name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: February 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Being Called Out By Jesus - Part 2

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" -- Mark 5:30 (NIV)

Two days ago, I wrote a devotional, Being Called Out By Jesus, about the story of the woman with a bleeding problem who approached Jesus for healing. The story has stayed with me and I realize there is more God wants me to see.

When Jesus turned towards the crowd and asked the question, "Who touched my clothes?" I'm convinced he already knew the answer. Scripture says, "Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it." v. 32. While he may not have known the exact shape of her face or color of her hair, it was only a matter of seconds before his eyes would have scanned across the group and found her. He would have immediately discerned which one had been healed from the inside out.

God never asks a question because He doesn't know the answer. No, He asks because He wants us to realize or own up to the answer. Regarding the woman in Mark's gospel, there are three strong points the Lord is hammering home in my own heart, this morning.

1. He asks the question of the woman who has been healed because he wants her to claim the grace which was hers all along. In asking the question, he gives her the opportunity to do that which she didn't dare to do from the start: approach him from the front, submit to his examination.

2. He asks the question because we are to be witnesses as we interact with Him. Our encounters with the living Christ are not just for our own benefit. They are teaching moments for those around us.

3. When we present ourselves, in response to his question, we make ourselves available to receive His words. Because Jesus called out the woman who touched his robe, she received words that were every bit as life changing as the power that healed her. He said to her,

"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." Mark 5:34

Don't you know that she repeated those words to herself again and again for the rest of her life? I have faith! The healer said so. He said I am well. Peace is finally mine. I don't have to feel guilty about breaking the law to touch his robe. He told me to go in peace! My suffering is over. It is behind me. I am free! I am a new woman!

I realize that I saw this story, played out before my own eyes, several years ago in a worship service. I remember it so vividly because the Lord directed me to write down every detail I witnessed that day. I've always wondered why. Perhaps it was for today. This is a partial account of what took place:

It was towards the end of a worship service. The pastor spoke directly to the Body of Christ, "There are some of you, and you know who you are, that need to come forward today." The words were spoken with the authority of someone who expects a response. We all waited in anticipation.

A hush fell over the room as a young man, of high school age, slowly made his way towards the center of the room. I knew of him. This was someone who had experienced pain, suffering, and shame, firsthand. He was followed closely by a couple who served in the youth ministry program. They stood behind him in support.

The young man, with his head bowed, stood directly before the pastor. The pastor greeted him, "Brother, it is okay. You can look at me." But the young man did not look up. His head remained down; eyes closed. In understanding, the pastor explained to the rest of us that this is what it was like to come humbly before the Lord. This is what it was like to be overwhelmed in the presence of God's grace and mercy.

The pastor stooped low so that he could look up into the face of the young man. "Son, you have come before this Body of Christ to publicly declare your faith in Jesus Christ. Is that right?" The young man nodded his head. The pastor walked him through a declaration of faith. "Son, do you…?" The young man answered "yes" to each question.

Although the pastor greeted the young man as "Brother," the moment he stooped low he began calling him, "Son." (Much like Jesus referred to the woman as "Daughter.") The words that followed were heard by every man, woman and child in that room.

"Son, you are forgiven."
"You are new in Christ."
"The old is gone."
"You are free from your past."
"You are healed."

No condemnation; only love and blessing.

As the pastor spoke, I asked God, "How many here, Lord, have been afraid to humble themselves before You? And Lord, how many, even now, are physically in their seats but spiritually before You in the center of this room? I know that this young man needs to hear these words. But how many more, Lord, are you speaking to? How many, Lord? How many?"

I was deeply grateful, as a fellow believer and as a parent, for this young man who so humbly stepped forward and dedicated his life to God. I was grateful to witness such a powerful interaction. And I was grateful for the words that were spoken over him because I knew they were meant for me, too.

Thank you, Father, for calling this young man forward as a living example of someone humbled before You. Thank you, Father, for Your words of forgiveness, of healing, of strength and blessing. Help us to claim Your words and to believe them for ourselves.

Claim His grace.
Be His witness.
Receive His words.

I'm still unraveling all of this...and I suspect there is more for me to learn.

