Monday, December 28, 2009

Lessons from Chuck Part IV

Today's chapter in the book Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back by Charles Swindoll is titled, "Inferiority: Contagious Plague of Self-Doubt."
  • Guilt frequently does breed inferiority.

  • Some organs of the body that seem weak may be very important. If some of the organs you never see were not there - my, how the body would suffer! Some of you readers in the family of God are made to be unseen, yet vital, organs. The vital organs are the unseen ones, by the way. Stop and think about that. Hidden away behind a stretching of skin and bones and muscles ar those vital, unseen organs. When you begin to feel, "I am not as useful as (and you name that person)," remember that the body's vital organs are not really the ones that are seen.

Lessons from Chuck Part III

There is just so much good stuff in the book Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back by Charles Swindoll, that I have no idea how many parts there will be by the time I'm finished. Today I will begin with his chapter on temptation:
  • "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin." (Hebrews 11: 24,25)

  • The passing pleasures of sin. What an eloquent expression - and true! Is sin pleasurable? You bet! It's so pleasureable that people will risk their reputations to taste its flavor. In doing so, all the efforts of our minds to alert us to sin's dangers are neutralized. We turn off the internal warnings as we turn on the desire.

  • Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.

  • We must tell ourselves over and over, "It will not satisfy! In the end I will have to face unbelievably painful consequences. I will not yield!"

  • When the Word of God is stored up in our minds, it stands ready to strike.

And next, his chapter on Mistakes: Inevitable marks of imperfection:

  • Talking about the rebellion of Adonijah, son of David... "Part of the problem was a father who never crossed the son."

  • You'll discover, after the grave and painful ramifications of making a mistake, that it is only to God that you can commit your spirit at that time. No other person can give the comfort you need. On the heels of a mistake, get on your knees, fall before God, and lay out your shame and humiliation. No one else can heal you of that sense of shame and self-disappointment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lessons from Chuck Part II

Today is Part II of interesting things I underlined in the book I just finished reading titled Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back by Charles Swindoll.

  • On why Jesus asked Philip where they were to buy bread to feed 5,000 men: "Philip was probably not the smartest one in the group. (I personally believe Judas was the sharpest of the Twelve. That is often true of wolves and false prophets, by the way). And Philip was not the one in charge of supplies. Judas was the treasurer, but He didn't ask Judas. Why? "And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what he was intending to do." Jesus knew what He was intending to do. He always does!... All the Lord wanted Philip to way was, "I don't know. It's impossible with me, but it's nothing to You, and I'm going to wait and see what You're going to do."


  • We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.


  • Waiting is the rule rather than the exception in life. The exception is an open door; when you have one - go! They don't happen very often! But waiting when the door is closed doesn't mean you're out of the will of God. You could be right in the center of His will.


  • We grow and we learn - not when things come our way instantly - but when we are forced to wait.


  • Ask the Lord to give you the strength to wait...to endure the lingering test of patience.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Perspective

An excerpt from Three Steps Forward, Two Steps back by Charles Swindoll:


"But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold
[implying that there will be an end to it].
My foot has held fast to His path;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
But He is unique and who can turn to Him?
And what His soul desires, that He does.
For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such decrees are with Him." (Job 23:10-14).


How marvelous! This is the hardest thing in the world to claim. When I've lost it all and I turn to a verse like that and it says, "He's appointed it for me," do you know what I have to do? I have to change my perspective. I have to force myself to see it from His point of view. What is often considered a loss now leads to a gain later. The Lord restored Job's fortunes, and He increased all that he had - twofold. He doubled his prosperity!

Now be careful not to make this specific situation into a general principle. It's easy for us to think, "Okay, I had a $33,000-a-year job. Now that I've lost it, God's going to give me a $60,000-a-year job next month. Everything is going to be great! My checkbook will always balance...my car won't ever break down." That kind of thinking reduces Almighty God to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and Aladdin's Lamp all wrapped up into one. Our Lord's blessings aren't always tangible or measurable in dollars and cents.

When He rewards after loss, He builds internal character traits. He gives a deep peace. He provides things money cannot touch. Security replaces insecurity. We receive purpose and renewed direction. We gain an understanding, compassionate heart - along with wisdom we never had before.

END OF EXCERPT

Something from Nothing

I'm backtracking a little bit today, but I just found some interesting passages as I was studying recently. Remember back when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and even after that, they kept complaining? They would rejoice when they saw God's provision, but as soon as a little bit of time passed and they could not see the next step, they began complaining and thinking they would have been better off back in Egypt working as slaves under Pharoah... where life was horrid, incidentally.

I was reading today in Numbers 11. After the Israelites complained in the desert about having nothing to eat, the Lord rained down Manna from heaven to fill their bellies. After a little time of this, they got tired of Manna and started complaining again. If my mom was there, she would have told them "beggers can't be choosers!" How dare they complain that God's provision was not good enough for them? "If only we had meat to eat! ...we never see anything but this manna!" Doesn't it make you want to just reach right into the pages and slap them?

I think the Lord's response is pretty funny. He did decide to give them meat. So much meat, in fact that they would eat it "until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it..." Hey, is that where the phrase "coming out the nose" come from? Hmm.

When Moses learned of this, in his human nature, he questioned God about where all of this meat was going to come from? They would not have such an overabundance of meat even if they had slaughtered all the flocks and herds and caught all the fish in the sea.

Oh, but Moses, who ever said that God can only do what we imagine? I am asking this question as if I have never been in that position. Now there is something to smirk about. I do this all the time. I'm so grateful for stories like this in the Bible of these great men of God who were praised for their righteousness, but were also just regular people just like me. If they had never questioned, I would never have had the opportunity to see God's answer.

So what was God's answer, you ask? Numbers 11:31 says, "Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction."

Only God can make something from nothing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lessons from Chuck Part I

I recently began reading a really excellent book by Charles R Swindoll called THREE STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK. I'm only about a fourth of the way through the book, but there is so much meat in it, that I thought I would start listing some of the things I have underlined so that I can have it in one, concise space:


* (talking about when stress adds up when one thing after another comes...) Block all avenues of escape and you have an enormous powder keg with a terribly short fuse. Even if you are a Christian... and love God intensely... and believe the Bible... and genuinely want to walk in obedience. It occured to me that somebody needs to address "the other side" of the Christian life. If for no other reason than to uphold reality, Christians need to be told that difficulty and pressure are par for the course. No amount of biblical input or deeper-life conferences or super-victory seminars will remove our human struggles. God promises no bubble of protection, no guaranteed release from calamity. Ask guys like Job or Joseph or Daniel or Paul!


* It seems to me that more of us in God's family ought to admit that there are more "growing and learning" days than "great and fantastic" days.


* Maturity is a process I like to call "spiritual osmosis." We hear and absorb biblical truth and then allow that truth to pervade our inner lives - down deep where attitudes are formed and decisions are made. Then, as circumstances arise that call for a supernatural response, the indwelling Holy Spirit has sufficient ammunition to give us stability and power to cope.


* A person would be insane to hear his physician diagnose his ailment as a rapidly growing tumor, and then think that just because he had talked to his doctor, the growth would suddenly disappear. No, he's going to have to be operated on. LIkewise, just being exposed to the truth won't make us mature.


* Humans are strange creatures. We run faster when we lose our way. Instead of pausing to regroup, we ricochet from place to place. In this race called life, when the pressing demands of time are upon us, we need to stop and get oriented.


* Those threatening storms are designed to slow us down, to make us climb up into His arms, to force us to depend on Him.


* Losses put steel into our otherwise fragile lives.


* Our major goal in life is not to be happy or satisfied, but to glorify God. (From Job 5: "He inflicts pain, and gives relief").


That's it for today. I'm sure I'll have more insights to record as I continue reading this book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Brutal Teacher

"He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Numbers 14:18

Because the Israelites rejected God's promises and did not believe Him when He told them to stop and not proceed, He promised to kill them off and told them they would not enter the promised land. He told them their bodies would fall in the desert they were currently occupying and that their children and shepherds would suffer there for forty years because of their unfaithfulness.

