Monthly Archives: February 2014

Consistency

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Consistency.  It makes life manageable and gravy good.  It is desirable, envied even.  Everyone wants consistency, positive consistency, from their spouse, boss, friends, their favorite restaurant. 

Consistency has been on my mind a lot lately, probably because The Terrible Two’s are banging on my door—as well as throwing tantrums, hitting things and biting.  My son will be two at the end of March but The Battle of The Two’s has already ensued.  Having won this war once before with my daughter, I’ve learned consistency is the only dependable weapon for combat.

As a parent, consistency is important for many reasons.  Most importantly, it keeps us moms sane and with hair on our heads.  For children, a consistent routine fosters security, sets standards, provides cues and creates expectations:  A consistent bedtime routine signals it’s time to wind down; consistent discipline and correction reinforces the standard for appropriate behavior; regular eating patterns develop a positive attitude toward nutrition… I could go on.  The point is consistency just makes life easier to navigate, no matter what our age.

Pastor Alistair Begg recently said, “The appeal for commitment and consistency is what it will do for us.”  So true.  So selfishly true.  In his sermon, “Stay the Course,” Begg teaches on this idea of consistency by focusing on the life of Daniel.  He calculates that Daniel was probably in his late seventies or early eighties when he was thrown into the lion’s den—he wasn’t the young man our kid-friendly picture Bibles portray.  He had lived in Babylon since his teens and was loyal to the government and laws there.  But Daniel had also been constant and intentional in his relationship with the One True God.  His consistency, as we know, was about to pay off.

In Daniel chapter 6, we see that he had risen to the top of his game as a government leader because of his “exceptional qualities” (v3) and was up for a huge promotion.  Like, second-in-command kind of promotion.  This made the other leaders crazy-jealous, so they began to search for something in Daniel’s life to charge him with before the king.  The problem?  They couldn’t find anything.  Nothing.  Daniel was “faithful and honest and made no mistakes” (v4).  So, what’s a dirty politician to do?  Mess with Daniel’s religion.

They decided to go to the king and suck-up a bit, get him all buttered-up by filling his head with thoughts of his own greatness.  You know, the way most powerful political leaders are swayed.  They say, “We [all the government leaders, including Daniel] have unanimously decided that you should make a law, irrevocable under any circumstance, that for the next thirty days anyone who asks a favor of [aka prays to] God or man—except from you, Your Majesty—shall be thrown to the lions” (v7).

Have you ever wondered why they came up with this specific plan?  Why would prayer be the ideal way to trap Daniel?  How did they know they could catch him praying?

Because Daniel was consistent.

In verse 10 after Daniel learns of the decree, “he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs bedroom with its windows open toward Jerusalem, and prayed three times a day, just as he always had, giving thanks to his God.”

Did you catch that? Daniel went home as usual and had his prayer time just as he always did.  Hearing of the edict didn’t cause him to start praying, he was simply being consistent in his existing prayer routine.  He was constant in his walk with The Lord, not out of defiance to some law or edict, but because of his love for God.

And Daniel made no apologies for his relationship with God; he wasn’t politically correct when it came to his religion.  Everyone—everyone—knew Daniel worshiped and served the God of Israel, not because he was boastful but because he was faithful.  As he was ordered into the lion’s den, even the king recognized Daniel’s consistency, “May your God, who you worship continually, deliver you” (v16).  Again, in verse 20 the king asks, “Daniel, servant of The Living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Hearing this story since childhood, I always thought of the king’s words here to be a bit defiant, like he was calling God out and taunting Daniel.  But that’s not what he was doing at all.  The king loved Daniel; he was his most favored employee.  When the other so-called loyal advisers told the king of Daniel’s praying, “The king was very angry with himself for signing the law and determined to save Daniel” (v14).  The king did not want to throw Daniel to the lions, he wanted to save him!  But, he couldn’t.  Ironically, the king also had to be consistent.  He had to follow through with what he said he would do, regardless of who it hurt, or else his power would be questioned and his words would become empty threats.

 But here’s the coolest thing:  Daniel’s consistency gave the king hope.

While the king wasn’t fully sold on Daniel’s God just yet, he seems to hold on to hope.  …Maybe, just maybe, if Daniel’s God is real, He will save him since I can’t…  The king literally threw Daniel to the lions and hoped that, somehow this God would save him.  “May your God…deliver you…Was your God…able to rescue you?” (v16, 20). 

