Month: September 2012

Rose Colored Glasses

Does God get angry with His children? I’m not talking about humanity on the whole; I mean the redeemed, believers/followers of Christ. Those He has adopted as His own. One on one with his kids. Does God get mad at us?

It’s a point that came up recently for me, and what I heard made me sad. There are real people, real children of God who still believe that God gets angry with them. That He still points a finger of judgment upon their sinful actions, and that they had better measure up or else. My shoulders are drooping as I type that last sentence. Perhaps they are relating the way an angry earthly parent treated them and attributing those characteristics to God.

I know there are those who disagree with me, but I hope to at least give you some points to ponder on the whole topic.

God is not mad at you. He isn’t.

Galatians 5 tells us that fits of anger are as works of the flesh. This is not descriptive of God, it’s much more descriptive of me. When I get angry with my own children, there is an element of “Oh no you didn’t!” attached to it. I am offended personally that they did whatever it was they did. The urge to pinch their heads off is great. Whatever anger I dispense upon my children, at least in part, comes from a place of selfishness or revenge. (Just keeping it real here.) I do believe that as a good Heavenly Father, God disciplines us and allows us to suffer consequences of our actions in order to sanctify us and help us to look more like Jesus. This process can be quite painful, but it comes purely from a place of love and grace. Not anger.

Nothing I do takes Him by surprise. He is not thrown off by my disobedience; I am predictably sinful. When I sin, He gets right to work on me. I can be convinced of my sin by the Holy Spirit, and it is His goodness that draws me back to Him, not His wrath. (Romans 2:4)

God is for us (Romans 8:31), gave His son up for us (John 3:16-17), and when we accept that gift chooses to remember our sins no more (Psalm 103:12). Jesus died to pay the bill on our sins we committed in the past, those we commit today, and those we will commit in the future. If we are already forgiven, debt paid in full, what is there to be angry about? Even the bank leaves us alone when our debts are paid in full, right?

I do agree that God has plenty with which to be angry at humanity as a whole. We stand by and let so much happen right under our noses to those we should be protecting, I can see that he would be angry even with His church over those things, but when you boil it down to the one on one relationship, I believe if God were dispensing His wrath upon us, we would find a wedge between us, put there by God himself. Romans 8:35 tells us that no one can separate us from the love of God. God did his utmost in sacrificing Jesus to remove the separation from us, why would He put it back with anger?

So does God get angry with His kids? Not if you are talking about the way we get angry with our own kids. There is no sin in His anger, there is no “gotcha!” In other words, we don’t have to cower in fear any longer. Our fear is gone because we are covered in Christ. We are sons and daughters whom He looks at through the rose colored glasses of Christ’s blood. When we sin, our status with the Father doesn’t change.

God’s wrath that was dispensed with power and might again and again as evidenced in the scriptures, has been appeased by Jesus and His sacrifice. We can now confidently approach His throne without fear.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:6)

Choose First Your King, Then Your President

In less than two weeks I will travel with my family to Orlando, Florida. Yes. We are going to Disney World. You can say what you want about the place, it won’t be our first trip to see Mickey Mouse and his friends. The Bensons have a long history with Disney. Matthew and I were engaged there. Right outside Pirates of the Caribbean. I kid you not. Then we returned to spend our honeymoon there. Since that time, we have returned several times as our children came along.

It’s not that we have a thing for Mickey, or even all things Disney. We have a thing for what happens there, in that place. We step out of our world and into a completely different one. A world of pure imagination. It truly is a magical place. It’s a place where our family can experience pure unadulterated joy together. I can’t wait to go back. It might very well be our last trip. Our kids are growing up and out and who knows what may come in the next few years.

Disney World is part of what I love about our country. Where else could a man be told he had no imagination only to go on to Imagineer one of the most favored amusement parks of all time? Only in America. Because America is the only place where with a little bit of ingenuity, a lot of hard work, and some well placed opportunities, can bring great things to many people. We love our rags to riches stories here in America. Or at least we used to.

