1/18/17

Heart Tuning


"Come Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise."

My heart felt out of tune today. I didn't feel so blessed.

Grumpy. Tired. Frustrated. Critical.
A mess.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love."

I needed that song. I needed to remember I am a debtor to God's grace.
He rescued me.
He is changing me.
He will never leave me.
He will accomplish His purposes in me.
And it's all because of His "sovereign grace."
I am memorizing Ephesians 1, and I was captivated this
week by these words:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us

in Christ ... he chose us in him ...
that we should be holy and blameless
before him. In love he predestined us
for adoption to himself...
according to the purpose of his will,
to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us
in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption ...
according to the riches of his grace,

which he lavished upon us....."
(Ephesians 1:3-8, ESV)

I needed to remember God is the origin of every blessing I enjoy. I needed to believe He can help me discover blessings even in the tough times.

It's a choice to praise Him, and it's an easy choice when I meditate on what He has done for me.
Does your heart need "tuning" too?
* Hymn lyrics to "Come, "Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

1/14/17

Choices Matter a Lot. Just Ask Lot!


I usually study godly Bible characters to learn about their wise choices. But I’ve also learned a lot from people included in scripture who didn't make such wise choices.

I want us to consider how our daily choices matter by examining the life of one man in the Old Testament.


Abraham's nephew Lot is described as a "righteous man," tormented by the wickedness around him (2 Peter 2:7-8). He was righteous in the sense that, like Abraham, his faith in God was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). God moved in Lot's life in connection with the Abrahamic covenant.

What happened to Lot?
Though he may have been righteous in his personal life, he loved the world and lived for it and, therefor, had no influence on others.

His downfall was all about his worldly-minded choices. Let's examine six of them.

1. Lot Chose Selfishly
Wealthy Lot and his equally-wealthy uncle, Abraham, examined the well-watered Jordan Valley. They knew they could not dwell together—there was strife between their herdsmen—so they determined to part ways. Abraham offered his nephew the first choice, and Lot jumped at the chance.

With selfishness, greed and a desire for power and influence, Lot moved east and grabbed up the entire Jordan Valley. Abraham ended up in Canaan, west of the Jordan River (Genesis 13:10-11).

Lot could have shown respect for his uncle and allowed him the seemingly better land. But he didn't. His greed overcame any sense of loyalty and respect.

Many of our worst choices originate from the seeds of selfishness.

2. Lot Chose Foolishly
Then, although Lot could have moved anywhere in this fertile area, he chose to move his branch of the family tree to the big cities of the valley. He made his own home in Sodom.
This was a foolish choice, because "the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord" (13:13)

He soon came to regret this choice. Peter says Lot was "driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity... Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day" and was in "constant torment" because of it (2 Peter 2:7-8, The Message).

I want to note, Lot was a God-fearing man just like Abraham, but both men made foolish choices. [Remember Sarai and Hagar, and Abraham's foolish choice considering God's promise of a son? (Genesis 16).] In the same way, people may see you or me as godly, but we can make a lot of foolish choices when we're not walking with God in faith and obedience.

Abraham loved his nephew and interceded for the city of Sodom, knowing it was about to be destroyed (Genesis 18:20-21). Following Abraham's pleading, the Lord told the patriarch he would not destroy Sodom if even 10 righteous people lived there (18:32).

3. Lot Chose Sinfully
Two angels came to Sodom and ended up at Lot's house. The men of the city, "both young and old, all the people to the last man," surrounded Lot's house, demanding Lot turn his visitors over to them to "know" them (meaning, to commit immoral acts with them).
Lot was grieved by their request and begged the Sodom-dwellers to reconsider.
His solution? A sinful choice.

He said, "I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please" (19:8). Lot was more concerned about hospitality and guarding his visitors than protecting the holiness of his own daughters!

His sinful suggestion only made the men of Sodom more determined in their perversion. The visiting angels rescued Lot (19:10) as they struck the men on his doorstep with blindness. The angels told Lot to gather his family and flee, because God was about to destroy the city.

Apparently, there were not even 10 believers in the town.

4. Lot Chose Half-heartedly
Lot's sons-in-law thought he was joking and refused to join Lot and his wife in escaping the judgment. That brought the number of God-fearing people in Sodom down to four!
But the remarkable thing to me is Lot's reaction to the angel's words to get out of town (19:16).

"He lingered."

His heart was still in wicked Sodom. As a wealthy man with property, he had a lot invested there. He didn't make a strong choice of faith; instead, he lingered, emotionally divided and seemingly powerless to resist the pull of this wicked city.

