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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Walking with God

It has been many years since the missionary to the Lisu people, Russell Morse, came to Watonga, Oklahoma.  He was weary from the day and needed rest.  My Dad, Herman Siemens, took him to his house.  They walked and talked in a garden of flowers, vegetables and fruit trees.  When Dad died in 1979, I often thought about both men walking and glorying in a walk in Heaven on the golden streets by the glassy sea.

Walking with a friend deepens a friendship.  Jesus walked with his disciples, teaching them as they walked along.  Just as Jesus walks with us when we call upon him by name today and every day.  It is not the walk, but the fellowship that deepens our relationship with Jesus.  The lyrics of a song from long ago gives me joy.  I walked today where Jesus walked, In days of long ago.I wandered down each path He knew, With reverent step and slow. 

What breaks the fellowship with God?  Or should I ask, what is holy living?  When the insistent world takes our minds elsewhere than on God, and living his way, we lose that closeness. 

What is our first response when things do not go our way?  Anger, standing on principle, jealousy, envy and self-centered pride.  When we live in God’s way – our first and last response is love and forgiveness.  This can’t take place unless we have asked God into our hearts and daily lives.  We live in and through Christ Jesus in an unbroken communion with our Lord and friend.   That, my friend, is walking with God.

Enoch was the first man who walked with God for three hundred and sixty-five years.  He discovered the pure delight in walking with God.  He learned to commune with God through every facet of his life.  What was the result of his close communion with God?  He did not die. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:22–24).

The beginning step of walking with God is found in Psalm 37:3-5. 
Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

Did you find the promises in these verses?  You will live safely in the land and prosper, He will give you your heart’s desires, and He will help you.  That is holy living.  Holy living is not giving up anything, but adding peace and joy through faithful and obedient living.   It is learning to be gentle, kind and good.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Noah was another man who walked with God.  This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.  Genesis 6:9.  How long did it take for Noah to build the ark?  How long did people taunt him?  How did his wife, three sons and their wives react?  There are many questions we could ask, but the bottom line is, So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.  Genesis 6:22. 

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23. 

Truly worshiping means resting in His Promises and Love.  Feeling and knowing His Presence surrounds us.  The desire to walk with Him, and place all the world’s anxieties in the box marked – Trust Him – Do Not Open. Opening His Word and let His Spirit speak truth and life to us – that is worshiping.  Casting away…all that is evil from your mind.  Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:2

A. W. Tozer states that the goal of every Christian should be to ‘live in a state of unbroken worship.’  This can only happen when we walk with the Lord. 

When we walk with God, we need to leave the weights of sin, unholy living, unhealthy relationships behind and cleave only to God Himself who gives us rest, forgiveness, love and the joy of life.

† -  He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.  Micah 6:8
† - Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:15
† - When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13
† - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Truly Amazing Grace!

Often my heart overflows with wonder and amazement when I listen to the praise songs that grip my heart and soul and remind me….the Truly Amazing Grace is in our reach.

This gift of grace teaches what love is.  Love is sacrifice, giving your life, your very breath, to live for Him.  Our example is how God gave up his only Son because He loves us so.  Jesus Christ became flesh and lived among us over 2000 years ago.  He died a cruel death and bore our sins on the cross.  He was despised, rejected spit upon and scourged with a whip.  On the cross, He spoke the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:24 

When the baptismal waters closed over my head, I have never felt as free, as clean and as forgiven as I did at that moment.  I understood as an eight year old what the words – ‘washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ’ meant.

Too often I tried to do things in my own power and strength, usually failing.  I had not learned how to trust.  At the age of 83, I heard the diagnosis of my husband, I knew my expectations for an easy rock-into-Heaven was not to be.  Three years have passed…and the challenges grow. I know that the trust and strength of my faith in Jesus is my salvation. 

Being the Child of God gives me hope, strength and joy of knowing Him as His child.  I can be secure in the One whose spoken word created the very world we live in.  His power and majesty I know through His Great Love. 

Without the blessing of my husband’s diagnosis, I would not have begun to learn the true meaning of faith and trust moment by moment.  When the lyrics below flashed on the screen, I knew.  The lyrics, the music spoke to me.  Only in Him can I stand!

I Stand
You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand.
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.   All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth  John 1:1-5, 14

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand.
Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.  Romans 8:34

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”  Tim Keller

So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you.
 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:26

So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.  Titus 2: 11-12

I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul to you surrendered
All I am is yours.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.   I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.  Psalm 9:1-2
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.  We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.   Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. I John 5:1-3 
Lyrics - Michael W. Smith


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trusting Him

Learning to trust is like walking in the dark.  We are not sure where our next step will land or where we will be.  All we know is that the LORD is our light and our salvation.  He guides us.  Relying solely on ourselves brings sure destruction.  We will land in a heap, weeping and crying in recrimination and sorrow. 

Trust is an everyday learning process.  Just as we peel an onion, layer by layer, we learn the facets of trust.  There is not a check-off list, there is just turning to God our Father in all things day after day.  His love and faithfulness teaches us to trust Him for all our needs.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

Those who trust God, find the spiritual rest.  Those who come to Jesus learn that burdens shared with Him, lessen the weariness of every day. Rushing from one activity to another shortens our awareness of God.  In the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung comes these words.  “I won’t hold on to anything in this world if it requires me to loosen my grip on Christ.” 