Well, it's interesting the "change of heart" that the Israelites suddenly had after hearing this. After repeatedly seeing God's provision in their lives and repeatedly disobeying the Lord and testing Him, they now wanted to go into the land to save their own behinds. Now all of a sudden they want to go to Canaan.

But Moses warns them that it's too late. They have been given chance after chance after chance. And they don't want to go now because they suddenly have faith in God. They only want to go so that they won't be struck dead. Even after all of that and Moses' warning, the decide to defy his direction and decide to go anyway. It's a bad bad move to openly mock God. They headed out on their own and "the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down..."

They did not learn their lesson. BUT.... before they went, the Lord told them, "Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert." Their children suffered for their sins. It almost doesn't seem fair.

C.S. Lewis said, "Experience: the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn." The Israelite's children did suffer for their parent's sins, but they also were the ones to inherit the promised land.

Just One Man

I'm not sure this is so much of a "blog" as I usually write, but just some interesting observations from my studies that I want to remember. God laid it on my heart this morning to study Joshua... which is interesting because over the summer, I began studying Joseph, which led to a study of Moses. So this makes an obvious next step. I thought about continuing that study a while ago, but never "got around to it." Possibly because now is the time the Lord wants to teach me...

So I went back to Numbers 14 where I left off over the summer. This time, the Lord gave me different insights. It's funny because the other night I was talking to a pastor friend and he told me that when he preaches, he prepares his message ahead of time but when he gets up to the stage, God really takes over. He told me that he will even preach the the "same" sermon when he is invited as a guest speaker, but that it never comes out the same. I was thinking how it is the same way with Bible study. The same passage brings out different truths at different times, depending on what God wants to reveal to me at that particular point in time.

As I was reading Numbers 14, I decided to back track a little to Numbers 13. The Lord told Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders." Twelve men went to the land and came back with their report. Almost all of the leaders came back frightened which in return, frightened the Israelites.

Only one man, Caleb, stood up and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." One man of faith. It doesn't really say how Joshua initially felt when he saw the large people and large armies in the land. It doesn't mention Joshua's reaction until he hears the reaction of the rest of the Israelites. It is then when he has a choice to make. Trust one man or trust ten others. The safe decision would seem to trust the ten other men. After all, they were all leaders, not just some random people chosen to explore the new land. Joshua chose to trust the faith of Caleb and look beyond what he could see with his earthly eyes and he joined Caleb in saying, "If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us."

Caleb was one man, willing to go against popular opinion and stand up for what he trusted God to do. Actually, no one even asked him his opinion. I think he just couldn't take it anymore and he knew that someone needed to stand up for truth. Everyone was crying out in fear and he knew better. He believed God would do what He said He would do. Because of that one man, another man - Joshua - followed in his trust of God.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What on Earth Are You Doing?

Proverbs25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man without self-control.”

Building walls. Self Control. Teamwork. Teamwork is not about doing everything everyone asks you to do. If that were so, then God would not have said in I Corinthians 12:12 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.”

If you are saying yes to everything anyone asks you to do, consider your motivation. Are you saying yes simply to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? Are you saying yes out of guilt or obligation? Are you saying yes because you feel like it’s the “right” thing to do and the Bible says to _______ (you fill in the blank)? Are you saying yes just to please others? If you answered YES to any of those questions, consider the following verse:

2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving is not just about money. Giving is also about our time and talents. God does not want us to give out of reluctance or compulsion. By saying yes to things you feel you cannot say no to, you may be denying someone else the chance to say yes to that particular thing… something that THEY were actually meant to do instead of you.“

Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’; anything beyond this comes form the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). Wow. Did you read that? The evil one. And trust me, the evil one has no problem even using scripture to lead you into reluctance and compulsion… he just twists it and uses is inappropriately. Satan even tempted Jesus himself with scripture:

Matthew 4:5-7 “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Self control. The ability to say yes when you should say yes and no when you should say no. That’s from the Jenny translation.

Application step for today:Think about the places you are giving your money, your time, your talents… are you giving them cheerfully? If not, stop and pray. Ask God what your true motivation is. Ask God to lead you and direct your paths. Say yes in the places where God is leading you. Say no where He isn’t.

Sometimes You Get Burned

Nehemiah 4:2 "...What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble - burned as they are?"

I have been thinking about Nehemiah a lot lately. I have also been learning a lot more than I realized I was going to when I accepted the very exciting task of blogging during the series.
The other day, I was reading in my daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I actually read the devotional for July 28th for three days in a row because it just really spoke to me. Here is a segment of how it read:

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. WE should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God's purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself. What He desires for me is that I see "Him walking on the sea," with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see "Him walking on the sea." (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

As I have been studying the book of Nehemiah, I have been thinking about this wall. A wall of protection for the people. It is about protecting the people from outside attack, both literally and spiritually. But recently, I've just been realizing that this is actually a blessing that came out of obedience rather than the goal itself.

I believe the goal was the actual refining process of the people as they became more in step with God by following Him in obedience. A wall around their city was the blessing the received through their obedience.

It was not an easy process. Refining is never easy... it requires fire and there is nothing fun about being burned. I think it's interesting that one of the words of opposition was, "Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble - burned as they are?" Perhaps that is a metaphor for the lives of the people. They will receive life when they submit to the process and allow God to work in them for His glory and not for the final outcome.

Do the Next Thing


Nehemiah 7: 4-5 “Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. 5 So my God put it into my heart to…”


The birth of my first son was a very very exciting day. It was a scheduled induction and I remember waking up early that morning in shear excitement and making my way to the hospital. I don’t remember a lot of nervousness of the actual birth experience… I was more anxious to see what kind of strength God was going to give me to get through it and to get to hold my precious little baby that I had loved and carried for nine months. I can still remember the emotions of joy of that day. Seven hours later, my little boy was here and he just took my breath away and tears rolled down my cheeks. He was so precious and perfect in every way. He had a head full of dark hair and the chubbiest little cheeks. At that point, I had no idea the challenges the road ahead would hold.


About a month or two after we brought him home, I noticed that his eyes were occasionally crossing. Other moms would say, “Oh that’s normal. Don’t worry about it.” Then more and more they began crossing. I asked the doctor. She said, “Oh that’s normal. Don’t worry about it.”I still had this gut feeling that something about this wasn’t “normal.” Because of this, when my son was about 4 months old, we switched pediatricians. At the first visit with the new doctor, he said, “Something’s just not quite right.” I didn’t know what to feel. For one, it was a relief to know that I wasn’t crazy. But at the same time, I was finding out that there was, indeed something wrong which was very frightening. Now what?


It has been five years since the day I sat in the specialist’s office and learned that my baby had been given the big label of DiGeorge Syndrome and the moderate to severe developmental delays that come with it. I don’t know what the future holds for my little boy or when he will eventually “catch up” to other children his age. Some days as I watch other five year olds playing and talking and interacting with one another, it is difficult for me that my son cannot do some of these same things. When I try to look even 6 months down the road and I wonder if he will begin to catch up, it can be overwhelming.


I read a devotional recently that was titled “Do the Next Thing.” I can sit and wonder what the future holds, but what about today? What can I do today? What can I do even just this morning? I have come to realize that when the waves of life and the future begin to overwhelm me, it is a calming thing to instead just “do the next thing.”


Proverbs 27:1 says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”


Do-Over!!

A little over a year ago I discovered something that has radically changed my life. Journaling. Since I began doing it, it has been amazing. In my journal, I pour out my heart and my emotions to God...things I would be ashamed or embarrassed to say to anyone other than Him. By writing, I am able to get things out of me instead of letting them grow and fester inside me.

My journal also serves as a tool of remembrance for me. The Bible is full of countless times when God gives something to serve as a remembrance of His mighty works. In fact, this is why we take communion. To remember what Jesus Christ did for us at the Cross. As I read back through my journal entries, I am able to see now the things that were unseen during earlier parts of my Christian journey.