The king was so distraught, he refused to eat or be entertained and he didn’t sleep.  (Sounds like he fasted.)  He desperately wanted Daniel to survive, not just because he loved him, but because he wanted to believe in a power greater than his own.  I think the king wanted to be saved, himself.  In his heart, he wanted to know he wasn’t The End-All-Be-All because he knew he was a self-serving scoundrel.  He knew he wasn’t the almighty, righteous authority those scheming advisers claimed he was.  He was a sinful, faulty man in desperate need of a Savior.

This is not the Sunday School lesson I learned as a kid; it’s much, much more.  I now see how God can save me from the lions of selfishness, distraction and laziness.  Like Daniel, I want to be consistent in every area of my life and character, not just for my own well-being but for the glory of God and the benefit of everyone around me.  When I am committed to being consistent in love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control—The Fruits of the Spirit—it encourages others to put their hope in The One True God.  God can use my consistency to extend grace and salvation to a searching soul—in my home, my neighborhood, my church, my workplace.  I want people to know what they can expect from me and that they can count on me, and in that, they can know and count on Jesus as well.

You may be thinking, “This all sounds great, Jessie, but just how do we do this?  How do we become consistent in this ever-changing world?”  While my own inconsistencies prove I’m certainly no expert, I think we could begin by accepting these truths…

Consistency is established by God.

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”

~Psalm 90:2

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Your dominion endures through all generations.  The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does.” 

~ Psalm 145:13

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.”

~ Isaiah 40:28

“When God wanted to guarantee His promises, He gave His word, a rock-solid guarantee—God cannot break His word.  And because His word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.”

~ Hebrews 6:17 (The Message)

 Consistency is achieved in Him.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

~John 15:9-12

“But the eyes of the Lord are watching over those who fear him, who rely upon his steady love.  He will keep them from death even in times of famine!  We depend upon the Lord alone to save us.  Only he can help us; He protects us like a shield.  No wonder we are happy in the Lord! For we are trusting him.  We trust his holy name.  Yes, Lord, let your constant love surround us, for our hopes are in you alone.”

Psalms 33:18-22 (Living Bible)

Consistency is intentional.

“For the eyes of The Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

~ 2 Chronicles 16:9

“Every morning tell Him, ‘Thank You for Your kindness,’ and every evening rejoice in all His faithfulness.”

~ Psalm 92:2

“God wants the combination of His steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus.”

~ Romans 15:5-6 (The Message)

 

While I strive for consistency, the truth is I will never be consistently consistent, at least, not in my own power.  As my daughter prayed on the way to school this week she said, “Jesus, please forgive me because sometimes I forget to do things.”  Even she gets it.  You and I cannot consistently keep up with the rhythm of life.  We’re human.  We get sick.  We get tired and our bodies require rest.  But take heart:  God never grows weary; He never sleeps.  Though times and trends and theories may change, God never changes and He will never leave us behind.  He is right where we are; tired, sick, poor, behind.  He’s in the middle of it all, providing the consistent and constant stability our hearts so desperately desire.  

I heard a practical idea from Dr. David Jeremiah this week.  He suggested taking each day of the week to focus on one of The Beatitudes.  I’m going to tweak that a bit and focus on one Fruit of the Spirit a day.  There are nine of them, so each week will look different, but it will go something like this: 

  • Monday—seek to be Loving
  • Tuesday—look for Joy in everything
  •  Wednesday—be at Peace
  • Thursday—respond with Patience
  • Friday—be Kind
  • Saturday—do something Good
  • Sunday—be Faithful
  • Monday— treat others with Gentleness
  • Tuesday— have Self-Control

Obviously, this list isn’t doable without the help of The Holy Spirit, or else it wouldn’t be called The Fruits of The Spirit.  We are not capable of living this sort of daily life if we rely on ourselves.  It’s just not humanly possible.  Aldous Huxley said, “Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life.  The only completely consistent people are dead.”  So when you fall out of your routine, don’t worry; God will never fall out of His. He doesn’t miss a beat, not even of your heart.  He sees you.  He knows where you are and He wants to help you get back on track.  It’s the attitude of your heart that matters, not the perfection of your actions (1 Samuel 16:7). 

 

Heavenly Father, may Your constant love and consistent nature make itself at home in my heart, that You may be glorified.  I love you.

Jessie

 

Do-Over!

