Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Enter the Presence of God


We were looking for gluten-free blueberry cake donuts. What we found was a church with a surprising name. Thankful Baptist Church. It was an imposing structure of brick and stained glass, and I was as happy with our find as if we'd netted a dozen donuts.

I wanted to meet the pastor of such a happy church and ask him if the name was true. Were they really a thankful church? Unfortunately, I tried every door, but no one was home.

The filled-with-thanks-to-God church. It would be a good place to visit. 

The psalmist tells us we are to "enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise." (Ps 100:4) "Come before His presence with thanksgiving..." (Ps 95:2)

We don't often acknowledge it, but those verses are game-changers for the one who wants to enter the presence of God. 

Nowhere in Scripture does it say enter the presence of God with whining and complaining. Nowhere does it say enter His presence with a grocery list of stuff we want. 

What about the psalmist's words are hard to understand? We are to enter the presence of God with thankful hearts, presenting our grocery list of thanksgiving, not requests. There's a time and place for requests, but it's not when we first enter the presence of God.

I made a conscious choice to enter God's presence with fewer requests and more thanks, and it changed my prayer life. Not long ago, I was asked to pray for some missionary needs. I was nearly to the end of my prayer when I realized I'd forgotten the needs. I'd been too busy thanking God for what He'd already done. 

Even God likes hearing how much He's loved and appreciated.

Occasionally, I'll say, "God, you already know the needs. You heard us talk about them. We're leaving them in your hands so we can take time to tell you how much we love You. How much we appreciate You. How terrific we think You are." I don't know if I get more answered prayers that way, but it definitely brings me closer to the presence of God.

Today, why not join me as the Thankful Church of God Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ? Let's spend all our quiet time thanking God for the things He's already given us. What about our requests? He knows our needs. Let's simply ask Him to handle them as He sees fit.

If we want to enter the presence of God, we should do it with the thanksgiving that comes from grateful hearts.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Breath of God on Our Cheeks

If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#gratitude #givethanks 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Breath of God on Our Cheeks


After the service Wednesday night, we were all standing around, talkig. When Sam was ready to go, I reached for my Bible. As I did, I saw a pink note attached to my friend Kandy Walker's Bible. 

In case you can't read the words from the picture, here's what it says:

"When I open my Bible, GOD'S LIVING WORD, 
I need to STOP in REVERENCE 
and feel His breatheon my cheek."

Kandy's right. Paul wrote that "All Scripture is God-breathed..." (2 Tim. 3:16) When we open our Bibles, in a very real way, we encounter the very breath of God on the pages. 

There was a time not too long ago when there were only a few English translations of the Bible. Most people had one or, at the most, two Bibles, and those were treasured. Treated with respect as the Word of God.

I'm afraid we've lost much of that respect for the Bible. We've forgotten it's a Holy Book, and how to treat it as such. We've forgotten the price that was paid to make access to the Bible available to the common man. 


In 1536, William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his all-consuming love of the Word of God and his dedication to ensuring its availability to the common man. I try not to forget his sacrifice. 

Tyndale was tied to a stake and burned alive so we could read the Bible in our own language. So we could have a Bible of our own.

In a very real way, when we open our Bibles, we hear from the God who created sun and sky, holds stars and planets in place, controls the tide, the rhythms of the day, the nocturnal promise that another dawn will come. 

He speaks to us.


Ponder that for a moment. 


God speaks to us.



I love what Hebrews says about the Scriptures:

"For the word of God is alive and active. 
Sharper than any double-edged sword, 
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, 
joints and marrow; 
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." 
Hebews 4:12 niv

When I read Scripture, those words of God speak to me. They comfort and convict, direct and (sometimes) demand. 

When I open my Bible with expectation that God will speak directly to me, I am never disappointed. He does. 

Do you need a word for the day? It's on the pages of the Holiest of Books.

Do you need strength, courage, hope? You can find it in your Bible.

Do you need comfort or direction? It's already there, waiting for you.

Today, let's open our Bibles with the expectation that the Sovereign God of the Universe will speak to us. Because He will. 
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Here's the link to a previous blog about William Tyndale.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: What to Do When You're Surrounded By Evil
f you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#Bible #KandyWalker

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What to Do When You're Surrounded by Evil



One of my favorite books is the classic allegory, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. If you haven't read it, Much-Afraid is crippled by her fear, but longs to go to the High Places with the Shepherd, who has befriended her. The book tells the story of her quest to have hinds feet like her the Shepherd, so that she can make the journey with Him.

