Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Could I Ask For More?

Happy Thanksgiving, Songbirds! 
     May God richly bless you and yours this holiday season! I am so grateful that you have chosen to read my posts! I hope and pray that in some small way it ministers to your hearts.
     The song  How Could I Ask for More? by Cindy Morgan is one of my all time favorites and well worth the listen!
1 Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

His Eyes

     You may recall in my last post titled "He Ran" that I mentioned that God graciously allowed me to experience what it would be like to sit before the first judge in my disability case so He could whittle away that same judgmental attitude I am prone to have toward others; not unlike big brother did toward the prodigal. The following incident is how He accomplished that:
     It was fall of 2008 and I had just finished shopping at Sam's Club and had begun to put my items in the trunk of my car. I noticed what I thought was a man and wife across the parking lot at their car as I was unloading items. I didn't really pay attention to them. The next thing I knew was that as I was getting ready to open my car door the woman approached me. She may have been slightly younger than me, dressed in pants and sweater...nicely groomed. She started talking to me and telling me she had had marriage problems...and that was as far as she got before I stopped her.
     I wish I could continue on and tell you that I listened to the rest of what she had to say, especially since my husband and I have such a strong passion for marriages, but that is not what happened. I remember thinking that she didn't look like the "typical" (?) person who panhandled (if she even was a panhandler). I'll never know because I didn't give her a chance to tell me what she wanted.
     I then realized that she must not have been with the man across the parking lot, but that she must have approached him the same way. So, I immediately stopped her and told her "Sorry, I can't help you." I opened my car door and she was gone. When I got in my car I turned the key and the radio came on and it was playing the Christian station that I listen to. BAM! Conviction, BIG time!
     I envisioned the day I was seated before the first judge in my disability case January of 2007. I believe God put that image in my mind so that I would make the connection between my behavior and the judge's behavior. If you know me, you know that I don't "look sick." I believe that was part of the bias the judge had toward me. The woman did not "look" the part, so my prejudice shined through, big time.
     Well, the Holy Spirit had convicted me to the point that I felt I had to find her, but to no avail. I drove that parking lot up and down and I could not find her anywhere. It was as if she had vanished into thin air!
     Then it hit me, maybe she was an angel. I know it may sound a bit strange and I guess it doesn't matter if she was one or not, because God got my attention regardless, but she seemed to have appeared and disappeared so suddenly.
     I never did find her (regrettably), but it had affected me. It made me realize that I have such a long way to go toward showing compassion to others. When I write in regard to showing compassion, I am talking to myself as much as to anyone else. I believe God used what took place to reveal Himself as very much involved in my life and in complete control of the battle I was facing in regard to my disability case.
     Skip to the next time I was at the Sam's Club, which was a week or two after the "angel" had approached me, I was heading out of the store when I got a call from my lawyer. He told me that the first judges' decision had been overturned based on the conclusion that he independently made his decision to deny my benefits by disregarding the evidence before him. BAM! Redemption, BIG time!
     My attorney also told me that I may not have to face another judge before my case would be settled, most likely in my favor. Coincidence? I don't think so. This phone call, coincidentally at the same location, proved in my mind that God was in control of my circumstances that day in the parking lot. He knew what it would take for me to repent and realize that my husband and I had been so graciously taken care of by Him, disability benefits or not, and I had no right to judge the "angel" in the parking lot the way that I did.
     He brought me to my knees, which is where I need to stay! The thought that I behaved like the first judge hit me personally because I knew the condemnation I experienced when I faced that first judge and I had made her feel that same way. It breaks my heart to this day.
     These incidents took place in September of 2008. As it turned out, in January of 2009 I did face another judge. This time I was granted my full benefits in March of 2009 which was just four months after God revealed to me once again His graciousness and His willingness to continue to battle on my behalf, independent of my sinful nature.
     Only one Righteous Judge turned my way, the God of the Universe and He declared me (all believers) not guilty. Not because of my ability to pay my sin debt, but ONLY because of the price Jesus paid on my behalf...AMAZING. 
     Luke 7:36-48 NKJV are some of my favorite verses in the bible. There were two debtors, one Creditor. The two debtors had nothing in which to repay the Creditor. The Creditor forgave them both freely. The question is asked...Which one will love Him (the Creditor) more? The answer:  The one to whom the Creditor forgave more. Verse 43 NKJV.
     Jesus concludes by saying "Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Luke 7:47 NKJV. I refer to this verse as the 747 Jumbo Jet verse because it is so powerful! Because it cuts right to the heart condition of sinful man (a hard heart) and addresses Jesus' solution...heart surgery. The scalpel? Forgiveness.
     The realization that we, as sinful man need it and then the realization that only He can provide it. Once received, love is conceived, along with our desire to seek to see others through His eyes! The surgery is complete and the healing begins.Collateral healing.
     The song, titled Give Me Your Eyes by  Brandon Heath  is my prayer and my song for us all today...




