Thursday, October 31, 2013

50 Days of Victory - Day Twenty-Seven: The Name of Our Victorious God

As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth.
Your strong right hand is filled with victory.
Psa. 48:10, NLT

I’ve been called a few names in my time – Little Package, Babe, Punkin, Betheelaine, Herman, Goodie Two Shoes, Chatterbox, Nincompoop. Some were terms of endearment, others…not so much. What people call us is very important to our self-esteem and reputation. They either energize and comfort us, or discourage and condemn us to a fate we feel is inescapable.  

Believers were first called Christians in Antioch when Paul and Barnabas were winning many there to Jesus (Acts 11:26). It meant “Little Christ” and was a slam on those crazy Jesus Freaks who actually believed Jesus was the Son of God come back to life. Everyone could see how much they loved Him. They couldn’t stop talking about Him and centered their lives around His life, teaching, and promised return. The name stuck.

I don’t know about you, but I think it's a compliment to be named after Christ. I want to be like Him and spread His message of hope, forgiveness, and freedom.

Ann Spangler, says in Praying the Names of God, “To know God’s name is to enjoy a kind of privileged access to him…Through his names God reveals his character and his love. He is the Creator, the Everlasting God, the God Who Sees Me, the Lord Who Heals, the Lord My Rock, The Lord My Shepherd, and the Father who is calling us into a deeper, more satisfying relationship.”

It's His strong right hand that is filled with victory. He doesn’t just have a smidgeon or a pinch or a speck of victory. The right hand of our God is filled to the brim with victory. He already triumphed when He rose from the dead. The war is won; the devil has already been beaten.

Too often I forget that fact in the muddle of day to day life. I get discouraged and feel defeated, and think I have to do something to help Him out. In reality I just need to praise Him and spread the word.

Halloween: A Cheap Imitation Revisited

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate Halloween? I am re-posting this updated blog to let you know about a better option and so you can make an informed decision about The Halloween Question. Click on the link below if you would like to learn more.

Happy All Saints Day Eve!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Victory Series - Day Twenty-Six: Victory Redefined

In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice.
Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!
Psa. 45:4, NLT

God’s idea of victory and our human concept of it don’t always match. Personally, I would like to get victory over my thighs, the weeds in my yard, my unending need for reassurance and praise, and the misguided notion that it really is possible to do everything on my list each day. However, those things don’t seem to be God’s top priorities.

He’s not even concerned about power, land, or possessions. What God considers victory is saving human souls. He wants to rescue us from the living death of hatred, abuse, and self-destruction. He wants to heal our relationships with others. That’s why God rides out for victory with these three things in view: truth, humility, and justice.

Think how many of our problems would be solved if people would just tell the truth. Our court system wouldn’t be clogged with cases that stretch on for years. Voting would be simplified if we knew how the candidates really felt about the issues and how they would behave in office. Communication between husbands and wives would flourish, because instead of hiding problems from each other, they would honestly share and work on them together. Best of all, God’s Word would be the final authority.

Secondly, God fights for humility. The biblical definition of humility is: a realization of our sins, and desire to bring honor to God. The “great paradox” of Christianity is, “that it makes humility the avenue to glory.” ( Healthy self-esteem is when we can forget about ourselves, instead of assuming we’re better than others, or a waste of space on this planet. Either extreme puts us at the center of the Universe. Humility is seeing who we are in relation to God’s breathtaking splendor and putting ourselves in His hands.

The third thing God counts as victory is justice. God is for the underdog, the oppressed, the innocent, and the needy. Those are the people He fights for; He is their Defender and victorious Hero. His decisions are free from prejudice or lack of information. He is always good. It may seem at times like evil is winning, but in the end, God will triumph and right all wrongs.

While I still hope to get a few of the things under control that I first mentioned, this verse reminds me of what is most important to God. I want to follow His example and join the fight for truth, humility, and justice in my own life, and for those around me.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day Twenty-Five: Unexpected Weapons

It was your right hand and strong arm and
the blinding light from your face that helped them,
for you loved them.
You are my King and my God…
You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies.
 Psa. 44:4, 7, NLT

Usually, battles are won or lost through strategic warfare, the quantity and skill of the soldiers, sheer physical strength, or advanced weaponry. Sometimes the weather and even the shape of the land decides who wins or loses. Spiritual battles are a little different. As 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, the soldiers of God do not fight with the weapons of this world, and neither does the God we serve. 