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Well friends, I need a favor.  I need you to grant me a Do-Over or a Mulligan, if you will.  Because frankly, my last post just stunk.  It did.  I’ve read and re-read it probably a hundred times now and The Spirit inside me just won’t let it go.  I wrote the rough draft several weeks ago and on Sunday, realized I never posted it.  I hastily revised and published it without the careful consideration I usually employ.  Sadly, it turned into a Jessie-Fest, which is something I’ve really tried to avoid in my writing, plus some of my grammar was just not up to par.  

I want to be subjective, stay on topic and promote Scripture—not myself or anything I’ve done.  I mean, seriously, I feel like I did the exact thing I just wrote about NOT doing in the previous post.  I rambled and just let words flow, ignoring my own advice about how “the wise measure their words.”  Technically, I wrote One Day At a Time before I wrote The Great Adventure, before I had the realization about how much our written words matter.  As I made those quick revisions, I totally overlooked the words I had used and the way in which they could be construed.  I goofed and I’m so sorry.

I “Petered” out.  You know, Peter, Jesus’ disciple?  Yeah, he had a bad case of Foot-In-Mouth Disease.  Like in Matthew 16, when Jesus asked,’Who do you think I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”  (Matt. 16:15-16)

Of course, Peter was right.  And Jesus was so pleased with Peter’s answer, He called him “blessed” and told him The Church would be built upon this teaching (Matt. 16:17-19).  Oh, but just a few verses later…

Open mouth.  Insert foot.

Jesus calls Peter “Satan.”

Yep.  Jesus was telling the guys how He would suffer and die and then come back to life, but Peter apparently thought he knew better.  “But Peter took Him aside to remonstrate with Him.” (vs. 22)  Okay, stop right there.  I looked up the definition of “remonstrate” and found this: to make a forcefully reproachful protest.  So basically, Peter took Jesus, the One he just said was “The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” and began to tell Him His business!

Jesus, a bit ticked I do believe, “turned on Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, you Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me. You are thinking merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.’” (vs. 23)

Ouch.  You think Peter felt foolish?  Embarrassed?  Humbled?  How could he not?!

But it gets better.  Peter then went on to deny Jesus–three different times–after, of course, swearing he would never do such a thing (Matthew 26:31-35; 69-75). 

Ohhhh, Peter.  I so feel your pain.

Like Peter, I feel foolish.  I did something I said I wouldn’t and I can’t take it back.  I could edit the post, or delete it altogether, but then I’d just be trying to cover up my mistake.  Rather, I want to confess what I did and ask for forgiveness, as 1 John 1:9 encourages.  I’ve asked The Lord to forgive me and I know He has.  To any of you who I may have offended or made feel “like crap,” I offer my sincerest apologies and ask for another chance at being your friendly neighborhood blogger.  Please, don’t tune me out.  I’m a real person and I mess up All. The. Time. (Obviously.)  This is the danger I speak of when I say blogging is scary for me.  While I can’t promise I won’t mess up again, at least you know I’m willing to own it. I pray you can identify with me; surely Peter and I aren’t the only ones with Foot-In-Mouth Disease.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a slice of Humble Pie I need to finish.

Sincerely,

Jessie

One Day At a Time

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The Lord is teaching me some really awesome things right now, in some really cool ways.  Some may call them coincidences; I call them Faith Lifts. (Say that out loud and you sound like Daffy Duck.)  God has given tangible responses to my prayers lately, as well as deeply moving spiritual assurances that He’s got His eye on me.  I’m very aware of His provision in my life right now, more than ever before.

Faith is powerful stuff.   It’s how I sit in a chair I’ve not tested, believing it will hold me up or fly in an airplane I have no idea how to operate.  Faith is the confidence that what we hope will happen is actually going to happen (Heb. 11:1).  It’s knowing I’ll spend eternity in heaven with The Father, through my faith in Jesus Christ, His blood and His resurrection.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In the book, “Kingdom Woman,” Tony Evans writes, “The reason why so many prayers go unanswered is simply because people are not willing to give God all they have.  They are not willing to give the very thing that they are searching for and in need of.”

What I’ve given God hasn’t been much, when considered in the grand scheme of eternity.  I’ve not had to truly suffer or sacrifice like those we read of in His Word, or even like Believers around the world.  But, I have faithfully decided to give Him my best, even when it’s not convenient. Even when it’s scary.  Even when the world around me says it’s the wrong thing to do.

