It Takes Time

 

takes time

I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 11:27)

Paul lived a life of contrasts.  He received the best possible education available in his generation.  He traveled the empire, conversed with the rich and powerful, and was God’s leader in  bringing the gospel to Europe. He also wrote much of the New Testament.

But Paul also did and said stupid things.  He made bad mistakes, suffered serious illness, and knew poverty and distress firsthand.  He was run out of town on several occasions, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and misunderstood.  Yet through all his success and difficulties Paul learned that every difficulty in life is a lesson from God in how to be content even if things go wrong.

Learning contentment takes time, just as a might oak requires time to mature.  It takes the combination of winter’s cold, the budding of spring, summer’s warmth, and the falling leaves of autumn over a cycle of many years to make a mighty oak tree that can stand solid in a storm.

Contentment doesn’t come in a day or in one lesson.  It’s learned over a lifetime.

Be patient with me, God.  I am slow to learn from life’s experiences.  Use my difficulties for good.  Use them all and let none go to waste.  May defeats, discouragements, and difficulties all teach me contentment and shape me for good. Amen.

First Things First

stone jar

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

A lecturer once asked his audience to guess how many rocks would fit into a wide-mouth gallon jar.  After everyone had guessed, he fit as many rocks into the jar as he could.  “Is the jar full?” he asked.  All agreed it was, He dumped some gravel into the jar, shook it until it settled in between the rocks, and asked again, “Is the jar full?” The audience started to catch on.  Next he poured some sand into the jar between the rocks and gravel.  Then he poured in a quart of water.  “What’s the point of all of this?”

“There are always gaps, and if you work at it, you can fit more into your life.” someone said.

“No,” he replied.  “The point is, if you hadn’t put the large rocks in first, you never would have gotten them in.”

If you full up the jar of your life and then try to fit God in last, there will be no room.  But if you put God first, there will be room for everything else you need.

Didn’t Miss a Thing

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Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil – Proverbs 15:16.

A little with God is better than much without Him.  As believers, we will make sacrifices in our lives.  There are times, if we were honest, that we will see some people doing certain things, and we think, That looks like fun.  You might even be a little tempted.  You look at people who live for selfishness or partying.  But then let the years pass.  Look at the course their lives have taken and the course your life has taken.

I had friends from high school who didn’t accept Christ when I did.  They went their way, and I went  mine.  I run into them every now and then, and I think, Thank God that I went the way that I went!  Did I miss a few parties?  Yes- a lot of them.  Did I miss some good times?  I missed a few.  But I also missed a lot of hangovers and other problems that are associated with that kind of lifestyle.  Did I miss out on a few things?  Sure I did.  But what God gave me in the place of those things has been infinitely better.

It has been said one must wait sunset to see how splendid  the day has been. I know that when you are young, many things look so tempting: Go out and party, or go to church?  Go out and have fun, or go sing songs about God?

The point is that you will make some sacrifices.  You will deny yourself at times.  But then, when you look back on your life someday, you will come to realize that you didn’t really miss anything.

You are Never Alone

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“Now he had to go through Samaria…and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.  It was about noon.  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” John 4:4, 6-7 (NIV)

Alone again.  That’s what she must have thought as she walked alone to the well that day.  No friend laughed by her side.  No small fist gripped her skirt.  No sister to help pass the time.

Maybe it was better that way.  Being alone was easier than hearing the condemning words and seeing the scornful looks of others. But she wasn’t alone for long.  She didn’t know who He was and couldn’t help but wonder why He was talking to her, a Samaritan woman.

When He spoke, she heard gentleness in His voice.  Kindness and humility in His simple request for a drink.  In His eyes she saw acceptance, not judgment. Love, not hate.

Many of us know her as the Samaritan woman, but I like to call her  Sam.  It makes her feel more like the real woman she was.  A woman who struggled with hurt, rejection and loneliness.

Today’s key verse says Jesus “had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4).  Yet theologians would tell us Jews considered Samaritans to be the scum of the earth and would do everything to avoid them.  In fact, usually they would travel around Samaria –but not Jesus.

He had to go through Samaria.  Could it be because He knew Sam would be there?

Typically women traveled together to the well in the cool of the day, escaping the heat of the sun since they carried heavy jars filled with water back to their homes.  But Sam walked by herself during the hottest part of the day.

Instead of avoiding the scorching sun, many believe she went to the well at noon to avoid the scorching pain of others’ rejection and judgment.  Sam had been married five times, and now she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

The weight of the water-filled jar in the heat must have been almost unbearable, but the weight of her neighbors’ words, reminding her of her failed marriages, was more than she could take.

When Jesus met her, Sam was running an errand and running from those who knew of  her failures, shame and imperfections.  Pursuing her with His perfect love, Jesus timed it so she would run into Him.

He initiated conversation and asked her for the one thing she had t offer: water. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Sam stopped and listened.  She let Him speak words of assurance and acceptance into the broken, insecure, empty places of her heart.