God is strong; there’s no question about that. His power is unlimited, except the one area He has restricted himself by giving us free will to choose to love or reject Him. Whenever God’s right hand or right arm is mentioned in scripture, it refers to God’s superior strength and dexterity, like a warrior using his dominant arm.

The other two weapons mentioned here are a bit of a surprise though. Verse four says that the blinding light of God’s face helped His people win the victory. When God showed His radiance during a battle between the Israelites and their enemies it would have blinded, confused, and terrified them so much they would have dropped their swords and ran. This can apply to the spiritual battles we face every day as well.

Our God is radiant with glory and our enemy is terrified of the light! If we stay in God’s presence and walk in His light, He will illuminate our way and defeat the enemy, just by being who He is – the light of the world. The more we hang out with Him, the more He can fill us with light and shine through us.

The second unexpected war strategy God uses is Love. God is love; God loves people. He doesn’t desire our victory over fear, doubt, pride, deceitfulness, greed, or any of our other enemies because we deserve His help. Not because we’re from His favorite country or wear the right clothes.  He loves us because He is our Creator and chooses to love us. He fights for our victory so we can enjoy abundant life with Him here and spend eternity together in heaven.

Satan hates us because of this. He cannot defeat love – not God’s love for us, our love for God, or the love God gives us for others. Love is an unexpectedly powerful weapon indeed.

Who would have thought of these weapons for a surefire victory? Radiant light and unfailing love. Only God.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day Twenty-Four: I Need to Hear Your Voice, Lord

Lift up your spear and javelin against those who pursue me.
Let me hear you say, “I will give you victory!”
Psa. 35:3, NLT
This prayer reveals the need of every heart to hear God’s reassuring voice. His own words in scripture tell us He will be with us. God will fight for us; He will rescue, save, and provide for us. Yet, when trouble comes, we still need to hear Him say it to us personally. We’re like a child walking down a dark hallway who needs to hear his parent’s voice to know he or she is there.  We are God’s children and He is willing to meet this need.

All through the Bible the words of God are in quotation marks, and the words of Jesus in red in some versions. This way we can know what God himself has spoken to us. And the Holy Spirit of God whispers in the heart and mind of those who love Him, “You are not alone.”

One of my favorite verses to reassure me of this is in the book of Isaiah: “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left’” (Isa. 30:21, italics mine, NLT). And as for victory, a verse that I have clung to recently regarding my children: “But the Lord says…I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children’” Psa. 49:25).

I hope that encourages you too – God gives us His promise of victory and never failing presence, from His own lips.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Halloween Story

I grew up in a Christian home and loved dressing up to go trick or treating every year. In high school I went to church Halloween parties where we watched such inspiring fare as "Drink the Blood of Dracula." I attended a Christian college where we had a school sponsored haunted house. When I became a parent, I delightedly dressed our daughter up as Dorothy from Oz and I’m a Little Teapot, and made costumes for us to wear as well.

However, in 1992 they showed Halloween: Trick or Treat? at my church and it all came to a screeching halt. I was horrified to find out what this “innocent” little celebration was all about. How could I, as a committed Christian participate in something that is so opposite of everything I believe?

As any recovering addict will tell you, whenever you take something away that has been a big part of your life, you need to replace it with something to fill the void. When I found out that there was actually a Christian holiday on November 1st called All Saints Day, I did a little research and decided it was the perfect thing to take Halloween’s place.

All Saints Day actually came first. The Church fathers originally declared it a holiday to honor all Christians martyred for their faith. But why not make it a day of thanksgiving for all saints (believers) past and present? Because our Christian ancestors lived faithfully for God, they made it possible for us to hear the message of Christ and go to heaven. Now that’s something to celebrate! (See "What is a Saint?" blog for the biblical definition of saints.)

If you’re fed up with the world’s cheap imitation for a party and your heart yearns for the best God has for you, here’s some ideas on how to reclaim the season for Holy Partying!

