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Archive for April, 2008

As I was traveling through the back roads of Idaho yesterday, I started thinking about Fruit Inspectors. You know, those individuals that inspect the quality of fruit before it gets shipped out to grocery stores. They look for shape, color, disease, bug infestation and of course, taste. They have an eye for quality, or at least that’s what they are trained to do. It’s nice to know that rotten produce is eliminated and doesn’t get passed on to the consumer…well, most of the time.

I too, at different times during my Christian walk, have assumed this role of fruit inspector—checking out the produce of other Christians. I got really good at “discerning” quality spiritual fruit! When the fruit failed to measure up to my standard, I either confronted the individual or distanced myself from having contact with that person. Ouch. Yep, I was very proud of myself for having great fruit inspection abilities! I took great comfort in being able to distinguish between the fruit of a “mature” Christians and that of an “immature” Christian. Hey, someone had to do it…

Really? Ever been around Christians who are inspecting your spiritual fruit? It’s a pretty ugly experience because at once you realize they have forgotten the Lord’s commandment to love, instead they are passing judgment on the quality of your life. It makes for a very sour “church” experience. It’s an environment where monitoring the behavior of other Christians has become the focal point of their belief. Rigidity follows, legalism ranks, and we look down our noses at those who do things we have defined as un-Christian. Skirt length, hair length, beverage limitations, forms of speech, food selections, and other well-defined codes of conduct become the “important evidence” of what a Christian looks like.

Well, I think the Lord is very clear about not calling us into the role of fruit inspector. That’s His job and He’s quite good at it. As He says in John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” His conviction is powerful and always full of grace. Sure, I don’t mean to say that He doesn’t use other believers to point out error—He has on many occasions in my life—but He’s not called us individually to carry out that task as a matter of daily course. We do so under His leadership, “with a spiritual of humility”.

When I fell into this “self-assigned” role as fruit inspector, I had lost sight of God’s grace. I lost sight of His unconditional love for each child of His, myself included. I forgot about His ability to shape and fashion my heart into His image. I didn’t know that as the Vine and Vinedresser Jesus is the One Who is most committed to bearing fruit in me. I thought it was up to me and if it was up to me, I better get cracking…and get other Christians cracking too! No, He’s called us to “bear” fruit not “create” it. We bear fruit when we abide in Him… “All of Him in all of me,” as Major Ian Thomas so aptly put it.

It sort of takes pride right out of the picture, doesn’t it?

Today’s Grace Tapestries recording, Fruit Inspectors stretches this idea a little further. I pray He stirs your heart to trust Him all the more with your life and those around you. This link will take you there: Fruit Inspectors or it’s listed on the right.

Abiding in Him…

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Gracious Uncertainty

It’s amazing how you will read something over the years and then suddenly God illumines your eyes to the mystery of it. O to be His faith-walker who is content in all the God-ordered uncertainty over our lifetime. Let it be said of us, dear Lord.

Your friend,
Deb

April 29, 2008
Gracious Uncertainty – Oswald Chambers

. . . it has not yet been revealed what we shall be . . . —1 John 3:2
Our natural inclination is to be so precise— trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next— that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life— gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God — it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3 ). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1 ), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in— but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him. ~

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Sometimes I find myself thinking what it would have been like to live in the first century. Imagine being in the same room as the disciples when Jesus suddenly appeared before them. Boom! There He is! Imagine seeing His face again when you thought He was deader than dead—the worst kind of “dead” because what He promised was so magnificent and then He breathed His last breath and it was over…all over. You grieved down to your toenails everyday since His death, and then there He stood in all His glory (more a figure of speech because He had not received His glorified body yet).

And then the amazing, most monumental transformation that has ever taken place on the face of the earth, and in the heart of man, Jesus revives your spirit by coming to live inside you. The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, Comforter, Teacher, and Life living inside you… “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” suddenly makes sense, perfect sense.

He breathes on you, just like God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the Breath of Life and for the first time life-giving air filled his lungs. Adam became a living being. Now life-giving air fills your spirit. And you also: alive to God again. Restored, renewed, alive in Jesus Christ…Jesus Christ alive in you.

You look around the room and the same thing is happening to everyone else. Each individual is aware of the same life-giving Spirit, the Indwelling Life of Christ, in the other. Each of you are saying, one to the other, the most holy, edifying words you have ever spoken or heard—you are describing God in words you didn’t even know you knew. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty pales in comparison to the weight of the words you heard and said. Did He make the words alive too?

Meaning and significance found their final resting place that day, all searching and wondering over. No more identity crises; you know who you are. No more doubting as to whether God loves you. No need to have the approval of others. No need for the perfect spouse, perfect job, perfect house, perfect car…oops, or perfect donkey-pulling cart. Home at last, at least now, in your heart. Then later, Face to face.

I wonder if we really understand what happened when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. What happened inside you when you said, “Yes” to Jesus? What did He breathe into you on that day? What did He do inside your spirit to make you alive to God? What is hugely different about you, and what is the unchanged—and yet, even the unchanged is hugely different because of what He did inside you? Have you thought about it? What does it mean that you are a Christian? Please write to me your thoughts… I want to hear what the Living, Breathing, Indwelling Jesus is doing in your life. How is He moving you beyond yourself to see Him?

Today’s audio recording continues this idea a bit further with a little time travel theme. I can’t help to think how far we (the Church) have come, or haven’t come, in our knowledge of Christ as our life. May He revive us according to His word.  Pray for revival, beloved, pray for an awakening in His Church, in our lives.

To listen you will find the link here: A Bad Dream or on your right under LISTEN TO:

I pray we live in the reality of Christ as our Life today, tomorrow… empowered by His Holy Spirit to the praise of His Glory.