The title comes from a verse in Habakkuk. "He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places." Habakkuk 3:19 nasb

Pastor Scooter announced a new sermon series in Habakkuk last night. "Be sure you read the first chapter before Sunday," he told us. Since there are only three chapters, I read the entire book this morning. Here's the Leanna paraphrase and summary:

Habakkuk was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom during the time of Jeremiah. He lived before Daniel and after Nahum. Josiah was king. 

He looked around him at the mess his country was in, and it frightened him. People called evil good. They did whatever they wanted to do. Justice and obedience to the law had flown right out the door. It seemed as if the few righteous people were surrounded by a horde of wicked people. 

Habakkuk couldn't take it anymore, so he went to God with his complaint.

"We're in a mess down here, God. Haven't you noticed? Aren't you going to do anything?"

God answered him with shocking news. "Yes, Habakkuk. I've seen it all. Haven't you noticed the Babylonians? They're terrible and I'm raising them up."

"What's up with that, God? They're worse than the people they're killing. That doesn't seem much like you. I'm waiting to hear what you have to say, because I must have misunderstood."

"No, Habakkuk. You didn't misunderstand. The vision I gave you is going to happen on my time schedule. I'm about to deal with all the wickedness, and I'll use the Babylonians to do it. But, Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by faith."

Habakkuk listened to everything God said and pondered His words. They were hard words. The vision was terrifying.

Finally, Habakkuk came to a beautiful truth.

No matter what happens, God will still be God. Circumstances don't matter. Relationship with our Lord does. 


"Though the fig tree should not blossom, 
and there be no fruit on the vines,
though the yield of the olive should fail, 
and the fields produce no food,
though the flock should be cut off from the fold, 
and there be no cattle in the stalls,
YET I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places."
Habakkuk 3:17-19 nasb

The righteous shall live by faith. Those are the words that brought such conviction to Martin Luther. They're the words that should ring in our hearts, as well.

Habakkuk's words could have been written about our times. We're in a mess. We live in a broken world, in the midst of broken people who act in broken ways. Evil abounds, and always will, until Jesus returns to call us home.

BUT God is still God. 

He's still on His throne. 

One day, He'll deal with it all. 

In the midst of turmoil, destruction, and agony, those who live by faith can have perfect peace and great joy. We can have the same abounding joy of our Redeemer and live as the disciples we've been called to be. How?

Two simple rules: Live by faith. Follow our Shepherd wherever He leads.

Habakkuk found the key to a successful hinds-feet-journey, and, thus, the key to living in the midst of an evil generation.

Take our eyes off the evil around us and focus on the Good Shepherd who will lead us home. 

It's that hard. It's that simple. We serve a risen Savior. He's in the world today. So let's keep our eyes on Jesus, and follow Him. 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Wanting the Fire but Choosing the Cold
photo above is of Jerusalem, taken from the Mount of Olives

If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#disciple

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wanting the Fire but Choosing the Cold



This pretend-winter we've had has left me uncertain whether to turn on the air conditioner or the heater. When I awakened this morning, it was chilly inside. I pondered, for a quick minute, whether nor not to build a fire in the fireplace. 

"Nah," I thought. "I'll just pull on a jacket."

A roaring fire would've been much better.

I climbed back into bed (with my jacket on) and opened my Bible to Acts 2. It's the story of Pentecost, when the tongues of fire descended and believers spoke in every language. All the people on the street could understand the words in their native tongue. 

A huge move of God broke out.

Thousands of people accepted Christ and were baptized. I've been to the spot where this happened. Stood inside those ceremonial washing pools where the baptisms were done. 

This really occurred  It's not a made up story to make Christians look good. It's real, and I want to see it again.

So, as I usually do when I see something in Scripture I want, I prayed. "Lord, You should do this one more time."

That Still, Small Voice spoke with stunning speed, "Aren't you the one who just chose a jacket over a fire?"

"Well, yes. But what does that have to do with it?"

"Take a closer look..."

Jesus had been crucified. All hope had been crushed. Three days later, His followers heard that He'd risen from the dead. Before they were used to having Him around again, He ascended to heaven. 

The emotional roller coaster had left them exhausted, and uncertain. "What now?" they probably thought.

Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem, so they did. One hundred and twenty of them piled into one big room and stayed there for weeks. Together. 

