Musings of Seasons

seasonsHere we are. Fall is fully upon us. A change of seasons means a change of focus. School is in full swing bringing with it the consistency and craze of its schedule all at once.

We often talk of the change of seasons. The change of high-school to college life. The change from single fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants to marriage and sudden responsibility. The change of a loved one passing away. The change of a close friend moving to another city, or perhaps you yourself moving. Seasons come and go. The only thing consistent with seasons is that you know that they will change.

No one says it as well as King Solomon:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (emphasis added).

He goes on to give examples of what there is a certain time for; living, dying, laughing, weeping, the list goes on. However we might wish it, we cannot hold on to a season forever. No matter how much we may love spring, it will always turn to summer. Children love the Christmas season and are always sad to see it pass so quickly.

In these musings I turn to the Scriptures. One might ponder on the lives of some of the heroes of our faith such as Joseph, Paul, Moses, Elijah, Daniel; even some of those less well beloved but that can be learned from: Saul, Samson, Aaron, too many to list here. Every character that we have enough information to study more than merely basic details of their lives have recorded of them different seasons of life. These include good and bad, easy and hard, trial and temptation, victory and joy.

You will notice with me the lack of one thing in these accounts of our heroes. The season is not exalted. The time that they go through is not highlighted so much as their response in them. It is shown recorded for us on many accounts a) how they heard the voice of the Lord and b) how they responded to it. In the instances that God did not speak directly to them, we are only given their response to what they know to be right. What made them either a champion to us or an example of what not to do was how they responded in the season they were in.

Solomon responded well in the hard time. His father was dead. He was given one of the greatest kingdoms of all times to rule. God came and spoke with him. All he wanted was to rule his people well. But by the end of his life, when things were perhaps a little too easy, he turned from his God. His response was less than desirable and he is one that is said to have not “finished well”, to use a Christian colloquialism. (1 Kings 3,11)

Daniel is one of our great champions. As a young man he is dragged from his home. Quite possibly, his family was killed before his eyes. He is taken as a captive and put in the palace of a foreign ruler, his fate yet to be decided. What does he do? He holds to the high standards of Judaism that he was so carefully taught even within his own corrupt society. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 (emphasis added) It would have been SO easy for him to have put his head down and done whatever was told him, but he refused.
Later in his life when confronted with death or a mere change of daily habit (prayer). He chose the former. Why? Because to him  his response to the Lord in a season of hardship was of far greater weight than anything man could do to him. (Daniel 6)

We spend so much of our time talking about the season of life that we are in. We make excuses for ourselves and allow other to do it for us as well. Could you imagine if Daniel had made an excuse for himself? “I just lost my family.” “I don’t know the customs of Babylon.” “I’m just emotional.” That last one makes us smile to ourselves. Yes, our greatest champions of our faith were human just as we are. A thousand emotions barraged them in their darkest hour. Doubt, condemnation, discouragement, even hopelessness is recorded on more than one occasion. But what was their ultimate response?

David turned to his great Shepherd and sang (Psalm 57:1). Daniel turned to his King and prayed (Daniel 6:10). Elijah turned to his God and requested fire and rain (1 Kings 18). Paul got up from the pile of stones and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

What will your response be in this season? Not to your pastor. Not to your spouse or children or roommate. Not in your wishful thinking. But in your heart of hearts to your God. What will your resolve be? How will you choose to respond in the hard seasons? The good? Some of us know how to respond when its hard but as soon as the pressure lightens, we go our own way. Some of us do really well as long as it is smooth sailing, but when the storm blows we sink.

Choose to respond to the Lord. Choose to finish well. Don’t long for another season. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. What if tonight you stood before your Lord and Maker? How would you give account of the life you have lived? Would you hear the coveted words, “Well done!” or instead, “I never knew you.” Hear the call of your Lord. Run to win! Run to finish well. Don’t let there be dark seasons that you don’t want to give account for. Turn your eyes to Him and give Him your heart.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” I Corinthians 9:24

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

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Don’t Let the Passion Burn Out

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We are Christians, called by His name. He has saved us from a horrible fate and given us, not just life, but abundant life.

