Monday, February 28, 2011

Is This Not The Fast Which I Choose?

Yesterday's sermon was great, and it definitely spoke to me. The pastor even said that he can't ever read this without feeling convicted.


Pastor T (our pastor of family ministries) spoke on Isaiah 58. The chapter talks about how God's people would cry out loud to the Lord, they were being obedient in what they were doing:


Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know my ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
        (Isaiah 58:2)
The people fasted and humbled themselves, but they felt God was not listening to them, or seeing what they were doing.


So often, I think, we also feel that way. I know in my own life, especially these last few years, I have definitely felt like God has turned a blind eye, and ignores the things I do (or try to do) for Him.


There was one problem, however, with what the Israelites were doing. We read in verse 3 that, "...on the day of your fast you find your desire."

Basically, they were being selfish in fasting and in being humble (which, really, is a false humbleness or humility). They weren't helping others, and they put the focus all on themselves. They fasted and had food that they weren't eating, but they did not share it with those who did need it. They were doing these things (fasting, being humble, etc.) but yet were acting in an evil manner to others - "..you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist" (verse 4). That is totally not the way to behave!


God goes on, in verses 6 and 7 to tell his people:


Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?


Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?


The people needed to be putting their focus on others, and not themselves. They needed to stop being wicked and evil, and to start sharing their food with those who had none (or very little), share their homes and their beds with those who were homeless, and give their clothing to those in need.


During my walk, for the last while, I have felt like God has been ignoring me (even though I know He hasn't). You see, I put the focus on why God has not done something for me, or answered prayers; but, in actuality, it is because of what I haven't been doing.

While Pastor T was speaking, it occurred to me that I have been acting the same way the Israelites were. For so long, it has been all about me - what I need, what I want. I definitely think it's time for a change in my actions! I need to start focusing on the needs of others.


I love what God promises (in verses 8 to 11) if we put our focus on others and not ourselves, and do as He says in the verses above:
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.



Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am '
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,



And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.



And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Isn't God awesome?!

Are there any Bible verses that are speaking to you today? I'd love to hear what they are in the comment section!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lately...

These are some thoughts and feelings I've been going through lately. They are nicely summed up in these two videos by Matthew West...








These are currently two of my favourite songs. What are your favourite songs?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If I Was Meant To Have Patience...I'd Have Been A Doctor!

I've always thought of myself has having patience. I somewhat taught myself to knit (couldn't quite remember the knit stitch and how to cast on that I learned when I was seven), though I did get a little help from one of the ladies at work when things didn't seem to be working out. Mind you, I used some tutorials as well, to get a little help. But, it wasn't an easy process - especially using the double pointed needles to make socks and mittens!

When I'm teaching someone how to knit, I have lots of patience. When I'm working with the kids at school, I have a good amount of patience. When I'm waiting for someone (unless I'm in a great hurry), I tend to have patience.

But, when it comes to some things, I'm not patient at all. I want it now; I want it yesterday. And, my mantra of the day becomes "If I was meant to have patience (patients), I'd have been a doctor!" (Ok, so it sounds better than it looks written out...because you don't have to show the spellings of both words...)

This morning I was doing my Bible reading, like I try to do every morning. Once again, like I usuall do, I asked God to show me something, reveal something to me, help me get something out of my reading. I don't always get something, but I think I did today.

I started reading Genesis again the other day, and today's chapter was on the flood waters receeding, and the ark coming to rest on Mount Ararat (chapter 8). We are told that Noah, et. al., endured 40 days and 40 nights of rain;  that "the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days" (Gen. 7:24); that the waters came in the second month, and in the seventh month "the ark rested upon th emountains of Ararat" (8:4). The waters then "decreased steadily until the tenth month" (8:5) It was at this point when the tops of the mountain became visible.

So, quite a bit of time has gone by at this point. In verse 6, we read that it was another 40 days that Noah sent out the raven. After that he sent out the dove, which returned to him. He then waited seven days before sending out the dove again. This time it returned with the olive leaf. The inhabitants of the ark did not leave then; instead, they waited a further seven days.

All in all, it took a long time - "In the 600th year of Noah's life, in the second month on the 17th day, the rains began. (Gen. 7:11). When Noah was 601 (the first month on the first day), the water dried up from the earth. In the second month on the 27th day the earth was dry and Noah was told to leave the ark (Gen. 8:13-16). I'm sure it required a LOT of patience from the 8 members of the ark. Can you imagine the smell that came from the ark with all those animals and even the people, with no bathrooms??!!! I would think that situation would either help to create patience or drive you insane.

So, that got me to thinking about Abraham and Sarah having to wait a long time for a child; Hannah and Elizabeth also waited a long time to have children.