* Boycott Halloween. Have dress up parties for birthdays, New Years, Valentines, and other holidays not connected with Halloween. Get together with Christian friends for a movie, games, or Bible study.
* Talk it up. I have been amazed how open and interested people have been to hear about All Saints Day: at the grocery store; in my daughter’s first grade classroom.
* Get excited about Christian history. Spend the month of October reading and watching biographies of inspiring people of faith. (See "Just How Much Do You Really Know" blog.)
* Pitch the cobwebs and tombstones. Decorate the house for fall and highlight with red and white - the symbolic colors for courage and faith.
* Fast and Pray. Pray against the evil that seeks to devour our nation. Pray for the innocent lured or born into the occult, and those tortured and killed as offerings to Satan (yes, this is really still happening!). Fight for what is good with the same fervency our enemies use against us.
* Do not fear. When learning about the occult, it is easy to focus more on darkness than light. Remember, Satan has already lost the war.
* Sing and play music with lyrics about courage and faith. Look in the hymnbook under All Saints Day and listen to what’s on the radio. It’s inspiring stuff!
* Throw an All Saints Day party on November 1 and make it the climax of the season (Game idea: Who’s Who in Christian History).
* Have a feast! (I’ll bet you already thought of that.) No party is complete without good food.

Many blessings on you and your household as you seek to lift up the name of Christ in this season overrun with Satanic influences. Whatever you and your family decide to do, stand boldly for Christ and, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Day Twenty-Three: What Do You Depend On?

Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
for all its strength, it cannot save you.
Psa. 33:17, NLT

I didn’t realize how heavily we depended on our in-car navigation system, until Kelly and I got lost. We were trying to find a business in an area we were not familiar with. Suddenly Cinnamon (as we’ve dubbed the female navigator) informed us, “You are entering an area unavailable for step by step instructions.” Well, that wasn’t very helpful. Thankfully, we were close to the street it was on. It only took a few extra turns to find our way. But we did have a moment of panic. I guess even the best technology isn’t foolproof.

That’s what happens when we depend on anything other than God to bring us spiritual victory. At the time Psalm 33 was written, the horse was the ultimate war machine. I realize that far too often the “warhorses” I count on are my own willpower, support system, and knowledge of scripture to conquer my enemies of impatience, gluttony, overwork, self-pity, and others I’m too embarrassed to admit. What about you. What warhorses do you depend on?

Are you counting on health, money, talent, or other Christians to help you defeat the enemies ganging up on you? Those things are helpful - the warhorses in my corral are nice to have around - but they will not win the victory.   

Today’s verse is a good reminder that only Christ in us, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, can empower us to defeat the enemy that wants to discourage and bring us down. Anything else will eventually fail. After all, horses can have bad days, be stubborn, get sick, get shot out from under us, or even get lost. Just like our navigation system did. The only One who we can always depend on is Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day Twenty-Two: Victory Surround Sound

For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
Psa. 32:7, NLT
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘surrounded?’ I normally think of it as a negative thing, like, “Come out with your hands up, we’ve got you surrounded.” Or, “It’s cold season and I’m surrounded by people coughing and sneezing.”

This morning, our house was surrounded…by crows. Whenever our neighbor puts out stale bread for the birds, they scoop up their prize and fly to our roof to break it into bite sized chunks. There they peck, fight and squabble, squawk and make an annoying racket. I can hear them running to and fro over my head. Other than climbing up there to shoo them off, I can’t do much about it until they’re done with their feast. I’m surrounded.

This is how Gehazi felt when enemy troops surrounded the city where he and Elisha lived. “Oh no, what are we going to do?” Gehazi started to panic. I think I would have joined him.

Instead of doing that, Elisha calmly said, “‘Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha’” (2 Ki. 6:16-17). Gehazi’s stress level dropped and his confidence rose dramatically.

When Kelly and I watched the first movie with our new surround sound, we I laughed at ourselves. We jumped at noises behind us and kept looking to the right and left to see who was there. It felt like we were in the middle of the action. And we were!
When God is our refuge and hiding place, the battle may rage all around us, but we are surrounded by His troops. We may not be able to see them, but the heavenly host is singing a victory song. We are surrounded. We are safe.

