Friday, January 30, 2009

We must be diligent in the use of all the means which lead to our salvation, persevering therin to the end. With great care, lest, with all our advantages, we should come short. Work out your salvation, for it is God who worketh in you. This encourages us to do our utmost, because our labor shall not be in vain; we must still depend on the grace of God. The working of God’s grace in us, is to quicken and engage our endeavors. God’s good will to us, is the cause of his good work in us. Do your duty without murmurings. Do it, and do not find fault with it. Mind your work, and do not quarrel with it. By peaceableness; give no just occasion of offense. The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the light-house warns mariners to avoid rocks, and directs their course into the harbor. Let us try thus to shine. The gospel is the word of life, it makes known to us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Running, denotes earnestness and vigor, continual pressing forward; laboring, denotes constancy, and close application. It is the will of God that believers should be much in rejoicing.

Commentary of Philippians 2:12-18 by Matthew Henry

Thursday, January 29, 2009


by Rebecca Irwin

Lately, it seems like everything around me was broken. My car was broken and then my husband's car was broken. A relationship in our family was definitely broken. People's bodies were broken. Toys were broken. Small things around the house were broken.

When Max or Jack break a toy, they cannot grasp the understanding that once broken, always broken. We cannot repair it back to its original state. We can attempt to restore its usefulness with glue or tape, but it becomes more fragile. It is not the same as it was before.

While packing for vacation, I was feeling very tired and grouchy, and the boys were running around the house like wild things. I had reached the end of my rope, and I snapped, yelling at them with a fierce face and an angry growl. cry...and with tears in his eyes he looked at me and said, "Mama, you broke my heart.". And just then, my heart broke too.

It is amazing that God can take broken things, like my mothering, and not just restore me, but renew me from the inside out. He is the only God who can give us that hope! We can draw from his strength when we feel weak. We can learn from his patience when ours is gone. We can rest in His grace when we lose it.

Today, I asked Jack how his heart was and he replied, "Good, I have a new heart.". That's exactly what our God does for us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

He Clothed Them!

by Missy Grant

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed themGenesis 3:21

At first glance you might think this is the Lord ordaining discussion, purchasing and the wants of clothing! (Come on …..more than one of us has used this verse to explain our overspending in the area of wardrobe needs.)

In all seriousness, though, this verse speaks volumes on the grace, love and care of the Lord. Which has me beg the question of you….when is the last time you experienced the Lord pouring out His care for you? Can you identify it? Are you able to articulate it? This morning – last night – a year ago? Are you only looking to times of joy? Do you see Him pouring Himself out for you during the grind and monotony of the dailies?

The verses preceding the above scripture describe in detail Adam and Eve’s failure of performing their priestly duties of guarding and caretaking the garden. In His love for them, the Lord admonishes and then banishes them from the garden. But, before He sends them out the gate – he does something. Look up at the verse again. What does He do? He provided garments of skin. The Hebrew word for skin is… was the skin of an animal.

The Lord (with what I believe had to be a broken heart) spoke firmly first to the serpent, then to Eve and finally to Adam. (don’t miss His order – our God is a God of order. There is always purpose in His order). He was speaking eternal truth and they were listening. He then had to do the hard thing….send them away. He knew the toil, heartbreak, grief, loneliness, isolation they and the generations following would experience. He also knew how He was going to atone for the sinful act which had taken place in the garden (read Genesis 3:15) Yet, before He sent them away, He did a very dad like thing…. Have you ever been in a situation where you were cold and shivery and a gentleman or good friend or your dad took off their coat and put it around your shoulders. Sometimes it helps with the cold and sometimes it doesn’t, but the act alone is heartwarming.

The Lord had to discipline Adam and Eve, but in His grace and to our wonderment, He also provided for them. A provision which would foreshadow His eternal sacrifice as the clothing required the killing and sacrifice of an animal for the welfare of others.

When life tugs hard at you, and you are feeling tender and bruised, remember to go back to the beginning of His word. Remember that in his discipline, in his asking you to be obedient in the most mundane details of life, that He will always….always provide for you. He will take off His coat and put it over your shoulders. Sometimes the hardest words to emote are….

Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Great Stage

by Sue Donaldson

Suzanne’s a single mom. Her adult daughter moved to Texas to get a job, but all her furniture was still here. A couple weeks ago, Suzanne was telling our friend Peter at church that she needed to figure out how to get everything to Austin, and he piped up, “I used to live in Austin - I’ll drive it for you - and, I have business there, so my company can fly me home!” Wow!

I said, “Didn’t that just make you cry?!” She said, “Well, yes–this is the first time I’ve talked about it without crying!” God is good. Peter heard the need and acted on it. All he said was, “Let me check with my wife (always a good thing!)-- but I think it’s a ‘go’.”

He’s already back and I talked with him briefly yesterday at church. He met Heather for the first time when he drove up with all her earthly goods. Wow – what a great guy! His only comment to me was: “Life is short, you have to act where and when you can. When I was young, I used to want to change the world. Now, I realize, I can just change one life at a time.”

What a great outlook. I think Peter is changing the world, one U-Haul at a time.

We all hear of needs – we get phone calls asking for money, we hear of accidents and disasters on the news and in the paper. How do we know when and how and where to act?

I don’t know. I do know that God wants to meet needs and that He loves to share His joy by using us. Reminds me to keep my ears open to God’s prompting.

What’s great is that God often tailor-makes another’s need just for your gift – so when you hear the need, your heart leaps at the chance to fill it. It’s easy, even – like the EASY button at Staples. Other times, our heartstrings may be tugged, and it’s a bigger effort to meet that need – but, if you’re the one, God’s grace will guide and lift you through. It’s a fact--and a joy. (Did I tell you about the time Ceslie’s neighbor’s daughter had to be up at Stanford for extended medical treatment, so Ces took her two little boys to and from school every day, sang songs in the car, and helped them with snacks and homework after school for about 6 weeks? No? I didn’t? Well, that was quite the commitment – all Ces said was, “You know, it was kind of fun. . .”)

James is practical and calls us to a great stage that makes God’s love visible: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?James 2:15-16.

Not much good. Talk to Peter next week. He heard the need, and got inside a big truck and drove hundreds of miles. Bless you, brother – the Kelley’s are praising the Lord!

Lord God,

You could just fix everyone’s problems without my help – but, if You want me in on the solution for someone today, please help me pay attention and act. (I really can’t drive a U-Haul to Texas – so thanks for that need already being met. . .) Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We Live for Comments!

by Debbi Weeks

Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they really do encourage us. If there really are as many readers of the Sojourner’s Journal out there as we think (and we know that there are – there’s a counter for goodness sake! ), then we should be getting scads and scads of comments each and every day. Like what was up with only one comment to my January 14th post asking you how you meet non-believing women?! Are we all in the same boat – I don’t think so!

So, my encouragement to you today is to encourage us, the writers of the SJ, by leaving a simple comment now and again (even a few words, ladies – throw the dog a bone!). Let us know that you’re reading and if you’re being challenged and/or blessed. Or maybe we don’t see eye to eye on things – that’s okay too, but at least let us know that we caused you to think. Are we drawing you close to our Lord and Savior? Then let us hear it!

Hebrews 10:24 and 25

And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. (Amplified Bible)

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)

Oh, and the need for encouragement isn’t just limited to the writers of this blog – we could all use a good dose! But, us contributors do love those comments!

Father, God I praise You for Your care, concern and faithfulness to us. I praise You that You are unchanging.

I confess that I, too, neglect to encourage those You have put in my circle of influence. Please forgive me and remind me to encourage others.

Thank You that we have been able to use this medium of an internet blog to input Your Word and Your ways in women’s lives.

Please show us how we can respond and bring encouragement to one another.

Scripture Reading for the week - Psalm 139

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

2 You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

3 You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

4 You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

5 You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too great for me to understand!

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!

I can never get away from your presence!

8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;

if I go down to the grave, Hebrew to Sheol.

">* you are there.

