Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Sure-Fire, No-Fail Cure for Whining

I sat down for quiet time this morning and an immediate litany of complaints popped into my mind. That's no way to start a conversation with the Lord, so I opened my Bible and asked God to help me past my whining to a better focus.

I didn't have to read far to find it in the Model Prayer.

"Pray, then in this way,
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, 
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen." Matthew 6:9-13 nasb

As I read those words, it became abundantly clear that "I" am not the focus. It's our Heavenly Father. Thy name. Thy kingdom. Thy will. Thy provision. Thy forgiveness. 

The only thing about "me" in the model prayer is my hunger and my sin.

It's a game changer when you want to whine.

Maybe you, like me, are in a season of long days, hard work, and unrelenting warfare. Maybe you're in a season of sorrow or pain. Maybe you're just tired and cranky.

Whatever the situation, the way to relieve our whining is to pray as Jesus prayed, taking the focus off ourselves and firmly on the One who keeps the stars in the heavens and the planets rotating around the sun. He's the One who has a plan for our welfare and not for calamity. The One who has plans for our future and our hope.

Our Lord, God Almighty.

There's a song that sums it up pretty well: 

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus. 
Look full in His wonderful face. 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim 
in the light of His glory and grace." 
(Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, public domain)

Those words are as true now as they were when Helen Lemmel wrote them 94 years ago. When the things of this world press down and wear away at us, let us turn our focus to Christ. All those cares and concerns will pale in comparison to the precious love of Jesus.

Take heart, dear ones. He has not only overcome the world, He has overcome all the heartache and trouble of our lives, as well.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Heavenly Perfection

Friday, November 4, 2016

Heavenly Perfection

I've had heaven on my mind lately, and it's sounding very attractive. One moment of Bible study after another has pointed heavenward. 

This is "Conference Week" around our office. Global Outreach's annual missions conference is this weekend, and missionaries have arrived off and on all week. 

They were faceless names until their arrival, even though I'd heard stories about them from the other Home Office staff. One after another, they've walked in the building and I've recognized them from their picture. They've recognized me from mine. All the weeks of praying for them have suddenly come together when I've seen their beautiful faces.

We've hugged and exclaimed, "I've heard so much about you." and "I love you already." We've sat and chatted about life and ministry, hopes and dreams. Every time, I've thought, "This is what heaven will be like," and I've longed to enter those beautiful gates.

Today, I read a verse I've read many times before, but it took on a new, and heavenly, meaning. 

"Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew    5:48

In the preceding verses, Jesus had told His followers to be more than the Pharisees.  Be intentional about getting rid of your sin. Don't resist the ones who are evil, but turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Give. Love. Even love your enemies. Do what's hard, and do it to honor our Heavenly Father. 

In the process, a wonderful thing will happen. We will become "finished", complete, mature. 

It's the idea behind "finishing school", in which teenaged girls were (traditionally) taught those things that "finish" their training in preparation for taking their place in society. The rough edges are worn off and they learn to be mature, gracious, kind, equipped for adult womanhood.

When we love as God loves, even loving those who are least lovely, we make a start at being "finished", mature, complete. We begin to be a little more like God.

As I read that verse this morning, I realized that heaven is a place where we are "finished". God loves us all, even at our unlovely worst. Like the missionaries who've arrived this week, He "loves us already". Even when we are unlovely. 

Heaven will be filled with that kind of unconditional, agape love. 

Of course we'll have arrived in a place where there will be no sin or unloveliness, so, if we want to be "finished" for heaven, we need to get started now. Take a look around. There's plenty of unloveliness into which we can take God's love.

Even though we're not yet perfect, let's act as if we are. Let's love as if we've already arrived at maturity. In the process, we might find that God uses our acts of love to rub off our rough edges and make us more like Him.

Mature. Complete. Perfect. Ready for heaven.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The All Important IF
#mature #Jesus

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The All-Important IF

Spiritual warfare, and the tactics of the enemy of our souls, has been on my mind a lot lately. This ministry of intercession and recruiting people to pray is one that the devil particularly dislikes, so it's a frequent target.

This morning, I read the account of the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4. You probably know this passage. Jesus had just completed forty days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. The devil came to him three times with temptations. Every one of the temptations began with the taunt "IF". If you're the Son of God.

I hadn't thought much about that word until today, when I finally realized that there was no "if" in the equation. Jesus knew He was the Son of God. So did the devil. 

The enemy was simply taunting Jesus by questioning the truth they both knew. In a way, he was saying to Jesus, "How sure are you?"

It's the same tactic he uses with us. If you've been made free from ... prove it by... If you're a child of God... If you have authority... 

Jesus, however, has already countered the attack. "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36) "If any man is in Christ, He is a new creature." (2 Cor. 5:17) "Behold, I have given you authority over... all the power of the enemy..."(Luke 10:19)

The enemy may stand against us, our faith, and our work, but, IF the words of Christ are true, the enemy can only have victory if we concede defeat in a battle that Jesus has already won.

Our victory in battles of spiritual warfare depends on how well we know the words of Christ and how certain we are of their veracity.