Open our eyes, Lord, to see we are not alone in the battle and give us spiritual ears to hear the song of victory that surrounds us. Let us add our voices in faith-filled praise.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day Twenty-One: Victorious Manhood!

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord!
    He shouts with joy because you give him victory.
Your victory brings him great honor,
    and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.
Psa. 21:1, 5, NLT

I had the opportunity to hear Rick Johnson, founder of Better Dads, speak on what makes a man a good leader. “I had just turned forty,” he said, “and had no idea what it meant to be a man or how to be a good father. As I drove I began thinking of great leaders throughout history and asked myself what they had in common.” Rick wasn’t a believer at the time, so he surprised himself with his own answer. “I realized every one that came to mind were all men of faith.”

In his quest to discover true manhood Rick began a relationship with Jesus Christ, who revealed to him what true masculinity and leadership is all about. I agree with Johnson’s assessment of the low expectations we have of men in his chapter “Gladiator: Defining Masculinity”: “Our society typically ascribes a dismal role to men, with low or no expectations of nobility or greatness. Few portrayals of men in the media are positive. Television shows and commercials often cast men as bumbling idiots with their wives as the competent ones in the family – all done under the guise of humor, which makes it acceptable. I wonder what the outcry would be like, though, if they reversed roles and all television sitcoms portrayed women as bumbling idiots and all men as the competent ones.”*  

On the other end of the spectrum are heroes who possess brute strength, and perhaps a sense of justice, but are completely inept in personal relationships and unfit to face everyday problems. Johnson says, “Authentic men are passionate, fierce, and noble – they care. In fact, they are dangerous, but it’s a good dangerous.” This is the kind of leader portrayed in Psalm twenty-one. The king was a man of God; victorious in the name and character of God; a man full of joy and commitment. His stride exuded splendor and majesty.

We need leaders like this! Whether the leader is a king, our president, pastor, boss, father, or church elder, we desperately need men who will courageously face the enemies of God and do battle for their families, fellow believers, the weak and the needy, and those who are oppressed. How does a man get to be that kind of leader? Norman Mailer says, “Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.”

That means doing things God’s way, even when it would be easier to take shortcuts. That means choosing what is right, even when it costs you personally. Victorious leadership doesn’t make compromises, it doesn’t make deals with the enemy, and it doesn’t delight in war for war’s sake. This leader does not fight for his own pleasure or glory, but to bring honor and fame to the King of heaven.

Who will lead this generation in the strength God provides? Who will shout louder for victories over sin and bondage than for football games, hunting, fishing, or work exploits? Who will walk through life respected for his godly leadership?

If you’re reading this and feel there’s no way you could ever measure up to this kind of manhood, remember, it happens one battle at a time. Each time you fight for God's honor, relying on His strength, you add to your reputation as a man of God.

*All quotes from The Power of a Man by Rick Johnson, also author of The Man Whisperer, Better Dads, Using Your Influence as a Man of Character and others.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day Twenty: Victory Envy

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
    and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.
Psa. 20:5, NLT

I had the privilege of hearing Paul Young, author of The Shack, speak a couple of years ago at a writer’s conference. He began his address by saying, “Most of you probably hate me. You’ve been writers for years and worked diligently to perfect your craft and get published. And then I come along, write one book, and it becomes a best seller. I never wanted to be a writer; I only wrote this book because my wife hounded me to do it as a Christmas gift for our children.” We laughed.

Getting this book out was God’s triumphant victory. It was His message and no obstacle was too big for Him. As writers of the message, that’s worth rejoicing over! And yet…Paul was right, we did hate him just a little. Why couldn’t God have used one of us who, as he said, have written for years and worked diligently to get published? We’ve had success, but nothing like a best seller. We had a small case of Victory Envy.

Have you experienced this? It’s not that you don’t want others to triumph. You do. You just have a hard time applauding and praising, when the victory banner waves over their tent again, and not yours. Do any of these scenarios fit?