9 If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

and your strength will support me.

11 I could ask the darkness to hide me

and the light around me to become night—

12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

To you the night shines as bright as day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

16 You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, Or How precious to me are your thoughts.

">* O God.

They cannot be numbered!

18 I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!

Get out of my life, you murderers!

20 They blaspheme you;

your enemies misuse your name.

21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?

Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?

22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,

for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Whose Yoke?

by Missy Grant

Are you weary this morning? Is the weight of your life tasks heavy? Are you wondering if He is in the tasks of your day? His answer is this, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Take a look at the action words of the scripture – Come, Take, Rest. Say it again – Come, Take, Rest. The first two words are commands from the Lord Himself. The weariness you are experiencing may be a physical reality, but the Lord Himself says if we will come to Him, yoke up to Him, that He will be gentle and full of humility (another word for grace and mercy) and we will find rest. Rest from our activity – not necessarily, but rest from the one who discourages.

What are you yoked to this day? A yoke is made for two purposes – to connect and to be held in place. Jesus himself said yoke up to me. Connect to Him and His guiding hand will be upon your shoulder. That is how one stays in His will. A yoke is made to connect two for the purpose of working – not wallowing.

Go to Him first today, I know you are weary and heavy laden. Accept the removal of the world’s yoke and allow Christ to place His upon you. You will see more of Him today and you will find rest that only comes from less of you and more of Him.

Lord Jesus – we are as strong willed as any oxen. We will pull our heavy load until our energies are exhausted. May we rest in your word today. May we allow your intercession on our behalf. Your own prayer says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is Truth.” May we come to you this day, take your yoke upon us and rest in you. In your glorious name, Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

200 posts!!!!! With many more to come....
thank you for joining us on the journey....
thank you Peggy, Sue, Debbi, Cindy,
Rebecca, and Kate for taking us daily to
His throne of Grace....


by Rebecca Irwin

On Tuesday, like many of you, I watched and listened to the 44th president of our nation address his fellow citizens. Perhaps some of you did not care to watch it because he was not your choice. But please hear me. I know thousands of voices have critiqued the words, the wardrobe, the gestures, the setting, the senses, the feeling, indeed, every aspect of Tuesday, January 20, 2009. I don't claim a better analysis, a more intelligent point of view, a forecast of the future, or words of warning. However, as I have listened, and allowed the words to settle into my mind and my heart, a few things stood out that are like a bellows, stoking a passionate fire.

The first thing that caused sparks was his (nay, his speech-writer's) selection of Scripture : "We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.". In fact, on Tuesday morning I rose early to read from The Message and had flipped quite randomly to Ephesians where the verse that was used in the speech echoed in my memory as the chapter I had read. I understand it was most likely pulled from 1 Corinthians 13 - the "Love Chapter" as it is commonly referred to :

11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Listen now to Ephesians :

14 No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. 15 God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love - like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 16 He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go.

Do you see what I see? "TRUST steadily in GOD, HOPE unswervingly, LOVE extravagantly." Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Then, to the Ephesians, "to know the whole TRUTH and tell it in LOVE...grow up healthy in God, robust in LOVE.".

Which leads me to the next phrase in the inaugural address that stoked my fire again "we have chosen hope over fear...". HOPE over FEAR! Pardon my shouting but that is a fantastic phrase to claim as followers of Jesus Christ! Do you hear a call to be different? Do you sense the choice we can make? In fact, the rest of the sentence is good to be mindful of "unity of purpose over conflict and discord.".

On Sunday (prior to the Inauguration), with uncharacteristic passion and fervor, my pastor said that NOW is the time for the church to illustrate to the world true covenantal relationship within community. It is not dependent on the economy, or the politics, or the weather for that matter. It is simply and succinctly dependent on Christ's gift of the Spirit, filling us with his grace and love and our willingness to obey God - simply because He is God. Again, Paul wrote to the Ephesians :

1...I want you to get out there and walk - better yet, run! - on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. 2 And mark that you do this with humility and discipline - not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, 3 alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. 4 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. 5 You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. 7 But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.