Another thing I do in my journal is record my dreams. I have always had a huge fascination with dreams and dream symbols and when I learned that dreams are actually an expression of the unconscious mind, I became even more intrigued. I realized that by looking back over my dreams, I am discovering Truth as God teaches me wisdom in the innermost places. (Psalm 51:6).

As I was re-reading through my journal of my past dreams, a common thread jumped off the page at me. Something I probably wouldn't have realized if I had not had them all written down to look over later. I noticed a theme of "do-overs." Sometimes I dream that I am in a second hand store... or inone I was inside a recycle bin. Another time I had to re-take a test because I didn't do very well the first time.

If you have been following the 52 Days blog, you will know that I enjoy the daily devotionals from the book My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Again, I would like to quote a passage from one of the entries that speaks to the thought of do-overs:

"Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives... God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Such A Time as This

Nehemiah 1:1 “…in the month of Kislev…”

I was recently given the honor at my church to do a daily blog for 52 Days. We are beginning a study of the book of Nehemiah and how God used Nehemiah to mobilize the people and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days.

As I was studying today, I came across something that was just so fascinating to me. I am very intrigued by God’s timing. So when times are mentioned in the Bible, I realize that there is a reason for it and I am interested to learn more.

In the Jewish calendar, the month of Kislev (or Chislev) is in the winter during the time of sowing and plowing. It is the rainy season (Ezra 10:13). The Bible records several different events which occurred during the month of Kislev (Zechariah 7; Jeremiah 36; Haggai 2; Ezra 9 & 10).

There is a common thread that runs through the events that occur during the month of Kislev. It relates to the struggle that many of God’s people go through during this season of the year. It is a season when the enemy puts a lot of pressure on God’s faithful remnant to compromise their faith and conform to the world.

And here’s an interesting fact. The month of Kislev is very special on the Jewish calendar. The Feast of Dedication occurs during this month which is better known as Hanukkah. (John 10:22-23).

The Feast of Dedication actually began after a small army gained victory over Greek oppression because of God’s miraculous deliverance. It is a time to celebrate. So it makes sense that the enemy would be working overtime during a time of celebration for believers in the month of Kislev. The enemy will do anything to try to rob God of His glory. And in the words of Beth Moore, “Isn’t it just like God to use a pitifully small army to defeat a big giant one?” When the underdog wins, God is the one to receive the glory.

Since Hanukkah is typically a family celebration, I wonder if that’s why Nehemiah’s kinsmen were coming to visit him in the first place? I can just get carried away in God’s timing of everything. I can just picture Nehemiah and his family sitting around the dinner table talking about what’s happening in their lives when the subject came up of what was happening back home. And then one thing led to another…

It’s all a part of the plan. There are no insignificant parts. The fact that this happened during the month of Kislev, I don’t think is insignificant. If it was, then it wouldn’t have been mentioned in the Bible. I think the month of Kislev and the events that take place then, provided the opportunity.

Nehemiah may not have even seen the opportunity coming. But God knew his heart. He knew that Nehemiah was the right man for the job. He had been preparing Nehemiah all along for such a time as this.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. That's a pretty risky job. I don't think I would want to do it. Basically, his job was to go around with the king and test everything that was given to the king to eat or drink before the king ate or drank it to make sure it wasn't poisoned. So, that means if it was poisoned... bye bye Nehemiah. Yikes! But being in this position, the king had to have an awful lot of trust in Nehemiah because basically, his life was in his hands.

So many little details went into this that could have only been orchestrated by God. As I was doing my Daniel Bible study today for my Bible study group I'm a part of, one question in the workbook was something like, "What makes you put your hope and trust in God?" It's stuff like this. Seeing God's timeline play out in the past... whether that's in my own life, or through the stories of the Bible.

So cool.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No Wonder My Eye Hurts!

Matthew 7:3-5 (Amplified Bible) "Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother's eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye? You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother's eye."

I have read this verse two times today. And not on purpose. I just "happened" to open up my morning devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It was talking about the log in my eye. Then I read the daily devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries. It was talking about the log in my eye.

Normally I would probably take offense at this. What do you mean I have a log or a beam of timber in my eye? "Get out!!!" as Elaine Benis of Seinfeld would say.

It all came about yesterday and I was thinking of what I wanted to say in a conversation from some things I had been studying. I had written it all out so that I would know what I was talking about. It was all true and scripturally based. Yes, this is what I should say. It was all things that I could relate to. I could see myself very much in the words coming from my pen.

As I continued to write... I was on page three by this time... I just began to pray... "Lord, I know that these are things that I am dealing with in my own life. I know these are lessons that you are currently teaching me. I do see them over here in this other area and I don't think that I am wrong in the things that I am writing. BUT." "First things first," He said.

And then I prayed, "Lord, please help me to know if I really need to say these things or if the reason I am getting so worked up about this is because I need to deal with these things in my own life first."

Well, waddaya know. That's when God chose to show me Matthew 7:3-5. And then He showed it to me again. I could have taken it harshly. After all, the tone of that chapter sounds kind of harsh to me. In fact, after I prayed for some direction on where to go with my thoughts, that is when I read that devotional. Actually, my first thought was "Hmm... I guess this isn't how God is going to answer my question because this does not apply to me or my situation. Guess I'll just keep waiting."

But then I realized something and I felt God's gentleness that was so evident to me and His voice so clear. I still feel that my insights and thoughts are correct and not meant to judge. However, because I can see these things, it gives me a window into my own self that I did not see before. This new awareness is now an opportunity for God to continue to change me and refine me even more than before. This is an exciting opportunity and I am looking forward to the learning process, though the road may be painful.

The next part of this passage is, "...FIRST get the beam of timber out of your own eye and THEN you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother's eye." It's all in God's timing. If I am meant to share the things I had been studying, then God will provide the perfect timing. If not, then I am confident that God will lead me in another direction and will continue to grow me in the process of it all.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

I was searching for something on google today and I came across this piece from His Sheep Ministries that I thought was interesting:


The Good Shepherd is saying to every believer, “Get to know Me, learn to hear My voice, and follow Me. That is, be led by the Spirit as I was led by the Spirit,” so that the source of motivation in every aspect of life is the Holy Spirit.


When I respond to Him by believing Him, then I can do the works of Jesus when I go where He sends me. Then I can speak the words He gives me. If I do what I think is good, my doing is of no eternal value. If I say what I think I should say, then my words are of no lasting value. If I do what others want me to do (unless the Lord is speaking through them), then my doing is worthless in the economy of the Kingdom. If someone asks me to pray for them, or for someone else, or about any situation and the Spirit is not my motivation, then my prayers are fruitless concerning the Kingdom of God. If someone (or someones) asks me to come share with them, or preach, or pray, or teach or minister and the Lord is not sending me, then my sharing or preaching or praying or teaching or ministry is not the will of God.


And so I must know the will of God to do the will of God.


END


So how do I know what God's will is? Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."


I used to think that I could just try to be good and not do things that the world does. I've learned that patterns go a lot deeper than I ever would have known had it not been revealed to me as a result of the trails that God allowed in my life. The Bible says to "lean not on your own understanding." I have learned that in "all things", it is important to "acknowlege Him" and he will make my paths straight. Can't do it on your own. It is pointless to try. God's desire is for HIM to do the work, and for me to submit to His will and let Him be God.


Lord, help me to let go of myself and let you hold me up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life's a Dance You Learn As You Go

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Philippians 2:12-13


It seems that whenever a woman is pregnant for the first time, all of her friends who have already had children want to tell her about their experiences, what it was like, etc. I am no exception. I don't know why I do this. Maybe I feel like I am preparing them so it will be a little easier? Maybe I like to recap the fond memories of pregnancy and childbirth that I had? I can dish it out, and I also had the same experience when I was pregnant. I actually enjoyed (most of the time) hearing the stories.


But when I think back on it, even after hearing the dozens of stories, it still did not totally prepare me for my own experience of childbirth. It's one of those things where you don't REALLY know what it's like until you actually go through it.