And, ultimately, the greatest test of patience - waiting for the arrival of the Messiah (Jesus)! And, now we wait patiently for Jesus to return.

God's timing is not our timing. What seems like a great deal of time to us may only be the blink of an eye for God. And that's where I tend to get frustrated.

In my own life, there are things I'm still waiting for, and though I don't know if I'll ever get them, I try to be patient. I try to tell myself that God's timing is perfect, and I just need to wait patiently. But, saying is a lot easier than doing! In all honesty, there are times when I feel like giving up. And, admittedly, I say at times that I am giving up on something, but then I find myself going back and starting the waiting process over again - just in case.

Patience can be something I struggle with, but I try to keep my focus on the Lord, and not me or whatever I am waiting on. Like I said though, it's not easy to do!


What is something you struggle with?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday Fill Ins

1. New experiences and possibilities often scare me.




2. If you don't take an unexpected turn on a daily walk you might miss out on something beautiful.



3. I'm looking forward to the day I get my very own classroom - hopefully kindergarten to grade two or three...maybe four.



4. Unimaginative people never have imagined.



5. Try to find an end to the several feet of snow we've received in the last month or so.



6. I'd like to think I could find out just what exactly is what's extraordinary about me.



7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to doing some knitting, tomorrow my plans include more knitting, probably, and Sunday, I want to be able to hang out with my bestie, my BFF as we haven't been able to in about a month!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day...

Dear Jesus,

Here is my Valentine's Day card to you:


Yes, Jesus, that's right. I choo choo choose you - not just as my Valentine, but as my Saviour!

Love,

Shelley
xox

Sunday, February 13, 2011

With A Blogger Here and Blogger There

Here's a list of a few pretty cool blogs I've discovered recently. Why not check them out:

1. Blessed Beyond Measure

2. Cycle Guy's Spin

3. Windows and Paper Walls

4. Ragamuffin Soul

5. Beta Christian

I'll post links to some others at another time, and as I come across them.

Question: What are some of your favourite blogs to visit? Why not leave a link in the comments for me to check out!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Storms May Come, And Storms May Go...

Snowstorm
The snowflakes started their quiet, gentle descent, drifting down from the grey skies overhead. Soon, they turned to fat, fluffy flakes that gathered quickly in a soft, white blanket on the ground. The evergreens and other trees reached out to collect their ‘no two alike’ treasures on their bows.

All around, it was peaceful; but it didn’t last. All too soon the flakes changed again, and within the hour the wind picked up, howling and whipping the snow every which way. At times, it was near impossible to see even a few feet into the distance – whiteout conditions ensued.

That snowy scene has taken place at regular intervals within the last six weeks in my city. We’ve had at least one snow storm each week in that amount of time, and it happened again late last night and only ended around noon today. We were expecting a further 30 cm (almost a foot) on top of the roughly 40 cm we already had. That’s over 2 feet of snow – and that’s not counting the drifts and banks from where snow has been shoveled or blown from roads, walkways, and driveways.

Thinking of all the storms we’ve been having (and not only in my city, but in many around the world) reminds me of the storms we face in our lives and how they often leave behind drifts and damage and debris. Sometimes we encounter unpleasant circumstances – pain, suffering, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc., that turn our worlds upside down and inside out.

It doesn’t matter, really, whether or not our storms are frequent or infrequent, or if our everyday trials pile up slowly or quickly, for there is Someone we can (and should) turn to, someone who can help us weather our storms.

That Someone is Jesus.

Jesus can help us through the darkest of nights, shining His light along the way. He can comfort us through the violent storms, and the rough waters. He is there for us and helps to bear our burdens:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden (Psalm 68:19)

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you…(Psalm 55:22)
And, just like the snow, our troubles and problems will not last. They will melt away. But like the over 2 feet of snow we have here, it may take longer than we’d like for them to disappear. Don’t give up, however, hold on to Jesus, because the storms will pass away, the snow will melt and a season of rebirth, growth, and strength will follow.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Remember Egypt


Looking towards a hazy Cairo from the pyramids
 With all the recent events going on in Egypt, I began thinking of my trip there in February 2008 - 3 years ago!

I went to Egypt with three friends from when I was living and teaching in South Korea. The four of us spent a few days shy of a month in that country, travelling from Alexandria, to Cairo, to Luxor and Aswan, and places in between.

We visited many tombs, temples, and pyramids. We rode on camels (which was a lot of fun), walked around the busy streets, did lots of shopping, enjoying the sights and sounds of such a busy place, bought lots of souvenirs, and just took in the wonders of that ancient land.