But do you ever find yourself growing hard? It becomes a burden to go to the extra prayer service. You don’t want to go to church today. It becomes more of a duty than a joy. You forget to pray more than you remember to. The Bible doesn’t hold the same charm that it used to.

I was reading in Hebrews this morning and it brought some light:

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12-13

I see a progression in this passage. It starts with unbelief and goes to a hard heart. The very next passage talks about rebellion toward God which is the next step. You don’t start out with a hard or rebellious heart toward God, but maybe you don’t believe Him like you used to. Maybe you’ve had things that you have held onto for so long without seeing results that you have finally let go. This can cause a hard heart.

It also talks about being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is deceptive. Why? Because the enemy of your soul would have you believe that it is never really as bad as it seems. It wants to hold on and not be dealt with, just shoved under the rug. Sin always wants to lessen the consequences. That is where it is deceptive. “It’s not that bad. Don’t worry about it.” But sin will separate you from God and it will never tell you that. Deal with sin and don’t let it deceive you.

Then there is unbelief. What are the things that are hard to believe God for? Where is it hard to give Him reign in your life? Build your faith in those areas. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) Find scriptures on those areas. Read them over and over. Post them on your bathroom mirror. Say them out loud.

Don’t let sin or unbelief dampen your passion for God. Take God at His word. Find Scriptures for your life and pray them over your life. Let nothing separate you from God. Don’t let your heart grow hard in unbelief, but keep your faith alive through the Word of God.

“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19

“Come to Me”

220px-Bullock_yokesWe have just come out of the busiest time of the year. Between family coming into town, shopping, fewer days at work, and busier days at work; it can be easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. But it is imperative that we deal with the stress in a way that pleases the Lord.

What keeps us going through the stressful times? What makes us, as Christians, different from the rest of the world? We know where to go. We know where to take our stress. We can’t afford to take it out on our coworkers or family. We have to take it to the One who takes it away.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This has to be one of the most comforting phrases in the Bible: “Come to Me.” When you are tired, come. When you are burdened, come. When you are overwhelmed, come. When you are stressed and life is crazy He still says, “Come.” Come to the maker and lover of your soul, He is gentle.

John 1 says that Jesus is the Word made flesh. So when we come to Him, we come to Him either in prayer or in the Word. I believe this is what He was talking about when He said, “Learn from Me.” We learn His ways and His principles when we read the Word. He teaches us through His Word how to live to please Him.

The Word of God is such a comfort and a steadying force when life is crazy. It is a rock when everything else is moving. And if you let it, it will change your life.

That word labor is to grow weary or tired; exhausted with toils, burdens or grief; to labor with wearisome effort; it speaks of physical labor. Wow! He knows where we are at. There is never an assumption that our lives will be perfect or easy. He just asks us to come so that He can refresh our souls.

Heavy laden is another phrase that speaks to many of us. It means to place a burden upon, to load. Sometimes we carry a heavy load; grief, condemnation, guilt, shame… the list is endless. But Jesus wants to take those away. He has relief that nothing else in this world holds.

In busy seasons of life, I always come back to this verse. “Take My yoke.” His yoke; a yoke is not usually something that you want to put on. They were big wooden harnesses used for putting oxen at the plow. That doesn’t sound fun or restful in the slightest. But it is different with Jesus. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. It is worlds better than any load you could carry.

There is a more than just a suggestion in His words, “Learn from Me.” I believe that it is a challenge for us. Take His yoke and learn how He would have you live life. He is gentle. He isn’t a harsh task-master. He is lowly in heart. That word lowly is humble. He is gentle and humble. He has grace for those willing to learn. Give yourself to it and you will never be the same.

Read it in the Amplified Translation:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

So when life is stressful or overwhelming; when work is hard or physically exhausting; when you are ready to give up and throw in the towel, come. Take up His yoke. Learn His way. Lay your burdens down and let Him give you rest.