I was thinking today about how my experiences with God are the same way. I have recently just had a great desire to study the Bible. I grew up in church, so I have heard Bible stories all my life. I knew about Noah, Moses, and Abraham. But it has just been within the past year or so that these stories have really had the full meaning to me that they do now. In the past, I have read the Bible out of some sort of obligation or guilt. It wasn't until God gave me this deep desire that I went out for my quiet time today and couldn't wait to read my Bible and felt really disappointed that I had left my Bible at home. That is not from me. "...for it is God who works in you to..."


One of my spiritual mentors always prayed for me that I would have "eyes to see and ears to hear." It took over almost a year and a half for them to really be open. And it's quite possible and likely that they're not even completely open now. You see, in a recent church service, Pastor Phil spoke about being asleep. And I never thought about this before, but he said, "When you fall asleep, you don't know you're asleep. You don't know you are asleep, actually until you wake up." Ephesians 5:13-14 says, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."


This has been a very difficult year for a lot of people. There are several of my close friends who are going through really difficult times not a whole lot different than what I have experienced myself. I can very much identify with their hurt and heartbreak. Almost every ounce of me wants to tell them everything I know, give them all my books, and do whatever I can to take the hurt away. It is REALLY hard to watch someone you love go through deep trials.


But God reminds me through Paul's words... "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." It's not me that will make this better for them. Just as no matter how much I can tell my pregnant friends about the birthing experience, it's something that they have to experience.


If in the beginning of this "awakening" journey that I have been on, someone had told me all the answers, it would have taken away what God was doing. I love that country song that says, "life's a dance you learn as you go..." No one else can do it for you. That is one hard lesson right there.


So right now, in the midst of these trials that I am watching, I am also trusting God. I see my friends doing the same things that I did and making the same mistakes that I made. But despite all the dumb things that I did, God still worked it all out for good and for His glory. If He could bring me to the place He has so far, He can do the same thing for my friends. So Lord, I pray that you would give them "eyes to see" and "ears to hear." And continue to show me my place on the sidelines unless you tell me otherwise. Amen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Embracing Who I Am

Today's post is another one I did not write myself. It is by Lysa TerKeurst with Proverbs 31 Ministries. It was really something that I needed to read today as a mother and I wanted to share it.

Embracing Who I Am
21 May 2009
Lysa TerKeurst


"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.'"
Luke 1:30 (NIV)


Ten years ago I sat in a seminar listening to a very organized mom talking about how she parented her kids. She was an amazing woman; a super mom in my eyes.I held up my feeble efforts with my three toddlers and determined I stunk as a mother. I thought that maybe if I went home and imitated her, I could enter into the world of super moms.I mentally listed out what I discerned must be her secret to success and set about to be just like her. But it didn't take me long to become absolutely miserable. I mentally beat myself up for not having what it obviously took to be a great mom. What was wrong with me?


I begged God to make me just like her - that really good mom. And then one day in Bible study I read the story of Mary, the teenage mother of Jesus. My heart beat fast as I realized she didn't meet the standard of super mom I'd set for myself.


Somehow, just as she was, God chose her to be Jesus' mother. And the only qualification that she seemed to have was her willingness.


I made the choice to try and let go of all those expectations I had for myself as a mom. I let go of the comparisons to other moms. I laid down the measuring stick of perfection. And I simply bowed my head and gave God my willingness.


Slowly, I started to see my own unique qualities as a mom instead of always focusing on the places I felt I fell so short.


I may not be the most organized mom, but I'm a fun mom willing to drop my to-do list in the name of spontaneity.


I may not do sit-down devotions with my kids every morning, but I'm good at helping my kids see God working in situations all through out our days.


I may not sew a lick, but I know where to find an alterationist that is the bomb. I may not always keep my cool in the everyday aggravations of life, but throw something big at me and somehow I'll be the calmest person in the room.


Sure, I have a lot of room for growth in my mothering. God and I work on things daily. But over the past ten years I've learned how to embrace who I am and the beauty of living fully as me.


And while I still fall short at times, I'm finally learning that being fully me is so much better than an imitation version of someone else.


I have the exact qualities God knew my kids would need in a mother. So, each day I hold up my willingness and ask God to make me the best version of me I can be.


Dear Lord, I admit that I am dependant on You in every area of my life, as a mother, a wife, a co-worker, a daughter, and a friend. Help me to understand the depth of Your love for me. T hank You for being familiar with me in all my ways. Thank You for laying your hand upon me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Things Happen to Good People

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." I Peter 4:12-13


Whoever said that if you follow Christ, that your life will be happy happy joy joy? That bad things might happen to you, but they won't be THAT bad because you are a Christian and God works everything out to make you happy? What verse is that? Where does God say that in the Bible? Who is preaching this message? I'm not sure but someone must be because this is how I used to think. I think this is a common misconception, actually. God just wants me to be "happy." I thought this way for a long time. Sometimes, I still hear this message drifting through my brain because it has been in there for so long. Happily ever after, right?


Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale since I was a child. What a great story. I may be taken advantage of in life, but eventually I will be wisked away by prince charming, the people who took advantage of me will be changed and live to serve me and love me, and we will all live... happily ever after. The end.


So what happens when I wake up one morning, and my son has special needs? What happens when I wake up one morning, and my husband is gone? What happens when...


In my ladies' Bible study, we are currently studying the prophesies in Daniel. Daniel 8:12 says, "Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifice were given over to it [the ruler/puppetmaster]. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground." This is referring to a long time ago when Antiochus IV was in power and made the Jews stop offering their daily sacrifices to God and he threw TRUTH to the ground. It was a common practice to get up early in the morning for their "quiet times." Antiochus IV put a stop to this. And God allowed this to happen. The Lord allowed Satan to stop them from offering their sacrifices to God. They may have thought that God had abandoned them.


I was listening to the radio the other day and there was a report that there is a movement called Bash Back, where a group of homosexuals went into a church during service and started shouting and "bashing back" as they called it toward the church who took an open stance against homosexuality. And now, with the new hate crimes legislation coming through, this kind of disruption is beginning to be tolerated. There is a lawsuit in the works. I don't know the whole story. Other than, this is the state of the world today. Soon, there will be nothing the church can do about people disrupting the church services. Everyone has free speech. If people want to come in and yell at you while you're also excercising your freedom of speech, that's fine. Just tolerate it. It's kind of like what Antiochus IV was doing back then.


There are many stories. There are a lot of things like this happening in the world today. There is a major moral decline in society and it seems to get worse and worse every day. Who knows how long it will be until I am not even allowed to voice such things. All in the name of tolerance. Is this a scary thing? Is this something to be afraid of? Perhaps, if you look at the smaller picture. But if you know even a little bit of the Bible, you know who wins in the end. This is just temporary.


"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I Peter 5:10.


God promises that we WILL suffer. This is part of life. It's not a fun part of life. In fact, it really hurts and stinks. But it won't last. Seeing the things that are happening now just proves that the Bible is true. What God says, He does. And if you look at the big picture, God will reign victorious. We WILL suffer... but we won't suffer forever. Sometimes it just seems that way and it's okay to suffer and feel that pain because God promises that it will come. No sense in pretending it's not there.


Not too long ago, I was typing a paper for a friend of mine about the ministry of Paul. As I was typing, I realized some things I never knew before. When Antiochus IV destroyed the temple and forbid daily sacrifices, it paved the way for new synagogues to be built instead. It paved the way for the Christian Gospel and the establishment of the church. Also, during this time, different roads were opened for trade and the Roman road system provided rapid growth and exposure to the Gospel throughout the world. All of this happened because of God's perfect plan and timing. Antiochus IV didn't have the last word. It is obvious who was holding his puppet strings, but after looking at the bigger picture, it's also obvious that God alone makes the way, and the same God who calls us keeps us. Just because a ruler says it's "not allowed," doesn't mean that God is caught off guard and has to come up with a Plan B.