Dear friends, don't mistake my urgency as overwhelming nationalism, or a case of red white and blue fever. Rather, I rejoice in the Lord for his unfailing Hope. His life-changing Love. His true ability to cast out all fear. And his call to us to testify to this by "pouring ourselves out for each other in acts of love". Sue Donaldson has been steadily urging us to live generously and hospitably for years and I am grateful for her example and encouragement! May your fire be stoked to LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY starting with today.

Our prayer is simple, Father God. We choose hope over fear. We choose to Love extravagantly. We choose to follow you. Thank you for the freedom to do so. Amen.

(note, to download Pastor Lou Huesmann's sermon, find it here once it is posted )

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Friend and God's Word

by Debbi Weeks

Years ago I was the mother of a toddler and for a period of time my husband, Matt, was working the night shift. I couldn’t get to sleep and I didn’t sleep well. Endless worries and fears of all that could happen without him there by my side filled my dark nights. Overcome by the lack of sleep and through tears, I shared with my small group at Bible Study and asked them to please pray for me.

One dear, sweet sister, whose husband has always (or as long as I’ve known her) worked the night shift did something more. Robbin Mote (or Mama Mote as she’s referred to in blogland) wrote out a couple of scripture verses that had ministered to her and gave them to me. I still have the 3” x 5” card she gave me. Robbin told me that she kept them by her bed and whenever she was afraid at night she would read them to herself to remind her of God’s care and protection over her. These are the verses she shared with me:

Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety.

Proverbs 3:24-26, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.

Never before nor since have I experienced the power of God through His Word work so quickly in my life. The first night I read those verses, I slept like a teenager (I know the expression is “baby,” but in my experience babies just don’t sleep that well and teenagers do! ). I have kept that verse card in my nightstand all these many years, but I have never needed to reference it again because I was not afraid any longer.

I praise God for His sure and complete work in my life in this area of trusting Him when I go to sleep alone. And, I thank Robbin for her help in directing me to God’s Word for my troubles. Robbin, you’re a true friend to comfort me with His Word, may you lie down and sleep in peace!

Father God, thank You that Your Word is truth and that You are faithful to it.

Please forgive me for being afraid when I should be trusting You.

Thank You for Robbin and her sharing Your Word with me and ministering to my deepest need – to trust You.

Lord I would ask that we would all experience Your Word as it is meant to be – for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16) and may we all in peace lie down and sleep.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do It With All Your Might

by Sue Donaldson

Jean told me something the other day (something that only struck me later as profound): “Maybe what you are looking for is already in front of you.”

Was I in the forest still looking for the trees? (And, bumping my head on the branches while praying for the next orchard? Probably – and I have the bruises to show for it. . .)

Solomon (wisely) spoke to that issue in Ecclesiastes 9:10 ~ Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. . .”

I like that. As women, we have much that our hands need to do – it’s right there in front of us. We might be looking for something more or something else – but God reminds us—take a look at what this day holds, and go for it (with His strength, of course.)

I don’t just mean laundry, although that’s part of it. I like to think there is more than laundry to my day. But, the fact that we belong to God makes even the simplest task, meaningful. He asks me to do everything for His glory – including eating and drinking and washing and teaching. Reading and playing, working and sleeping – it’s all for Him. And, I want to do it with all my might, for Him.

Today I have a bedroom to clean, dishes to wash, and waffles to make. Today I have a camper to welcome home (and, her laundry to do), two Korean gals to serve (both asleep at present), a husband to bless, a daughter to send money to (of course), and 11 college girls to lead in Growth Group. These are the trees God has granted just for today’s forest. And I want to do all He gives (plus, any surprises I don’t know about yet) with all my might for all His sake.

What is your hand finding to do today? If it looks a little empty, come on over and help me fold laundry. I’ll keep it on the couch until you do – how do you like your coffee?