Father, You are the Teacher and I am your student. I admit to feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude of this lesson which doesn't feel finished. Help me as I ponder this story further. Open my eyes and my ears and my heart to Your truth. In the saving name of Christ, Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Being Called Out By Jesus

'At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"' -- Mark 5:30 (NIV)

This morning, my daily reading included the familiar story about the woman with a bleeding problem who is healed after touching Jesus' robe (Mark 5:24-34).

What strikes me about her encounter with Jesus is that she knows. She knows an encounter with him will change her life. She knows that he can heal her. She knows that Jesus is the answer to her problem.

She knows and yet she settles...

for the hem of his robe.


I search for clues within the words of the story.

Here is someone who has great inner strength. She is used to advocating for herself. Scripture tells us that for twelve years, she has sought healing. Twelve years of doctor visits. Twelve years of telling her story. Twelve years of being examined. Twelve years of pain and suffering. After twelve years, her savings are gone and she is worse off than before. Twelve years of hope upon hope dashed when no solution was found.

Worse yet, for twelve years she has been shunned. Because of her bleeding condition, she is considered "unclean." Unclean to family, to neighbors, to friends, to her God. Until the bleeding stops, she is unable to present herself (and a sacrifice) to the priest for a purification offering. By Jewish law, she isn't allowed to enter the sanctuary until she has been purified. For twelve years, she hasn't been able to enter God's house and gather in the presence of His people.

In spite of this, she has great faith. And it is her faith that compels her to push her way through the crowd and approach the back of Jesus' robe; the robe not the man.

"Who touched my clothes?"' v. 30

He begins looking in the crowd for the one who has been transformed. Rather than fight it, she steps forward and falls to her knees. Trembling, she tells him everything.

The same crowd that originally provided her with anonymity, now gathers around and listens as she tells her story. They are witness to the miraculous power of Jesus Christ that has just transformed her life.

I love Jesus' response to her. No condemnation. No chastising. No repulsion.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." v. 34

That's the thing about Jesus. He doesn't want us to reach for his robe when we can reach for him. He calls us out...out of the darkness, out of our shame, out of our suffering...into his light. He invites us to bear witness to his healing power in our lives. And, he would speak words of affirmation over our lives that would strengthen and bless us for the journey ahead.

So I am sitting here contemplating the times when I have settled for the back of his robe. Many of those moments occur in worship on Sunday mornings:

Sitting in my chair, knowing I should step towards the prayer altar and ask for prayer, and yet staying glued in my seat.
Singing praises to God, wanting to lift my arms in praise, but keeping them glued to my sides because I do not want to draw attention to myself.
Responding to someone's question, "How are you?" with a polite, "Fine" when I'm really needing reassurance and a word of hope.
Going through the motions and feeling nothing at all. Offering up a plea of, "Jesus, help" but avoiding a face-to-face encounter.

Now, I realize that each of those scenarios was accompanied by the question, "Who touched my clothes?" Instead of responding like the woman in the story, I have been acting like the student who doesn't want to be called on in class; gaze averted, hoping and praying that the teacher (Jesus) would turn his attention to someone else.

Why have I settled for so little when he has clearly given me the invitation to experience so much more?

Abba, You are the God of all creation. How is it that You are mindful of me? Forgive me for all the times when I have tried to take care of my own healing by reaching for the back of Your robe and thus, avoid having to speak to You face-to-face. I am still learning how to trust my life in Your hands. Help me to hear You, the next time You call me out. And may I not hesitate to kneel before You and tell You the whole story. I do not want to miss out on anymore opportunities to witness to Your power and healing touch. Nor do I want to miss out on Your words of blessing. I love You. I need You. Guide me, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taking Back What's Mine

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." -- Luke 10:19-20

Not too long ago, I walked through our new home, praying over each room and anointing the doorways and window ledges with olive oil. I declared Jesus Christ as Lord of each area; inviting God to be present and glorified in every inch of this place. It is my heart's desire that we live in a way that honors Him and that every person who walks into our home feels the peace and grace of Jesus Christ.

As I made my way through the house, I couldn't help but compare it to another house praying experience. Almost two years ago, my attention was grabbed by a commotion upstairs. It was early in the morning and my children were supposed to be getting ready for school. I climbed the stairs to sort things out.