“Faith is a decision.” ~Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman

Sticking with the decision to have faith isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes it’s The Hardest Thing to do.  And the more I realize this, the more The Lord shows me I’m capable of handling it.  It’s been a gradual process, but He is slowly removing layers of my heart that I never knew were between us.  My “need” for material things, security and stability–He’s shown me all I really need is Him.  He keeps showing me this phrase in various formats, and I’m starting to find it humorous…

“Live one day at a time.” ~Matthew 6:34

Really, Lord?  One day at a time, in this millennium?  We have computers and smart phones and tablets, all capable of synching our calendars and to-do lists through the next 10 years, and you’re telling me to “live one day at a time”?  How is this possible?

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” ~Matthew 19:26

But I have a household to run; things to do, places to go, people to see.  Important stuff to accomplish!

“Don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing.  Why be like the heathen?  For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them.”

~Matthew 6:31

Okay, I’ll live by faith, believing that You will pull it all together, since You’re God and everything.  But, how do I know You won’t forget about me?

“Your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and He will give them to you if you give Him First Place in your life and live as He wants you to.”

~Matthew 6:32

This has been an actual conversation I’ve had with the Lord, maybe not word-for-word, but you get the drift.  He’s shown me time and again that He is faithful, especially when I’m acting on my faith that He is faithful!  Kinda confusing, I know.  When I live my life, when I act on my faith, He will always come through for me.  Always.  When I purposely make choices that create opportunities for Him to come through for me, He always does.  When I have no safety net, no back-up plan, no other option, He Is My Hope, My Deliverer.  More trustworthy than a bank, more reliable than the government, more efficient than a good physician.  He Is God!

Example.  Recently, our financial situation was probably the most dire it’s ever been in our 14+ years of marriage, mostly due to the fact that I left my career 3 years ago to pursue full-time motherhood.  (THAT is another story in itself.)  So, The Hubs graciously worked a third job to pick up enough cash for Christmas gifts.  (That is also another story in itself.)  Our income came in spurts.  Daily spurts.  Could the Lord BE more literal with His “one day at a time” message (she says like Chandler Bing)?  I’m accustomed to making out our meal menu and shopping for groceries for at least a full week at a time, sometimes two weeks at a time.  I used to shop once a month, thus the gradual removal of that layer.  I felt I HAD to shop this way or life as we knew it would fall apart. I get into a routine and I like it.  I find comfort in having a plan, especially when it pertains to food.

For the entire month of December, I was only able to shop when we had the money.  Weekly menus turned into 2-3 day needs.  My shopping list only included what I could purchase with $50.  That’s it.  I bought only what we need to make it through the day, until the next influx of money when I could shop again.

My plan-ahead brain was frazzled by this, so I prayed about it.  Every time I did, He whispered gently in my ear…”Live one day at a time, Jessie.”

“Look at the birds!  They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to Him than they are.  Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?” 

~Matthew 6:26-27

And Christmas gifts?  Psh.  I was, without a doubt, one of those last minute shoppers, scurrying around right up to Christmas day–something I usually avoid like the plague.  Yet, I had faith that it would all work out.  No fretting or pacing; I just waited for it all to come together.  I chose to believe the money would come, just in time to purchase gifts.  And guess what?  It did.  We even had some awesome hand-me-downs passed our way that served as great gifts from Santa.  I’ve learned that sometimes The Lord provides us with people, not money, to meet our needs.

So what about those Faith Lifts I’ve recently had?  Let’s just say I’m being spoiled in the midst of all the lack, and it’s The Lord who’s doing the spoiling.  First, there’s the obvious—the washing machine I recently wrote about in Maybe Forrest Gump Was Right?  Huge, I know.

Then, there’s all the butter.  Literally, butter.  I needed stick butter and spreadable butter a couple of weeks ago, but could only afford to get one kind.  I went with the stick because I needed it for baking; the spreadable would have to wait another week.  Not the end of the world, but a decision I had to make nonetheless.  The next evening, we had our weekly Bible study group over for the usual; dinner, fellowship and study.  One precious friend brought homemade dough and baked fresh rolls for us.  For. The. Love.  And what did she bring to slather on top?  Spreadable butter, the exact kind I was going to buy the day before.  And what did she say about this butter?  “You keep it.  I have another at home.”  Seriously?