Never underestimate what God is doing. It may seem like something awful is happening. But what Satan plans for evil, God uses for good. He has everything under control.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Been there. Done that.

As I was typing my blog the other day, I kept thinking about how the Israelites kept complaining. No matter what God did for them, as soon as they couldn't see the next step, they started complaining. They didn't trust. They complained. I thought, "Man, what a bunch of whiners!"


But then I thought about how I do that, too sometimes. Ouch! When I can't see the road ahead, I start to think of the good things on the road behind. Sometimes I tend to forget all of the bad things that God used for good to bring me to this point. So for the Israelites to think that going back to Egypt is actually going to solve their problems? Yeah, been there, done that, sold the t-shirt on craigslist.


In Numbers 14, they are STILL complaining. They have gone and explored the Canaan land and it is gorgeous and has great fruit. But the people that occupy the land are big so the Israelites feel like they might as well forget about it. I want to shake them and say "WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!! If God is leading you there, He's not just going to take you this far and then leave you!!" Ugh, but then in Numbers 14, there they go again... "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? ...wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt? And they said to each other 'We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'"


Okay, so the one who hurt you is the one who is going to fix it? That is such twisted thinking. That is delusional... Pharoah is in Egypt and he doesn't care about them at all. Oh wait... yeah, been there, done that, too.


The point is not to not feel that way. The point is to feel that way, tell God all about it, and do what He says anyway in His strength. If God is for you, who can be against you? And that's basically what Moses ended up telling them. (Numbers 14: 7-9) "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."


Been there. Done that. Learning as I go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"What is it?"

I was listening to the radio a few weeks ago and they were talking about an interview with a well reknowned Christian author and they asked him what he felt was the best emotion. I was curious as to what he would say... happiness, joy, elation? No. He said it was relief. I had never thought about that before but that is so true!


I am still doing my study in Exodus and watching God's covenant with Abraham being fulfilled. At my point in the study, Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt and out of slavery. Funny thing, though. You would think that the Israelites would be relieved to be out from under the heavy hand of Pharoah.


Think again. After they crossed the Red Sea, they realized they were in the desert and there isn't much to eat and drink when you're in a desert. I think they became a little delusional even. They started saying crazy things [referring to being in Egypt] like "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (Exodus 16:3).


I seem to recall just back in Exodus 5:21 while they were still in captivity under Pharoah, they were groaning then, when they said to Moses, "May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharoah and his officials have put a sword in their hand to kill us." Yes, these are apparently the "great memories" they seemed to be longing for.


Anyhow, while the Israelites were there groaning in the desert, God hadn't fallen asleep. He wasn't just saying, "Okay, I've led the people out of Egypt like I said and now they can fend for themselves." Philippians 1:6 says that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion."


And so it was. The Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (Exodus 16:4). The Israelites had never seen this stuff that was being rained down from heaven so they called it Manna which means "What is it?" God's providence does not always look like we expect it to.


And God required them to keep some of the manna... "Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt." It was a symbol. A physical keepsake to remember how God had provided for them.


Deuteronomy 8:3 says "He humbled you, causing you to hunger, and then feeding you with manna... to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."


Reading this, I just began to realize that if God is calling me to do this or that, or go here or there, I may not see how it's going to work out. How can you go into a desert where there is no food or water and expect to survive? Because God sends some kind of "What is it?" to meet your needs.


It always seems like just when I get ahead on the bills or get an unexpected check in the mail, etc, my car breaks down, or the kids get sick, or something happens that I have to spend that money on. I keep thinking, "God, if only everything could be going well when those checks come, I could do something with them... why can't I just get ahead?" Then God reminded me of how he tells us to pray in Matthew 6, "... give us today our daily bread..." Proverbs 30:8-9 says "...give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.... otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say 'Who is the Lord?' or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God."


Lord, I don't want to be like the Israelites who were groaning in the desert wanting a feast. Not trusting that You will provide for them. There are certain things in my life that don't really seem to make a lot of common sense, but I feel confident that it is the direction You are taking me. Lord, I'm trusting You with these things. I pray for manna from heaven, if necessary. Some of that "What is it?" I am walking by faith and not by sight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pimple Patrol

When I was in high school, I used to deal with breakouts. My medicine cabinet was full of different powders and concealers to cover up the ultra-embarrassing blemishes of a teenage girl. I remember doing a lot more "covering up" than actually cleansing my skin to prevent the breakouts before they happened.


Then one day while shopping at the mall, I saw a new stand in the middle of the department store. Clinique. It had all these fancy displays and all kinds of concealers. It caught my attention. I stopped by to check it out. I told the lady behind the counter that I only wanted to buy some concealer and some foundation. After listening to her schpeel, I walked away not only with my concealer and foundation, but also with several different clarifying lotions and cleansers.


I was excited to get home and try them out. The next morning, I went through the whole regimen that I had learned from the Clinique salesperson. The tingling of the different potions felt good.


And then it happened. I woke up a day or two after beginning my new Clinque routine to find not a nice clear complextion, but breakouts everywhere! I was so frustrated! How was I supposed to face a group of thin, perfect skinned, beautiful high school students at school now? Or so I thought. I hurried up and put on more concealer to cover up the new disaster. I was determined never to buy Clinique products again as I stomped out the door to school.


There is a little lesson I learned from all of this. Had I continued using Clinique, my skin would have eventually been clean and clear, just like their sales representatives. When my skin broke out after using it, the products were actually doing their job. I just didn't realize it. You see, in order to have smooth, clear skin, I had to first go through the clarifying process to get out all of the dirt and impurities that had gone into my skin from all of my cover ups, and just being in the environment. I did not see any change because I just continued to "cover up" instead of actually allowing my skin to be purified.


Isn't it the same way with life? There is a lot of junk beneath the surface sometimes. Malachi 3:3 says "He will sit as a refiner and purifier..."


And that's all I have to say about that. Short and sweet! Think about it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wisdom and Pizza

In the ladies' Bible study that I lead once a month, we have been studying Daniel. We began with integrity and we are now talking about end time events. As I have been reading the book of Daniel, I have seen events that happened then, as a foreshadowing of events to come.

Along side of the Daniel study, I have been doing my own personal study on God's covenant with Abraham and how it came to be fulfilled along God's timeline of events. The other day, I just finished reading up through when Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea and out of slavery in Egypt.

Yesterday, as I began to read the next section of scripture, I just felt a still, small voice telling me instead to read in Ecclesiastes. While I had been reading about the exodus of the Israelites, I was just thinking about how there just seems to be a cycle. Today, we are still doing the same things that people were doing back then. I kept feeling reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes when Solomon realized that there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 says, "The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again."

In II Chronicles 1:7-12, God asks Solomon what he wants. He told Solomon to ask and He would give it to him. Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge. I could see his wisdom as I read Ecclesiastes yesterday. There really is nothing new under the sun. I really don't view that as a downer, just as wisdom and understanding that the Bible really is true... God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

So today is Thursday... pizza day at the office. Which means that Tony Evans is on the radio when I go to pick up the pizza. When I got in the car today, guess what he was talking about? Wisdom! It was a really great message. In fact, if you want to listen to it, go to http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/The_Alternative/ and listen to the sermon titled "The Blessings of Taking God Seriously" for 4/30/09. Tony said that "Wisdom is the God given ability to perceive the true nature of a thing (what's REALLY going on) and then implement the will of God regarding it (that knowledge)."

In a group that I attend on Tuesday nights, just this week we were talking about overreactions and what's really going on below the surface of that overreaction that we don't realize. Proverbs 2: 4-5 says, "and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Tony Evans talked about the fact that silver is under the ground, like a hidden treasure because of its value. It's not on top. You have to be willing to dig for it.

God didn't just give Solomon wisdom. He had to search for it as for hidden treasure. He made a lot of bad decisions. But those bad decisions led to his eyes being opened to wisdom. There really is nothing new under the sun. History is there to teach. You can either learn from it or repeat it.

Wisdom and pizza. What a great combination!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bingo!!