My oldest son had sleepily stumbled into the bathroom to take his shower, only to discover his younger sister washing her hair in the tub. He was surprised and furious. This was not a part of the normal morning routine, as she had her own bathroom (which she was clearly not using).

Her long hair was lathered in shampoo. She wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. Time was of the essence, so, I sent my son down to her room to use her shower. Her reaction was as strong as her brother's had been earlier.

The whole scenario was so over-the-top that it was surreal. It was one of those parenting moments where I was tempted to grab each of them by the arms, look them in the eye and demand, "Who are you and what have you done with my child?"

Eventually, they headed off to school, each convinced they had been wronged. Well it was obvious that something was wrong. This was the kind of bizarre behavior you don't ignore nor can you explain. I decided to cancel my plans for the day and stay home.

It was time to clean house...but not the vacuum and dusting kind.

Since I had never done this before, I used Stormie Omartian's book, The Power of a Praying Parent, as a guide. I started at the front of the house and worked my way through each room on the main floor. I prayed and anointed (with oil) each room. As I finished a room, I turned on the radio, stereo or computer to our favorite Christian music station. Praise music was soon pouring forth from various rooms in the house.

I made my way upstairs and continued to do the same. When I got to the last of my children's bedrooms and began praying, the electricity went out. No more praise music. The silence was deafening. It was no coincidence. The timing was too perfect to be anything but the enemy.

A few years earlier, I would have been freaked out. Not this time. I knew the power of God's Word. Luke 10:19 said that I had the authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. I was taking God at His Word. And, when the power went out and the house went silent, I was furious!

Led by the Spirit, I walked into the main room upstairs. I recall speaking aloud, directly to whatever was out there,

"Oh, no you don't! You can stop the electricity from working. You can silence the radios that were playing music. But you can't keep this house from being filled with the praises of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, Satan be gone."

Then I opened my arms wide, and at the top of my lungs, began to sing, "How Great Thou Art." Three full verses. It was one of the most powerful worship experiences I have ever had.

Wouldn't you know it, not long after I finished, the electricity came back on. Once again, praise music echoed in a resounding chorus from all over the house. I had taken back what was mine using the authority given me by Jesus, himself. Truly, the name of Jesus Christ cleans like nothing else.

Abba, You are the ultimate authority over our lives. I confess that I do not always surrender to Your plan; always to my detriment. But, Father, those times when I live in right relationship with You...they are glorious and powerful. Help me to live my life in a way that reflects and utilizes the authority that is mine through Jesus Christ. It is in his name I pray, Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Asking Why

'Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?"
He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.' --Judges 13:17-18 (NIV)

Last week, I woke up in a rather unusual way.

As I became fully conscious, I realized I was dialoguing with God. It turns out that I was persistently asking Him why certain things were happening in the lives of loved ones. It was such a bizarre way to start the day that it heightened my awareness of how many times the question, "Why?" has been a part of my thoughts and conversations with others, these past few weeks. Let's just say it seems to come up on a daily basis.

I like it best when life makes sense. When the events around me do not add up; when circumstances bring about pain and suffering to those I love, it is easy to ask why. But, from personal experience, I know that searching for answers doesn't always bring resolution or relief to the gnawing questions...

Why did my first pregnancy end in a miscarriage?
Why do toddlers have an endless supply of energy while their parents struggle to keep up?!
Why did my encounter with God in a little chapel in Kerrville, TX have to be so scary?
Why is it that a friend follows God to a foreign destination and is miserable and sees so little fruit from his obedience?
Why is it that our best for God still seems to end in failure?

Recently, someone sent me a detailed prayer request. One of the requests was that God would reveal "why" He had allowed something to happen. God stopped me before the words even formed on my lips. Two things happened. The Spirit directed me to pray for the individual to have more faith - and to email a question, as a reply. The question:

"Why do you need to know?"

It was a deja vu moment. That question is one I have had to face many times since I have become comfortable talking with God. Getting to the root of my need often reveals a complicated mishmash of fear, lack of faith, pride, and a need to be in charge of my own life. Identifying my motives gives me the opportunity to confess it. Peace is an eventual byproduct of this self-examination.

All of this thinking about the "why's" of faith set me to searching. The word "why" occurs over 500 times in the NIV version of the Bible. Many of those questions are of people asking God/Jesus, "why?" Another common scenario is God/Jesus asking the people, "why?" My favorites are the times where God/Jesus explain the "why" of something to the people.