New Year’s Resolutions

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Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.”

New years: a time for resolutions, weight-loss, and new beginnings…

I saw a set of pictures the other day that depicted it perfectly. The first was labeled ‘December 31st’ and was of an empty gym. The second was of the same gym packed full of people, labeled ‘January 1st’.

The start of a new year gives us the feeling of newness. But by February or March the gym will be empty again, the goals set on the shelf, and diets abandoned. And we will wait eleven months to try and start again.

My challenge this new year is to set goals that are both measurable and attainable. Along with that, I am making daily steps toward those goals. For example: say I want to improve my skill on the piano and keep my house cleaner. That is an example of a “New Year’s Resolution”, but they are not measurable so how will I know when I attain them?

My next step will be to make them measurable. Piano: I want to be able to sit down and sight-read any mid-level piece without having heard it before. This is a more measurable goal. Now, to make daily steps to meet this goal; I am making a plan to practice 3-4 times a week and to practice sight-reading specifically. Maybe I will go and purchase a new mid-level music book. I am slowly working toward the goal that I set.

The other resolution was to keep my house cleaner. How do I measure when my house is ‘cleaner’? cleaner than what? So, I start simple. This was a hard one to set a goal to, so I made daily goals. Every day I make two tasks for myself to complete before I go to bed. Depending on my work schedule, they will be easier or more difficult. This last week one day I set for myself to wash my sheets and put away all the clean laundry, another day was to complete two loads of laundry and deep clean my tile floors. This way I can look back over the last week and see what I have accomplished.

On a side note, when you set goals and tasks to work toward them, it can be very effective to have a partner in them. My husband keeps me accountable for the things that I have said that I want to improve in. It can be a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a parent, coworker… anyone that you are close to. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to help you hit your goals.

Back to the verse at the beginning of this post; I was challenged to excel in what I do. There aren’t many things that I am really good at. It is easy to get to a point and get comfortable knowing what little I do. But I want to be excellent in what I do. I want to stand before kings. I don’t want to be like the rest of America that will abandon their New Year’s Resolutions in a month or two.

Let me challenge you to stick to it. It is worth the work. Set those goals, make them measurable and attainable. Check back in May and see how far you’ve come.

Has He Forgotten Me?

Do you ever think that God has forgotten about you? He must be busy because your gifts aren’t being used. “God, I’ve been in this place for so long!” You fill in the blank. I’ve been in school. I’ve been in this season. I’ve been… for so long.

David is one of the most famous men in the Bible. The mighty conquering king of Israel, there are many stories of him and his mighty men. But where did this ‘mighty man’ start? Tending sheep.

It would be so easy for him to think that there was nothing too special about his life. He was the youngest of eight boys. Think about that alone. The stereotype of the youngest of eight boys; he must’ve been pretty scrappy. He had to have been able to hold his own, but he probably took the brunt of his brothers.

From the description in the Bible, he most likely had red hair. The Bible doesn’t say anything about how tall he was, only that his oldest brother had very promising looks. He spent his days in the pastures tending sheep. His days were very lonely.

What did he do with those days alone? He became the best at what he did. He used his quiet times in the pasture to become an excellent marksman and musician. He was probably the best shepherd that Jesse ever had. He was willing to take a lamb out of the mouth of a lion and a bear.

Then one day, his life changed… or did it?

1Samuel 16:11-13 “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.’ So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”

He was anointed king, but he wouldn’t become king for several years. The Holy Spirit was on him from that day forward. But he spent time in the palace playing for the king who was crazy.

What? But God, he was ready!! His days of preparation were over, right? He spent all that time taking the back seat to his older brothers. It was his time to shine. But God sees what we cannot.

David was a man forged through the fire. He went through trials that most of us would not have the courage to face. How did he stay on course? How did he stay focused and not throw in the towel?

David was a man who knew his God. He knew that God was faithful and that His Word doesn’t fall to the ground. In his lowest times, he turned to God.