In the same way Jesus intentionally pursued Sam in one of the loneliest parts of her day, He is there in the midst of your sometimes lonely, imperfect life.  He is there when your disappointments and failures leave you empty and make you doubt your worth and purpose.

He is there when you’re going through the motions, aware of what needs to be done but unaware of how you’re going to do it all.

He is there during endless days filled with projects, diapers or laundry when you’re wondering if you’ll ever find meaning in the monotony.

He is there when you’re criticizing yourself and questioning whether you have what it takes to be a godly woman.

He sees you.  He notices all you do, and He knows what you long for.  In fact, Jesus is the only One who can meet your deepest need to be known, accepted and pursued simply because of who you are.

Today He is pursuing you with His gift of perfect love- love that is patient and kind, love that keeps no record of your wrongs, love that won’t give up on you or me.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, He is there.  Will you take time to stop and talk to Him and then quiet your thoughts so you can listen to His voice?

Make Appointments with God

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Imagine that you’ve been invited to meet with the President of the United States in the Oval Office.  You’d likely look forward to your appointment with great excitement.  Now imagine that someone much more exciting – the God of the universe – wants to meet with you personally.  This scenario is true; God really does want to meet with you, and He wants to do so every single day through a private quiet time together.

Those appointments with  God should be a source of great joy for you.  But unfortunately, quiet times can sometimes  seem to  intimidating to schedule or maintain regularly.  Here are some ways you can enjoy your appointments with God.

Think about how much God loves you, and expect to be blessed as a result of spending time with Him.  View your quiet times as cherished meetings with someone you love.  Realize that the more time you spend with God, the greater intimacy you’ll develop with Him.  Although the idea of a daily quiet time might seem awkward at first because you might not know what to say or how to recognize God’s voice, after a while, you’ll look forward to the appointment because it will be like meeting with your best friend.

Set aside a consistent time every day to meet with God.  Choose a time at which you’re most alert and can block our distractions.  Although may people choose first thing in the morning after waking up, the afternoon or evening can also work.  Try starting out with a half-hour quiet time, and after you’ve developed greater intimacy with God, increase that time to an hour.  It usually takes about five to ten minutes during the start of your quiet time to clear your mind enough to focus fully on God, so don’t rush your quiet time.  But don’t schedule so much time that you become overwhelmed and lose your motivation to continue.

Designate a special place in which you can meet privately with God.  The place can be either indoors or outdoors, such as a home office or a garden.

Relax!  Don’t feel pressured to perform certain rituals during your quiet time, there is no one “right”way to conduct a quiet time.  Think about what activities best draw you into God’s presence, then go with those.

Seek  God Himself rather than anything He might give you.  Know that God will meet you where you are and reveal much about Himself to you if you’re sincerely seeking Him.

Consider following a Bible reading plan during your quiet times.  Then ask God to help you apply the verses you read to your everyday life. Meditate on Scripture and memorize it so it will renew your mind.

Worship God in some way during your quiet times.  Thank Him for His work in your life and praise Him for who He is.  If you like, sing a worship chorus or hymn as part of your devotions.

 

 

Out of Brokenness Comes Blessing

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That’s why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time!  Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts.”  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful.  He is not easily angered.  He is failed with kindness and is eager not to punish you.” Joel 2:12-13

To give God our heart may mean is tearing within, a brokenness of spirit, a horrified realization that our sins have grieved the very heart of God.  This should tear us up inside.  Yet our loving God wants to forgive us.  Out of our brokenness, he wants to give blessing.  For a revival of our relationship with God, we will need, first and foremost, to give our heart into his hand.  No business is more important or urgent than doing business with God.

It’s essential business  – this tearing of the heart.  Perhaps there has been too much preaching and posturing and not enough praying!  Real praying – prayer that allows God to get his hands on our heart brings results.  Turning back to God, however, requires discipline like that of an athlete, disregarding the inevitable pain involved.  The discipline of devotion includes the willingness to be broken in order to be restored.

This message to Israel to turn back to God carried a promise of restoration and revival (Joel 2:18-32).  The promise pertains today – no restoration without returning, no revival without repentance!  It’s all a matter of the heart.  Does our heart break because of the sin that breaks the heart of God?  Do we give God permission to break our heart for him?  Such spiritual sensitivity is a daily discipline, a moment-by-moment exercise of realizing the pain that unholiness causes him!  When we give God our heart, we must expect that it will be broken.  But out of the brokenness comes blessing!

How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time

QuietTime

“Oh how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119.97

Christianity is not a legal relationship, it is a love relationship, Ten thousand “don’ts” will never make you one iota more like the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Himself Who makes you like Him.  But you need to spend time with Him.

