Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are you getting tested?

Hello fellow seekers,

It's a beautiful day outside, one of those days in which you need only look around and see evidence of God's creative mastery in the sparkle of last night's rain on the grass, in the bright, vast, array of colors embellishing flowers and leaves, and even in good, dark, earth! Let's pray.

God, what you have made is good. Thank you for the gift of beauty in nature. There is more mystery in one bloom dusted with life in the form of pollen than in all the volumes of books man has written. I thank you for the bees spreading your creative spark this morning in my garden, and for the rain you sent last night to quench the thirst in my tomato and corn plants. I thank you for the blessings of summer, a sweet respite from the harshness of our cold, Minnesota winters. Who can take in the splendor of your mountains and canyons, your storms and gentle rains, your snow-capped peaks and grassy valleys, and not know there is a God and He is Good! Give each of us more of your goodness today, Lord. Let our hearts be overwhelmed with the generosity of your love today. In Jesus' name, amen.

Did you know, dear friends, that Satan loves to hear us pray for more of anything from God? Oh yes, because it gives him great insight as to how he can tempt us and discourage us. However, God promises that even before the temptation comes, our Father has already given us a way out. Remember the scripture, first "submit to God;" and then,"resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7.

Look up all the scriptures you find on temptation. Write down what you learned about where temptation comes from and what God wants us to do in response to temptation. I'd love to benefit from your insights in the comments section.

It is Satan who tempts us with sinful desires, seeking our downfall. It is God who tests us, giving us opportunity to grow in our faith. Trials and tests are to help us grow stronger and more powerful against temptation. Read James 1:2.

I listened to a wonderful teaching this morning called "Heart Test," by Joyce Meyer. Let me tell you how that came up. As usual, on Sundays, there comes on our family difficulties in getting to our church. Does that happen to anyone else? It makes it more tempting not to go because we live about a half an hour's drive away.

Well, last night my little boys would not settle down and go to sleep until midnight. So, that meant I couldn't start my own settling down to relax and unwind either, and ended up getting to bed about 3 a.m. Now, the thought of taking three tired, grumpy boys to church, then trying to listen to the sermon while poking drowsers, moving quarrelers away from each other, and then having to go home instead of visiting with friends because a certain five year old was going to be determined to be obstinate, well, let's just say I turned off the alarm. I just said, "Well, Lord. If you want us up for church I guess we will be up and pleasant, and if we don't get up, we will just have church right here at home."

Now, I am not saying sometimes we don't just need to press on past our own tiredness and get ourselves to church. Most of the time, that's just what we should do. Just about every time I skip church, the next week I hear what a great message I missed from someone who was there to hear it, and of course, it's always on a subject I would have really been glad to hear. That's why Satan does everything he can to keep us out of church, because that's where we are going to hear the Word of God and get to hang out with positive, God-loving friends.

The long and short of it is that I've just had about 4 nights in a row that I haven't been able to get to sleep before two or three in the morning, and so, I decided I wasn't going to fight it last night and I would trust God to order my day in the morning. This morning I got up about 11 a.m., and the first thought I had was, "O.K., we're going to have church right here."

I got the boys up and surprisingly, everyone got up without complaining and sat down in the living room for "church." While I cooked up pancakes, we popped in the latest CD I received from Joyce Meyer Ministries. It was called "Heart Test." (If you'd like a free CD every month with about an hour or so of Joyce teaching on it, she sends them out with a donation of any size.)

I'm going to share with you the main insight God gave me in that teaching, and let you ponder on it today: How many of us pray for God to 1. let us love everyone; 2. make us to forgive those around us; 3. prosper us; or maybe, 4. let me be Your servant, Lord; or 5. my favorite, CHANGE ME, LORD!

These are good prayers! Which one is yours? Or is there something different you always seem to desire? Write it here: __________________________________

Does He answer  these prayers? You bet He does. But think about this: What happens when you go into to talk to your boss and ask for a promotion or for a raise? You have to demonstrate your qualifications for that promotion or raise, right? You have to have already learned what you need to know to do the job or justify the increase in salary, am I right? You have to pass a test, before you get the prize.

Whether it's a degree in school, a promotion to a higher position, or being given more responsibility, we first need to demonstrate the ability to handle the challenges of that position. We don't typically get the job first, then get the training to do the job. Yes, there are some exceptions, but there always is another cost in those situations, like a reduction in pay until we come up to snuff, right?

So, think about this, if you want to be a loving person, get ready to be exposed to some un-lovable people. If we want to be forgivers, we'll get the opportunity to be hurt so we can practice that skill. May be God will ask us to start with some folks who hurt us in the past, like those who abused or bullied us, as children. Still wanting to be blessed with more? If we want to be prospered, God says we've first got to obey Him with the little we've got.

Let me tell you, He is working me OUT on this one right now, and I don't mean with being a good steward with what I've got because He already did that number on me, but He's leaning on me with trusting Him enough to be generous right now, not when I'm wealthy, and it hurts . . but it hurts more to resist. Anyone out there know what I mean?

The minute I submit, and say, "O.K. God, take it all, take all my resistance, I just want your love, I'm going to trust you because I can't take for one more minute knowing you are speaking into my heart to obey you in this matter, and turn my face away in fear, again."

Now, I'm a crier. Some of you who know me might be surprised to know that, because I love to laugh and I love to make other people laugh with me. But when the Holy Spirit starts working in me, I'm going to be bawling, that's just me. My heart doesn't know what to do with all the love that comes with God. Even when He is letting me know I need to make a change, it's done with such love I can't help but just start blubbering. It's a mixture of sorrow for knowing I've been wrong, and at the same time so full of that tingly, soaring love that I want Him to give me something else to obey in, too. "Change me some more Lord while my spirit is willing!" Please now, give me a comment and tell me you know what I mean by all this!

So pray for growth, but remember there are going to be some growing pains. As we get more comfortable with obeying, the growing gets easier and easier. My five year old has a really hard time obeying right now, so he gets lots of opportunity to practice. Since he is a small child, I shape the behavior I want with plenty of rewards for obedience: points towards PlayStation or computer time, trips to the playground, Popsicles after a successful shopping trip.

My nine year old has much more experience obeying and he does it more gracefully. He no longer needs physical rewards to shape his behavior, and seeks to please me more and more often. Sure, he gets Popsicles, too, after all, who doesn't like Popsicles?! The point is he is not in training on the issue of obedience so much as my younger children, and he has learned his life goes along much more peacefully as a result. 

We are like little children. At first obeying is hard and we struggle, needing lots of confirmation from God that we are doing the right thing. We need lots of instruction in His Word, and lots of promises of His rewards. As time goes on, we learn that life goes more peacefully and joyfully when we choose to obey God, and that the greatest reward is feeling the Holy Spirit pat our backs and say "Well done!"

So, pray! Then gird your loins for the test ahead. The good news is that we only have to pass each test once! But, we do have to pass it, or simply take it again, and again, and again. Welcome the test, because "after the test comes the promotion!" (Joyce Meyer)

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