If the words are Christ are true... and they are, we can stake our lives (and all our battles) on that truth. He died, was buried, and rose again to defeat sin and death. To conquer the grave. To deliver the fatal, crushing blow to the head of the serpent, the enemy of our soul. 

We serve a victorious king and we have a defeated enemy.

No matter what lies he whispers today, let's resist. Stand firm. Remember Whose we are and Who has won the victory. Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Battles will come. Struggles are inevitable. Defeat is entirely optional. We have a conquering King and we fight, not in our own power, but in His. 

"Take heart. I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Breaking the Burn Ban and Taming the Fire of Hell
Other posts you may have missed: A Month of Gratitude: The One Who Always Keeps His Promises and When Good Comes From Evil
#warfare #spiritualwarfare 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Breaking the Burn Ban and Taming the Fire of Hell

I was sitting in my usual seat at the board of aldermen meeting last night when Cody Martin burst through the door into the town hall. 

Immediately, Jan said, "Cody, we're in a meeting."

"Someone has a fire in the fire pit." There was such urgency in his voice that we all turned around to look at him. "I saw it when I drove past the park."

It took a few seconds for the implications to sink in. The fire pit in the park is underneath a wooden pergola. A wooden fence is separated from the pergola by mere inches. A fire that was visible from the road had to be big.

We've had a state-wide burn ban for weeks. No open fire is allowed. The fine is $500. The risk is enormous. There have already been problems with fire in our area. A man died in a fire that got out of control. Acres have burned. 

The realization of the potential the fire presented hit us like a ton of bricks. We know what happens out West when fire gets started. We don't want that kind of devastation in our town. 

"Send a policeman down there," someone said. The chief was out of town for a class. We had no one to send. 

There was a scramble as we all jumped up from our chairs. Someone made a motion to end the meeting, someone else seconded it, and we voted as we headed out the door. We might not be able to arrest a fire bug, but we were going to do something.

We all converged on the park. At the fire pit area, I had to step back. The pit was filled with wood. The flames were enormous. Nearly as tall as my head. 

I demanded that the fire be put out immediately. Cody came with water in a jug. Malcolm unlocked the water faucet. Jan called the fire department.

Everyone did something. (Yes. My actions were the least helpful of all.)

Cody had the fire almost out when it flamed up again.

Curt Clayton came with the fire truck. They unrolled the hose, stretched it to the pergola, and pumped water on the fire until it was completely out. 

The timely action of a young man who could see a risk and take action prevented what could have been a catastrophe for the people in our town, none of whom knew the drama that was unfolding. I wish more people were as responsible about the danger of fire as Cody Martin. If I'd had a medal to pin on him last night, I'd have done it. 

I still can't get the thought of fire out of my mind this morning, and I'm reminded of what James wrote. 

"So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among the members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell....With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God..." James 3:3-6, 9 nasb

The danger of fire is very fresh in my mind. That my tongue can be even more dangerous is a horrifying though. And yet, I know it's true.

I've been careless with my tongue more times than I want to remember, but I'm choosing to do better. To guard my words. To give my tongue to Jesus, who is the Only One who can tame it.

Today, join me as we take a look at the fire of hell in our own tongues. Do we bless God and curse our fellow men with it? Are we careful about every word? If we need some divine tongue-taming, and we probably do, let's invite our Lord to take control over our tongues and sweeten our words with the gentleness of His Spirit.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21 esv

"A gentle tongue is a tree of life..." Proverbs 15:4 esv
Today, I'm grateful for my fellow citizens who see a need and take action to meet it. I'm especially grateful for Cody Martin.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The One Who Always Keeps His Promises
Here's the link to support this ministry: Leanna Hollis  Account #4841

#burnban #fire #thankful 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Month of Gratitude: The One Who Always Keeps His Promises

In Sunday School this past Sunday, we went around the room and introduced ourselves by saying our name and some characteristic that mattered to us or makes a difference in how we live. For some, it was truth. For me, it was "keeping my word", or keeping a promise. I know I'm not perfect at it, but it matters to me.

Afterward, I realized that's one of the things that matters to me about God, too. He keeps His promises. It's been my habit to write about the things for which I'm grateful during the month of November. Today, I'm starting a month of gratitude by giving thanks for the promise-keeping, the faithfulness, of God.

This morning, I opened the book of Matthew, where I'm currently studying. Matthew, a Jewish man, wrote about Jesus as the promised Messiah. Over and over, he presented a part of Jesus' life as fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. I've highlighted those promises in my Bible.

When I opened Matthew 2, I saw five highlighted promises. Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, taken to Egypt as a child to escape the infanticide of Herod, and grew up in Nazareth. There was weeping in Ramah when Herod killed the baby boys.

As I looked at those pages and the red highlights of promises made and kept, I was reminded of the faithfulness of our God. 

When God makes a promise, He keeps it.

It's that simple. It may take hundreds of years, but He does what He says He will do.

Psalm 105:8 tells us, "He remembers His covenant forever, the promises made for a thousand generations."

We may forget, but God never does.