Father God,

I love you so much. Thanks for giving me great things to do for You every day – and the hands to do them. You make life rich. May I do all for You and with all my might. It’s a waste, otherwise. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Shield

by Missy Grant

I’ve been thinking about shields recently. Have you given much thought to shields? Your answer is probably yes, if you have young sons or grandboys – weaponry and boys seem to go hand in hand. Your answer might be no, though, if you don’t have young warriors running through your kitchen yelling, “for Aslan!”

I read this recently in Beth Moore’s bible study of Esther, “The reaction showed the Jews of Persia understood their peril to be associated with their wanderings from God. They had become so worldly and so thoroughly assimilated into Persian culture that they’d lost their protective shield. God had told His people from the time of Moses that He’d protect them and fight their battles for them as long as they worshiped Him only. If they forgot Him, He would still love them, but He would not shield them.”

What jumped to my attention was the sentence, “They had become so worldly and thoroughly assimilated into Persian culture…they’d lost their protective shield”. I will beg an apology before I even write another word. I hold very strong opinions on Christians walking in worldly ways. I don’t hold those opinions for judgment. I hold those thoughts because God’s word is the sword of truth and we are fooling no one by thinking we can walk in the world’s ways and honor the Lord at the same time. You are set apart – you are different – your life should look like it.

Shields have two sides. The side facing out protects from satan’s arrows coming from the outside (remember, you were sealed at redemption and he cannot indwell you, Ephesians 1:13. He attacks from the outside). I like to think of the inside of the shield as the Holy Spirit - protecting, yes, but praying when we can’t, convicting of sin, instructing in His word - all within the confines of the shield.

The jews in Persia had lost their protective shield – or so it seemed. The truth is the Lord never left them….they left Him. They liked their comfort in pagan Persia. It was beautiful, friends and family all around, plenty to do and see, all wants and desires met...affluent….sounding familiar? What happened next, though? In two words….death sentence with the king’s signet ring giving it all the power necessary. All of a sudden the jews remembered something….they were different – they were set apart – their life was to look different from those around them and they were facing death.

They had a choice to make and so do you? They realized they had forsaken the true shield – the one which made a covenantal promise to them. One man made a decision to not forsake the Lord and facing sure death went and stood in front of the very dwelling the edict had come from. The way he was now dressed showed his heritage and he had a message for the queen.

The triune God is our shield and while he promises never to leave us or forsake us, it is very possible for us to wander away from His shield. We suffer when we do that, although we can and do suffer even when we don’t wander. We must claim Him and pick up the sword of truth and the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) every day – ask for help, the greatest helper – the Holy Spirit- will help you lift that shield and defend against the arrows of the evil one. Remember who you are in Christ. Claim it!! You are set apart – you were created for this time in HIStory – you are different. May your difference draw others through you and directly to Him.

Mighty God, we are prone to wander, continually stepping outside of the protection of Your shield. Lord, satan is so deliberate and subtle – we walk in worldly ways thinking we are on your path – only to discover we have wandered. Help us to seek your face, to put our desires aside so that the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us will be revealed and the full protection of Your shield firmly in place. Give us Your strength to look like You and not reflect the world around us. We Praise your Glorious name, Amen

Scripture Reading for the Week of January 19th, 2009....Psalm 139:13-18

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand
When I awake, I am still with You.”


“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
1You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me,O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!”

New Living Translation

Friday, January 16, 2009

Break It Down So I Can Get It

by Cindy Frauenheim

Sue’s post on Tuesday really spoke to me. I have been in that same “down” place lately, with no real apparent reason. My kids are both here, not heading off to college like Sue’s daughter. Life is generally good. I find that my recent weeks, however, are filled with lots of getting things done, and yet more seems to pile on. I yearn for more downtime. I have also had to repent of coveting and a lack of patience. I am purposing this New Year to be in the Word more faithfully. Maybe the Enemy is trying to sap my energy with “stuff” and get me emotionally tired so that I will not be in the Word. So I went to the verses from Tuesday’s post to break them down and simplify a bit.

What are the promises or rewards mentioned? They are renewed strength, soaring, and refuge under the covering of His wings. Yes, I could use those!

What brings about those rewards and promises? Do you see it?

