Monday, December 29, 2008

Does God Change His Mind?

Well, no, right? His will is His will. He is in control and sovereign. We are His servants and He is our Master. He tells; we do. He directs; we follow. He plans; we fulfill. He talks; we listen. He instructs; we obey.

Those are the roles of Master and servant. The servant has no control or role in the ultimate plans of the Master, right?

If we had control in what God does then our marriages would be restored when we asked. Our loved ones would be healed from cancer when we asked. Our children would be free from addictions when we asked. Our ministries would be fruitful when we asked. We ask for many "good" and righteous things that would bring God glory. He would be glorified in a productive ministry leading others to Christ. He would be glorified in marriages being restored. He would be glorified in healed bodies. All these good things we ask would show His power in our lives and would be a testimony for all to see. So, why don't they always happen? That is the HUGE mystery of life and one of the greatest questions of so many of His children. So, we sit back and resolve...His Will will be done regardless of what we do. We might as well just do nothing and wait for the Master to do, provide, instruct, lead, heal. Because He is sovereign and we cannot over turn or over power Him or His will that will ultimately be fulfilled, right?

Maybe not...stay with me. God's love for us is so great. We cannot say He acts based on our faith or our petitions because then those unanswered prayers would make us/others feel unloved. Yet, we can see so many times that God does answer the pleas of His children. God does change His mind and His least His initial plans. God has full power and full reign to change His mind midcourse.

God was so moved to change by the pleas of faithful men such as Abraham, Moses, and Jonah. So what makes us think He wouldn't change His mind for another of His faithful people? He may. He can. Would we want to risk being the one for which He would've changed His mind but didn't because we failed to cry out in faith persistently?

Without prayer we have no hope.
No hope of change.
No hope of healing.
No hope of restoration.
No hope of anything.

God told Abraham He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah unless Abraham could find 50 righteous people. Abraham bantered back and forth with God and God finally said He wouldn't destroy the city if Abraham found 10 righteous people.

Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." Genesis 18:20-21

Abraham's harsh reply: Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 18:25 Wow to be so bold with the Almighty Lord. I admire Abraham's boldness but don't know if I could do such. But then, my relationship with God is far from what Abraham and His was.

After bantering back and forth, the result is this: Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." Genesis 18:32

God changed His mind.

God was angry at the Israelites as they were impatient waiting for Moses. They melted all their gold into idols. God wanted to destroy the Israelites to burn in His wrath. Moses begged Him not to do such. Moses reminded God of His promise to bring multitudes through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' " Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. Exodus 32:13-14 God thought twice. Moses was not asking for something of his own but merely reminding God of His promise and plan.

God changed His mind.

When Jonah was in the fish, he urged the people to turn from their ways so that God would change His mind and not destory them. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened. Jonah 3:8-10

God changed His mind.

God in His loving character listened (and listens) to His children's cries for mercy. These scriptures show me to be persistent with God. He shows us He does answer. He does change His mind. He does hear the persistency in us. If we are not persistent on our pleas, then how will we ever know if we stopped our petitions just short of Him answering and changing His mind? How will we know if we stopped believing this side of the miracle?

We may never know why some requests are not answered in the manner we expect. We may never know why He changes His mind in some pleas. We may not understand why He seems to move mountains to change one situation and not another. We do know He will not force His will on us. Many situations involve two or more people. We have to understand that while one person is asking for "this", the other party may not be listening to God and may be drifting in another direction away from God's desires. God will do everything He can to lead that wandering person back onto His course but He will not lean down, pick him up, and place him back on course. He can't. God is love and just as He doesn't force us to love Him, God does not force us to follow Him and His plan. All we can do as the person seeking to obey is to continue to present our requests and believe God will hear our plea and answer. If it can't be in the manner we desire (and He desires) then I believe He will give us something greater. He sees those faithfully trusting and knows many times it takes three to believe. (God, me/you, and the other person.) Yet, God is so merciful that I believe He rewards our faith and knows that we did all that was in "our" control outside of the other person(s) possibly involved.

It is because of this belief and faith that I personally feel I cannot give up on my God and what He can do...and prayerfully will do. We never know how hard He is working to move in a situation. But like I said, He will not lean down and swoop the person or persons to work in one accord...that is for each person to decide. He calls us to believe and our mountains will be thrown into the sea.

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:21-22

Believe and not doubt.

