FINDING GLORY Wednesday

Today’s scripture shows that Jesus had his attention and affection fixed on something and SOMEONE outside of himself. He was able to endure the cross and opposition from sinners because of the “joy set before him.” He endured for the sake of His Father’s honor and for the sake of our salvation. As usual, Jesus had his attention and affection fixed on someone outside of himself. What amazing love!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Where does this passage say we should fix our own attention and why does it say we should do this?

According to these verses, why should we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles?”

What benefits have you gained from fixing your eyes on Jesus and disentangling from sin?

These “Finding Glory Wednesdays” posts are an online discussion series based on the books Finding Glory in the Thorns and the companion Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide by Larry and Lisa Jamieson. For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.

When Tension is a GIFT

Why do we do the things we know we shouldn’t do? And why don’t we do more of the things we know we should do? We get impatient waiting for dreams to come true and get frustrated when our hopes aren’t satisfied. We try to flee from suffering and cling to comfort zones. Few of us are strangers to these kinds of tension.

I used to lament the tugs-of-war so commonly experienced within my spirit. But my perspective is changing. I’m learning to appreciate that much of the tension within me is actually a gift — a privilege born out of a growing relationship with my Lord and Savior. Why can I say that? Consider these verses with me:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25 (NIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NIV)

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV)

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it. Philippians 1:28-30 (NLT)

In light of these truths, we can receive some encouragement:

· Recognition of our sin nature and that growing distaste we have for it is evidence of an aspiration toward holiness — and that’s a good thing! (Someone who is far from God does not aspire to Christ-likeness or care about his sin.)

· Confusion can cause us to search for Truth and clarity from God’s Word — and going to God’s Word is always a good thing!

· Inner tension can help change our perspective (which often needs changing).

· A troubled spirit can draw us closer to Jesus.

· The restlessness that comes from growing passions, dreams and vision can be God-given helping to motivate and mobilize us for new or broader ministry.

FATHER GOD, I am coming to realize that many of my inner tensions are evidence that I am Your child. There is freedom in knowing that these feelings are not always a bad thing. I want to praise You today for the privilege of drawing near to You when I am restless, frustrated, confused, or ashamed. I want to stay firmly rooted in my relationship with You despite the obstacles that will come my way. Help me to persevere, Lord. Thank you for the holy discontentment that keeps me from being apathetic about sin. Help me to turn away from temptation and offer my body as a living sacrifice to You. Thank you for stirring God-given dreams in me. Help me to be patient and persistent, always yielded to you. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, please energize me for things that please You, precious Lord. AMEN

Packing Up for Someplace New (Part 2 of 2)

Raising children has a way of shining gorgeous light on God’s blessings in our lives. Despite our daughter Carly’s severe disabilities, we have often been astounded by the ways God has used our greatest challenge for good purposes. I’m a firm believer in focusing on the things we can be grateful for. Even our ministry makes a point of focusing on the amazing evidence we see of God’s presence in the midst of people’s lives.

But here’s the problem: sometimes we can get a little addicted to seeing those tangible expressions of God in our midst. We can even give those blessings so much of our attention that we forget to attach our foremost affections on the Source itself.

In last Monday’s blog, we were reflecting on Rachel’s story in Genesis 29-31. If you haven’t read those chapters or the blog post, it will help to do that right now in bringing today’s reflections into context. There was simply so much to discover that I couldn’t fit it all in one week.

In Rachel’s story, we see a woman who had a desperate dream.

When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children, she became jealous of her sister. “Give me children, or I’ll die!” she exclaimed to Jacob. Genesis 30:1

It’s certainly not a bad thing to have hopes and dreams. Many of our dreams are actually planted in us by God Himself. The problem comes, like in Rachel’s case (e.g., 30:3), when our attachment to the dream competes with our affections for God Himself. If following a dream leads us into sin, then we know we’ve really crossed the line to having a dream become an idol.

What do you want more — God’s blessings or God Himself?

If you don’t see a blessing, are you tempted to do something to create it or do you ever try to replace the longing with something else?

Are the blessings that God is already providing enough for you?

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13, 15-16

LORD God, please forgive me for desiring anything more than You. Please decrease my fixation on anything that undermines my wholehearted devotion to You. Please increase my appetite for time with You and Your Word. Teach me what behaviors, relationships and material things I need to set aside and show me which dreams to embrace in Your name. Then help me to follow Your leading while keeping my eyes set on You, not on the dream. Thank You, Jesus, for taking me along with You in this great adventure of life! AMEN

Incidentally, if you’re a historical fiction fan and have found reflecting on Rachel’s story to be intriguing or helpful, I strongly recommend that you read Liz Curtis Higgs’ Lowlands of Scotland Series. I thoroughly enjoyed it a couple of years ago and have drawn heavily from my memories of it while applying this scripture to my own life again recently.