I am grateful for those times when God reveals the reasons behind certain events. I am, also, convinced there are some things that are impossible to understand this side of heaven. Until then, I'm keeping a list and it continues to grow.

Father, I feel like a small child who has been peppering You with an endless stream of "Why's". I know my frustration is showing at, what seems to me, Your slowness to respond. Forgive me for my lack of faith in Your timing. Please bring comfort and peace to my friends who are struggling with their own, "why's." Abba, help us to trust You. We need You. We love You. And we thank You for the blood of Jesus Christ which covers us. In His name, Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here For A Reason

"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed." -- Acts 13:36 (NIV)

Our family returned to San Antonio this past weekend. We were blessed to be reunited with our oldest son. It was good to see, with my own eyes, that he has adjusted to his new living arrangement. It is obvious that he is thriving under the loving care of his host family. I am so grateful for their generosity.

On Sunday, we went to church. It was a day full of emotions... The feeling of coming home. The delight of seeing loved ones. The joy of being hugged well. The stirrings of the Spirit as God's people lifted their voices in song. A deep and abiding love for the people of God; His church. The knowledge that we haven't found anything like it (yet) in Flower Mound. Experiencing the pain of loss - all over again.

I listened to the Reverend Nathan Amooti, from Rwanda, preach a moving sermon on Acts 13:36. His message was powerful in its simplicity: each of us has been put on this earth for a purpose. His words reached right through my grief and spoke directly to my heart.

I have been put on this earth to do the will of God in my own generation.

I am in Flower Mound for a reason. I know this but, right now, it is hard to see His purpose in turning our lives upside down. It is too soon to understand God's reasons for bringing us here. So what do I do in the meantime?

What is my purpose?

As crazy as this might sound, I already know the answer. I am to continue on the course the Lord outlined for me, almost a year ago. (I just went back through my journals to find it). On Monday, April 28, 2008, I wrote,

"You (God) are affirming my sense that I am to focus on marriage, family and writing. I am to prepare myself for this work for the next two years. Go to Pastor R and Pastor C. Tell them what the Lord is calling me to do. I am not to undertake any leadership roles within the church during this time. Ask for their blessing and their spiritual covering over this season in my life."

Next to these words are the dates that I spoke with each of my pastors and explained what I felt God was calling me to do. Those were interesting meetings, by the way. We laughed as I turned down leadership positions for the next two years - that I hadn't been offered. They prayed blessings over me and the writing I was being called to - even though I hadn't written anything yet! They prayed over my family - even though there seemed to be no pressing need for prayer.

What a difference ten months makes. In hindsight, I am blown away by God's attention to my the way He prepared me for the plans He had already set into motion!

My purpose? Until April of 2010, my focus is to be marriage, family and writing.

I confess that I do not see how doing these things will make a difference beyond my small circle of influence, let alone, in His Kingdom. That is the beauty of God. I don't need to know, or understand, or see. I just need to be obedient. If I can do that, then I will have served God's purpose in my generation. And, that will have been enough.

You are a God of purpose and order. I confess that my vision is so short-sided that I have trouble understanding how my life and my actions could matter in Your bigger plan. And, yet, they do. I matter. The purpose You have set for my life matters. My obedience matters. I am mindful of my brothers and sisters in Christ. So many, Lord, do not have any idea what Your purpose is for their lives. Speak to them. May they stop to listen. May they not dismiss Your call. Help us to see that we are all connected. Our obedience matters. It sends ripples throughout your Kingdom even if we don't have the eyes to see. Lead us, Lord, to serve You in this generation. In Christ's Holy Name, Amen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tell Me, Again...

“It was the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron,” Samuel continued. “He brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt. Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors. --1 Samuel 12:6-7 (NLT)

Some days I am better equipped to deal with the challenges of life than others.

Yesterday was a hard day. I was ready to throw in the towel by 9 a.m.

I needed help. I called a friend but reached her voice mail, instead. When I heard the beginning of her prerecorded message, I hung up the phone. I did not trust myself to leave a message without crying. And, I was pretty certain that once I started crying I wouldn't be able to stop.

Lord, I need you. Help me.