Just what is the meaning of Trust?  Several synonyms give us a broader picture of trust – confidence, faith, hope, assurance, conviction, dependence and positiveness. 

Do you feel restless, unsure, ‘not with it’ and weary?  Then you understand the inability to trust God through prayer and thanksgiving.  Trusting others sometimes results in betrayal and hurt.  Trusting in the Father, the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit results in hope, knowing there is no betrayal, only steadfast love.

Psalm 25:9-10 - He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

God leads the humble.  The importance of humility and being teachable, as a little child is an important quality.  Steadfast love defines God’s love for us.  There are no boxes or boundaries for God’s love.  We set up all kinds of boundaries for each other – we will trust each other only so far.  Our Lord God forgives us over and over and extends His love constantly – not just to us but those who trust Him.

Love that is steadfast has no time limits and spans all of time allotted to this earth for every one born, from the most kind to the evil-minded.  The invitation to accept Jesus as the LORD of our lives is always open.  We choose Him minute by minute by our actions and our words and our thoughts.

On the Lord’s day, we again sang the song, Oceans, that catches my thoughts and inspires me to see the beauty of trusting God.  I think about my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.  They trust God in all kinds of life and death situations.  Trusting God without borders means trusting even beyond the border of death – on into eternity. 

As death becomes a reality in our lives, Our God is there.  He sent Jesus, who faced and conquered death, and now we can say… “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  I Corinthians 15:55.  No other man but Jesus died for our sins and was raised again to sit on the right hand of God.  Just as we will be raised again after our death when we love only Him.

The lyrics of the song, Oceans ….
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

(Hillsong United)


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Servant-Heart

How would you define a servant-heart?  What is a servant-heart?  What attributes must a servant’s heart have?  The other side of the coin is the one who is being served – what attributes must they have?  What kind of bond does a servant and the one who is served grows?

For the past three years, I have been the recipient of serving and have learned first hand what serving is all about.  It has given me a deep awareness of the make-up of a servant.  Their attributes begin with humility, love, understanding heart and a good listening ear – listening to God.

To serve with a right motivation does not include self-glory.  To serve grudgingly is not the right attitude. Willingness to humble one’s self is the road to servant-heart.  The servant-hood pathway is filled with rocks to stumble through of heartache and often disappointment and being unappreciated. 

Once I came to the conclusion that my children have taught me how to be a better parent.  From the Saturday work day question – “Mom, if you come and clean up our room after we do, why should we work at it?”  And on the way to church – “Mom, why do you always yell when you get us ready for church and when we get there, you just smile and smile?”  And now I remember and it shapes my understanding of caregiving for my dear husband with Dementia.  Being a servant with the right attitude is difficult when the ‘me-pride’ gets in the way.

When my children learned of the diagnosis of Lewy Body-Dementia of their father, they came and took the burden away from our shoulders, helping us to make decisions and prepare for selling our home of 38 years to move.  First our youngest son came.  Tim walked through our house and told me to think ‘down-size’.  He showed me what I could keep and what should be sold or given away.  (This is the son who couldn’t decide what kind of Dairy Queen cone to get on Mother’s Day!)  Then came our daughter from California.  She removed all the family pictures down from the walls and packed them away in boxes.  Then came our oldest son and his wife plus our youngest son and his wife and sold furniture to second hand store, gave away clothes, and packed extra dishes, books and trinkets away. They worked in the yard and readied that. Then came the second son and his wife who painted the interior of the garage, organized the shed and the back porch.  Church family came and helped pack, too. 

I watched the servant-hearts in action as one son drove us to our new home, another son drove the truck with our furniture, and three sons helped moved things in the house.  It seemed sweet that our church family for over 40 years helped us get ready to leave and our new church family met us – helping to unpack with our family – including two daughters-in-law, a granddaughter and a grandson to be.  Servant-heartedness didn’t stop there.  Finding a place to live, attending to many details of settling… is how our third son and wife bless us.  They do all the little things around our home, we cannot attend to any longer. Their lives are changed because of the added sacrifice of love.  Our oldest son died of a brain cancer early in 2014, and our second son and daughter stay in contact daily through emails and messaging.  They define Servant-Hearts to me.  Love, Compassion and Self-Sacrifice.  There is more.

I turn to God’s Word and find the Servant-Heart in I Samuel 3:10 - And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.

Hebrews 11 contains a list of those who possessed humble hearts and willingness to listen to God and serve Him only with faith in the LORD God.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Daniel, Jepthah, David, Samuel and all the prophets. 

Add to the Servant-Heart list, Mary.  Luke 1:38 - Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Luke 16:13 -  “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Joshua said this in a different way. “But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Who has the ultimate and far-reaching servant-heart through the ages?  Jesus Christ the Only Son of God. 
Philippians 2:5-11 - You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God, and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
How can we become Servant-Hearted with Faith in God?
Matthew 20:26 - But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.

Deuteronomy 10:12 - And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.” Fear, respect the LORD, live the way that pleases God and love Him with all your heart, soul and mind, and serve Him with all your heart and soul.  That includes the elements of humility, trust, faith, joy and fulfillment.  Living to the utmost is living daily with tentacles of understanding and sensitivity to the needs of others. 

Romans 7:25 - Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. 

Matthew 25:21 - “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’