Thursday, November 15, 2012

He Ran!

     One of the many attributes of God is that He is good. How much we truly comprehend that truth can affect our decision processes in many ways. If we have this vision of God just waiting to pounce on us with an iron fist or a bolt of lightning every time we make a wrong move what kind of effect do you think that has on our relationship with Him? Intimacy is not cultivated in an environment of fear and punishment I John 4:18 NKJV. Through Christ He is Judge over sin Acts 17:30-31 NKJV, yet that is not the whole story. We as believers have been declared "not guilty" because of the blood of Christ I Peter 1:18-20 NKJV.
      I have been privileged to experience first hand what it might be like to go before a two types of  judges; one who has already deemed me "guilty" and then one who has deemed me "not guilty." It was quite a life lesson for me and here is how it played out:
     If you know me or have read my previous posts, you are aware of my multiple health issues. At the time I had become ill I was working full time. When I became ill I had to stop working. After several years went by it was getting harder and harder to make ends meet, so my husband and I decided that it was time to apply for my Disability benefits. That battle began May of 2005.
     January of 2007 found me sitting before a judge that had already made up his mind that I was not eligible for my benefits, I am sure in part because I don't look sick. My file was literally several inches thick of medical documentation, yet it was of no avail to him. His questions to me were not out of line, it was his responses and his attitude toward my answers to his questions that revealed his prejudice against me.
     That morning before we went to my appointment before the Judge, I had searched God's Word for guidance. He gave me this scripture that I did not fully comprehend at the time; Proverbs 10:19-20 NKJV which says this; In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. 
     I focused on the first verse in regard to my use of words during the inquiry that morning. I held my tongue more than I believe I would have, had I not received this scripture ahead of time. There were times during the judge's questioning that I would have been tempted to explain my responses in more detail, but I believe the Lord helped me restrain my tongue. It was obvious to me that it did not matter what I said, the decision was already made.
     Several months later I received the news that, indeed  I was denied by the judge to receive my benefits. It was very disheartening to say the least, but the truth of my situation had not changed and with the help of the Lord and my husband and attorney, we continued onto yet another appeal. The waiting continued.
     It was early fall of 2008 that I got a call from my attorney that the decision by the first judge had been overturned and that I may not even have to go before another judge. I was to fill out more paperwork (yet again) and then wait (yet again)! We were so encouraged, yet nothing was settled yet.
     January 2009 found me sitting before the second judge. This time I could tell that he was impartial and he listened to my responses without dismissal or contempt. The waiting continued.
     I got THE call in March of 2009 that the second judge ruled in my favor. By summer of 2009 I started receiving my benefits and 4 years of struggling had come to an end and it was such a relief! 
     Had I truly been sitting before the One and Only Righteous Judge I would have had to been declared guilty. EXCEPT for one thing, as a believer I have a lawyer who has NEVER lost a case! His name is Jesus Christ. As a believer, we are declared not guilty in the sight of God. AMAZING. It is all because of Christ and the blood He shed on the cross! 
     BUT GOD graciously allowed me to experience what it would be like to sit before the first judge that made me feel condemnation so He could whittle away that same judgmental attitude I am prone to have toward others, not unlike big brother did toward the prodigal. In my next post I will elaborate more specifically how He did that. 
     I am reminded of a song by Benny Hester titled When God Ran. My prayer and my song is that this becomes our vision of God's response toward all of us prodigals and in turn respond to each other the same way. Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Louder Than Words