May the Lord continue to bless you as we dig into the deeps of His Word and His grace in us!

FINDING GLORY Wednesday

Our focus this week continues to be on sharing life and ministry. This can be a challenging thing to do — and do well! Let’s dig deeper.

Today’s scripture and discussion question are:

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for on hour?’ he asked Peter.” MATTHEW 26:36-40

Consider how Jesus felt about his friends’ response during his time of anguish. What are godly ways to handle the temptation toward resentment when you don’t experience satisfying support from others?

For more information about Finding Glory Groups, visit http://www.findingglory.com/findingglorygrou.html.

Today’s reflections are copyrighted excerpts taken from Finding Glory in the Thorns: Group Discussion Guide.

Where I Get STUCK

PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loves, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Those of you who know me well are aware that Philippians 4:8 is a special verse for me. After a life-changing experience with that message in 1997, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of keeping my thoughts focused on positive things and especially things I am grateful for.

A grateful heart is God’s Divine weapon against a consuming negative thought life.

I confess that I have a tendency to have a critical spirit. The up side of my wiring is that it is easy for me to see how things could be better in some way. Thinking creatively and finding ways to make improvements upon something come quickly and easily for me. I tend to strive for excellence and progress in life. The down side is that my busy mind and high expectations can leave me dissatisfied, discouraged, lacking hope, and putting inappropriate pressure on people around me (or at least giving them the perception of pressure which can be just as unhelpful).

There was some incredibly valuable insight for me when I looked at the Greek translation for the word THINK in this verse. I am to very intentionally KNIT my thoughts together in the direction of true, trustworthy, honorable, lovely things. What goes on in my mind must, ultimately, be woven in the direction of Christ’s perspective.

Psalm 38:9 models for me that I can lay my every thought and emotion out completely bare before the Lord. How wonderful that Almighty God deeply cares about everything that concerns me! He wants me to share from the depths of my heart with Him. God absolutely cares about even the darkest, harshest realities of what goes on in my mind. He just doesn’t want me to stay STUCK in the places of pain, anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness or dissatisfaction. He wants to hear my heart but then refresh my thoughts in what is TRUE and HOLY and RIGHT.

What do these verses say to you about your thought life today? Let’s share what we are sensing God teaching us together!

PSALM 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

ROMANS 8:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

COLOSSIANS 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

ROMANS 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

PSALM 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord; they are PONDERED by all who delight in them.

Where I Get STUCK

PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is loves, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Those of you who know me well are aware that Philippians 4:8 is a special verse for me. After a life-changing experience with that message in 1997, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of keeping my thoughts focused on positive things and especially things I am grateful for.

A grateful heart is God’s Divine weapon against a consuming negative thought life.

I confess that I have a tendency to have a critical spirit. The up side of my wiring is that it is easy for me to see how things could be better in some way. Thinking creatively and finding ways to make improvements upon something come quickly and easily for me. I tend to strive for excellence and progress in life. The down side is that my busy mind and high expectations can leave me dissatisfied, discouraged, lacking hope, and putting inappropriate pressure on people around me (or at least giving them the perception of pressure which can be just as unhelpful).

There was some incredibly valuable insight for me when I looked at the Greek translation for the word THINK in this verse. I am to very intentionally KNIT my thoughts together in the direction of true, trustworthy, honorable, lovely things. What goes on in my mind must, ultimately, be woven in the direction of Christ’s perspective.

Psalm 38:9 models for me that I can lay my every thought and emotion out completely bare before the Lord. How wonderful that Almighty God deeply cares about everything that concerns me! He wants me to share from the depths of my heart with Him. God absolutely cares about even the darkest, harshest realities of what goes on in my mind. He just doesn’t want me to stay STUCK in the places of pain, anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness or dissatisfaction. He wants to hear my heart but then refresh my thoughts in what is TRUE and HOLY and RIGHT.

What do these verses say to you about your thought life today? Let’s share what we are sensing God teaching us together!

PSALM 38:9
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

ROMANS 8:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

COLOSSIANS 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

ROMANS 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

PSALM 111:2
Great are the works of the Lord; they are PONDERED by all who delight in them.