Wednesday, August 26, 2009

HEART THOUGHTS ... from Helen

“Redeem the time…"
Colossians 4:5b (NIV)

The MESSAGE paraphrase of the Bible states “make the most of every opportunity”.

“Make the best possible use of your time.” (JB Phillips)

“The NEW ENGLISH BIBLE instructs: “making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity.”

The AMPLIFIED: “We have this moment.”

How can I make the most of every day’s opportunity?

Who will dictate the best possible use of my time?

What are my present opportunities and what time can be fully dedicated to seizing them?

Usually my best work is done before noon. Afternoons and evenings are up for grabs. Knowing my most productive hours helps me to redeem my time. Giving God the first and best part of my day amazingly carries me through the remainder of the many opportunities afforded me. You may have heard the axiom, ‘why tune the instrument when the concert is over’. This instrument is out of tune until I’ve practiced His Presence first thing in the morning. Timing is everything and mine is His.

My timer and my ‘to do’ list go hand in hand. Each item has a time limit. Setting the timer reminds me to move on to other things. Perhaps you don’t need that prompt, but to stay on task, I do.

One of the wedding gifts we gave our oldest son, David and his bride Lisa was a clock that chimes on the hour. It is to remind them that one of the most important things they will give each other is their time. If “LOVE is spelled TIME”, redeeming that time takes love, and vice versa. That was fourteen years ago.

How are you redeeming the time? God gives each of us the same twenty-four hours every day.

“…We have this moment to hold in our hands.

And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;

Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come.

But we have this moment—today!” (Gloria Gaither)

Reflection for August 26, 2009

"Salmon or Jelly Fish: You Choose"

Are you a salmon or are you a jellyfish? I can hear your minds turning and wondering, what kind of question is that? Think about it for a minute. A salmon begins life in the fresh water of the Northwest. Shortly after life begins the salmons swims down stream until it reaches the ocean. It spends most of its life in the ocean but the ocean is not its final destination. At some point the salmon realizes that the ocean is not home and it begins the journey back to where it came from. The journey is difficult because the return home is all upstream. Scientists recognize it as one of the marvels of nature, when the salmon finally overcomes all the obstacles it confronts and arrives home, usually at or very close to where they started from. When the salmon arrives home it spawns and then having accomplished its purpose it dies.

Unlike the salmon, the jellyfish is not driven to accomplish anything. It is perfectly satisfied to be moved along by the wind, waves and tide. Although they have limited movement, there is no evidence that they attempt to move toward any particular destination. They seem to be perfectly content to float from place to place. They show no indication that they have any sense of purpose or direction for their existence. They drift about satisfied just to survive.

The Apostle Paul was clearly more like the salmon. This can be seen in his determination through out his writings. I am particularly fond of Philippians 3:7-14. Take the time to read this passage and think of it in terms of your own life. In these verses, you can see three things about Paul. He had decided what was most important in his life. His overpowering passion was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. He had determined what he was willing to sacrifice to obtain that which was most important. For Paul, when compared to the joy of knowing Christ everything else was considered mere rubbish. He was willing to sacrifice everything to obtain is goal of knowing Christ. Finally, Paul was devoted to the task of knowing Christ. He was determined to press on to the high calling that God had placed on his life. As a result, God used him to write a large portion of the New Testament and millions of people throughout the ages have been blessed by his efforts.

When one visualizes the life of a salmon, it may look like more work than it is worth. Who really wants the exertion of swimming against the current? On the other hand, the life of the jelly fish may look more enticing. Drifting is far less demanding and it can seem like fun. I doubt that anyone would argue the fact that there are more people drifting upon the waves of the culture in which we live than they are those who are willing to buck the culture and stand up for right instead of bowing to convenience.

For those few that are willing to swim against the current, the reward at the end will be the joy of knowing that their life has really counted for something and that the world is a better place because they have been in it. I end where I started with the question, are you a salmon or a jellyfish? No matter what one has been in the past, he/she can make a decision today to be a salmon, to swim against the current of today’s culture, and to live the remainder of their days being everything God has meant for them to be.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heart Thoughts from Helen

"Holding God's Hand"

“I am with you.” (Haggai 1:13)
“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand… (Isaiah 41:13)

Boaz is a hand holder. Our nine-year old grandson also likes precision. He invited me to draw with him last evening. I am not an artist and the very thought of a blank sheet of paper (unless it has lines and a writing instrument) empties my brain. Brown eyed Boaz and I, however, took turns drawing.

In his grown up voice, he said, “Nana, you draw anything you want around the sides and then I’ll draw. We’ll take turns. Then, in the middle we’ll put a big picture.”

I drew the moon as I’d remembered seeing it early the morning before in the western sky as it made its way down, down, down, out of sight. Boaz drew the sun in yellow with red splashing light. I drew a house and he reminded me to put eaves on it. His parents are completing the building of a home.

