Monday, November 14, 2011

"Man of His Word"--Commitments

Right now I am in the middle of “spring cleaning”. Why now? Because I have not had this much time at home in three years and it feels good to get things in order. Finally, I have decided to take care of my neglected baseboards, cluttered closets, and baggage galore from going back and forth to the hospital. I am working like crazy because order takes time. Cleaning is messy and rewarding. It takes all my effort to get dirty so it can be cleaned.

I was working in the kitchen and could not believe how messy my cabinets were down near the floor. Obviously, no one gets down on the floor and looks there but it was like a sore thumb to me. It was grimy. Things had built up, like the cleaner in the crevices, grease that was not cleaned up and so one. Slowly I made it to each cabinet and each place on the floor and was rewarded with a nice clean floor and cabinets. Once I surveyed the land, it felt good. I committed myself to the task and finished. Woohoo!

That was a choice. I could have pretended it was not there and eventually it would have been obvious to everyone. Or I could commit myself to the task and feel like I accomplished something. Choices. We have choices each day. Some of those choices get harder and harder to stand behind. The cleaning process starts and we get messy. God starts cleaning and we can get overwhelmed. I remember asking Him to do it but in the process we see things we never wanted to see. We start seeing the fruit if our choices and the changes in our heart.

The biggest change is the commitment. The commitment to press in and go deeper with God. When we start moving that luggage out so we can get closer to God, the process can get messy. We might have to deal with things that make us uncomfortable. The process can leave us wanting to throw in the towel, pack that luggage right back in the closet and move on. Simple, easy and we never even have to get messy. There are days that we are excited and happy to see the change but other times we are loaded down with our circumstances and choices that the luggage just will not even budge. We finally decided to pull out a piece of that luggage in the closet and thought better of it. The door is open and it will all start falling out.

Is the choice to throw it back in the closet? Or is the choice to finally get rid of junk inside this one suitcase? Do we want more or less? How many choices will we have to make to get that luggage cleaned out and put away? We have a choice to live with the hurt and pains of our past or we can choose to let them go with forgiveness and pressing in to God. In pressing in to God we seem to gain more than we ever set out with on that journey. The first step to walking on with God and growing to trust, love and believe in Him begins with commitment. The test of all love is commitment.

Remember Hannah. Hannah had a lot of baggage she was carrying up that hill to the temple. But this time she was committed.  She was committed to God, she was committed to her faith, and she was committed to whatever God would ask of her.

I think great things come from a pure passion of commitment. We have forgotten in our culture the value of our name. Men used to take pledges on their word. A man’s word was almost as good as a legal contract. His word, was his commitment.

Today, why don’t we look at one piece of luggage in that closet. That one piece may even have the word commitment on it. Just pull it out, slam the door closed quickly, lest any others fall. Read back on 1Samuel and see what God may be speaking to you this week. Just commit to one piece of baggage. You never know how easy it may be to just let It go.

But if you are struggling, call a friend, find someone you can talk to and see what God has for you. God does say seek wise counsel. I encourage you do so. Keep it all in perspective and balance.

Blessings, praying for you this week. Praying many, many blessings on your life.

In His Grip


Sunday, November 06, 2011

The journey is long, but the blessings are huge

We are continuing on with Hannah this week in 1Samuel 1. I hope you are seeing Hannah as a real person.  A woman hungering after God and the blessings she was lavished with by God. One of things I know God honors is a heart hungry after Him.  I am praying for you this week to hunger and thirst for the God.  To see Him in a new light.  A new perspective. So let's read on and see if God will show you something you might need to start this week.

One of the most extraordinary things I think happened on that day that Hannah "fell" on the altar was a new depth of understanding of  God's love.  Not only was she ready to receive God's love, she was ready to give it. This process of that final day on the altar took years.  Hannah had been tormented and tormented herself for years before she became broken and spilled out before the Lord.  Her journey was a long and painful one.  But the one thing that held her from becoming bitter , angry and despondent was her love for God.  I am sure that was an attraction for Elkannah as well. There is nothing more beautiful than a heart for God.  But those  years all Hannah saw was a worthless rag doll of a woman. How much more was being created in her heart than she ever knew.