I can’t stand to watch any of the cable news stations right now. They are all, on both political sides equally, doing their best to malign the opposition. It turns my stomach so I turn it off. Some may say that I must be informed, but I see very little truth in what is being said by those who purport to report the truth. Oh, it’s some version of the truth, but there’s so much propaganda mixed in, who knows really? I can also hardly stand to check my Facebook page anymore. I have friends whom I love, on both sides of the aisle, trying ceaselessly to sway people to vote their way. Can I just say that posting something political to a Facebook page likely never changed anyone’s mind, ever?

While countless people are suffering both here and abroad, political parties are spending millions of dollars to promote themselves. We might as well strike a match to those funds. I understand the political process in this country and what it takes to get elected here… I just think it’s mostly shameful.

We have just over forty days before we head to the polls to vote for the next leader of the free world. What if we just stop? What if we stop all the talking, arguing, and bashing of people we don’t even know, and start talking to the One we do? What if we pray for His leadership in this country? What if we ask Him whom we should cast our ballots for- and then do what He says? Forget what’s in it for you. This is no longer about you. This is about a country that was given special favor by God, and a country that desperately needs it again. Look around. The world is in chaos. Can we really do this without Him? (And all the foolish people said, “Yes we can!”… Okay. That was a joke. Come on. That was a little funny…)

He once allowed Israel to choose their own king. They didn’t quite understand or accept that He wanted to be their king. They wanted one with skin on. So after much pleading, He allowed them to have a king. They wanted Saul. Go read about King Saul. It didn’t turn out so very well. God chose David. A much better choice. Not a perfect man, but one after God’s own heart.

We don’t have a king here in America. We have a duly elected President. But we should have a King. Above every human leader in this great country of ours should sit our Creator, to be worshipped, feared, and sought out for direction. While every vote counts (sort of) in this country, it is His vote that matters most. Have we asked Him yet who should be President? Is He still our King?

Yes, I’m going to go back to Disney with my family. Maybe for the last time. My daughter did remind me though, that I have said before in the past that those trips might be our last. Who knows, Matthew and I might be hauling grandkids to Disney one day. I’m going to enjoy saying “goodbye” to this crazy mixed up mess we are in right now for a few days. But I will be praying every day in Orlando, and every other day for God to be our King. For Him to appoint and anoint the next leader of these great United States. And for God to draw our hearts near to His so that we can follow his lead as we vote this November. It’s a Small World, After All.

Too Busy To Pray?

During the month of August, my pastor called our church to twenty-one days of prayer. It’s an annual thing for our church. Actually it’s a biannual thing for our church. Each January we also have a time of prayer coupled with a time of fasting. It’s a great way to start off the New Year. But in August, we enter into a time of prayer without the added fasting. Its kind of prayer with eating, I guess.

Having a regular prayer time is a hard thing for most people. It is for me. Finding the time for it is especially hard. I’m a busy woman. I hardly have time to talk to people with skin on that I see every day. But God? Finding time to talk to Him seems to get pushed back so often. Only when I’m in dire straights do I seem to have the time for a conversation, and then it’s a bit one sided. I have a running commentary with Him most days, but those are more like text messages to God. A thought here, a request there. But a full on conversation? Those are hard to come by.

But with my pastor’s special call to prayer, I decided I would give it another try… this regular time with the Lord. I recently started working five days a week, and my job requires a fairly lengthy drive into downtown Birmingham. It’s really the only time during my day that I have completely alone. So I decided to make that my time to talk with God.

As soon as I start up my car, I turn on a worship song. Personally, I listen to the new Highland’s Worship CD, “Place of Freedom”. (It’s not a requirement. And yes, you can still get into heaven if you don’t have this CD; you just won’t know the words to the songs there. Seriously, get this CD on iTunes… it’s truly amazing.) I listen to one song, and try my best to set aside everything that clouds up my mind. I want my focus to be on God. Some mornings this requires two songs. Then I get the ball rolling. I start with thanking Him for a new day. I tell Him that I want my day to belong to Him. Then I use the pattern my pastor suggested, there are many different examples, but if you need a jump-start -here’s what I do.

Blessing| I ask him to bless me… in whatever way He wants to. I do mention a few ways I’d like to be blessed, just in case He’s coming up empty, but in the end, I do leave it up to Him. I don’t want Him to withhold anything He wants me to have that day.