It was, I believe, a communal prayer vigil that lasted longer than I could have. At the end of it, those battered believers emerged as warriors, ablaze with the fire of God in their mouths. 

They came out of that prayer vigil speaking with authority and loving with abandon. 

They lived communally. If anyone had a need, someone who had abundance provided for them. It was radical. People took note. Thousands of people came to Christ. 

They turned the world right-side up. 

We have the same Jesus they had. We are indwelled by the same Holy Spirit. We could have that same power and persuasion, too. 

If.

If we were willing to do what they did. Pray as they prayed. Live as they lived. Love as they loved.

Instead, all too often, we choose the jacket over the fire and, in so doing, we miss the crackle of the flames, the aroma of the burning embers. We miss the best part of being warm.

We miss the best part of our faith when we want the fire but choose the cold. 

We are closer to Jesus' return than we've ever been. It's past time for believers to live with radical unity. Love with outrageous abandon. Give with a God-sized measure. 

We can't do it on our own, but God can do it through us. If we humble ourselves, repent, and kneel before our mighty God in humility, we can rise to live with arms-wide-open community and love with hearts-wide-open abandon. 

If we let go of our metaphorical coat and chose the reality of the fire of God, He can move in a mighty way again. And I believe He will.

What say you, children of God? If we want the fire, we must stop choosing the cold. Let's make 2017 the year we gave up safe religion and embraced the outrageous and magnificent life of a disciple. 

It might be hard. It might be unsettling. But there's one thing for sure. It will be worth it.


"'And it shall be in the last days,' God says, 
'that I will pour fourth of My Spirit upon all mankind; 
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
and your young men shall see visions, 
and your old men shall dream dreams...'" 
Acts 2:17 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Leaving a Legacy: Making a Road Map for Those We Love

If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#disciple

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leaving a Legacy: Making a Road Map for Those We Love


More than 20 years ago, I bought a leather-bound International Inductive Study Bible. One of the features that appealed to me was the wide margin. There was room to take notes, including what is called "Lessons for Life".

Over the years, I've made notes about things I've learned, insights I've gained, and prayers I've prayed. I've underlined verses, claimed then, and dated them. When I've prayed for a particular person (usually my son, Ryan), I've written the name in the margin.

Not long ago, I mentioned one of these notations in a blog post. I called it a "Message in the Margin". A friend (Cassandra Weeks) commented on the notations in the margin of her mother's Bible. She called them "road maps," showing the way in a Bible that's a roadmap in itself. 

In a manner of speaking, that's what I'm making for my son. I leave notes in my Bible for Ryan. One day, I hope he'll treasure this worn Bible and savor every word I've left him.

Many of the verses I've underlined have his name and a notation of the date in the margin. When he reads it, he'll know I prayed that verse on that day for him.

In other places, I've written, "for Ryan:" and something specific I've prayed or a life lesson I want him to remember.

I didn't plan this at the start, but somewhere over the last twenty-four years, in the midst of the Scripture Road Map that is the Bible, I began to build a specific map that's designed for Ryan alone.

The Bible is a holy book and to be treasured above all other books. When I write in my Bible, I do it because I've been impressed by God to notice, claim, remember, apply something specific to my life, or pray something specific. My notations are generally neat, often tear-stained, and point me to the most significant moments of my life. 

When I think about eternity, my one sad point is that I can't take my Bible with me. Instead, I'm leaving it for my son and praying it will be as precious to him as it has been to me.

It's a kind of legacy I'm leaving. A legacy of faith, scholarship, and Bible literacy, and it's no accident. 

Leaving a legacy that makes a difference is a choice we make. It doesn't happen automatically. It requires intention and effort. That's what I'm doing. 

Some people leave tons of money and great investments. I'm choosing to leave a legacy of truth. 

Let's pause for a moment and consider the kind of legacy we're leaving. Are we intentional about the life we live? The decisions we make? The "things" and resources we plan to leave behind?

If we want to make a difference for generations to come, we must start now. So don't delay. Decide the kind of legacy you want to leave and get started. 

"Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Reading Through the Blessing Jar 

I need your prayers as I write the James study. It will be online and in your place, at your pace. Available January 15th. Make plans to join us. We'll have a digital community for discussion and questions. 