     In Luke 15: 11-32 NKJV we are told of the prodigal son. Verses 11-24  are a beautiful story of love and redemption...then big brother speaks;  in verses 25-32  he says to his father;  ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’  verses 29-30. Whoa! Big brother had become angry and jealous of the father's treatment of his wayward brother.
     These verses remind me of something my husband has said from time to time and that is this "One man's gain is not your loss." The older brother lost nothing of his inheritance nor was his position as his father's son  affected by his younger brother's behavior or treatment, so why did he get angry?
     What would cause us to get angry or jealous when a co-worker gets promoted ahead of us, or someone drives a nicer car or lives in a bigger house or has children we so desperately want ourselves or etc., etc., etc.? What's even worse, what if these people were in rebellion with the Father or even rejected Him out right as depicted by the prodigal?
     This "slippery slope" starts when we take our focus off our own relationship with God and start looking around and comparing ourselves with others. Grace by this point has been laid by the wayside. Behavior and performance become the focus instead and our attitude will go "down hill" from there every time. Entitlement replaces humility...not pretty...and when anger, jealousy or an attitude of entitlement are ushered in, judgment of others is sure to follow. Remember collateral damage from last week?
     The good news is that if we engage in a growing intimate relationship with God and His Word then what those around us are doing or achieving seems less relevant because our fulfillment comes from Him and His provision for us. God transforms our attitude because He transforms our hearts and our judgment of others is replaced with not only compassion for them but a burden for their souls as well. Collateral healing.
     My husband and I have had the privilege of walking the ruins of  Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp represented in the movie Schindler's List, along with Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Over the entrance gates of Auschwitz reads Arbeit Macht Frei which translated means "Work sets you free."
     That sign was a deception, just as the deception of believing that our "works set us free." Works alone can never set us free. It is by the gift of grace and grace alone that God sets us free from the bondage of sin Ephesians 2:7-9 NKJV. His grace replaces our "works" into loving obedience that flows from a grateful heart. I believe our loving obedience to the Father speaks louder than any words we could ever utter James 1:21-25 NKJV.
We took this picture of the entrance gate to Auschwitz in December, 2008:

     We left the gates of those camps of our own free will when some one and one half million others did not have that privilege. We stood outside of  Schindler's Factory as well and we will never forget those experiences, at least I pray we never do.
     Walking those steps in Poland made me realize that man's inhumanity to man seems to have no boundaries.We are indeed lost souls in need of a Savior, not unlike those from the death camps. Through God's grace He made a way through Jesus Christ to provide that Savior Romans 1:15-17 NKJV.
     Grace is a mysterious thing, at least to me. Such sacrifice was required for us to obtain it, yet is is freely given to those who believe Ephesians 2:7-9 NKJV AMAZING. If we truly are grateful for the gift of grace then obedience to the Father becomes our small offering, as inadequate as it may seem.
     I am reminded of the ending scene in the movie Schindler's List  in which Oskar Schindler  illustrates his remorse over not saving just one more person from the death camps...

     My song and my prayer for us today is that we continually reach toward just one more person through the rescuing love of Christ (louder than words). 
     The song by David Crowder Band  titled O Praise Him  illustrates the praise that will surely result when we "Turn our ear. To Heaven. And hear. The noise inside"... Hallelujah! He is holy! Amen.