Wednesday, January 6, 2010

grace for the moment

"Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come
before God's throne where there is grace.
There we can receive mercy and grace
to help us when we need it."

I've shared before that I love all things Max Lucado. His Grace for the Moment Daily Bible is no exception.

Several of my friends have committed to reading the Bible through in 2010. Most of them are following Wendy Pope's journey and blog. While I really enjoy the New Living Translation they are using, I hesitated to order mine because I was hoping for something different.

And then I found Max's Daily Bible. Rather than follow the chronological order of the Bible, this format allows for reading a section of the Old Testament (in order), the Book of Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament. For example, on January 1st, we read:
  • Genesis 1:1-2:25
  • Psalm 1:1-6
  • Proverbs 1:1-7
  • Matthew 1:1-25
It's still in chronological order and still allows me to read through the entire Bible in one year, it just adds a greater variety.

An added benefit of this version is that each day includes an excerpt from one of Max Lucado's books. Aside from reading directly from God's Word, I have never had an author leave me quite so breathless and craving more.

I also like that this Bible is in paperback format and not too large. (Although I admit that the words are a little smaller than I'd prefer.) Thomas Nelson is also coming out with a "LeatherSoft" version of this in a couple of weeks.

This isn't one of the books that I'm reviewing for Thomas Nelson, although I do give it two thumbs up. I'm so excited to see what God will teach me through His Word this year.

If you're not already doing so, I would love to have you join me in my year of reading. It's not too late. And really, it only takes about 15 minutes a day. It's definitely worth the investment of my time and focus. (For added resources and instruction, I encourage you to check out Wendy Pope's blog.)

God's Word is alive and active. Through it, He has granted me wisdom and new life. Every single moment I spend reading and learning changes me forever.

On a side-note, today is Christmas in Ethiopia! Sadly, we learned that Mesfin has not yet been transferred to the Thomas Center as he should have been back on the 15th. (It's a transition house where they will prepare him for life here in America.)

We sent a care package and Christmas card with a recorded message telling him that we love him. He'll receive our gift when he finally arrives at the center. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers during these final weeks while he is still waiting for us to bring him home.

Please pray for Mesfin's health, safety, well-being and heart. It's been a painfully long wait and we know his hope is starting to wane. Please pray that He will know God's love and peace, and that he trust that we are coming! THANK YOU, Friend!

I pray you are having a GREAT week and that you know how very, very much God loves you. Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for God's grace,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the narrow gate

"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate
and broad is the road
that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it."

Today I found myself drawn to the teachings of Jesus. I love my NLT Slimline Bible because all of His words are in red letters. I read through several parables before I reached the narrow gate. I love the imagery Jesus provides. He didn't give a lot of flowery details, but rather made His point clearly.

Walking through the narrow gate requires us to leave others behind. Either because God calls us to do something on our own, or He's called us to do something that others see as too big of a sacrifice.

Walking through the narrow gate can be lonely. Choosing to move forward alone can feel incredibly intimidating.

Walking through the narrow gate requires faith. It requires courage to enter through a gate when we have no idea what lies waiting for us on the other side.

Walking through the narrow gate requires deliberate action on our part. When we reach the gate, we are faced with choice of either walking through it or walking around it.

Walking through the narrow gate requires that we lay down all of our baggage. It's impossible to enter the narrow gate while still clinging to other people, doubt, fear, worry and all of those other heavy burdens we humans love to hold onto.

In my life, God has placed many, many narrow gates. I wish I could say that I've entered through every single one of them, but I haven't. Far too many times I have allowed my need for companionship, security and control to lure me towards the wide gate.

Destruction comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's been the loss of friendship I relied to heavily upon. Sometimes it's come in illness or depression. Other times it's come in the loss of a dream. Always, it's been the loss of blessings, peace and joy.

I don't believe that God has been the author of the destruction. That's not who He is. My consequences have come when I've chosen paths that are outside of His will for me. All that He has for me, for us, is good and pure.

When I have dropped my need for control, trusted God to never leave me and allowed myself to rely on His strength and promises--I have been blessed beyond believe. Every single time I have followed His path for my life, He has met me just on the other side of that narrow gate. I'm never alone and I'm never in want. He supplies all that I need, each and every date. And His blessings are out-of-this-world!

Choosing the narrow gate keeps us LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! God loves us and has amazing things in store for each of us. May we have the faith and courage to trust Him and keep on walking...

Thankful for His goodness,

Monday, January 4, 2010

right-side up resolutions

"Love your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 22:39 (NIV)

Happy New Year, Friends!!! I wound up going M.I.A. unexpectedly. My laptop went out on me--literally. Somehow the screen broke and although my computer still worked, I wasn't able to see anything. Talk about frustrating! And then of course there was a whole 'nother round of colds and sickness over the holidays.

But, the good news is that we are all healthy and Santa (a.k.a. my generous husband) brought me a new laptop--and this one works!

The great news is that we finally received our Embassy date and will soon be traveling to bring our precious son HOME! God is good, all the time! Please continue to pray for our family as we finalize travel plans and prepare ourselves for the adventures ahead. THANK YOU!!!

As I began to think and pray about the year ahead, God gave me a new perspective on setting my New Year's resolutions. As I started to contemplate the things I wanted to start doing and some of the areas I'd like to change within myself, God showed me that my focus was on ME again. Ah, the naval-gazing syndrome.

I think that New Year's resolutions are great, don't get me wrong. We all want to grow and change, right? Setting goals and having direction for the year is critical if I want to accomplish anything. The key, however, is to make sure that I'm not placing all my focus on myself. And, that I'm not expecting to achieve my goals through my own strength.

While I thought about all of this, I was reminded of the words of Jesus, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Over the years I've learned how to love my neighbors. And, in this season I'm in, I'm learning to truly love myself. However, I've been missing the whole crux of Jesus' commandment. It's found in the word "as."

In my life, I've viewed that word like a one-way arrow, when I think it's really a two-way arrow. (Think mathematically for a minute, Friend.) I need to treat my neighbor the way I want to be treated and vice-versa. At least that's the way I learned it.

But, what if, "as" really isn't translated to "like?" Perhaps Jesus actually meant, "Love your neighbor [while] you love yourself" and vice-versa? It seems like a slight difference, but I think it's a difference that can transform lives. It's a difference that moves me out of acting out of obligation, guilt, striving and self-centeredness and moves me to a place of true servanthood.

If I'm putting others first in my actions and am loving them wholeheartedly, I am changed in the process. Yes, I want to get more exercise, eat healthier and spend more time in God's Word. But those are just the basics of what will make me a healthier and more well-grounded person. As (while?) I'm setting my goals this year, I'm choosing to make them "right-side up" resolutions.

"For even the Son of Man did not
come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45 (NIV)

What can I do this year to bless and love my neighbors? What can I do this month? This week? Today? I'm so excited to see what God has in store for me, and for you, this year. I know it's going to be good. Really good.

Today I am choosing to take my gaze off myself and put it on the only One who really truly matters. In Him and through Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I'm praying you are as well. May you know His deep and unchanging love for you in a new way this year.

Happy, Happy New Year, Friend!