As we sat on the couch waiting for fish to grill I looked around the room and drew a box. He drew a rainbow in all shades of color. I drew a kitty, because they have two new ones. He drew a much better kitty, a fatter one. When we had circled the paper with our ‘art’, I asked him, “What should we draw in the middle?” Immediately, he said, “Let’s draw you and me together, Nana.” I smiled as I drew my stick figure and he drew his….but as he finished, he connected our hands in the picture. Now, I like that!!

God our Father also likes togetherness. This morning I studied Haggai a little bit. In Haggai 1:13, God told his prophet to assure the people: “I am with you” after telling them, in essence to reorder their priorities. Being ‘with’ my grandchildren is a priority. Apparently, it is important to them.

God our Father also is a hand holder. Isaiah 41:13 tells me, “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear’.”
Boaz measures himself against me each time we’re together to see if he is as tall as I am. He has reached my hairline so it won’t be long before he’s taller than me. He knows the importance of togetherness. And he likes to hold hands…and so do I.

Give careful thought to your ways. God is with you. No telling what sort of ‘art’ you will leave in the ‘heart… thoughts’ of those you cherish. Maybe it will end up on someone’s fridge, like ours did.

Reflection for August 19, 2009

"Extreme Makeovers Available Here"

A young family came to the big city for the first time. The father and son were waiting for the mother by the elevator. Neither had ever seen an elevator before. An older lady with grey hair and a cane pushed the button and the elevator door opened. She walked onto the elevator. The man and his son did not get aboard because his wife had not gotten there yet. In a few minutes, the elevator door opened again and a young, well dressed, attractive lady walked into the lobby. The man immediately compared the woman he first saw get on the elevator with the one he saw get off. He then told his son to go find your mother quick and tell her to get over here.

I see a parallel in this amusing story of how some people feel about church. They expect to walk through the doors of the church and to come out a few minutes later with all their problems solved and a bright and new future before them. Individuals who have not attended church in years find themselves in a jam. They realize that they need something more in life. They realize that their problems are bigger than their capacity to deal with them. They go to church as a last resort. Some even attend for several weeks. When the situations in their life do not change, the assumption is that church does not work and they stop coming. They fell to realize that it usually took years for the problems in their life to come to a head. This being the case, they should not expect that everything will change just by walking through the door of a building.

There is nothing magical about a church building. As important as church can be in pointing us in the right direction, the thing that one really needs is a relationship with the One who the church is built upon. When we are willing to open our lives to Him, He changes us inside and we begin to want different things. Our problems do not automatically fall away. It takes time to work through them.

In Romans 12:2 Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”(NASB). Paul is clearly talking about a process. A decision to follow Christ may come at a specific time in our life but an understanding of all that it means is a process we must go through. In this process we learn to think different, to respond different, and to feel different. With Christ’s assistance we are able to come to grips with the mistakes of the past and to deal with our problems in a healthy manner. We are able to begin to experience the full life that the Scripture promises.

Do not interpret this to mean that church is a waste of time. It is not. I am simply saying do not expect an extreme make over immediately. Do not expect an immediate remedy to all your problems. Do expect to encounter the living Christ and believe that He will change your heart and create in you a desire to follow Him. Do expect Him to equip you to handle your problems in a wiser manner. Do expect Him to lead you to a new and fuller life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heart Thoughts by Helen

"Putting on New Clothes"

"..put off your old self, which is being corrupted by it's deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Eph 4:22-24

Personally, I prefer to stay in old loose, knock around clothes. As soon as I get up I put on old clothes. As soon as I come home from being out anywhere, the first thing I want to do is shed the good clothes and put on the grubbies. I just like being comfortable in my old clothes. That's not to say that some of my good clothes are not comfortable. I just prefer the old. Casual is my thing.

In my spiritual life, it behooves me to reconsider just what comfy, casual, lackadaisical means. The Apostle Paul plainly says "put off old self". Get rid of old way of life that corrupts and deceives. He goes on to categorize the old life: lying, anger, speech, stealing and other specific habits that need to be abandoned.

Now, I need to be more aware of my thought life and how I use my tongue and my time. Let's not forget the computer and how we use our fingers and hands and eyes. Talk about time consuming!!!The Lord convicts me of these things continually. What am I going to do about that?

Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you". First thing, I seek to spend personal time with the Lord each day, so that whatever I do will be guided by what He tells me. This morning He says: "put off old self"...Ok, as I change out of my old grubby clothes, I mentally confess or take off the known sin in my thought life and actions. As I shower and cleanse myself of these things, I put on the fresh clothes of the day. These clothes are clean and comfortable and my shoes fit to walk in the newness of life. Not only am I clothed in the new body, the fresh clothes, I am renewed day by day by His Spirit not only in my inner being but my outer being as well. Ready for a fresh, new day, offering myself to be used of him in ways of which I cannot conceive. Before I know it my fresh, good clothes transform into comfortable, casual duds.