Influence| I ask Him to increase my influence. We are blessed by God to be a blessing to others, so I want to share the ways I’ve been blessed. I pray for favor with the people I will see that day.

Presence| I ask for His presence throughout the day. I ask to see His face and feel Him near. I want Him to go before me and to be my rear guard. Which brings me to the last part.

Protection| I ask for protection against the evil one. If the Lord is going to answer my prayers, then I will need His protection from the enemy.

Then I repeat this pattern for my husband, my children, my extended family and close friends. I pray for my pastor and church leaders, my church, the ladies in my small group, and for my country.

I have come to look forward to my once monotonous drive to work. The time literally flies by now and by the time I pull into the parking lot for work, I am ready to face my day, whatever comes, because I have started it out talking to the One who gave me another day.

In just a few short weeks of these times talking with the Lord, I have seen Him move in my heart, and in my circumstances. I hear Him better, and am learning even more to recognize the sound of His voice in my ear.

Too busy to pray? Then perhaps you’re too busy. Do you really want to face this world on your own? Do you really want to hold Him at an arm’s length, or do you want to snuggle right in and talk to Him? Just like a great dad, I think that’s what He would love, don’t you?

If My People…

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I rarely publicly weigh in on political issues on this blog. It’s just not my thing. But the closer we get to the second Tuesday in November, the more desperate we seem to be getting in regard to who will take our country over for the next four years.

I look at my Facebook news feed and see snarky posts about our current President, and see scathing remarks about his opponent. All by people who claim Christ as their Savior. We repost information that we have no way of verifying the validity of, all in hopes of swaying our Facebook wall gazers to vote our way.

Many Republicans think they have the corner on the faith market. No way could a Christ follower be a Democrat. Are you sure about that? Many Democratic party members think Republicans are all close-minded white people who don’t have a clue. Are you sure about that?

I know there are real believers on both sides of the aisle. Being allowed to have and voice differences of opinion is part of what makes this country so great. But with those freedoms comes the responsibility of knowing where the line of appropriateness is, and having the good sense not to cross it.

The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, Rick Warren, had planned to host another “civil forum” between the two candidates before the election, but cancelled it saying,

“I’ve never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don’t expect that tone to change before the election,” Warren said, “It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day.”

The line has been crossed so many times during this election season, I’m not sure we even know where it is anymore.

Author and Pastor Max Lucado, of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio is calling all Americans to 40 days of prayer to start on September 28. Lucado shared that,

 ‎”We forget that what really matters is not who’s in the White House, but who’s on the throne.”

Who is on the throne? When we slander a candidate, we are. When we post snarky comments about our President, we are. When we pray for our candidate to be put into office, our will be done, we are.

Our example in Christ is that we pray not that our will be done, but that God’s will be done.

I can pray for my candidate to be put into office, and you can pray for your candidate to be put into office. But when we pray for God to put HIS candidate into office, we will all benefit… regardless of political party.

It’s time for our country to pray, not that our will be done, but that His will be done. Our country faces some God sized problems and yet we still believe we can overcome these problems if we just get the “right” person into office. It’s time we get up off the throne and let God have it back. We can know the words of our candidates, but only He can know their hearts.

This will only be successful if we pray as one people, indivisible, under God. We would not have a country had He not orchestrated its birth, and we will not continue to have one if He is not at the helm once again.

There is time. If we pray.

I Want It All, And I Want It Now

My daughter has asked for a bedroom makeover for her birthday. As an artist, she told me that she’d rather her room be more of an art studio with a bed in it than a bedroom with an art table in it. Okay. I get it. I just wish she had come up with this idea when we originally designed her room a year and a half ago.

So this is going to be a low budget endeavor, and it’s going to require a lot of elbow grease on her part. In the works is a “new” wardrobe that must be refinished, a cool metal chandelier- also in need of refinishing, and walls that must be painted…. in chalk paint. She also wants to trade in her bed, and put her mattress and box springs on top of- wait for it- wooden pallets. Luckily, we found those for free by a dumpster at our church. They just need a bit of sanding.