Remember the story in Mark 9 where there was a demon possessed boy and his father took him to the disciples for them to drive out the demon? The disciples couldn't do it. Then he came to Jesus and asked him to drive out the demon. Jesus did. Later, the disciples asked "Why couldn't we drive it out?" The Lord answered, "This kind can only come out by prayer."


I often used to wonder why the disciples couldn't drive out the demon. Was it because they didn't have enough faith? Did the father not believe? Was it some other reason? What did Jesus mean that this kind can only come out by prayer?


And then, a wise woman helped shed some light on this for me. This wasn't really about the disciples. It was about the father of the boy. He wasn't looking for Jesus... he was looking for a miracle.


Today I was continuing my reading on God's covenant with Abraham that I wrote about a few days ago. I am up to Exodus when God tells Moses to go to Pharoah and tell him to let God's people go. God tells Moses in advance that he is going to harden Pharoah's heart and that he will not let the Israelites go.


And so it goes. Moses and Aaron do what God commands them to do. They perform signs and wonders. But Pharoah's magicians do the same thing, so he doesn't see the big deal and doesn't believe. Eventually, Pharoah asks them to pray for him and for these plagues to stop. God answers and stops. Once the miracle is done, Pharoah hardens his heart again.


It goes on and on like this. The problem? Pharaoh is not looking for God. He's looking for the miracle.


There have been several different things that I have been praying about for a while. And I just keep waiting, and waiting... and waiting. Nothing. Or so it seemed to me. Then the Holy Spirit pressed on my heart to fast and pray. I drug my feet for a while. I have never fasted before. I didn't really know how to do that. And I also wondered if it was just me thinking and not the Holy Spirit. Plus, I just didn't really WANT to fast. I like food. So I asked Lord to confirm to me that this was His prompting and not me.


So there I am, on my way to pick up a yummy pizza last week for lunch, as I do for the staff every Thursday. I always go at 11am to pick it up, which just so happens to be the same time that Tony Evans is on the radio. When I first started listening to him, I thought I was way to "white" to be a Tony Evans fan. But as I listened, I realized he has some really good insights and great sermon illustrations. So I look forward to Thursdays at 11am for more than just the pizza, now. This past week or so, he has been talking about... guess what... fasting! How to do it. Why you should do it, etc.


So I gave in to God and started fasting at lunch time. I started praying about my agenda. "God, here is what I want," basically. Although at the same time, I remembered what the good ol' Tony Evans said... when you fast, you are supposed to fast to seek the face of God, not to get what you want. But there were some things that I really want and I had to confess these true motives to God and ask Him to give me the desires of my heart. Not what my heart desired, but the actual desires. The desire to seek His face rather than the outcome of my specific prayers.


Today, God continued to show his face to me. It was really cool. I didn't hear any new answers to my petitions, BUT God did show me how He works. Wait a second... I asked for x, and God responded not by giving me x but by showing Himself to me. What is unseen to me, is seen by God. He's got everything under control. So I guess I should stop trying to do His job for Him.


I realized that when God told Moses to go to Pharoah and do all of these things, it wasn't for Pharoah's benefit. Pharoah's heart was hard. He was not interested in seeking God's face. I believe all of the signs and wonders were for the benefit of Moses. What God did through Him. Whenever Moses doubted, God would always say "I am the Lord." Exodus 6:1 says... Then the Lord said to Moses, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharoah; Because of my mighty hand, he will let them go." (emphasis mine). Now you will see my mighty hand.


BINGO!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Shack

They say if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will leap right out to escape the danger.


But if you put a frog in a kettle that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and then you gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. The frog's survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes.


My mom recently finished reading "The Shack" by William P Young. She asked me if I wanted to read it. I usually read more non-fiction type books and it had been a while since I had read a novel. But I had heard a lot of buzz about the book so I figured I would see what all the hype was about.


My mom had warned me in advance that she didn't agree with some of the book and almost put it down a few times. With that in mind, I began to read.


I was very intrigued by the book as it went along. A few chapters in, the author used a "bad word" and I thought... hmm, that's kind of strange since I thought this was a Christian novel. But I kept reading. The first few chapters were pretty hard to read. But then it got pretty interesting and offered some good analogies, in my opinion. It was a "cool and pleasant" read at that point.


As I went along, I began to see what my mom was talking about. The stove had started to gradually heat up. The main character, Papa (God) started talking about how the church is just an institution but more than just that... I felt like the book was actually saying that the church is a bad thing.... and that the 10 commandments are just a bunch of rules. Etc etc...


True that relationship is the desire of God's heart. But I believe the Bible is more than just a book. It is full of great truths. I don't believe the Law is there just to condemn us, but to show us our great need for redemption of Christ in our lives.


I didn't finish The Shack. There may have been some more good points of the book that I missed... but I just felt like if I did not have a solid foundation and was reading that book, I would have been like a frog, being slowly boiled in a pot of cool and pleasant water.


In these days, as the second coming of Christ is getting closer, I think that Satan is getting nervous. He knows what's coming to him. There are so many subtleties, even in the "Christian" realm that one could be easily and slowly "boiled" by relying on the external... preachers, books, music, etc... instead of truly knowing the one true God of the Bible. Not that these things are bad in and of themselves... the important thing is to know and study the One Who is being preached, written, and sung about by studying the scriptures yourself.


Matthew 22:29 says... Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God."


It's time for lunch. Frog legs anyone? I'll pass.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Muddy Waters

I love the movie Shawshank Redemption. It's been a while since I've seen it but it has a really good story to it. It's about a man named Andy (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in prison. You never really do find out if he actually was guilty or not, but that's not the point. While he's in there, he meets "the only guilty man in Shawshank," a guy named Red (Morgan Freeman). They become quick friends.


Red is known as the man who can get things. When Andy first arrives, he asks Red to get him a tiny little rock hammer that's used to shape rocks. Later he asks for a poster of Rita Hayworth. Unknown to anyone else, during the 20 years that Andy is in prison, every day he slowly starts chiseling away at the wall of his cell with his tiny little rock hammer and he covers the hole with the Rita Hayworth poster. It takes him TWENTY YEARS of chiseling every one of the 365 days of the year to finally break through to the outside. It's quite a fascinating plan to realize at the end all of the things he did over the years to plan his escape.


The part that I can really relate to is his actual escape. Once he crawls through the hole in the wall, he has to crawl through several miles of sewer filled with all kinds of, well, "crap." There is no other way for him to get out other than crawling through it. It was not a fun journey. He got sick along the way and was disgusted and disgusting. But once he worked his way through all the crap, he came out on the other side... a free man.


Was it risky trying to break out of prison? Oh yeah. Was it hard, painful, time consuming work? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely!


During this season of my life where I have had to endure so much hurt, so much pain, so much anger, confusion, you name it... it has not been easy at all. It has been the most difficult season in my life that I've ever had to crawl through. When I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, I have to be ready for what I am about to see and hear. Good thing God is right there with me holding me up as I crawl through the "crap." I have had to learn and acknowledge things about myself that have been difficult. I've had to lay it all out there before God.


I'm not sure what part of the tunnel I've made it to at this point, but I can see that little ray of light shining in at the end. I'm not sure that we ever quite get there entirely in this lifetime... life's a process. But in the end, I am waiting for my reward!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the Right Place at the Right Time

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,'" declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

During the month of March after our Saturday night service at church, we started doing "connect groups." To start out, there were four different classes to choose from. The one that intrigued me the most was one about the life and hardships of Joseph when his brothers took him and sold him into slavery.

The class was good. The converstation and dialogue was good between everyone who came to that class. I thought it was a great start. But for me, there was something lacking... while we talked about a few things from the story, we never started out with the whole story and what really happened throughout the course of time with Joseph... where he came from... why his brothers did what he did... Although I had heard the story before, it had been a long time. I really needed a refresher.

So, this week I started reading the story of Joseph. I started in Genesis 37. As I started reading, I realized that I really needed some more background. So I went back to read about his father, Jacob. Actually, I went back to Isaac and some to Abraham. But I'll start here with Jacob.

