Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Further Still

“And He went on further still,
and fell on His face, and prayed….”
Matthew 26:39
Have you ever felt God calling you “further still” with Him? It is those times when He is ministering to you so personally and so deeply, and gently calling you to go further in your relationship with Him.  Trusting only Him in the raw pain of betrayal or hurt. 

These Gethsemane seasons of “further still with God” are places where it’s just you and Him as He beckons you to step into deeper levels of intimacy and trust. As you pray and search His scriptures, you listen for and hear His still, small voice. During these “further still” seasons with God, He matures your faith, broadens your trust, and reveals intimate treasures from His heart to yours. It’s a beautiful time when you crave and desperately need less of the world and more of Him.

Extended time in prayer with our Heavenly Father brings clarity and comfort during these seasons. Just as Jesus was called further still with God, He labored in prayer. "The betrayal and arrest of Jesus was preceded by an extended time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He stepped out of the garden to present Himself to His enemies, Jesus had been alone praying and agonizing for hours." Anne Graham Lotz

I have been in those “further still” seasons with God. He calls me out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar, but prepared and safe places. Whether it is presenting myself to my "enemies" or charting new ground with the Lord, He calls me to bravely trust Him and His perfect plan.

During those seasons, He tenderly lifts my head so I fix my gaze upon Him alone. My husband lovingly gives his counsel to me, and my sisters in the Lord pray on my behalf. I am so thankful for my husband and friends, yet I know that as God calls me “further still,” I am the one who has to continue stepping forward with confidence and trust in Him. No one can do that for me. He reminds me to look to Him alone, to seek to please Him and not people.

It is a time of His refreshing and necessary cleansing. In his book Reflecting His Image, KP Yohannan writes, “You see, when it is only God and you, you are more apt to face your pride and your sins. With everyone else we argue these things away and look wonderful and smile. But when we are all alone before God, we face ourselves, and the cleansing and purification will take place. We become less phony the more we are with the Lord.”

Is God calling you further still today? Our Heavenly Father is completely faithful and entirely trustworthy. He stands with His strong and loving arms opened wide beckoning you to take steps of faith in your walk with Him. Though the place you step may be unfamiliar, remember He has gone before you. He wants you to see more of Him – His flawless character and His amazing love. He has a heart full of treasures to unearth for you.
"For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid...for I myself will help you,' declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 41:13, 14

© 2011 by Sharon Sloan. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sitting In The Sycamore Tree

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. (Luke 19:1-7)

Sitting in the sycamore tree today, I know Jesus is coming...I am on His path. He looks directly into my eyes and speaks to me face-to-face and invites me to have Him as a guest in my home.  The most highly-honored Guest to dwell in my heart, I receive Him with great joy.  If ever a self-invited guest was welcome in my heart and home, it is Jesus. 

He is coming my way, just like He did with Zacchaeus, and the woman at the well, and so many others. 

Today, I am asking for His salvation to come.  Eternal salvation I already possess, by His grace and mercy.  In Him, I am completely secure.  So, I look for His saving grace today.

Perched in the sycamore tree, I have postured myself to see His movement, His work, His salvation in a difficult situation.  I look to Him because in the pain and unfairness, He will cleanse my heart.  Placing my heart on His sacred threshing floor, I ask Him to create a pure heart in me.

Waiting on Him, I long to hear His whispers, "Make haste and come...I have salvation today."  While I could get lost in the confusion and hurt, He calls me to Himself and saves me.

Sitting in the sycamore tree, looking and waiting for Him.  Trusting and resting in His perfect love and sovereignty. 

Though there is a chaotic crowd around that could cause me to lose my view of Him, I have climbed up the sycamore tree where I quietly sit and wait for Him.  

The view is beautiful from here because I know He is mindful of me and sees me. Amazing love. Forever grace.

I know I won't be here long, and I am glad because He knows I am afraid of heights.  I could be scared, but I choose to trust, to wait, to know.  For I know in Whom I trust.  His embrace, His salvation, His grace...He is on the way. 