We decided to start small… with the chandelier. It’s been in my mother’s attic for the last decade or so. It’s cute. Or it will be. But first we had to clean years of grime off it. A spray of hot water took off most of it, but then we had to get in deep with a rag. Once we scrubbed all the grime off, we noticed that over the years, the existing paint was chipping off in places. All that chipping paint had to come off. Some scraping was in order.

I’m not sure my daughter understood what it was going to take to turn this piece back into a treasure. She wanted to skip right to the painting part. I was eager to see the final transformation a new coat of paint would bring to the light also, but I knew if we skipped the important prep work, the final product wouldn’t be what we had hoped.

I think we all like instant gratification. I do. I guess that makes me sound… shallow? Maybe. But honestly, our country is in the sad shape it’s in because too many of us enjoy the temporary satisfaction that instant gratification brings. Who wants to wait for the promise of long-term contentment when we can bank on instant gratification?

Families are falling apart because something feels good in the moment, and a marriage vow is broken. It’s easier to feel giddy and good now than work to make a marriage last over the long haul, right? Finances end up in the toilet because we want what we want right now, and those credit card companies are all too willing to help us get it now. It’s easier to get what we want on credit than to work and earn the money to buy it later. We can’t keep up with the Joneses by waiting, can we?

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

We finally finished all the cleaning and scraping on the small chandelier, and started the painting. Slowly, it began to look like the treasure my daughter hoped it would. The old was made new again. It’s like what Jesus does for us. Yes, we are changed through salvation in an instant. Yet the process of sanctification can take us a while. There’s no quick fix for our humanity. Becoming Christlike takes time. It’s hard work, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we become treasures, priceless and holy. The old is washed away and the unholy is chipped away.

The result is truly great. We are His treasure and He is willing to make that long-term investment in us. No instant gratification required. It’s time for us to make that commitment, too. Let’s stop letting our heads be turned by the things of this world. Those things turn to rust, and are moth eaten. Let’s turn our eyes to the only One who can change us in an instant, and who is willing to stick around for the long haul for us to become what we will be.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a proper perspective. I go to work everyday in a major medical facility, and as I walk the halls and see the patients it can be really overwhelming. I mean, these people are sick. We’re talking sick. It’s hard to see it sometimes. Young and old alike are suffering.

I know what you are probably thinking, because I think it, too. “Wait, it’s hard on you? You’re not the one in the hospital bed.” And that’s really true. Yet day after day, seeing such trauma and illness can begin to work on a person. If I am not careful, I can lose perspective. I can forget that what I am seeing is still the exception, and not the rule. Most people aren’t sick like the ones I see every day. And sometimes, I get to see miracles. It’s on those days when my perspective rights itself. On those days when someone “beats the odds”, I can keep going, keep working. Sometimes I get to meet someone who is pushing through their adversity and keeping their eyes on the Lord. Those are amazing people.

My husband used to preach a message on keeping a proper perspective. It was a great message. He talked about Peter, and how Peter walked upon the water. Now, of course, Peter did sink, but only after he did walk. As long as Peter had a proper perspective, he was walking upon the water. His eyes were focused on Jesus. His eyes were not focused on the storm around him, or his friends who were probably screaming at him for getting out of the boat in the first place. No, his focus was proper, his perspective was on Jesus.

Sadly, for Peter, those precious moments were few. I don’t blame him much, it took a lot of guts to climb out of that boat to begin with. Out there on the water, he began to hear the wind, get splashed in the face, see the waves, listen to his friends, and begin to realize that what he was doing was crazy. (Only moments before, he was actually doing successfully that which was crazy.) He began to listen to reason, he began to weigh his options, he freaked out, he stopped moving forward and therefore, he started moving downward.

One of my great friends has cool life philosophy. It’s a simple one. “Keep moving forward.” It’s a pretty good philosophy, really. If Peter had believed this philosophy, if he had only kept moving forward toward Jesus, he would not have taken the plunge into the stormy sea.