·         Your friends exercise regularly, eat the right things without going overboard, have their spending under control, and enjoy their jobs and home life. You feel unhinged in just about every sphere. Their victory banner makes you feel like a loser.
·         The guy you went to seminary with is pastoring a church bursting at the seams with spiritual zeal, while you struggle to make ends meet, leading a small flock mired in tradition and boredom.
·         Your friends’ children are on fire for the Lord - becoming missionaries, doctors, teachers, winning the Nobel prize (well…maybe). Your kids, however, are having trouble getting started in life. They have children before marriage, no good prospects, are in a same sex relationship, or divorced. They don’t have a job or goals, are hooked on drugs or alcohol, or are in jail.
·         The new, young employee at work has your boss’s eyes and ears. He’s already given him a raise and increased responsibilities, some of which used to be yours. You’ve worked there 20 years and hoped for a big promotion this year, but rumor has it, the boss is considering him for the job.
·         There’s someone at church who exudes Spirit-filled charisma. People flock to them for counsel, prayer, and soak up their teaching like water-deprived sponges.  You work hard on your class lessons/ministry/service, but it seems like no one wants or appreciates what you have to offer. Sometimes you feel alone.  

The details may vary, but I’m willing to bet you identify with one of these examples. If you tried to pray Psalm 20 for this individual, the words would catch in your throat. We may only experience an occasional twinge, but if left unchecked, this envy will eat us alive. How, then, can we rid ourselves of it before it poisons our relationship with God and others? 

In my struggle against this God has given me three spiritual truths to chew on:
·         He is sovereign
·         He may be using this to develop maturity or obedience in me
·         Others must be willing to receive Him

Since God is all-knowing and has good purposes for our lives, He knows which soldier is best fit for each battle. We may experience victory another day, or in another way, or what we have accomplished may not be revealed until heaven. That is God’s decision. Because I love God and trust Him, I can praise Him for each victory, even if it's not mine personally.

Secondly, God shows me where I lack the maturity or humility necessary to handle victory in that area. Sometimes He has a greater lesson for me that would not be accomplished with success. Best of all, learning to applaud others in the body of Christ builds unity, Christlike character, and glorifies God.

Finally, spiritual victories depend on timing. We may be just as faithful a worker, parent, friend, or minister as the one rejoicing under the victory banner, but the ones we're praying to reach may not be ready yet to submit to God’s work in their life. That doesn’t mean we’re a failure; it’s just not time to party yet.

Perhaps you already noticed this, but the name on the victory banner is not mine or yours. It’s God’s banner and God’s victory. I needed that reminder. So I don’t know about you, but today I choose to whoop it up for others writing best-selling novels and nonfiction, spreading the good news about Christ. I will applaud those who are leading people to Jesus and witnessing miraculous healings. I will praise God for using each member of this great family of God to do His work around the world. He is the real Victor; He just lets us wave the banner now and then.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day Nineteen: Creation Proclaims the Victor

Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.
Psa. 3:8, NLT

I had hoped to say something profound about this verse, but my thoughts keep returning to the grandness of nature. The God who created our vast universe and the intricate facets of each flower, is the same One who created mankind and stoops to help us with the minute details of our lives. He made the land and the sea, the animals and the birds, the mountains, deserts, fields, and oceans. If you’re afraid I’m going to break into chorus with “Oh beautiful for spacious skies…” you may not be far off.

God made this spectacular world. He doesn’t want us to worship it, but worship Him the Maker of all and to take care of what He has given us. When we see God in every aspect of nature, our bodies, and our spirits created in His image - that is a victory over the deceiver. He says everything has come about by chance, over millions of billions of years. Satan claims we evolved from primordial soup into thinking, feeling beings, and that we have no god but ourselves to thank for our existence.

Look around you. Your heart testifies this can’t be true. God has made us and all that is. And the Lord is our Victor - the One who blesses us with life and breath. He holds out His hand to each one of us and calls us into relationship with Him. Can you look at all He has made and resist His call? I hope not.

Let Him sweep you up in His ever-faithful embrace.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day Eighteen: Take Time to Celebrate

home grown fresh fruit

birthday cake for my stepson
We’re getting ready to head into the holiday season, so it seems only appropriate to talk about feasting and gladness. When God saved the Jews from annihilation in Persia through Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordecai, the people took a day off to rejoice over the victory. Today we call that celebration Purim:

They rested, celebrating their victory with a day of feasting and gladness.
Est. 9:17, NLT

If God hadn’t put Esther in the palace so she could go to the king and plead for her people, there would have been a nationwide slaughter. Who wouldn’t celebrate such a rescue from God’s hand? And this is how we always respond to victory…isn’t it?