That's a good thing, because I've staked my life on the promises of God. Here's just a few:

- God has a plan for my life, and it's for my welfare, not for calamity. Jeremiah 29:11

- Even when I'm weak, even though I'm weak, He will give me all the strength I need. Isaiah 40:29-31

- He will provide for my needs. Every single time. Philippians 4:19

- Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Romans 8:37-39

No matter what we face today, we can be sure that our God knows and cares. He will be our strong tower of support and defense. He is with us.

We may have serious concerns about what the future holds, but God already knows. He's already there. He already has a plan. He already has a way through. 

What He has said, He will do. What He has promised, He will fulfill.

Take courage today and hold to the One who is faithful and true. Our God can, and will, carry us through.

"Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." Psalm 23:4 KJV
Be sure to like and share to help extend my reach!
(I've added links to a couple of prior blog posts about the promises of God. I think they'll be worth the read.)

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When Good Comes from Evil

To support this ministry: Leanna Hollis  Account #4841#hope #faithful

Monday, October 31, 2016

When Good Comes from Evil

The "begats", those long genealogy lists in Scripture, are not my favorite. I hate to admit it, but I usually skip over them. Not long ago, though, I found something that startled me in the lineage of Jesus. 

I knew this fact, in theory, but the truth of it hadn't sunk in before.

Jesus is descended from Manasseh. 

In case you've forgotten, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, was a terrible king. He practiced witchcraft, divination, worshipped idols, and made his sons "pass through the fire". Scripture tells us he "shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another." ((2 Kings 21:16) 

There were quite a few generations between Manasseh and Jesus, but they were kin.

Out of great evil came the greatest good.

We don't often celebrate it, but this theme runs throughout Scripture. The Valley of Achor became the door of Hope. (Joshua 7:26, Hosea 2:15) God can take the most terrible event, the most hideous sin, and bring good from it. 

Just as He brought Jesus from the line of Manasseh. 

Paul wrote, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 niv

No matter what we face, no matter how hard the circumstances, no matter how evil the enemy, God can bring good from it. And He will.

Romans 8:28 doesn't say that God is able to bring good from all things. It says He does. In all things, He finds the good and brings it forth. 

Just as He did when He took Jesus from the cross to the empty tomb.

Many of us face difficult times, agonizing defeat, uncertain futures, sorrowful situations with family. Today, let's remember the wise words of the Apostle Paul:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are bring renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 niv

So, let's take courage in the truth that God is in control. He has a plan. He will not be defeated. Let's focus our attention on Him, not our circumstances. 

Trust the One who loves us most.
In case you missed it, here' the link to yesterday's post: Living as One Nation Under God
To support this ministry: Leanna Hollis  Account #4841

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Living As One Nation Under God

My sister, brother-in-law, and niece (Katie) drove up last weekend to help with Blue Springs Day. They were in charge of the Cupcake Walk, but I had forgotten the cupcakes. My sister, Cookie, and I made a quick trip to my house to get them.

As we drove up, I commented on the bunting on the upstairs porch. Cookie said, "Yeah. Katie wanted to know what was wrong with you. She couldn't believe it was still 4th of July at your house." 

I told her I'd been busy. And I have. I just hadn't gotten around to taking them down. And I hadn't. 

There was a bigger reason the bunting was still up, though.

After July, I decided to leave the bunting and "flag" door decorations until Labor Day. Then, the wind blew the bunting backward. Every time I drove up to my house and saw the backward bunting, it seemed symbolic. I would think about what a mess our country is in and I would stop to pray.

One day, when I thought about taking it down, I wondered how much longer we'd have this country of ours and be able to fly a flag and decorate with bunting. The thought was chilling and I decided to leave it in place. 

Yesterday, after more than four months, I took down the bunting and replaced the door decoration with my fall flower arrangement. 

I realized something I should have known before. In many ways, the nation I grew up in is already gone. The digital network has connected us globally in ways we never even imagined when I was a child. I'm not sure there's more crime, but we certainly hear about it more. There may not be more corruption, but we read/hear/see it constantly. 

We're less insulated. Innocence is lost earlier. Poor choices are paraded like a trophy. We might have made the same choices forty years ago, but we weren't as proud of them. We weren't as open. 

And yet... we're the same fallen, broken people we've always been. There's still only one hope for change, and that hope is still in Christ alone.

After the presidential elections, one group of supporters will swear the country is going down the tubes. One group of supporters will swear it's not. 

The truth will lie somewhere between, and it will depend on how we the people decide to live going forward. Will we stay the same or begin to live as "one nation under God" is supposed to live?

When God said, "if My people", He wasn't referring to lost people. He was referring to His people. 

Positive change will not come because of one man's claims. Positive change will come only when God's people decide to stop blaming lost people for not living like God said, and, instead, start doing it themselves.

It's up to us, body of Christ. We are the ones who must show the rest of the nation what living "under God" means, how it's done. We are the ones who must  demonstrate that "Victory in Jesus" is not only possible, it's worth it. 

Let's decide today to do something so radical that even our fellow believers will be surprised. Let's love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let's love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Let's stop giving leftovers and give of our BEST to our Savior. 
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Making Sense of Election 2016

#ifMypeople #onenationunderGod