There is a rescue when we lose our perspective. Just as Peter found out, when we stop our forward motion and begin to sink, when we take our eyes off of Jesus and lose our way, he is closer than a breath and He’s there to pick us up. But don’t you know He wants us to walk on that water to Him? Don’t you know every time we push through adversity and keep our eyes on Him, His heart leaps with joy for us?

Have you lost perspective? Are you distracted by the things that seem too heavy and too great to bear? What about those insurmountable odds? Are those causing you to lose your focus and turn your eyes from Jesus? Just remember, while it would make His heart sing for us to keep moving forward, he is close as our shadow and there to pick us up if we sink. He will fix our perspective and set us right again. He’s just great like that.

Need a rescue?  Take heart. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He knew intimately what Jesus was capable of and even he lost his focus. Even Peter needed a rescue. So stop beating yourself up over it. Reach out, allow Jesus to lift you up and set you on sure footing once again.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face, 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel, 1922)

Bear One Another’s Burdens

We are called to bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2 says just that. No man or woman is made to walk this life alone. Case in point:

When Israel was in battle with the Amekalites, as long as he held his staff high, Israel was prevailing (Exodus 17). But after a time, his arms grew weary. (I can understand this. I have pretty much no upper body strength.) So when Moses would grow weary, his arms would start to fall, and his army would begin taking a beating. It was then that Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses to help him bear his burden. Because they did, Israel was victorious.

I always feel privileged when someone asks me for prayer. I mean, I don’t think they would ask if they didn’t think I talked to God fairly frequently, and had a pretty healthy relationship with Him. I must admit, though, that I didn’t always pray when someone would ask me. Oh, I would promise to, and I always meant to, but sometimes I just forgot. Not really nice. Weak arms, and a poor memory.

I’m better about that these days. I have a healthier respect for God’s powerful response to prayer. Now if someone asks me to pray, I do. Right then. I will try to remember to pray again later, but I know who I am and I am forgetful. So just in case, I cut right to it.

I have a friend who is a great intercessor. She has a special talent. She feels called by God to prayer. She leads a team of dozens at her church in intercessory prayer ministry. She recently told me that sometimes the Lord will allow her to feel the burden she is praying for. I mean physically feel it. She told me this doesn’t last long, because we are not called to bear the burdens for long, we are called to cast our cares upon Him. I had no idea what she was talking about. She really FEELS the burdens? How does that work? I couldn’t imagine.

Until…

This friend, whom I call upon regularly to pray for me, called me for prayer. This time my prayer warrior needed prayer. It was serious. Her life had taken a turn that caused her heart to break. It made mine break, too. As I spent time praying for this friend the next morning, I began to feel her pain. I mean I physically felt her pain. My heart felt like a dead weight in my chest. Suddenly, I remembered what she had told me about feeling the burden. I felt it all day long. I was no good at work that day. My mind was on my friend, and on lifting her up before the Lord.

All. Day.

By the time I arrived home later in the afternoon, I was feeling better. I had given over the burden to the Lord. I still don’t quite understand what happened to me. Did I feel what I felt because of WHOM I was praying for? Because of my friend’s tight relationship with the Lord, perhaps? I just don’t know.

Bearing one another’s burdens is no small thing. For years I thought I was pretty good at it. Now I know what it really means to do that. It wasn’t pretty, but it was indeed a privilege to stand in the gap for my friend. To stand in prayer with a friend facing adversity is a blessing- to both parties.

We all need Aarons and Hurs in our lives. Even prayer warriors need prayer sometimes. We know, as Christians, how this game ends. (We win.) And yet we are called to walk this life full of pitfalls and snares. Wouldn’t the journey be better with people to stand in the gap for us? (Ezekiel 22:30)

So you don’t think of yourself as a prayer warrior. Me neither. But it is a privilege to approach the throne of the Most High. He loves the sound of our voices, and like a good Father, wants provide for us. The only way to get started being a person of prayer, is to just get started. I have turned my journey to work every morning into a Divine appointment. Those twenty-five minutes are when God and I hang out. It’s a really great way to start the day, and the only twenty-five minute period of my day that someone else hasn’t laid claim to.

So let’s become a people of prayer… for our families, friends, churches, leaders, and for our country. We were made to bear the burdens of others, to lighten their load, on this journey.