So Jacob had pretty much stolen Esau's blessing by tricking Isaac. So his mom, Rebekah told him he had better flee to her brother, Laban because of what he did. So he did, and then married his two daughters, Leah and Rachel. There is so much that I could write here but I'll just put a little tidbit... he ended up having a bunch of kids between Leah, Rachel, and their concubines. The first son born to him by Rachel was Joseph.

Although stealing Esau's blessing was not the right thing to do, God knew. If that hadn't happened, then he wouldn't have had to flee to Laban and then he wouldn't have married his daughters and Joseph would not have been born.

Fast forward a little bit to when Joseph was 17. The Lord told him in a dream that he would rule over his brothers and they would bow to him. Of course this made them really mad. He was their baby brother and loved by his father because he was born to him from Rachel, the wife that he loved. So they got rid of him quick and sold him to the Egyptians into slavery.

So Joseph is in slavery in Egypt and finds favor with Pharoah and moves up the ranks there. Then he interprets Pharoah's dream from God about a coming famine. So he starts to store up food because he knows what's ahead. But no one else knows so they keep on about their business, spending, not saving...

...reminds me of times today. Now that there is a recession, people are starting to save. Before this, we were all spending, spending, spending...

So then the famine comes and no one has any food, except for Joseph because he's been saving it up. So his brothers find out and come to buy food from the only place there is food. Hmm... what a coincidence. Not knowing it was Joseph, they end up bowing to him because he has been so good to them, giving them food and not charging them for it.

So God was right! Imagine that. Joseph was over his brothers and they did bow down to him. Who would have thunk it? (-:

Genesis 45:5, 7 ...Joseph said to his brothers "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you....7 but God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance."

I find it so interesting the way that God works. It may not make sense at the moment but in God's timeline, when it all plays out, it's so clear. I think of the time last summer when I was just so worn out. My day consisted of getting up at least 2 hours early to get myself and the boys ready for the day. Then I would leave the house an hour before I had to be to work because I had to drop the boys off at the sitter. I worked all day. The work day ended at 5pm but not for me. It was then back to two separate sitters for the boys which would get me home around 6pm. Now it was time to cook dinner. I usually tried to find quick things to cook so we could eat by 6:30. At 7:30, it was time to clean up the toys, get on the jammies, brush the teeth, read books and get them into bed. 8pm... the boys are in bed. Uh-oh, it's 8:15 and now one of them is getting out of bed. For the next hour I spend my time putting him back in bed. 9:30ish... ah, they are both finally asleep! I am exhausted. So I head to bed and then it starts all over again the next morning.

One recurrent prayer of mine was always, "Lord, please give me some rest!" Well, wouldn't you know it. I woke up one day with the flu. Now how was I going to do all this stuff? I really don't even remember how it all got done, except that a friend came over and helped me. I laid in bed the entire day... resting. I felt so bad there was nothing else I could do BUT rest. Hmm... God, this is not exactly what I meant. But I asked and I received! And guess what... oddly enough, I did feel really nice and rested the next day. Even though I was sick, it was nice to have a day to just lay in my bed and do absolutely nothing. It was just what I needed. God's answers do not always take the form that I think or expect them to.

So back to Joseph. Eventually, his whole family moved to Egypt and lived well during the famine. But then Joseph died and his family was forced into slavery again. They lived there for a long time to the point where the new rulers didn't even know who Joseph was. Backtrack to the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that this family would be numerous and would possess the whole land of Canaan. But they were in Egypt. And not living well in Egypt. They were slaves.

I can just imagine the discouragement and unbelief going on now. Now Abraham was dead, Isaac was dead and Jacob was dead. Seems it would appear to the descendants that God didn't really do what he said he was going to do. In fact, it appeared to be the opposite. They were not living in Canaan at all. They were slaves in Egypt.

In fact, the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob were increasing so much that they were a threat to the Egyptians so the new Pharoah decided he would have all the baby boys killed and only spare the baby girls so that they would stop producing more Hebrews.

Enter Moses onto the scene. He was a baby boy born during this time but the midwife who delivered him lied to Pharoah because they feared God and did not want to kill him. So his mom hid him in the Nile. "Coincidentally," Pharoah's daughter just so happened to go down there to bathe at the same time Moses was at that spot in the Nile. She felt sorry for him and saved him and raised him as her own.

So if Pharoah's daughter had not decided to go down to the Nile to bathe at that precise time, she would have never seen Moses and he probably would have eventually died because he wouldn't have had anything to eat or survive on floating in the Nile. And I haven't been over there, but, uh, I think the Nile is a pretty big body of water. The fact that Moses just happened to be floating at the same place where she bathed just has to be more than a "coincidence."

Fast forward. Guess what? God called Moses to lead the people out of Egypt... the people... the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The convenant is true! They certainly did increase in number. So much so that the Egyptians were afraid and started killing baby boys. And now they were about to be led out, just as God said. But it's like 400 years later...

God's timeline. Things always happen "at just the right time." I'm sure the Hebrews thought they should have gotten to get out of there a lot sooner than 400 years. I'm sure some of them died thinking God's word wasn't true because they never saw it happen. But just because they didn't get to see it... doesn't mean it didn't happen. It did happen. Just not according to their limited, human, understanding. I'm so glad that it's all recorded though so I can see it! It give's me reassurance that God really does know what He's doing. (-:

There is so much more I could say... but this post is already very long so I'll save the rest for another day. (-:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

Again... not my own post but a friend of mine sent this to me and it is such an eloquent description of what it's like to have a special needs child. So I wanted to share...


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......


When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.


After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."


"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."


But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.


The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.


So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.


It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.


But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."


And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.


But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lead Me Lord

My blog today is not really mine. I get daily email devotionals from Proverbs 31 Ministries and they are just awesome. Many days they are just what I need to read. Today was one of them.

Lead Me Lord
31 Mar 2009

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Do you pray for direction, and hear nothing?

Do you wonder if God even heard your prayers?

Friend, you are not alone. Often I come before God, pouring out my heart in prayer, seeking His will for different areas in my life. Then I hear nothing. He is silent. Not wanting to wait, I forge ahead on my own. In my busyness, I fail to sit and wait. No time, I say, because someone is waiting for an answer. No time, I say, because I need to act now.

Yet, when I examine Scripture, God consistently teaches: sit, pray, and wait. Jesus began His ministry by fasting forty days alone in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He spent an entire night alone in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12).

Esther fasted and prayed for three days before she took the bold and courageous step of going before the king on behalf of her people, knowing it could mean her death (Esther 4:8-16).

Elijah went into the wilderness for forty days to hear the "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:11-18).

What do these great people of faith teach us? To know God's leading, to hear His voice, we must listen and wait. Maybe we think God is silent because we never take the time to sit in God's Word and wait. When we do, He promises it will penetrate us to the marrow of our bones, to the deepest places in our heart. Hebrews 4:12 says His Word is living and active and "sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow" (NIV).

When we choose to get alone with God, He promises to meet us there. Jeremiah 29:13-14a says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be f ound by you" (NIV). Take the challenge to meet Him in His Word.

Do you want direction? Follow these steps

.1) Read God's Word: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the [woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (NIV) God was actively involved in the writing of Scripture. It is the infallible and authoritative Word of God written to speak Truth into your life today.

2) Study God's Word: 2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (NIV). When you study His Word, He plants it deep within your heart. His Spirit then takes the Word and bends your heart in His direction, enabling you to hear His Voice.

3) Pray God's Word: Isaiah 55:11 says, "...so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purposes for which I sent it" (NIV). Prayer is God's living Word spoken out of your mouth. When you pray in faith, you hold God' Word up to Him in prayer. You put Him in remembrance of His Word, and His promise is that Word will not return void. Furthermore it shall accomplish that which He purposes and pleases.

Join me today in applying God's Word to the circumstances in your life. Know that when you do, God promises to do abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine!