The angels had to grab his hand, along with his wife and daughter's hands, and forcibly bring them out of the city! The Lord was so merciful to Lot (v. 16), just as I know He has been merciful to me when I have lingered in my obedience. I cannot imagine what God has used as "angels"—tough circumstances, perhaps, and disappointments—to save me from myself.

Through the years, God has taught me an important lesson: partial obedience is disobedience!

We need to stop lingering between obedience and disobedience.
We must choose to follow the Lord without hesitation.

5. Lot Chose Fearfully
The angels told Lot to run with his family "to the hills" and escape for their lives. But Lot was afraid the men of Sodom might pursue him there.

Lot operated in the fear of man, not the fear of God.
You would think he would understand how the Lord was rescuing him and had the best route for survival. But in this lapse of fearing (revering) God, Lot begged the angels to allow him to flee to another city. He was still trying to compromise and not leave the area entirely. He wanted to pick out his own refuge instead of fleeing to the sure place of safety the Lord designed for him.

In their flight from Sodom, Lot's wife disobeyed the angels' commands and suffered her own consequence (19:17, 26); but Lot and his daughters ended up at the tiny city of Zoar. They watched as the Lord rained down "sulfur and fire" out of heaven, destroying everything surrounding Sodom, even what grew on the ground.

(When I think about Lot's compromise and fear, I admit there are areas in my life where want to stay close enough to my sin issues to nudge them for my own purposes instead of fleeing from them completely. But if I hear the word of the Lord in this, it is "Run for your life!")

6. Lot Chose by Not Choosing
Eventually, Lot and his daughters left Zoar "because he was afraid of the people there" (19:30).

Lot's daughters were no doubt influenced by Sodom. Apparently, Lot did not proactively choose to live in wisdom after leaving that wicked city, and his daughters' sinful and foolish choices in a mountain cave somewhere beyond Zoar reveal he likely did not sufficiently passed on biblical wisdom to his daughters either (19:30-36).

In effect, Lot chose to walk away from God, because he did not proactively choose to walk with Him.

In my journey with the Lord, I've discovered the greatest deterrents to making ineffective or hurtful choices is to allow the Word of God to renew my mind and the Holy Spirit to control my life (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16).

Choices are no small thing. As my friend Pam Farrel says, "We make our choices, and our choices make us." 

We can learn many lessons from Lot and upgrade our faith and obedience.
It wasn't just one choice that destroyed righteous Lot's influence on his family and community, and brought him to the end of his life filled with regrets. It was a whole series of choices, and every choice mattered.


Are you making sinful, foolish choices that might slowly destroy your effectiveness for Christ? What positive, God-honoring and wise choices can you start making today?

12/23/16

Why Christmas? It's All about the Gift of Grace!


As Solomon wrote, there is nothing new under the sun, so attempting to write something new about Christmas is pretty impossible.

But sometimes a fresh personal reflection breaks through.

This was my experience today.

As I looked at a small gift, I thought about God's great gift to me:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ..." (John 3:16a).

And then I immediately thought about the grace of God. It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite holiday song (by John Newton) is not typical of the season, but it speaks to my heart every Christmas.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God...."(Ephesians 2:8)

Grace is a gift, and it's truly amazing. It's free, and we don't deserve it. 
God reached down to the depths of my darkness with incredible grace to bring me into His light. 
The meditations on my heart this Christmas season: 

"For the grace of God has appeared, bring salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14).

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus came, and He is coming again. And in that parentheses between His two advents, He is making me and every other Christ-follower "a people for His own possession." 

What a beautiful truth:

"We are pulled to Christ through God's grace, we stand in it as we live in Christ, and His grace will surround us as we receive everlasting life." (~ Eddie Cloer, "Why Is God's Grace So Amazing?")

In Newton's words,

When we've been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we first begun.

We begin in grace and we'll end with grace  praise the Lord!


~ Graphic, courtesy of Lightstock.com, free photo

11/18/16

God Keeps Me, Even When I Blow It

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV).


I was struggling. I thought I was having some measure of victory, but my food addiction reared up to challenge me again. Frustrated, I woke up early the morning after a major food binge and decided to sit in our Jacuzzi to pray through where I'd struggled the night before.

Tears mingled with perspiration as I sat there, thinking and praying. "Lord," I said, "I really need your help."

"Yes, you do," I sensed. And then the scripture quoted above came to mind. I decided to meditate on those words while doing exercises in the water.

(1) "I lift up my eyes to the hills." How fitting. As the sun seemed to slowly creep over the hill behind our house, I found my eyes lifting toward the rising sun.

I thought of the psalmist, David, and why he might be looking toward the hills. Matthew Henry* believes David, some distance away from Jerusalem and possibly in a soldier's camp risking his life, was looking toward the hills where the Jewish Temple was built. David was saying in the midst of his circumstances, "I am lifting up my eyes and looking toward the special presence and power and provision of God."