God picked David, the least likely of his family because God knew that in times of fire he would respond. God knew that in David was the heart of a champion, not because he was tall and good looking, not because he was strong. But God knew that when he was most needed, David would respond to Him.

David didn’t waste his time. He was a young man of excellence. It was the character that he chose in the pasture that made him the man that he was in the wilderness. And it was the character that he chose in the wilderness that made him the man that he was in the palace.

What is the character that you are building? Don’t take the pasture seasons for granted. God knows your name. He’s got your number. He knows when He will need you. But are you becoming the person that He can count on when He needs you?

Don’t waste the time that God has given you. Each season is preparation for the next. This lifetime is merely preparation for all eternity. How you treat today affects your tomorrow. Don’t take it for granted.

Psalms 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

How Do You Smell?

What do you smell like? Not physically, but what do people think when they see you? What impression do you leave behind? What aroma is left in the room?

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

Not everyone will like you if you are diffusing the fragrance of Christ. Why? Because it reminds them that they are perishing. But does that make you change the way you approach people? Do you try to change your approach to please them? Or swing to the other extreme and not care at all?

There are others that will be attracted to you just because of the life that is in you. Like John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” When you walk in the light, you shine and people can see the life of Christ through you. You become a breath of fresh air wherever you go.

We want the fragrance of His knowledge to be diffused everywhere we go. We want people to know that we are Christians and that we follow Him. We don’t want to be among those that hide our lights so as not to offend.

So often we leave a bad smell in people’s nostrils. “Here comes that Christian. They are always so rude.” Or “They are so picky with their order and don’t tip well.” We are the light of the world, but how are we shining? Do we let Christ shine through us in the coffee shop and in the restaurant and in the grocery store? Or do we forget who we represent when it comes to how we treat people in service positions?

Working in customer service, there are people that I see that I would have no idea are Christians by their actions, only by the fact that they invite everyone to their church. Are they successful? No! No one wants to go to their church because of the way they are treated.

We aren’t selling anything. They way we live our lives will attract or repel people. We don’t have to be nervous like a door-to-door salesman that is selling something that no one wants. Going to someone’s door that knows nothing about us and hoping that they will buy what we have. People need what we have and we can’t be afraid that they will see the light and be repelled. But we can’t repel them by the way we treat them.

What do you smell like today? Do you carry the sweet fragrance of Christ? Or the stench of self-centeredness and selfish focus?

I would love to hear your thoughts today.

Stand

I apologize for the lack of postings the last few days. Life gets crazy sometimes. I was thinking yesterday about this verse. It has to be one of my all time favorites.

1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

This verse is set in context of Jesus’ victory over death and how we will inherit immortality. So, because we will inherit the incorruptible, be steadfast. Keeping heaven in mind: be immoveable. Remember that you will stand before Him: abound in His work. Knowing…

It can be so easy to skip straight to the end of the verse and take the promise. My hard work won’t be in vain! But wait. First, be steadfast. Be immoveable.

Do your standards change depending on who you are with? Do you have standards? Do you hold yourself to a higher standard than others do?

Be immoveable. Can people talk you out of the Bible? I have seen it over and over where a young person will have a conviction from the Bible, a verse that they want to live by. But before long, someone comes along that has a different opinion or doesn’t agree or thinks it’s a little too radical. Or sometimes, they just want to argue. And they will argue or reason the person out of their conviction.

Can you be moved on what is Biblically right or wrong? Not by opinion, but by the Bible. Things that the Bible states very clearly and strongly, do you sway on them? Or are you willing to stand against the tide of popular opinion and stand on truth?

The last part of the verse is about abounding in His work. Build His Kingdom. Build His House. And in all your building, as you stand steadfast, immoveable and unshakeable, know that it is not for nothing.

We can’t grab the promise without keeping the conditions. Let’s keep the conditions and live to please the Lord. Let’s stand on the Word of God and not be swayed by opinion.