I cannot tell you how much that scripture convicts me. Especially since I know what I'm asking and believing lines up with God's divine Word. I feel I cannot escape what His Word says in black and white...and so clearly. I can't escape the conviction of this scripture and many others. How can I justify walking away from my stand, my beliefs, my petitions?

I never want to find myself on a different path than what I'm believing now and then hear this from the Lord. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:21.

When this scripture was the second hit on my search on, I was immediately succom to tears. I don't want to turn from the beliefs of restoration, head down another path (possibly even a happy one), and hear these words from my Lord. Yet, I'm also torn because I'm so tired of standing. I feel I've lost the strength to believe with such faith. I want complete healing but can't receive it while in limbo waiting...wondering...not if God will perform a mighty miracle but if others will heed to His calling and His instructions.

One of my devotionals put it this way. "By the way, unless you know everything that God knows, please do not write and tell us, 'Nothing is happening in our marriage.' The One who makes toys* is at work, year around, on the opposite side of your mountain of circumstances." *The Letters stand for "Thinking of You" and the toys are what our Lord God is giving to us for Christmas. (RM, 12/23/08)

"From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth - He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do." Psalm 33:13-15

Believing with Hope,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Step By Step

Remember the show Step By Step with Carol (Suzanne Somers from Three's Company) and Frank (Patrick Duffy from Dallas)? A blended family making their way through life step by step as they learn to become one family in unity. Just as in real life, it is not an easy go for Frank and Carol to nurture and promote a cohesive atmosphere. Both Frank and Carol's three kids each have to learn how to share a house with three more siblings and to learn the disciplinary ways of the new mother and father figures. Going from a house of four to eight will require many new rules. Rules of compromise. Rules of sharing. Rules of giving. Rules of responsibility. It is a major learning process with many new relationships in the household. They do it step by step. Learning their way through it.

Our life in Christ is much the same. I admit that I struggle very often with being content. Okay, let’s be real…the majority of time. I just plum don't feel happy or content. Rather, I feel as though I'm waiting for the good that God is/will work in my life as He promises in Romans 8:28. But then, I struggle with the guilt I have for not being content. I wonder what God expects of me. Is He displeased with me not being content in my circumstances and not being content in Him alone? I want to please God and I want to rectify this issue of discontentment in my circumstances.

I do not know from where these thoughts stem. Let's rewind. The perfectly worded post came to me last night as I laid my exhausted body in bed. I felt the nudging of this post. I pondered on my disobedience to not turn on the light and explicitly wake my tired soul to pen the words on my heart. I conscientiously thought forgive me if I'm disobeying but I must sleep. I repeated the words of this post so I could make myself remember as a trade for my disobedience.

So, as I strain to recapture the words He gave me, I reflect on what is "being content" and how to attain it. Something I must've read in recent days enlightened me to the idea that contentment is not a matter of flipping a switch. Yes, we are to be content in all circumstances. We should be. But is that truly attained that easily or rather is it something we are to learn. I believe it is a matter of learning to be content. The more we determine to see God in all aspects of our lives, large and small, the more we recognize His works. The more we see His Hand the more we can find calmness, peace, and assurance in the midst. I believe it is in the peace and assurance that we find our contentment.

How do we profess to have true contentment when:
Our child has died.
Our body has been stricken with illness.
Our job has been removed.
Our spouse has left.
Our food is at a minimum for survival.

I do not believe we wake up to the diagnosis of cancer and automatically have contentment in the turbulent ride ahead. No, with God's grace and love we learn to be content in all things. The good Lord knows we are human creatures of the flesh. We learn to be content by reading His Word. We learn to be content by experiencing His grace. We learn to be content by continually drinking from His fountain. We learn to be content by focusing on His purposes in the midst of horrific pain.

Contentment is a process of one step at a time learning His ways. To be content is to rest in the assurance that God knows what He is doing. That God will provide regardless of our situation. That God will guide the way in the darkness. That God will supply our needs.

There are so many who are in worse situations than ourselves. There are so many people worse off than myself. I know this. I have a good job. I have wonderful family and friends. I have my health. I have food and a nice roof over my head. I have a vehicle. I have Christ and eternal salvation. So, why in the world do I not feel I have contentment? Yet, someone like Job who was stricken of everything still found himself content. Or Paul who continually had a thorn in his side and was in prison but he was content. However, if we look at his words, they clearly tell us he had learned to be content.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11, 12b

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. Hebrews 5:11 This is a little out of context but I feel the author of Hebrews is speaking right to me. Contentment is a hard subject to explain, understand, and live.

