Tuesday's slice of bread

A weekly post premised on this: Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord (Prov. 16:20)

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Location: Florence, Kentucky, United States

married to my best friend, writer, teacher, avid reader, occasional poet, volunteer

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Establishing Prorities, Part 2

Last week, we looked at Exodus 20:3-4; Psalm 23:1-3; John 10:14-16; Psalm 90:12; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 119:33-38, 133; Romans 6:14; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; and 1 Corinthians 15:58, as well as commenting on the abundance of guidance to be found in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and James.

Today, I am telling you some of my story when it comes to establishing priorities.

Years ago, when I was single, I found myself saying "yes" to every opportunity for ministry which came my way. Well, what real Christian can resist ministry?

One day, I collapsed at work. Embarrassing? Yes, and followed by making a number of phone calls to explain that I would no longer be available for said ministry.

I realized my calling, then, was to focus on my employment and get my strength back to do that.

Establishing priorities means asking the Lord, "Is this, whatever 'this' is, what You want me to say ';yes' to for now?"

Establishing priorities means living fully within the limits He puts on our lives, whatever form those limits take.

Establishing priorities means saying, "Thy will be done," as a blank check.

Establishing priorities requires being in the Word and in prayer as your life breath, day in and day out.

Establishing priorities brought Garry and me to this passage years ago: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that'" (James 4:13-15).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Establishing Priorities

Where do we usually begin when it comes to establishing priorities? With how old we are? With how long until we retire? With how long we expect to live once we retire? With us, then as the center of our concerns. Admit it. Even when we say our concern is with our family, it begins with our seeming circumstances. Even as Christians who claim faith in the sovereignty of God, where do we really begin? Should we not begin here: "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:3-4). If we first establish God as first, will He not lead us? Psalm 23--sweet words that it contains--tells us this: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (verses 1-3). In John 10:14-16 Jesus makes clear that He is the Shepherd referred to in Psalm 23: "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and my own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd" (prefiguring in verse 16 the salvation of the Gentiles, probably). In Psalm 90:12, Moses prays: "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom." Proverbs 3:5-6--familiar words but true--instruct us: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Psalm 119 is full of words directed at God, which yearn for His direction. Here are just a few f them: "Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to dishonest gain. Turn my eyes away from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You" (verses 33-38). "Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me" (Psalm 119:133) is echoed by Paul in Romans 6:14: "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace." Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and James are replete with guidance in establishing priorities. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 states: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." First Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two Poems We Hope Will Comfort You

One: Whatever Beauty This World Holds Whatever beauty this world holds, It holds as a poor reflection of heaven. It holds yet as pure as the earthly can be, It holds, and it draws me more close to Thee. Whatever beauty this world contains, It contains as a gift from heaven. It contains as mist or rains, Something of the glory to be known. It contains yet a bit, yet a scent, And through it I see and sense Incense which draws me more close to Thee. Whatever beauty of bird or morning's dew, Can only point me more to You For all that is lovely in truth and delight, Is at God's right hand in radiant light. Two: When and Why Does a Christian Die? A Christian's death comes when he or she has completed the tasks Their Lord asks-- And then comes the rest, And then comes the glory, And then comes the seeing. And then death is the means To life in its fullhness, For life is being with and like Christ.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Grace Prayer