Ten minutes later my phone rang. It was my friend. She knew, without any details, where I was emotionally and mentally. I asked her to talk to me.

"Tell me about the Promised Land. Remind me of why I'm here."

Without hesitation, she began to tell me my story. She spoke of God's plans for my family in this new place. She reminded me of my calling, of my faith, and of God's strength. She reminded me of my responsibility to trust God to help my children find their way, even as I was finding mine.

As she spoke, I listened carefully. It occurred to me that I listened like someone dying of thirst. I knew the message but, for some reason, I needed to hear it from someone else's lips. Her words poured into me, filled me up, and renewed my spirit.

It was a still a hard day. But, the challenges before me were no longer insurmountable now that my friend's words echoed in my mind.

Father, some days I have so little faith. May I never be too proud or too weary to ask someone to remind me why I am here. I do not possess the courage or the strength to do this on my own. I need You. Show me how to live in Your will, day by day. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Climbing the Mountain

"On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. The Lord came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain." --Exodus 19:16-20 (NLT)

This morning, my attention has been captivated by the picture presented in the above Scripture passage from Exodus.

I am fascinated by the violence of God's show of power to the Israelites: Thunder, lightning, a dense cloud, fire cloaked by billowing smoke, a shaking mountain and the ever increasing blast of the ram's horn. No wonder the people trembled.

What in the world was going through Moses' head when he climbed up the mountain to meet with the Lord?

Was he scared? Was he impressed? Was he excited? Was he awed? Did he tremble? Did he take slow steps or stride with confidence? Did he measure the placement of each footstep or walk with blind obedience? And, what about his posture? Was he walking with his head bowed and eyes lowered? Or was his head thrown back, eyes wide open, in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the One who called him by name?

I love that Scripture doesn't provide answers to my questions. It gives me room to think about the possibilities. It also makes me wonder about my own response were God to thunder an invitation to do some mountain climbing of my own.

God of the universe, You command all of creation. Everything in this world is under Your authority, even the thunder and lightning. Give me the obedience to follow You wherever You call me to go. Give me eyes to see beyond earthly things and to focus on You. And, Father, give me the strength and the courage to climb wherever I must go to meet with You. In the powerful, saving name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Holy Portions

"But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed." --Exodus 16:18

Early this morning, I received an email from a brother-in-Christ who spoke of God's recent provision in his life. Twice he used the phrase "just enough" to describe the Lord's timely affirmation.

A short while later, I received a text from a young friend who is working his way through college. He was praising God for the abundant ways he has been recently blessed. It is evident that God has gone above and beyond my friend's expectations.

I was struck by the contrast of just enough vs. abundance in the lives of my friends. And, yet, both men were equally grateful for the portion given to them by God. It was a nice start to the day.

So I sat down to do my daily Bible study. (I am currently reading through Exodus.) In chapter 16, God introduces manna to the hungry Israelites with very specific instructions on how much to gather and when.

"So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough..." Exodus 16:17-18a

"Just enough" there are those words again.

God has my full attention. I have been sitting at my kitchen table, reflecting on the just enough and abundance in my own life, especially in regards to our recent move.

If I look around this new house that is slowly becoming our home, I see the abundance of God. It is only by His hand that we ended up in this place. It is everything we had prayed for and then some. It is a place where people are meant to gather...and we don't even know who those people are, yet! So we are mindful that God has plans for us and for this home. We thank Him and wait for Him to reveal His plans.

When I watch my children get out of the car, each day, and face the challenge of being a new kid in a new school, just enough courage seems a good description. As we laugh our way through another text conversation with my son (still in San Antonio), just enough communication keeps us connected to make our separation tolerable. As I unpack an endless mountain of boxes, just enough energy gets me through another day. And as my husband makes the 45 minute daily commute to work, just enough promise of God's bigger plan makes all of this worth it.

Just enough or abundance. I have to agree with my friends on this one, either way, I give thanks to God!

"How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see." --Psalm 36:7-9

Abba, You are the Great Provider. Forgive me for all of the times I have not recognized your provision. I confess that my eyes are ready to recognize You in my "abundance"and often forget that You are also present in my "just enough." Thank You for using my friends to deliver a powerful lesson to me this day. Lord, You are always enough. In Jesus' name, Amen.