Reflections for August 13, 2009

"Overcoming Fear"

I read somewhere that an African impala could jump ten feet high and could cover as much as thirty feet with each jump. Despite the power of this magnificent animal, it can be contained in a compound with a wall that is only three feet high. It seems that the impala will not jump when it can not see clearly where its feet will land. The fear of an uncertain landing keeps the impala behind a wall that it could easily clear.

This powerful animal reminds me of many Christians today, who are satisfied to live within the compound of their church and refuse to jump out onto the world stage, because they are not sure where they will land. Their fear of rejection or failure keeps them confined to the safety of their own church family. Rarely, do they initiate a discussion of faith outside the walls of the church. Instead, they choose to live a life of safety missing the excitement and thrill of engaging the world with the love of God.

The problem with this type of Christian behavior is that it does not measure up to the demand Jesus gave to His followers. He said to His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB) I have always understood this to be the “Great Commission” not the “Great Suggestion”. Therefore, I believe that from the beginning the Church was meant to be a “going church” and not a “sitting church. Even so, it is difficult for people to find the courage to move beyond the comfort zone of church into the world with their faith.

The reason for hesitancy is usually fear and fear is usually a sign of limited faith. If this is true, the answer is for our faith to grow in order for our fear to be overcome. The question is how does my faith grow? D.L. Moody explained it this way: “I prayed for faith and thought that some day it would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith didn’t seem to come. One day I read in Romans that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’. I had up to this time, closed my Bible and prayed for faith. Now I opened my Bible and began to study and faith has been growing ever since.”

Bible study is certainly one of the building blocks of an active faith. However, we can memorize the Bible cover to cover and still be faced with that moment in time when we must step out of our comfort zone and move into the world. Like learning to walk, the most difficult and most fearful step is the first one. With each additional step, our confidence grows. With each additional step, we will come to know the excitement that comes from walking with God and living on the edge.

Only God fully knows the thrilling things that await us, if we will jump the wall of fear that surrounds us and throw ourselves into the things He has for us. Isn’t it time that we cease to be like the African impala, content to be comfortable in confinement because of its fear of the unknown?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reflection for August 5, 2009

"Why Do We Have Two Ears and Only One Mouth?"
James 1:19

Have you ever wondered why we have one mouth and two ears? I believe James 1:19, 20 has the answer. It reads, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (NASB) Can you imagine the difference it would make in relationships between people, if people would heed this simple piece of advice? I prefer the NIV rendering, because it says “be quick” to listen. In our busy world there is a big difference between hearing and listening.

Let me illustrate with an example from my marriage. Early in our marriage I was a teacher/coach. Because my coaching responsibility was after school, my days were long. Add to this the fact my wife and I had made the decision for her to not work out of the home until our children started school. This decision left her at home everyday with our two boys. When I arrived home, I would eat supper and, then, move to the living room to watch the news. During this time my wife would talk to me about her day. One evening, while I was watching the nightly news and she was talking to me, she cried out, “You are not listening to a thing I say.” I made matters worse by repeating almost word for word what she had said.

The truth is she was right. I was not listening. I was hearing the words but I was not listening to the loneliness that was in her voice. Having spent her day with our two energetic young boys, she was not only exhausted; she was in desperate need of adult conversation. After having given her full attention to the boys all day, she needed someone to give her their undivided attention. She needed someone who would hear beyond the words and would see her needs. She needed someone to not only hear the words but to listen for the feelings from which the words came. I believe this is the type of hearing the writer of James was writing about.

The writer of Proverbs understood the importance of harnessing ones tongue and taking the time to listen to the words being spoken. Verses about the tongue can be found throughout Proverbs. For brevity’s sake, I will use only one: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20 NASB).

When you have people with deaf ears and unrestrained tongues, anger is inevitable. Here lies the root of many of the conflicts that exist today in the Church. Everyone has an opinion and far too few are willing to listen to what the other person is saying. It is easier to label the person hardheaded and stubborn than it is to take the time to listen to see where his opinion originated. If we take time to listen to the heart of the one speaking, we may still disagree but we can have a better understanding of why he feels the way he does.

If we do not take the time to listen, anger becomes a natural result. Proverbs also has much to say about anger. Proverbs 22:24, 25 says, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways, and find a snare for yourself (NASB).

The real tragedy in the anger the results from having a quick tongue and a deaf hear is that anger can not achieve the righteousness of God. This alone should be motivation enough for those in God’s church to make it a point to heed the instruction from this short verse in James. By heeding, we will be better equipped to portray the righteousness of God in our homes, workplaces and church. God will be honored and we will be blessed.