Horses race past as we ride on camels to the pyramids

Egypt has its good points and its bad points, but overall I am so thankful I was able to go and experience the culture. I was afraid that I wouldn't like the food there, as I really didn't know what to expect; however, I ended up loving it! The people, for the most part, were friendly, though there is lots of begging due to the poor conditions/economy.

Egypt is in need of our prayers - prayers for what is happening, the safety of the people, the government, new leaders, direction, etc. To be honest, I don't even really know what to pray for exactly. I do pray for these things, but we are told in the Bible that even when we don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (I can't find the passage right now, otherwise I'd post it here. Feel free to let me know where it's found in the comments).

I thought I'd post a few photos of when I was in Egypt. I think if you click on them they will enlargen. I have probably a thousand photos (or close to it) and can always show more in future posts.

On the deck before our Nile Dinner Cruise



Please join me in remembering Egypt when we pray.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Have I mentioned?

I've gone through a couple boxes of Kleenex already. The nose spray is dwindling down. The Vicks VapoRub has been consitently slathered on. And, The cold pills and NeoCitrine have been ingested every four hours for the last several days.

My nose is running, though that seems a little more recent, I'm congested (that's starting to clear up a little), the sneezing is gale force when it happens, my ear has become somewhat "clogged" (though I can still hear), and I've now developed a raspy, barking cough.

I'm sick.

I hate being sick - mind you, I don't think I know of anyone who actually enjoys being sick, but I digress. I've been fairly lucky this winter season; this is the first cold I've had in awhile. Thankfully, I don't think it's the flu as I don't have any aches, pains, or fever. I've been dealing with this now since this past Saturday - five days. I hope this bug doesn't last much longer.

"If anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick..." (James 5:14-15)
While I don't expect you all to rush up here and anoint me with oil, I sure would appreciate your prayers, offered in faith, for my health to be restored. I hate to complain, so I'll stop here with my post.

Have I mentioned that I hate being sick?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Talent or Gift

Hundreds of fingers flew over computer keyboards, the clickety-clacking echoing in the large office. My mind was racing, not particularly focusing on work. I had been thinking about a couple of evenings before, when I had been at Bible study.


“Ok, God.” I thought. “I have been thinking about this since the other day, trying to figure out how to use this gift for you. I can’t come up with anything. I really have no idea how or what to do, so you are going to have to tell me in no uncertain terms what to do.”

The prayer had barely left the confines of my brain when the answer appeared. “Crochet baby blankets.” It was more of a thought in my mind than an actual voice.

During that particular Bible study, we talked about spiritual gifts, and even took the “quiz” offered by my church. It was a typical spiritual gifts inventory in which you answer questions, add up the corresponding amounts beside each answer and then whichever has the highest totals is where you are gifted (you can also find these inventories online).

At the time, my highest total fell in the “craftsmanship” category. As I mentioned, I could not come up with a single idea of how to use that spiritual gift to glorify the Lord. But, I prayed and God answered me. I decided that after work that day I was heading to Wal-Mart to buy yarn and a crochet hook (I hadn’t crocheted in years). I wasn’t too worried about a pattern, because often times the band around the yarn has patterns printed on them.

My idea – with help from the Lord – was to crochet the baby blankets and donate them to the hospital or the local pregnancy resource center. I was so excited! The countdown until the end of the work day had begun, and it was just after lunch. I remember the afternoon dragged on and on as I waited anxiously to start this new endeavour.

That was about ten years ago. Since then I’ve expanded my skills to include knitting, which I mostly do now – mittens, socks, hats, scarves, etc. I typically put them on the mitten tree at church and they are given (free) to those in need. I haven’t actually made any baby blankets (knitted or crocheted) for about seven or eight years now.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with whether or not my knitting/crocheting can be considered a spiritual gift. Is it a talent given to me by God, yes; but an actual spiritual gift, I don’t know. You see, I after I had taken the inventory “quiz”, I had believed craftsmanship was a spiritual gift. Then, I took part in a discussion on a Christian forum about spiritual gifts. I had mentioned that craftsmanship was my biggest gifting, and was promptly told by some that it is not something listed in Corinthians or Romans or any other place in the Bible as being an actual spiritual gift. According to this person, only what was listed in those chapters (prophecy, tongues, interpretation, etc.) were actual spiritual gifts.

Do I lose sleep over this? Of course not. Even if it isn't a "real" spiritual gift, I can use it to glorify the Lord - and really, isn't that what counts?

So, my question to you is this: Are spiritual gifts only those that are listed in the New Testament, or can anything be considered one? What is the difference between a God-given talent and a spiritual gift?