“…Those who hope in the Lord…” (from Isaiah 40:31)

“…my God, in Whom I trust…” (from Psalm 91:2, 4)

We can break it down to hope and trust. The more I analyze scripture to figure out what my responsibilities are, it’s amazing how often these two show up. So as I drove around that day, I kept reminding myself to put my hope and my trust in the Lord, and asking the Lord to give me his strength and refuge.

I always find that the promises, usually more than one, always outweigh the required action(s) on my part. Here is another scripture that has been precious to me for several months, beginning last spring. Notice how lopsided it is in our favor:

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8.

My part: I am to put my trust and my confidence in the Lord.

What for? I will receive blessing. I will be strong and healthy like a well-watered tree, rooted and secure. I will have no fear, even when it’s scary. I will not wither (spiritually speaking!) and there will always be fruit evident in my life. On top of that, I will not worry even in the hardest of times!

Wow! That’s an amazing list of promises. And it all comes back to where my trust and confidence lies. That’s enough to ponder for days, isn’t it?

Okay, this may seem like kind of a mechanical way to look at scripture, but sometimes I just need to take away the basic underlying message to get my attitude and heart adjusted. Try it with the scripture God shows you this week. Another common responsibility or “our part” that shows up opposite great blessing is obedience. I am not advocating a “works” theology here – that if (and only if) we just do these one or two things then God will do this other list of things for us. His word is clear that that’s not how God operates. Faith and works both have a role in our relationship with Him. What this exercise does for me is that it shows me just how gracious, merciful, loving, and over-the-top God is! And it also helps me to get out of an emotional and spiritual rut by simplifying the scripture down to a simple principle or truth that I can remember more easily. I love the beauty of the scriptures, and the Psalms especially, but I also find it helpful to take it apart and “reduce” it to its simplest form. An added benefit is that this process also helps me to memorize scripture more easily. I can recall it by asking, “What are my two parts, and what five things does God do in response?”

When I am tired, downcast, or just in a bad mood, simple is good for me. I am more likely to hold on to the simple than the complex. There is a time for that as well. Just not today.

Lord, thank you for your amazing promises, and for your love for us that is the basis for all of them. Thank you for the gift of your Word and for the freedom we have to read it, discuss it, and break it down together. Show me where I need to make changes in whom and what I trust, and how to put my hope in you in practical ways in my life. Thank you that you renew my strength.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Borrowed Language

by Rebecca Irwin

I just returned from a fabulous trip to New York with my mom and dad in which I was completely spoiled. Each day was so full, I could write chapters on my observations and amazement. However, with jet lag and little time to process, I wish to share a prayer with you today from the Sunday service we attended. The worship we experienced at Redeemer Presbyterian Church was without a doubt, one of the highlights. My mom and I talked many times about the sermon we heard that day by Dr. Timothy Keller. Entitled Paradise in Crisis it was such a foundational message, I want to hear it again because I could not write fast enough to make notes of all he fed us. If you wish to hear it, you can find it here :(Redeemer Presbyterian Church - Sermons).

I have found quite recently, that I love to borrow language for my prayers. I find my mind gets stuck in mundane repetition of "please do this" and "watch over that person Father" and "help me here" if I do not. I am trying to retrain my mind in prayer. I resonated with many words and phrases in the prayer that follows. And, I loved the purpose stated in the words "created to reflect your beauty". May it help you speak your heart to our Father as well.

Prayer of Confession

Our gracious Father, you sent your Son to die and rise to new life in order that death might be brought to an end and that we too might live a new life. Yet foolishly, we have chosen death over life. In our thoughts, words and deeds we have rebelled against you and your intentions for us. In so doing, we have broken our fellowship with you whose love is better than life and whom to know is life itself. In so doing, we have hurt others, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes deliberately, and have diminished their lives. In so doing, we have damaged ourselves who have been created to reflect your beauty.

Father, forgive us our sin for Jesus' sake. And grant that your resurrection power might course through our entire being so that we walk in the ways of love and justice to the glory of your holy name. Amen.