The Lord spoke to my heart: "Dawn, you haven't been lifting your eyes to me. You haven't been seeking my presence. You've been looking down at your circumstances and at your temptations, trusting in your own strength and rehearsing your failures."

I had indeed been looking to the strength of my own flesh. (And every time I do that, I eventually fail.)
Whenever I try to "gut it out" by myself, I fail to rely on the sufficiency of God in Christ.
I forget "I am crucified with Christ." It's no longer me who lives, but rather it is Christ who is alive in me (Galatians 2:20). 

My life is hidden in Him, and He is producing death in me to my old fleshly lifestyle of selfish thoughts, selfish desires and selfish choices. I am learning I can say "no" to sin.

The God-centered choice is pivotal. And it's personal. I have to lift up my eyes. No one can do that for me.

(2) "From where does my help come?"

Some translations interpret this phrase to mean, "Does my help come from thence?" (From the hills? From anyplace and anyone here on earth?)

I have a library full of books, including a shelf on Christian dieting helps and devotionals. They are all good. But it's far too easy for me to trust in self-help books, "overcomer" manuals and just about anything other than the Lord (Hebrews 4:15-16) and His Word.

Some other scriptures the Lord brought to mind that morning:

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, 
and I am helped...." (Psalm 28:7a)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help
in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
"I have stored up your word in my heart,
 that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war 
according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are 
not of the flesh but have divine power 
to destroy strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

When David asked, "Where am I going to find this help I need?" He quickly answered ...

(3) "My help comes from the Lord...." 

David is clear about that. He had assurance based on his past experiences with the Lord, first as a shepherd boy, and then as as a leader.

I have to be clear about that too. MY help comes from the Lord.

David knew God as the Helper because he experienced God's presence. God is with us to help us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20). We can count on His presence! God takes hold of our right hand and leads us (Isaiah 41:13). The Spirit of God is the Helper Jesus promised; He's not only with us, but in us (John 14:16-17).

And then David adds this powerful affirmation about God: He is the One ...

(4) "...who made heaven and earth."

The One who created the universe certainly knows how to help and relieve me in my troubles. He who made all things out of nothing can take charge of my desires and weaknesses and give me consistency and transformation.

He is my helper, my protector, my strength - and anything else I need.

I keep forgetting that. I'm human. I'm going to battle sin until God calls me home. I may have binges, but Lord willing, they will be fewer. I realize I can choose to eat foolishly, but I can also choose to eat with wisdom. I may have meltdowns, but God will continue to be my shield of protection and the "lifter" of my head (Psalm 3:3).

God, who has His eye on me even when I take my eyes off of Him, will continue to patiently and intentionally work with me. He will perfect that which pertains to me (Psalm 138:8) and accomplish His purposes in me (Philippians 1:6).

Bit by bit, choice by choice, the Father is making me more like His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:1-2).

I am so thankful I can lift up my eyes and heart to Him, the One who keeps me, even when I blow it.

* Matthew Henry, Psalm 121 - http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/psalms/121.html 

11/10/16

Post Election "Note to Self"


NOTE TO SELF ... and anyone else who agrees:

1) Don't gloat. Be grateful and honor God.

This is the time for humility and thankfulness to the Lord for great mercy.

2) Don't believe that wolves in sheep's clothing have suddenly lost their fangs. 


We can be so gullible. Why do we expect the Enemy (Satan) to suddenly accommodate us? Why do we think those who stand against all we value biblically and Constitutionally have suddenly changed?

3) Don't feel guilty because Trump won, no matter how many progressives try to dump that false burden on you!


This happens every time conservatives win. Let's get smart and learn how to appreciate victories.


4) Pray for Republican leaders who are too quick to capitulate to calls for "unity" at the cost of standing for what we fought so hard to win. 

We can compromise where it's helpful tactically, but compromise isn't always a virtue. 
Pray for discernment.

5) Stop being a wimpy Christian. 


There's no need to be an in-your-face Christian, but absolutely we can get some spiritual guts and move forward with wisdom and courage. 

My one cry is for revival - corporate and personal. And I'm asking the Lord what that might that look like.

For me ... it's time to pray more, love my neighbors more, stand for biblical standards more, seek the Lord and revival more, and ask Him how I can make a difference in the years ahead.


Those are all ACTION words.


This is NOT a time to follow the pack. 

IT'S A TIME TO SEEK THE LORD.

  • "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O LORD, I shall seek" (Psalm 27:8).
  • "Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually" (1 Chronicles 16:11).
  • "Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
  • "I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me" (Proverbs 8:17).
  • "Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you" (Hosea 10:12).
  • "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).