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house...for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:9-10

Monday, November 7, 2011

All That and A Bag of Chips

"When we see and recognize God in the details of our lives,
our intimacy with Him is deepened."
~ Charles Stanley
One morning late in the Summer of 2007, during my quiet time with the Lord, He put a few things on my heart that He wanted me to do.  I jotted them down on a notepad I keep at my devotion spot. Now, this doesn't happen frequently, but that morning I knew He had a few specific "divine assignments" for me. (It is remarkably humbling and exciting that He uses us as vessels, isn't it?)

"Send chips to Lysa TerKeurst" was the first assignment for me. Yes, that's what He impressed on my heart. I've gotta tell ya....I did wrestle with the Lord a bit on this. "Chips, Lord? You want me to send chips? I have never sent anyone chips! That seems so random.  Can't I send her some cute note cards or some pretty earrings?  What woman wouldn't love that? You really want me to send chips? This is a little embarrassing!! Why would someone want to receive chips randomly?" 

I knew it was Him whispering to my heart. So, I was resolved to obey and send the chips after dipping myself in the Word and knowing "to love is to obey." (1 John 14) However, still feeling a bit red-faced about how Lysa would feel about receiving potato chips randomly, I didn't rush to obey in sending the chips.

My stubborn pride was rearing its ugly Potato Face head.

Each morning after my quiet time, I would look at my note: Send chips to Lysa. "Yes, Lord, I will.  I'll get to that." 

Finally, after a few weeks of my putting that assignment off, the Lord mercifully spoke to my heart "Sharon, send the chips TODAY!"  I am thankful for His patience. "OK, I get it Lord. Today is the day. I know I am obeying you, so the purpose of this somewhat embarrassing, random chip-sending assignment is in Your faithful hands."

It had been on my "Summer Fun Things To Do List" for several summers to take our two children to the Herr's Snack Factory for a tour, which is just an hour from our home. In August 2007, just a week or so before receiving this blessing-to-serve assignment from the Lord, I was moved one morning and I called my mom and said, "Mom, we are coming to pick you up...we are going to Herr's Factory today with the kids!" It's no mistake that, after wanting to do this for several summers, a day in late August 2007 was the day we spontaneously did it. It was shortly thereafter that God told me to "send chips" and I was freshly familiar with the variety of Herr's chips!

Getting on-line to
www.herrs.com I ordered a box of 42 snack-size bags of chips to send to Lysa. I did have fun picking out the varieties and flavors I thought the TerKeurst Family might enjoy, but the nagging thought of "this seems so random" lingered in my head.

When I finished my order, the Herr's site indicated it would take up to 7-10 days to fill the order, and then several more days for it to ship and arrive at the TerKeursts. That seemed fine to me. They weren't expecting the chips, so it was no rush really. According to Herr's customer service, they'd get them in a few weeks. I made a mental note of it and exited the site. My heart was content knowing I had obeyed the Lord (albeit tardily). I was, however, still wondering what Lysa would think about randomly receiving CHIPS!

The NEXT DAY, I received an e-mail from Herr's customer service advising me that the order was processed and had SHIPPED. IN ONE DAY!

TWO DAYS AFTER THAT, I received an automatic e-mail from UPS telling me that the CHIPS had been delivered! In 3 days from when I placed the order, it was processed and the chips were delivered to Lysa's front porch! Again, I noted this in my head but did not have any idea the significance of it all. To be honest, I thought business at Herr's and UPS must be pretty slow to have handled this so efficiently in 3 days!

In reality, the workers at Herr's and UPS were unknowing servants of our awesome God to answer Lysa's prayer and carry out His command to me.

My heart was at peace knowing the chips had arrived and that I had obeyed the Lord. The joy and peace that accompanies obedience was good enough for me. I thanked Him and went on with life, content with that quiet little treasure in my heart between Him and me.

A week or so after getting the e-mail notification from UPS, and just after arriving home from a scrapbook retreat with my girlfriends, I read the CHIP STORY (click here)  on Lysa's blog. Literally, my jaw dropped and I lost my breath. Oh my! Here, Lysa had whispered a quiet prayer to the Lord about CHIPS!  Her daughter had requested a variety of chips for her school lunches, and Lysa wanted to bless and honor her daughter's request.  Lysa wrote how the chips were "a love letter straight from the Lord! He loves me, cares about me, fills in my many gaps, and loves for me to experience Him in the most wondrous ways."