Some days that is how my life feels, long and hard. Every day is a new challenge, a new test of my strength. I look over at other women that have time (and money) to just get their haircut and shaped. I have to fight off the despondency.  There are days that all I long  to just be able to get exercise in  and a schedule. My days consist of "Olivia" and then everything else. Please do not hear me complaining. I recognize the grace and gift of each and every day.  But some days, you do tend to wonder and want what others have. That is the human side of our nature. That is some of the imperfections that God always wants to work out in our life.

Elkannah's second wife is a great example of never allowing God to work through those inadequacies of life.  She was jealous, angry and bitter towards Hannah because she recognized something she did not have, Elkannah's heart. She did not turn her ways toward the Lord to allow Him to protect her from that hardness. She just became angry and bitter. I know that her heart was quite unattractive to Elkannah. 

Since Hannah's heart was turned toward the Lord. He protected her heart. He saw her hurt and pain and patiently waited for her to turn it all over to Him. As a parent, God knew how important it was for Hannah to reach out to Him. That she would learn to trust Him. In that process, she would develop a strong foundation and a heart of love that would birth a mighty leader, Samuel. She also created a bond of love for Samuel so strong that he did not resent her for leaving him at the temple but anticipated her arrival each year. Only someone who knows love can give that kind of love that surpasses our earthly flesh into a spiritual realm.

God delivered on His promise and Samuel was born.  But no longer did Hannah have that ache of hurt and shame.  She was walking with renewed purpose.  She could have doubted that God would not give her a child but honestly I think from that moment on, she really did not care.  The promise she received on the altar was a love that was unconditional, overwhelming, everlasting.

When she became pregnant, Hannah more than recognized the miracle inside of her. She saw Samuel as the fulfillment of a promise but I think that promise was also one to her, about her.  The love of her Abba Father. She promised to dedicate her child to him.  That dedication, that ability of a mother  to let go of her one and only son at the time.  That one promise she gave back so freely to the Lord by sending Samuel to the temple to be raised as a priest.  What a demonstration of love and sacrifice on her part. But because she was first loved…she was able to give love.  The miracle that she wanted in one child became the leader of a nation.   The journey of one woman being broken and spilled out, led to a voice of God to the nation of Israel.  A huge miracle.  God breathed and destined.

Wow.  We really never know what God has planned once we start walking towards him.  I am sure Hannah never knew God's intent was to birth Samuel as the leader of the nation.  She just wanted a child.  The reasons don't matter anymore, the journey does.  The journey led to so many other miracles. 

In our day, I wonder what Billy Graham's mother thought when she saw him speaking to the world about Christ. Did she have any idea that he would be such a strong voice for the gospel? I was able to meet Max Lucado at one time.  He was so different than what I expected.  I was expecting a very quite unassuming man.  He was full of personality and charismatic. He was funny, lots of energy, and completely about his family. I wonder if his mom had any idea that he would speak so eloquently about Christ through his writings. Those writings are profoundly penetrating to the heart of the matter.

 I have no idea what their parents were like but I know this, God has truly exemplified His love for His people through the word of God and in our day, through these men as well. Yes, there are many, many others, but when I think of love, God's love for His people, these are the men that come to mind.

Who comes to mind for you? Who shaped your love for God to allow you to hunger and thirst to know God more? 

Has God showed you something important about your child that  you need to nurture?  Has He shown you a character trait that the Holy Spirit reminds you to foster at times?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

When I look in the mirror what do I truly see?

We left last week about Forgiving ourselves. This week we are going to look at our ability to receive love. Is there a hindrance in your life holding you back from receiving. Let’s take a look at Hannah in 1Samuel 1:1-8.Ask God to open your heart to hear if there is anything holding you back.

Our first impression of love comes from our parents. How they nurture us, care for us, and are passionate about us starts the process of that small seed growing where we develop the idea of who we are as a person. That process also starts helping us understand how to receive love. If you have ever read the book "The Five Love Languages" you know that naturally God has instilled in us certain ways we receive love. In our growing years, those languages can be messed up a bit if our parents do not lay a solid foundation for us.

Some of us have grown up with incredible parents that have done nothing but love us unconditionally. They have walked through hard times with us and still given all they have to help us find our way. We learned to respect their hand of love in many different areas of our life. The foundation for us to receive love is strong. Our mistakes may be the culprit that hinders us.