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If you grew up in a faith-practicing home, you no doubt remember all those years of “saying grace” as a family. I was talking about this with one of my brothers yesterday and we recalled the time when our parents asked our cousin to say grace. He bowed his head and with great sincerity said, “Grace. Amen.” Quite literally, he was right.

It blows me away how God speaks grace into our lives through the faith of those around us, particularly the older saints around us. I recount the faith of my parents and grandmother in today’s recording, Saying Grace. When I look back over my life I am deeply aware of their influence in my walk with Jesus. I have so many fond memories of them speaking into my life the mighty grace of God, through His word and by their faith in action.

I pray God gives you an opportunity today to communicate gratitude to someone who has shared the life of Christ with you—perhaps a father, mother, or grandmother. There’s nothing like a word of encouragement to demonstrate our love. God speed, beloved!

To listen to the audio mp3 click this link: Saying Grace or find the link on your right under LISTEN TO.

May you abound in Him today!

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Perhaps you’ve noticed the trend in Christendom to downplay the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, some legitimate and rather convincing reasons are given for this shift (Postmodern, Emergent, Seeker Sensitive churches), but I wonder where it’s all leading… What is the global impact on the health of the church if we soft pedal the finer points of man’s sin nature and God’s blessed atonement through the death of His Son?

The more I spend time in the Scriptures, the more I become aware of the many great omissions in our presentation of the Gospel these days. Aside from the fact that we have become almost entirely egocentric in our consumption of truth, we have largely avoided the reality of the life of Christ in the life of the believer. We also seem to minimize the concept that nothing good dwells in our flesh, but that’s another story… Instead, we find a plethora of Christian books on how to feel better about ourselves. [Stop and think about how strange it is for a Christian to even go there.] I wonder if there is a connection between the omissions and the inclusion of cheaper shades of truth?

I believe there is a direct connection.

If the Gospel message we convey is missing vital truth, the truth will be less vital in the life of the believer. The believer then looks to humanism for more vitality—filling in the gaps with self-effort. I think we’re there. I think that’s what’s happened in many of our churches and Christian organizations. I think we bought the lie that God isn’t enough.

Today’s recording, There’s No Secret, offers a few more thoughts on this topic. Of course, it’s only 3.5 minutes long, so keep in mind it’s just a tickle of the thought. 😉 The audio file is listed on your right under LISTEN TO and in this link: There’s No Secret

I pray He prompts us to think differently about the Gospel message and about our Lord Jesus Christ. That all begins with “being open and laid bare” before the God who is able to change our mind. That’s exactly where I long to be… We ask you to search our hearts, Lord. And Father, deepen our desire to glorify you.

Hebrews 4:13
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

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Once you’ve done your own thing, and then come to realize that doing your own thing only leads to emptiness or ruin, you are then very clear about never wanting to do your own thing again. It’s not that you are trying to avoid the misery that doing your own thing brings about; it’s that something has become very clear to you—God is leading and He is doing His very, very good thing in your life. You finally figure out that as long as you are doing your thing, God is unable to fully live His life through you, as you. Doing your own thing interferes with Him doing what He longs to accomplish!

The Lord’s way is living in full dependence upon Him. This is the rub of the Christian life is it not? My way or His way? How shall we then live?

So, when you don’t know what to do (this is the place where you ordinarily did your own thing), you must wait upon the Lord. It doesn’t mean you are idle or brain dead, it means that you are mindful of Him and are eagerly looking to Him for His direction. It will pain you (perhaps it will also pain others around you) to wait upon Him, because you’ll be thinking you ought to be doing something…even if it’s your own thing. But let me encourage you to not do your own thing—please don’t create your own light, fan the flames of dying embers, or gather wood chips for a bonfire. Wait, simply, wait with your whole heart upon the Lord.

While you wait, wait patiently for Him. See the waiting as His order of activity for you today. Today I am waiting. God bless you, dear one! ~ Deb

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We are not naturally wired to wait upon the Lord. We hardly like waiting upon another human being, much less the Lord, whom we cannot see.

The topic of waiting always reminds me of how the Israelites grew tired of waiting for Moses, so they built for themselves a golden calf to worship. They made conclusions about his absence and took matters in their own hands (Exodus 32). They miscalculated. They confused Moses’ absence with inactivity.

How often do we make conclusions about God’s silence (seems like inactivity) and take matters into our own hands? We don’t see Him acting on our behalf, so we assume He’s not acting. In response to “our inaccurate, limited assessment” we go to work on fixing whatever we think God isn’t doing.

I’ve been there so often. I’ve even said to myself, “Well, if God’s not going to do something about this, I will!” O dear. Pure foolishness and pride.

Growing impatient with the Lord is never a good thing to do, because it always ends in grief and sorrow. When we go to work on getting rid of a situation that God has ordained, we run headlong into greater challenges. In other words, we muck things up, and usually mess things up royally.

Isaiah 50:10-11 is a helpful picture for me on this very topic, “Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you have from My hand: You will lie down in torment.” When we get tired of waiting in God’s ordered darkness and create our own light, we will end up in a darker darkness.

God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). We can be assured that the circumstances standing between us and where we’d like to be (our goals, our desires), are circumstances God has ordered for His good purposes. In our efforts to solve “the problem” we may well be getting rid of the very thing God wants to use to mature us, to bless others, and ultimately, to bring glory to His name.

Waiting upon the Lord is the last thing we want to do sometimes, but it is the best thing we can do all the time! The mp3 audio file, Wait Upon the Lord, is located at your right under LISTEN TO or this link: Wait Upon the Lord

May God bless you as you wait upon Him.

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