I’m not sure it always is. I suspect we don’t celebrate God-given victories near enough. Which one of the answers below best describes how you responded to the last victory God gave you – over temptation, fear, codependence, money problems, lying, or whatever the enemy uses to try and defeat you?

·         I was proud of the way I had handled the situation and vowed to work all the harder.
·         I was glad, but worried the other person would change their mind and it would be worse than before.
·         I rejoiced inside, but couldn’t take time off to celebrate.
·         We celebrated, but it turned into a family squabble.
·         We planned to have a party, but got busy doing other things.
·         I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what I’d been struggling with, so I couldn’t tell anyone about the victory.
·         I told my friend/family, and they celebrated God’s victory with me.

Did any or several of those apply to you? Our busy schedules, distracted minds, embarrassment, pride, and lack of unity take a lot of the gladness out of victory celebrations we could be enjoying. We may be so out of tune with what God is up to that we don’t even recognize the event as a victory.

Could it be that our focus is more on this world than eternity? Do we see our problems as part of the war for human souls and desperately seek God’s help to overcome them? Or are we just fighting for comfort and happiness in our day to day life?

In Celebrate Recovery, we have what’s called “Chip Night” once a month. Every first timer gets a plastic chip to mark the beginning of their recovery. Others for the number of months or years they’ve been clean and sober (or found healing from abuse etc.). Along with their chip, each person receives a hug and round of applause. This is victory!

God is challenging me to be more aware of victory, and to celebrate it more. Even if I only lean back and breathe a prayer of thanks, I can rest and be glad in what He has done.
Where do you see God winning a victory in your life? Rest. Celebrate. Feast. Be glad!

salad with a creative flair

lunch with Patricia

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day Seventeen: Take the JOY Home

When God gives you victory, don’t you want to tell somebody about it and share your joy? It could be a victory over your old way of life, fear, doubt, temptation, pride, or whatever. You just can’t hold it in! You’ve got to grab someone you love, who loves you, and tell them what God has done. But sometimes that falls flat. Have you noticed how many obstacles suddenly present themselves when your heart’s desire is to give God praise? Why can’t we get the joy home where we want most to share it?

Sometimes I call my husband bursting with joy, and he’s busy at work or too distracted to get as excited as I would like him to. When he walks in the door bubbling with victory news, I may be busy with dinner or have questions about a bill or phone call that seem more urgent at the time. I know you experience this too. Your children cry and need attention, your friend’s not available to talk when you call, you get stuck in traffic, or the person you’re trying to share with reacts with doubt or resistance.

I remember King David - all pumped up and flushed with praise, he came home to bless his family. Instead of celebrating with her husband that the Ark of the Covenant was back in town, Michal watched from her palace window with a critical eye. She made cutting remarks about how he’d made a fool of himself worshiping in public (see 2 Samuel 6). Way to kill the joy, Michal! No wonder he wasn’t able to share his joy in God’s victory with her.

In today’s verse, I’ve emphasized a few words in bold:
Then all the men returned to Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat leading them, overjoyed that the Lord had given them victory over their enemies” (2 Chron. 20:27, NLT). The thing that stands out to me is they took their joy home from the battlefield and it spilled all over town. Isn’t that what we want too?

How can we keep the joy from leaking away? First of all, we need to keep our focus on God. Distractions will come, and some will need our immediate attention. But then it’s time to remember God’s given us a victory. So announce with breathless excitement, “Let me tell you what God did today.” We can encourage each member of our household to recount a God-moment they had that day. Joy promotes joy, just as complaining and hopelessness multiply more of the same.

Secondly, we can ensure we’re not joy stealers when our loved ones have victories to share. I’ve been guilty of this. Preoccupied by my own circumstances and failures, I’ve burst my husband, friend, and family member’s joy bubbles with my own self-centeredness, jealousy, lack of faith, and self-pity. God has made me aware of this. Both He and they have forgiven me. Now I want to join in, rather than steal away joy. God is helping me to do that.

What about you. Has God given you victory today? Who can you tell and increase the level of joy in your home, dorm room, office, or neighborhood? Who else has a story to tell you that will energize your faith and bring their joy home?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day Sixteen: Get Ready, Get Set…Watch!