Heavenly Father, I need direction in my life today. You seem distant and silent. Yet I know that You are not because You promise to never leave me or forsake me. Today, I commit to search Your Word. Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in Your Law. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear Your direction in my circumstances. Thank You, Lord, that in my seeking You will meet me. Thank You that as I trust in You completely, You will le ad me down Your paths! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer

Stop by Wendy's blog

Application Steps:
Commit one area of your life or one situation with which you struggle to hear the Lord. Search His Word for verses that speak to your situation. Write them down on a card, commit them to memory, and pray them back to God. Wait and watch for God to do a mighty work. Share your story with me on my blog. I would love to celebrate God's faithfulness with you.

Reflections:
Sit and soak in Psalm 119 and marvel at the many blessings that flow from knowing and obeying God's Word. Power

Verses:
Read, study, and pray the verses listed in the body of the devotional.

© 2009 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Anxiety

Last week while I was journaling, I had some thoughts about anxiety. Well, it's nothing too profound, simple actually, I just had never thought it through before I guess. But anyway, I was just thinking about Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing but in all things, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, make your requests known before God."

But I just think about how you hear people quote the first part of that verse a lot... be anxious for nothing. Then when they do feel anxious, they might just keep saying over and over in their mind "be anxious for nothing, be anxious for nothing, be anxious for nothing..." But that's not really what that verse is saying. If you just stop at the don't be anxious part, then you are putting it on YOU to not be anxious. The Bible says don't be anxious so I'm just going to try and not be anxious.... no... the Bible says to present your requests before God. With prayer and petition. In the dictionary, petition is defined as to beg for or request. With thanksgiving... for everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

So for me, I do this in my journaling. I pray a lot in there. God, this is what I'm anxious about. I don't understand. Why is it like this? It hurts. I feel like I can't handle this... Why? Now it's GOD's problem... He can handle it. I can't. And He can give me peace and release my anxiety at just the right time and give me eyes to see. Well, that's my sermon for the day. (-: Just my thoughts anyway...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My testimony

In May of 2003, I was living in Greenville, SC and started to feel a calling to move to northern Virginia. Although I had only lived in SC for about a year and a half, it had quickly become home and I was very comfortable there as a pastor’s wife. I loved the ministry there, as well as the people of my church. They became to me as close as family. Life was good there. Life was comfortable. This calling to move away was a little bit scary. Yet, there it was.

On May 31, 2003, I was sitting alone in my living room and I felt the Lord tell me to kneel right there at my couch and pray for direction and a confirmation if this was the direction we were supposed to go. The next day was Sunday and I went to church as usual. I sang the songs as usual. I went through all the usual motions. When it came time for the message, the pastor stood up at the pulpit and said something like, “I had a sermon all prepared but as we were singing, the Lord gave me a different one…” He began to preach from the book of Daniel when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire. He spoke about how even though it was a scary place to be, God was with them. As he was preaching, I felt the Lord speaking to me. After the message, he prayed and in his prayer he said that he didn’t know why the Lord had given him that message that morning, but that he knew that there was someone in the congregation that it was for. Tears began to roll down my cheek as I distinctly knew it was meant for me. I don’t remember if I had ever heard the Lord speak to me so clearly before.

A few weeks later, my sister was visiting and sang a special song by Ginny Owens about walking through the valley. She told me that she sung it for me. I didn’t know why because I figured that God was calling us away from there so the following years were going to be wonderful! He surely wouldn’t call me right into a valley, right?

In August 2003, we moved. In September 2003, I got pregnant with my first baby who was born with special needs. We were there until October of 2005. Those were very difficult times in my life. They were also very hard times in ministry and I didn’t have any friends there other than my sister. I only knew people in the church and I couldn’t talk to them about anything because of my position there and I felt so alone. I couldn’t even talk to my family about the trials in my life. I prayed to God but still didn’t feel any relief.

When I moved back to Florida in 2005, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I still had no one to talk to, no job, no money and an 18 month old baby who had already had two surgeries and the medical bills to go with it. Fortunately, my parents lived here and helped us a lot. It wasn’t long before I had a job again and found a wonderful church. It seemed like the first week I was here I already had friends at church after two years of having no friends at all. That is amazing for a shy girl who doesn’t make friends quickly. Things were looking up.

But then the difficulties started. I just didn’t understand. Was I being a bad Christian… a bad wife… a bad mother? I didn’t know why all of this was happening to me. ...Then in December of 2007, my perfect "little family" world came crashing down. I found myself in a place I never thought I would. Dreams broken and shattered and instead of a happy little family I had dreamed of in my own little house, I was now back in my parents home trying to piece my world back together for my children and myself. .... I am starting to shake even as I write these words. I remember the pain all too well. I have never felt a pain like this in my entire life. In these moments, I so clearly understood the pain of every alcoholic… every drug addict… every person contemplating ending their lives. The pain was so incredible that it physically hurt. I don’t know if I could accurately describe the physical pain if I had not personally experienced it. I went days without any sleep at all and I’m not sure how long it took me to have another peaceful night of sleep. I could not eat. I could not do much at all. I am so grateful for my wonderful parents during this time. I had a toddler and a five week old baby at home who was still not sleeping through the night. I could not even hold them. My dad slept in the baby's room every night the first few nights and got up with him every three hours to feed him and rock him back to sleep. My mom got up every morning bright an early and went to work for me at the church. Words cannot express the gratitude I have towards them. I could not have gotten through it without them.

As I laid in my bed especially during those first few nights, I kept hearing the song “Shout to the Lord” running through my head. Especially the part where it says “My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength.” I knew that’s what the Lord was for me.

Even with my parents and my friends and so many people who loved and cared about me, I would not have made it through those times if I had not been for my Jesus and his reassuring words running through my head at night when I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know why this was happening to me and my two sweet boys, but for some strange reason unknown to me, the same God had allowed this to happen. He could have stopped it with the sound of his voice… but He didn’t. But he did assure me that He would be my comfort, my shelter and my tower of refuge and strength through this. As much as I didn’t like it and tried to make sense of it all, I wished that he would just take it all away from me and make everything okay. However, I knew I was going to have to walk through this fire and that I would not be walking alone. Also, for some reason, the Holy Spirit kept whispering the word “silver” to me. I had no idea what that meant or that it was even the Holy Spirit until I got an email from a friend a day or two after I started hearing the word.

It was a story from Malachi. Malachi 3:3 says “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” The story went along that a woman wondered what that verse actually meant so she went to watch the work of a silversmith to see the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over thefire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: 'He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.'She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, 'How do you know when the silver is fully refined?' He smiled at her and answered, 'Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it.'

Christ’s image on me. Is that what this trial is about, Lord? The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus asking Him if it was right to pay tax to Caesar. Jesus asked them whose image was on the coin and said to give to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. In effect, he was asking “Who’s image is on YOU?” Just as the silversmith knows that the silver is refined when he can see his image on it, I realized that I am being refined in the same way so that it will be evident whose image is on me.

I still have a long road of refining to go, but I have learned a LOT in this fire. I have learned to submit to God. That has been a difficult lesson for me. I am a doer. It’s hard for me to sit and wait on God. I feel like there is something I should be doing. Yet God has told me to be still and only do what He tells me to do instead of trying to fix things myself. Psalm 131:2 says “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” The nursing child demands attention now, but the weaned child trusts and is content to wait. God just amazes me sometimes. Some things He even teaches me from my one year old son who has recently been weaned from the bottle, himself. I love to just sit back and look at God’s timeline of events in my life.

I’m so glad that He didn’t always do things they way I wanted Him to. If my life had been easy, I would have never gotten to this point. Not that I have figured all of this out or that all the hurt is gone. But, God has shown me that He is in the middle standing right next to me and holding me. Praise Him - He meets me right where I am each and every day through every high and every low. He doesn't wait for me to be joyful or thank Him for my circumstances. I have realized I can cry out to Him. I can be happy. I can be angry. I can be upset. I can be hurt. No matter what the circumstance, I have chosen to give Him praise.