Father, Before I thank You for the freedom Your grace has provided for me, I have to ask for forgiveness for not appreciating it, not even giving it much thought most days. If I give it thought apart from Sunday--church--or Tuesday Bible studies--it is when I am in the Bible and in prayer, and all too often, even those times, I end up lacking full focus on You.
I need to ask for forgiveness for that too, for letting my mind wander, and rather than bringing it back with my will, letting it take me, letting inertia dominate; I think I have a lot to repent of. But Father, if not for Your grace, I would not, could not, see the need to repent, nor would I have this access to You through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If not for Your grace, I would still be dead in my trespasses and sins, and think I was alive. If not for Your grace, I would neither be the woman I am, nor have any hope of being the woman I am in the process of becoming. Help me understand and appreciate the ramifications of Your grace--and mercy and peace--in daily life, and to apply them in all of my life with my husband and everyone else--even those who call at inopportune times. Before I can appreciate the freedom Your grace has provided, I have to be more aware of all that grace itself includes--and be able to give an answer if someone asks me about that grace. Way too often I just go and do not see grace, even when grace is going with me. Way too often when someone mentions saving grace, my thoughts go to life's end rather than to life's present, or even life's past; how limiting that thought is! Way too often I don't come to the well of grace, but go dry and more dry, then complain about the dryness in my life/heart, when that is my own fault--and fault I do not seek grace for. Way too often--let this be the end of that; let there be no more "way too oftens," no more regrets for choices made without thought. And then there are the consequences: When I do not receive grace, I cannot deliver grace to others who need it. When I do not receive grace, I cannot appreciate its full value. When I do not receive grace, I fall back into the so-called gospel of works. When I do not receive grace, I, in essence, abuse it, frustrate it, turn from it. But God .... But God, Your grace pursues me, through circumstances and Scriptures, through messages from others and through messages from Your Word in study. And O, my Father, how grateful I am for Your pursuing grace. May I so live that others realize that that is what it is, and that it pursues them as well. May Your grace work to Your glory in all, to all, through all, for all. Amen.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Perfect Harmony

"Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14; ESV).

For those with an ear for music, we appreciate the work it takes to accomplish perfect harmony.

For those who are in Christ, it takes work, too, to accomplish perfect harmony--the process of sanctification that will not be completed in this life but only in that to come, when as John wrote in his first letter, we will be like Christ because "we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2).

What are we commanded to do in Paul's letter to the Colossians that precedes the verse first quoted here?

"Put on, then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive" (Colossians 3:12-13; ESV).

Only the redeemed are God's chosen ones--holy and beloved--and will desire compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, seeking to bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other, understanding that as the Lord has forgiven us, so must we also forgive.

We desire, then, to exhibit and grow in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and then love, binding in harmony and unity of the Spirit to the glory of God.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Reflecting on Psalm 102

While I often go to Psalm 103, this week I was reflecting on Psalm 102, which the psalmist headed: "A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD."

This is the summary preceding the actual verses of the Psalm. The author calls out to the LORD in ways many of us can identify with.

"Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; incline Your ear to me; in the day when I call answer me quickly. For my days have been consumed in smoke, and my bones have been scorched like a hearth. My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, indeed, I forget to eat my bread. Because of the loudness of my groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places. I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop" (verses 1-7).

As if that were not enough, the psalmist also states:

"Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, for You have lifted me up and cast me away. My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass" (verses 10-11).

"He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days" (verse 23).

How grim and graphic are these descriptions! Yet they are not the sum and substance of the psalmist's experiences, nor do they have to be ours. We can also rejoice in these eternal truths:

"But You, O LORD, abide forever, and Your name to all generations" (verse 12).

"He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer" (verse 17).

"Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end" (verses 25-27).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

All Things for Good

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

All things for good--
Contingent, of course--
To those who love God,
Who are called
According to His purpose.
All things for good to those who meet
These criteria.
What comfort!
For those who meet these criteria.
And I want to, if I don't.
But I do.
And that overwhelming grace causes me to want
To love God and live a life of obedience,
And to realize how little I do and do,
And grieve in that realization.
When He is working all things for my good,
Why would I not want to do all things according to His will,
Live in line according to His purposes?
Knowing that in the struggle
I am not alone,
Not having to carry on
In my own strength.
There is comfort, encouragement, strengthening, and the increased desire
To do His will.
And I listen, having read,
"Be still and know that I am God."
And I listen, having read,
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
And I listen, having read,
"The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life."
And I listen, having read,
"Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
And I listen, and I rejoice, and I trust
That He IS working all things together for good--
All visible and all invisible; all temporal and all eternal.