“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
2 Chron. 20:17, NLT

I  remember helping my dad with a lot of projects growing up. I often did little more than hand him a tool now and then and get in his way. He did all the work and I got to say I contributed to the finished product. That is such a picture of the victories God wants to win in our lives. He’s the One with the power, but He likes to have us with Him and “help” in the battle.

Like my dad, our heavenly Father likes our company. He knows He’s the One doing all the work. He wants to show us how it’s done and train us to do likewise. Sometimes, He wants to display His amazing power while we watch appreciatively and applaud.

I did that the other day when I got word of a person’s miraculous conversion. God spoke directly to their heart and they responded with a, “Yes, Lord!” I had no part in this new life in the kingdom, but I sure danced with praise and our home reverberated with my shouts of joy. I couldn’t stop marveling at God’s victory over a once stubborn, rebellious heart.

Just like Uncle Grae delighted to show his niece the finer points of mattress boxing, our God wants us to watch Him defeat the enemy. God says: “Take your position.” Be where He tells you to  be. Don’t hide in the supply tent or rush into battle without Him. “Stand still.” This is a hard one. Don’t dance around in frenzied activity or dissolve with panic. “Watch; don’t be afraid or discouraged.” Dad is going to show you how it’s done. Stand by and watch the enemy run!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day Fifteen: It’s All About God

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. 1 Chron. 29:11, emphasis mine, NLT

When my girls were little, they went to their grandparents’ in Idaho for two weeks every summer. They have wonderful memories from those years and it was a nice break for us. Invariably though, they would come home saying, “Grandma says…” and proceed to tell me what great wisdom Grandma had on every subject. The very things I’d been saying the other fifty weeks of the year suddenly sounded new. Sigh. Two weeks under her tutelage and Grandma got all the credit. However, I’m thankful for the love and discipline they received there.

On the other hand, it’s hard to put up with the guy who tries to take credit for work others have done. In the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Danny Kaye plays the part of an unappreciated idea man. His boss manages to take the credit for his initiative, until he finally stands up for himself.

We all seem to know people who, whether they mean to or not, constantly get the glory for what others have done. Sometimes, we ourselves are guilty. It’s a human tendency to accept accolades that belong to someone else.
playing king of the hill

Last week, Kelly and I read about King Hezekiah, who was a great man in many ways: a conquering war hero, innovative builder, and faithful God worshiper who inspired his people to pursue God. But when sickness threatened to take his life, he despaired. He turned his face to the wall and wept bitterly. God heard his prayer and told him to ask for a sign that he would be healed.

King Hezekiah asked God to move the shadow up the ten steps it had just come down. God made time go backwards, and gave the king an extra fifteen years. That’s when Hezekiah made his big mistake. When the Babylonians heard about the miracle, some men came to see the king and hear more about it. Sadly, instead of giving God the credit, Hezekiah took center stage – he showed off his kingdom and his wealth. Not only did he fail to witness, but a few years later, the Babylonians pounced on Judah to haul off the treasure they had seen there, and take the people captive. (You can read this story is in 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38-39.)

This challenges me. If other people hear about or see God’s healing, answered prayer, success, or wisdom in my life, they might want to know more about Him. When they ask, what will I say? Will I praise God for victory? Or will I show off what I have and what I have done?

Our victories might not include a life threatening illness and miraculous healing. But God’s plan is to use our victories over habits and temptations, healed emotional scars, and everyday acts of bravery to draw others to Him. Will we fluff up our egos or give Him the credit?  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Halloween and Christianity Series Revisited

Hello all,

Since I'm in the middle of a series, I do not plan to post anything new this year on Halloween and how it affects our Christian life and witness. But if you're searching for what the Bible says regarding how and what we celebrate, here is the link to the series I did in 2011. Others have mentioned they'd like a little review and some new ideas on how to make this month one of joy and light in the midst of dark practices disguised as innocent fun.

It's been exciting to hear from many of you about the changes and choices you've made for your family and I am praying that this October/November will be your best year of celebrating ever! We really do have a corner on fun, you know.

You will find the first post at the address below. Then read your way backwards. :0)