If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. Job 36:11 I honor God’s Word and respect Job penning it. However, for me, it is very hard to comprehend how simply obeying and serving God will bring about contentment. Yes, there is great contentment in those two actions indwelling deep in us. Yet, our flesh and emotions are overwhelmed by our circumstances, our feelings, our hearts.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6 Oh how beautiful that is indeed…godliness and contentment…what a great combination.

Let God weigh me in honest scales and He will know that I am blameless—if my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled. Job 31:6-7

Yes, Lord, if my steps have turned from your path, lead me back onto your path of righteousness. Lord, if my heart has been led by my eyes, transform my heart and refocus my eyes. Show me your ways. Lead me Lord, step by step into Your path for my life and into Your path of learning true contentment.

Trying to Learn Contentment...step by step,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What About the Rest of the Year?

Givers give
Bakers bake
Bell ringers ring
Celebratories celebrate
Carolers carol
Worshipers worship
Gatherers gather

Why all the fuss this one time a year? What about the other 364 days? What about the other 11 months? What is it that brings us to give so much, celebrate with lots of food and parties, and be more thoughtful much more during this month than any other?

Where is our spirit of giving, gathering, celebrating, thanking the rest of the year? How can we see the joy of this 365 days a year? Though, I am thankful that we do celebrate, give, gather, rejoice during this month. Does it not bring a sense of sadness at the end and with the new year? Do we not desire to continue with the spirit of giving, celebrating, and rejoicing? Or does the month wear us down? Does it silence our bells, cool our ovens, empty our pockets, and soften our songs to the point of not having anything remaining for the other 11 months?

It's easy to speak of Christ during Christmas, right? Because for many, He is our reason for the season but for some, simply toys and trees are the reason. Is it easier to share Christ during Christmas because it's widely known as His birth?

Yes, the lights are glowing. Yes, the carols are gorgeous. Yes, the spirit is gracious. Yes, the celebration is glorious.

Do we not feel a sigh in our hearts when the carols are no more, the celebration is no more, the nativity of reminders of a virgin birth are no more?

It's a beautiful season. It's a difficult season. Looking at the flesh, the heart, the life; it can be very painful. Looking at the true reason, the true purpose, the true glory; it can be magnificient. With true focus on the Christ, it can relieve the burdens, it can lighten the load, and it can lift the heart. We can rejoice. We can also rejoice after the celebration and with the turn of a new year.

Time is drawing near. Time to be determined in our lives. Time to be intent in our lives.

As I sat in a very cold theater with a non-working heating system today, I pondered on the season. Attending a free showing of "Polar Express" with my nieces, we were graced with beautiful carolers dressed in costume and singing a beautiful tune on stage for us prior to the movie. I listened at the soothing songs with words reminding us of the glory of the season...the celebration of Christ's birth. However, I wondered, though His birth is very worthy of such elaborate celebrations, isn't His death worthy of an even more elaborate celebration? Of course, His death could not have happened without His birth. But without His death and resurrection, we would have nothing! We do celebrate His death and resurrection through Easter. But have you ever pondered how Easter is not celebrated anywhere near the extent of Christmas, even in the "religious" or spiritual realm? Considering the church's celebration between the two events, Easter falls short in my eyes of the attention. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were such a display of celebration during Easter as we have during Christmas?

Rejoice in the Lord always. Philippians 4:4

God gave us His Son and we celebrate Christmas.

But Jesus gave us His Life and we celebrate Easter.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for giving Your life for me. Thank You for fulfilling my desire to commune with You in writing and to hearing You speak the words for me to write. You knew my heart had been longing to pen something in Your Name and You have supplied. Thank You, that as I sat in a very old and cold theater with my gloves, scarf, and winter coat, You spoke to my heart this desire to celebrate all year round...not just in our hearts but in our lives, churches, and communities. Your Christmas music is so worshipful and Your carolers spoke straight to my heart.

Christmas day will be here and gone before we know it.
Our lives on this Earth will be here and gone before we know it.
Christ will be here and gone before we know it.

Desiring Christmas Spirit All Year Long,