The Proper Period

You must find the right time.  Your quiet time should last at least half an hour. But some time is better than no time, so if you can’t start at thirty minutes, begin with ten.  It should be your very best time.  Don’t give the Lord your leftovers.  And don’t try to find time –make time, and make it a priority.  Also find time early in the day.  Psalm 5:3, “…in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.” You don’t take the trip and then read the map, do you?  Spend time alone with God to begin your day.

The Proper Preparation

A quiet time is fellowship with a holy God. There are a few things you can do to be prepared for this time.  First, be physically alert.  Find a time when the cobwebs are out of your mind and you can think clearly.  Second, be mentally aware.  Be focused, and know He’s there.  Emotion doesn’t really have all that much to do with it.  And third, be morally pure and clean.  Some people don’t have a quiet time because they feel uncomfortable looking God in the face with sin in their lives.

The Proper Place

Find the place where you can focus.  Jesus said enter into your closet and pray (see Matthew 6:6) .  That simply means find a place of isolation where you can shut the door on the world and open the windows to heaven.  Jesus sought out places where He could be along, and so should you.

The Proper Provisions

In order to have an effective quiet time, you need the right tools.  Here are some tools I use:

a readable Bible – Invest in one with plenty of room to jot notes in the margins.

a prayer journal – Expect God to give you something and write it down.  Also use it to record things you’r re praying about.

a notepad – Write down your daily assignments.

The Proper Procedure

Finally, below are some recommend procedures to follow in your quiet time.

Get still and quiet.  The Bible says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Focus your mind on him.  Calm down, relax, and recognize His presence.  Take a deep breath and focus your thoughts on the Lord.

Get into the Word of God.  It’s better to start by reading the Bible than it is to start in prayer.  It is more important for you to hear from God, even than for God to hear from you.  God always knows all about you, but you need to know a lot more about him.

Read the Bible for quality and not quantity.  It’s good to have a goal to read the Bible through in year, or a similar goal; but that’s not the purpose of your quiet time.  Also, devotional books are wonderful.  But again, this is not the place for them.  This is the time when you simply read the Bible with an open mind.

Meditate.  As you focus on the Word of God and meditate, let it permeate you.  Ask:

Is there a command to obey?

Is there a promise to claim?

Is there a sin to avoid?

Is there a lesson to learn?

Is there a new truth to carry with me?

Record what God has given you.  Write down what God says to you and what He tells you to do.  It doesn’t have to be flowery.  You’re not writing it for publication or to impress other people.

Now you’re ready to pray.  When you pray, pour out your soul.  Be natural and honest with God.  Tell Him how you feel.  Pray out loud.  It keeps your mind on track and enables you to stay focused.

Begins to share out of your quiet time.  God did not make us to be reservoirs; He made us to be conduits.  Tell others what is God is showing you.

Finally, obey what God tells you.  Your spiritual train is running on two rails.  One is revelation and the other is obedience.  And if either rail stops, your train stops.  Learn to obey the  Word of God.

May these simple suggestions help you have a daily quiet time in the presence of our loving, almighty, powerful God.

 

Is Drawing Water for Camels Also My Responsibility?

rebekah-eliezer

“The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.  After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camel.” (Genesis 24:17-20)

This is how Abraham’s chief servant, who went out in search of a wife for Isaac, met Rebekah.  Just like his prayer that he offered before meeting her, this girl not only let the servant have a drink but also gave water to his camels until they had had enough to drink.  And that is how she was blessed by God and became a mother of the family of faith.

Watering camels might not be very hard compared to taking it as our own responsibility.

Even a woman considered most merciful might answer in this way:  “Drink, my lord.  And I’ll lend my jar so that you can draw more water for your camels too until they have had enough to drink.”

We tend to distinguish our own responsibilities and others’ responsibilities strictly. And we don’t want to move even a finger for a thing that someone looks responsible for and capable to do.

In fact, that might be justice in the worldly viewpoint.

However, this attitude is never enough to make us mothers of family of faith.

We should be able to show extremely-devoted love, which goes beyond distinction between others’ responsibilities and ours and is more than willing to carry theirs as ours.

Lord, please help us.

Why Basketfuls of Broken Pieces Are Always Left Over?

two-fish-and-five-loaves

“They are ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 14:20)

“They all ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 15:37)

Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21), and again fed four thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish on a different occasion (Matthew 15:32-39).

We wonder why basketfuls of broken pieces were always left after these miracles.  Is it because God is good at charity works but terrible at math?

No. Never.  It shows a very important characteristic of God’s love.  When he loves and blesses us, it is not that he does only as much as we are in need.  No.  He always gives us more than enough.  He is the most generous and cheerful giver.  When he blesses us, blessings are abundant and start to run over.  Praise the Lord.

There is a Way for Us to Foretell Our Future

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There is a way for us to foretell our future.

We can see our future when we see faith inside us now.

Each person comes to live according to his faith eventually.  That’s why no one can make any excuse at the last judgment.  A person’s fruit is in fact the fruit of his faith.

Do you want to have a bright future?  Then, increase your faith today.