Chips! Yes, indeed, He wanted me to send CHIPS! And in His grace and mercy, even in my delayed obedience, He delivered the chips to her porch on time and at the exact moment it would speak to her heart of His love, faithfulness and provision!

Tears streamed down my face! "Chips, Lord, chips! You wanted me to send chips! You reached down from heaven to put chips on the porch of a mommy who wanted to bless her daughter and fulfill her request for some chips for her school lunches. You filled in a gap for that mom. You care about chips, Lord! You care about the details of our lives! You love us so intimately and so perfectly! Thank you, Lord! Thank you that you spoke to my heart and entrusted this precious divine assignment to me! Thank you that you confirm to me that Your sheep hear Your voice, and that you want to use me, Lord. Thank you, Lord, for letting me see the fruit of obedience."

"Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are His deeds, and His righteousness endures forever. He has caused His wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate...the works of His hands are faithful and just." Psalm 111:2-4, 7

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples. With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people." Psalm 77:11-15

May God be glorified and may our relationships with Him grow deeply intimate as we testify about His deeds on our behalf. And what a joy to be part of God's answer to a quiet prayer of another mom four states away!  God bless my very salty friend Lysa!

He is involved in the details! His love is ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS!

"He gave me understanding in all the
details of the plan."
1 Ch. 28:19 (NIV)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Guest List

“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’”
Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)

My husband and I were on the “B List” for a particular wedding banquet.  Honestly, we were excited to be on the guest list at all, so being “B List” guests did not insult us. Someone we watched grow up was getting married. Their parents were prominent in the local community and several hundred people could have easily been on the guest list for their child’s wedding. We were honored by the invitation, even as "B List" guests.

Creating guest lists can be difficult. The above verse from Luke 14 teaches godly guest list etiquette. Jesus tells us that when we have a banquet to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” As a woman who enjoys hosting birthday parties for our children and gatherings for our family and friends, guest lists have become something sacred to me. They are an offering to the Lord. Jesus says to look beyond the obvious guests on your list, such as family and close friends, and reach out to the outcasts and downtrodden.

While there may not be those who are physically crippled, lame or blind in our lives, there are those who are hurting, who feel unwanted and unworthy of an invitation.

When my children and I make their party guest lists together, we prayerfully ask the Lord to put those on our hearts who would be blessed by receiving an invitation. Perhaps a friend who is not able to host birthday parties themselves. Or someone who is dealing with paralyzing emotional pain. Maybe someone whose parents are going through a divorce. Perhaps a friend who is shy and tends to be socially isolated. Or the one who has rough edges, is not easy to be around and doesn’t see God’s loving acceptance of them. The poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind.

Truth is, without Jesus and His redemptive love, we are all “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

Even in Christian circles, we can feel like the outcast or the unwanted guest. We’ve all experienced that “I wasn’t invited” feeling. An invitation speaks of acceptance, inclusion, care, love, worth and friendship. God’s Word tells us to extend invitations to unassuming guests.

The Lord of Hosts lovingly beckons us to come to His wedding banquet. As we unfold and accept His invitation, we are seated at the table of the King. Just as we are chosen by God to be guests of honor at His eternal celebration, let’s invite unlikely guests and place them at the top of our own guest lists. You are honoring God by inviting the poor, lame, crippled and blind. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31, NIV). And to add to the joy of honoring God, He has promised us that “you will be blessed…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14, NIV).

 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’”
Luke 14:23

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Hebrews 13:2

“So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.”
Jeremiah 52:33
Your Devotional Journal
Saying grace ~ Bringing my heart to God in prayer.

My Portion ~ Where Has God met me in His Word today?

Nourishment ~ How does God want to mold and change my heart?

Second Helpings ~ Where does God want me to be a doer of the Word and take action?

Time for Dessert ~ What can I share with others from what God showed me today?

"You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you..."
Joel 2:26