If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#Bible 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Reading Through The Blessing Jar


Toward the end of 2015, I saw a suggestion online about a Blessing Jar. The idea was to write down a blessing every day and put it in a jar, then read them at the end of the year. It sounded like a great idea, so I gave it a try. Doing it every day eventually fell by the wayside, but I added blessings off and on all year. 

Last night, I read through those little scraps of paper and was utterly astounded at the blessings I'd received. It gave me a much-needed surge of hope for 2017. 

No matter what comes, God will take care of me. I can see that reality from the sweet care He gave in 2016.

Some of the problems I faced are surprising. I'm not sure how I found myself in such a situation. Some are miraculous. Some are simply the kindness of friends.

Here are just a few of the precious blessings from last year:

"I tried to root hydrangea leaves from online directions and it worked!"
"Ryan pushed Sam in a wheelchair so he could join us on the Tanglefoot Trail."
"I have enough money to pay the first of the month bills." (written on the 30th of the preceding month)
"Unexpected book sale. Made $13."
"Terry Manning's photograph of MLK helped me see his ministry in a new way."
"Ole Lou not doing well, but still eating canned food."
"120 people signed up for the Hosea study."
"Bought a ribeye on sale for $3 and I'm finally not fasting!"
"The Clay Papers is #1 in Amazon Kindle Free Spiritual Devotionals."
"Wow. Still #1. I'm on the Amazon best-seller list!"
"24 of the 29 people at the prayer retreat made public decisions to follow Christ more closely today."
"Jan and Edith prayed with me about my decision. I have peace and clear direction now."
"Needed to buy a bag of feed but only $4 in cash. Found enough change around the house to total $7.21. I have 26 cents extra!"
"Friends helped me get the hay in out of the field before the rain came."
"Blue skies today after days of gray."
"Lost phone in the road while chasing Maggie. Mail woman and Sam both drove over it but not on it. Phone unharmed."

From finances to phones, I was blessed. Sometimes the blessings came straight from the hand of God. Sometimes they were delivered through friends and family. 

I've read through those slips of paper again this morning and given thanks for every one. A sense of wonder and awe has overwhelmed me.

Scripture makes it clear we're to enter God's presence with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. I've done that today, because I took the time to make a note of the blessings I'd received, and it's a precious place. 

Why not make a blessing jar of your own for 2017? It takes a little discipline, but this side of the effort, it's totally worth it. 

"Enter His courts with thanksgiving,
And His gates with praise.
Give thanks to Him; bless His name;
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And His faithfulness to all generations."
Psalm 100:4,5 nasb

What blessings did you receive in 2016? I'd love to hear about them. Feel free to share in comments. Let's enter His courts together with our thanks and praise.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Welcome to 2017: My Word for the Year
I need your prayers as I write the James study. It will be online and in your place, at your pace. Available January 15th. Make plans to join us. We'll have a digital community for discussion and questions. 

If you'd like to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global OutreachPO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome to 2017: My Word for the Year


Welcome to 2017. 

Several people have announced their "word for the year". I didn't know this was a "thing", so I haven't chosen a word, but if I did, it would be Jesus. 

This year, I want more Jesus. To follow more faithfully. To see Him work in more lives. To experience more grace. To love more extravagantly.

To have more Jesus, there will have to be less Leanna. Less pride. Less selfishness. Less whining. Less grumbling. 

My 2017: Less me. More Him.

It doesn't seem possible that I can make those changes, but I found a beautiful word from God in Haggai that's a game-changer. 

The number of people who'd returned from captivity to Jerusalem was pitifully low. Rebuilding the temple was too much for them, and they had given up. The temple construction project was untouched for years.

Finally, God spoke into the situation and gave them the word they most needed. It's the one we most need, too. 

"'Take courage... and work; for I am with you,' says the Lord of Hosts." 
Haggai 2:4 nasb

"I am with you." We're not alone in the work that needs to be done. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, our Helper, is with us. 

The One who created the heavens and the earth by speaking them into existence is with us. He made rhinos and rabbits, whales and waterfalls. He can handle whatever we face in 2017.

There will be changes and challenges this year. Not everything that happens will be what we consider "good", but none of the hard times will be wasted. None of it will be faced alone, no matter how lonely we feel.

Take courage, friends. God is with us, and we are not alone.
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Do you have a "word" for 2017? Comment below.

In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: The Five Dollar Miracle

Thanks to all who participated in the 2016 blog countdown. I'm stunned by the number of people who read all seven posts! What a great finish to 2016!
#Jesus #2017