Sadly, some of us may have not seen such love and grace from our parents. We have only seen the result of their inability to love and have grace. We have seen them lash out and hurt those around them because of their pain or unforgiveness. The toll this takes on our lives not only affects us, but those around us. Our view of a heavenly loving Father that is passionate about us seems unreachable, unattainable.

In the bible God specifically talks about the role parenting has in a child's life. The impact of their decisions directly affects a child's view of their world. Their ability to reach out and be in the family God created for them. Jesus said let the little children come unto to me. So He could love them. He knew their precious hearts were open to hear a word of love and receive it. In those tender years, we are sponges that absorb everything around us.

That love for a child is where we start with Hannah. Let's open up in prayer here and open our Bibles to 1Samuel 1:1 Hannah desperately wanted a child. She wanted to feel life growing in her like her counterpart, Elkannah's second wife. She dreamed of the day that she could see her child playing with the other children. When she could bath them, nurse them, kiss their hurt and soothe their pain. Her heart yearned for that day. One other note we should make here is that in Hannah's culture, if a wife did not produce children she was worthless and usually put away. Back then, women were more property than considered an individual person of value. A little more than slaves.

The first thing that stands out to me is in verse 1. The first statement in verse 1 is defining Elkannah's heritage, not Hannah's. Her lineage does not matter as much as Elkannah's. The first few verses define her husband more than Hannah. I find it interesting because it is Hannah's devotion that leads to greatness. Nevertheless, it also gives us insight into how Hannah may have been feeling about herself. Can you imagine being one of two wives? Then, the other wife is able to establish herself more than you because the only reason you are in the relationship with your husband is to produce children and yet, you can't. But, wait, the bible clearly states that Hannah was given double portions of everything because her husband loved her the most. He is trying so hard to show his undying devotion to her. As if to say, I know she gives me children but you give me love. 

Hannah, could not accept that love. Her heart was so hurt by not giving her husband the one thing that she thought he needed, a child. The other wife attacked worth daily and her society told her she had no value. All those things played over and over in her mind. So much that she could not see a true picture of her situation.

In reality, her husband was showing her for a very long time that all he needed was her. He gave her liberties as a wife she should not have had. He did these things because he loved her. He went as far as to give her double portions. His love and devotion was so obvious that the second wife was extremely jealous of Hannah. She was so jealous she taunted her.

But Hannah's pain did not allow her to see Elkannah's heart.  Her heart was in so much pain, rejection and lacked self worth that she could not truly see his love for her. She definitely could not receive it. Hannah's pain was finally to much to bear.

I believe when she laid on the altar that last time, she gave it all up to God. She drug her suitcase through those halls. I can see her lugging it behind her. Each step, as it bangs against another step. Her last bit of strength gone from the heaviness in her heart. But, she finally takes that last step and just throws herself on the altar. Her weeping and moaning are so intense the priest believes she is drunk.

This day though, Hannah will not be daunted.  She will not leave this place with all that baggage. She is ready for the hurting and the pain to stop.  She is taking all she has and throwing it on the altar, busted and broken. That luggage is not going anywhere but here today. Here on the altar to be placed before her God. She is finally asking Him to help rebuild the fractures of her heart. Those remote places that need a healing hand that only he can heal. A place to re-paint the picture of her life through His eyes and not her own. As she stood to talk with the priest she felt just a bit lighter. She was much more confident. She had more love than when she walked up those steps. This day, she had called on her God to hear her heart and He did. He overwhelmed her with His love. The kind of love that cast out fear, that heals the brokenness and frees us from the chains of our past, our guilt, and our unforgiveness. He took her heart and gave her all the love she needed. This day, after that long journey, Hannah could finally receive it.

Today, why don't we take a moment and just get quiet with God. See if He has anything He wants to show us. We might not be weeping now, we may even be in a place that we know all of this but, let's just take a moment and hear. Let's open up our heart's and let the Holy Spirit speak.
When Samuel was born, I am sure that the love Hannah had for him was overwhelming. She loved him with all her heart. She gave all she was as a mother to give him a foundation that would serve him well as a leader of a nation. Hannah had endured some heart wrenching moments in her life but those moments were lessons to show her what love was truly all about.