Now here’s buttery story number 2.  While at the grocery store last week, I walked past a huge display of scented wax cubes.  Life’s short, so I stopped to smell the wax, knowing I only had my 50 trusty dollars to get all that was on my meticulously devised list.  These $2 wax cubes would just have to wait.  Oh, but they smelled so good; one in particular, some kind of buttered-something-or-other.  Sigh…  I pushed the cart on past.  The next evening, Bible study group.  Afterward, as I was turning lights out for bed, I realized someone had left a gift sack under our Christmas tree.  I asked our daughter if she knew who it was from or for, and she said someone had left it for me.  I opened it and what did I find?  A huge Buttered Rum candle from Bath and Body Works.  What?!

Coincidence, or have I’ve proved my point?  God is into the details and little things in our lives, all the way down to butter, people.  He feeds the birds; ALL of the birds!  He clothes the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow (Matt. 6:28-30).  Even amidst all the crazy chaos going on in the world, He can and will supply the needs of those who “give Him First Place in [their] life and live as He wants [them] to.” (Matt. 6:32)

“Even though your faith may be small, let your actions be big.  Step out and praise God in spite of the trial you may be facing.  Step out and stand on God’s Word, even when it might not make sense to the people around you.  More than that, step out in faith and offer help to others who might be struggling similarly to you.  Choose to honor God by giving Him something that is near and dear to you.  Whether you sacrifice your own time, energy, or a personal want, nothing is wasted when you commit it to serving Him.”

~Tony Evans, Kingdom Woman

Over the past 5 years, our family has chosen to step out and act on our faith.  Okay, chosen may be the wrong word.  Our family has been nudged into stepping out and acting on our faith.  Due to finances, we sold our newly constructed home and moved into an older, smaller farm house in a new town.  I quit my job of 10+ years to stay home and be Momma.  We left the comfort of “volunteering” in our home church to pursue a ministry elsewhere.  We’ve faithfully opened our home for Bible Study and served a meal every Tuesday night for the past 8 years to whoever is willing to come—all are welcome.  This is not to say we’re perfect; it is to prove that I’m living what I say.  I’m The Guinea Pig or The Lab Rat, whichever you prefer.  I cannot encourage you to act on your faith if I’m not willing to do the same.  Sheesh, this blog is a way I’m acting on my faith.  I felt the Lord leading me to do it, and even though I thought the idea was ludicrous, I did it anyway.  Scared?  Yes.  Vulnerable?  Yes.  But I know that when I act, so does He.  We serve a God who never asks something of us that He Himself has not already done.

“The power of faith is not just that God will answer your prayer; the power of faith in action is that God will give back to you ‘far more abundantly than all we ask or think’ (Eph. 3:20).”  ~Tony Evans

I have sought to give God all of me–imperfect as I am–but sincerely, believing He will give the return on my investment in Him.  My faith has grown so that I seek to actively DO things that I believe He desires, not just what keeps me comfortable or makes me happy.  I’ve given up things I thought I deserved or earned, stuff I thought I needed to be content, conveniences I thought necessary to be comfortable.

Now, this is not to say that I’m like Mother Teresa or something; by no means.  But over the past little while, my attitude has changed.  It started when I stepped out in faith and showed Jesus I was serious about obeying Him.  He then wooed me and proved His love to me in so many ways.  I got to know Him better, spent more time with Him.  So naturally, just like in any serious relationship, I find myself wanting to do things that bring a smile to His face and warmth to His heart.  I no longer want to just say I love Him; I want to show Him I do.  No more legalistic list-checking in order to meet God’s supposed expectations; I have truly fallen madly in love with Jesus.  Kinda like Buddy Elf, my heart shouts, “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”

 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 

~Galatians 5:6

Here’s the hope I know:  If The Lord can change my selfish attitude and self-serving heart, He can change anyone’s.  I really don’t know who’s reading this or what the Lord is asking you to act on, but I do know this:  He’s asking you to ACT.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Move to where you’re unsure of what to expect, where there is no plan, and just see what He does for you.  Maybe He’s asking you to quit your job and focus on your family?  Start a ministry?  Follow through on a commitment you made?  I don’t know, but I’m praying the Holy Spirit reveals whatever “it” is to your heart in this moment.  Ask Him and He will gladly tell you.  Then, after you act, expect to see Him respond.  Look for the Faith Lift.  Then, share your story.  Tell others about how faithful He is.  Tell them about His love and concern for them, all the way down to the butter in their fridge.  He delivers.

Jessie