. Once the pain came it didn't stop without the aid of meds for eight months. The pain was debilitating at times even with the meds and made an already stressful job and work environment intolerable. After four weeks my neurologist presented me with a life-changing decision: get rid of the stress and allow my body to heal or endure a very long and painful recuperation.

I was at a crossroads. Before heading back to work that morning, Pete & I prayed for clarity in making this decision. I didn't want to leave my job if God had other plans if I stayed put. Within 24 hours of leaving the neurologist's office, God twice confirmed the doctor's suggestion to leave my job. Once through a devotion I was reading and once from a conversation with a friend. Looking in from the outside, you could say it was an easy decision without the confirmations. Who wouldn't choose health over pain? But, I was giving up my financial comfort zone. My job provided 30% of my family's income. My husband had just become a partner in his own business and had taken a $20K salary cut. I held the health benefits. Our son was getting married and our daughter was going to enter college within a year. How could I possibly give up my job?!

I don't know how to explain it but once I received the confirmations to leave my job both Pete & I received a very calm, inner peace about the whole decision. It seemed foolish and irrational. What was I doing?! It was the first time I took a complete free-fall of obedience with God. It was absolutely freeing!

God sometimes sends butterflies to Pete when he needs confirmation of walking in God's will. I've been privileged to witness the experience a few times. Well, the August afternoon when I walked out of my office and into the light of the first moment of my freedom, a beautiful, orange monarch butterfly fluttered over my right shoulder. It was as though God was right there with me letting me know I was walking in His way.

The rest of the summer was a blur. I spent most of it sleeping. I couldn't do much except lay around. My head would not tolerate noise, light, reading or even watching television for a long period of time. On days when I could manage to relax outside in the shade I spent it talking to God. (The conversations were inaudible or on paper so it worked for me). I remember asking Him repeatedly over the next eight months, "Okay. You wanted me to come home. Now what? What should I do?" The answer was always, "Do nothing. Be quiet. Be still. Allow my Holy Spirit to heal your body." The first few times I "heard" His voice I'd refute, "Are you SURE that's all I'm suppose to do? What about our finances? What about...?" The answer NEVER changed. My needs were always met.

I finally learned to accept the voice I heard as the voice of God. I stopped questioning Him. I learned to obey. I was still. I was healed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Hearing and Doing"

At this time of year we have a tendency to reflect on the past and look to the future with great expectancy and hope. We ponder the lessons learned from all our experiences over the year, good and bad. We wonder, "What will new year bring?" Left up to our own thoughts or will we come up with all sorts of ideas for the future based upon our own wishes, hopes, desires and passions. And, left up to ourselves, by February these "wishes" remain just that...wishes. However, if we leave our wishes out of the picture and couple ourselves with God, the Creator, through his Holy Spirit, we can know what He desires for us for the new year.

Psalm 37:4 states, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (NIV) This does not suggest we coerse God into giving us all of our wants. It means when we take great pleasure in God, in spending time with him, in relationship with him then we will become like him and our desires will be matched with his heart for us.

One way God communicates with us is through his "spoken" word. Yes, I said spoken not written. I believe God speaks to us today through the work of his Holy Spirit. The Bible says the Holy Spirit does only what the Father in heaven tells him to do. God's word is spoken through the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who follow/believe in Jesus Christ.

When we are "delighting" in God's presence, sometimes he gives us a picture or a word. It's an exciting experience to hear directly from God! Hearing from God makes him real, living, vibrant. We can probably live on the "high" of hearing God's word for us for weeks! But, hearing the word alone and not doing the word is living in disobedience to God's underlying principles of partnering with humanity through the restorative relationship in Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Oswald Chambers puts it in My Utmost For His Highest, "You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter."

Looking toward 2009, what word (s) has God spoken to you? What are his desires for your heart? For me, it is "abide and go forth." I will expand on these words throughout the year.

May you be blessed as you follow God into your life's journey!