Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Relationship Requirements

I love friends who are honest and who don't keep you guessing where you stand with them.  You know. They communicate.  They nurture.  They endure. They are for real.

My fun, prayerful, gracious and loyal friend, Tammie, is that kind of person.  Tammie is fervent in pursuing her relationship with the Lord.  She wears her beautiful heart on her sleeve and is a treasured "iron sharpens iron" gal. She's honest about her own struggles and will challenge you with God's truth with yours.  Tammie and I define loyalty the same way:  love each other with endurance in God's grace and His truth.  I just love her.

Pull up a chair to the table today as my friend Tammie serves up some truth from Micah 6:8 about Relationship Requirements.   

Joshua, Bob, Tammie, Daniel
and Olivia (on mommy's lap)
The Dowd Family

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the Lord requires of you?  
But to do justly, to love mercy
and to walk humbly before your God."
Micah 6:8

(By Tammie Dowd)

I love how God gives us verses that stir our heart. Verses that challenge our walk with Him and leads us to a place where we are on our knees. Micah 6:8 has stirred my heart over the last few weeks.

What does the lord require of me in my relationship with Him and with others?

My heart really wants to understand God's requirements.  I want to be obedient to what He is asking of me. In my quiet time, I am in search of what the Lord means when He says these words through Micah.

One commentary said:  "God asks this of us:  To be just and merciful to our fellowman and to live in humble obedience to God. What does that look like in our life?  If we were to take inventory of these requirements, how are we stacking up?  He speaks to our hearts about issues of our heart. He is only asking us to give to others the same as He gives to us.  The same love, the same mercy." 

I read another commentary that said, "To do justice for others means to stand up for those considered by others as less than." How often do I stand up for others? I stand up for my children, my husband. But others?

"If someone says 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also."
1 John 4:20-21

As I read these words I thought of the verse in Micah.  To love your brother or sister you have to be just and merciful. You have to be obedient to the Lord. That means whatever rights you think you have, well they just went out the window! It’s easy for our hearts to harden when we justify why we feel the way we do.  But our feelings should match up to what scripture says. 

Forgiving others who have offended us is our responsibility and God's commandment to us.  It might be easy for some to forgive more than others. If the offense is great and the pain is deep, sometimes we wonder how we can forgive. But God calls us to forgive. He doesn’t say there is a scale with which you measure the sin of someone else.  The best part of forgiveness is God allows your heart to heal. 

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean restored relationship. But it allows our hardened hearts to be opened, for God to use us for His purpose. Whether my husband hurts my feelings or if a friend lets me down, whatever the offense, I choose to give it to the Lord.

Is it always easy? No!  God wants us to restore our relationship with Him so that He can commune with us, bless us and use us for His glory.

When we are being obedient to His word, we can do justly, love being merciful, and we can walk humbly with our God. We can love the way God requires us to love.  

I am so thankful for His word, that He daily teaches me how to live for Him.   

Dear Lord, there are so many times when the offense seems too great to forgive. Help my unbelief, help me let go of my rights and allow You to shine through me, in me so the world sees You.  Thank You for being a just God and a God of second chances. Amen

"The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."
Isaiah 50:4

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Singing Through The Storm

Gabrielle was the Flower Girl in my sister's wedding
June 23, 2012

"Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.  Then some...stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.  Early in the they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful.' After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 
'Give thanks to the Lord,
    for His love endures forever.'
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord...He [brought victory]." 

2 Chronicles 20

A few times a year where we live, especially during the spring and summer seasons, we have a "severe weather/tornado warning".  My kids know the drill when the warning sounds:  quickly get your most valuable things and head to the basement playroom until the warning is over.  We all stay close together and, if the electricity hasn't gone out, we turn on The Weather Channel to watch updates on the unwelcome storm. 

Being the The Weather Channel meteorological geek that I am, I find storms fascinating.  As long as nobody is being harmed, I love watching weather miracles unfold. 

"He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
    He sends lightning with the rain 

    and brings out the wind from His storehouses."

Psalm 135:7

It is quite different, however, when you find yourself seeking shelter from a storm. Frightened and feeling vulnerable, watching a storm and being in its path are two different things.  

My go-to passage when facing a storm or menacing enemy is 2 Chronicles 20.  Full of God's truth and His victory plan for battle, 2 Chronicles 20 reminds us to meet an approaching storm with prayer, fasting and praising the Lord in song.  I love that Jehoshaphat appointed a worship team to lead the people in song as they approached the vast army in front of them.  Hello life lesson.

All of these three precious stones in our shepherd's bag keep our eyes fixed on the Lord:  prayer, fasting, praising Him in song.  Our eyes are not on the vast army before us, rather they are on our Defender.

"For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You. ” 
2 Chronicles 20:12

Recently one evening upon hearing the storm/tornado warning on our television, my children and I went calmly but quickly into storm mode.  We grabbed our Bibles, the children's portrait above our fire place, our dog, a few of our favorite things and our electronic devices with chargers and headed to the basement.  Joshua and Gabrielle were frightened but knew what to do and handled the warning with great responsibility.  With pounding rain and clashes of lightning and thunder outside, Joshua and Gabrielle went to safe shelter in the basement.

Realizing I had left a flashlight upstairs, I ran back up to the kitchen.  Gabrielle shouted, "Mom, hurry up. I want you with me."  Taking a little longer than Gabrielle would have wanted me to, she snuggled up with her blanket, pillow, Bible and flashlight while I was still upstairs.  Assuring her that I'd be right down to snuggle with her, I heard her start to sing:

"Holy is the Lord God Almighty,
the earth is filled with His glory."

Her tender voice embraced me as I made my way down the stairs to the basement playroom.  With her blanket sweetly wrapped around her face and holding her Bible and flashlight in her hand, she sang praises to our Maker in the midst of the approaching storm.  

"We stand and lift up our hands, 
for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
We bow down and worship Him now,
how great, how awesome is He."

She knew.  Instinctively, Gabrielle's heart knew to sing to the Lord as "the vast army" approached...or in this case as a dangerous storm ruthlessly knocked on the door of our home.  Joshua and I sat down next to Gabrielle and we joined her in singing to the Lord as the thunder roared and the lightning lit up the night sky.

With a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face, I quietly thanked the Lord for His faithfulness.  His children's battle plan is straightforward:  keeping our eyes on Him through prayer, fasting and praising Him in song.

Like it did that day for Jehoshaphat and God's people, our storm ended and we were able to dwell safely in our home. Psalm 107 shows us that, as we cry out to Him in our distress, He stills the storm to a whisper and He leads us to our desired haven.  God is our Defender (2 Chronicles 20:29), who He gives us peace and rest on every side.  (2 Chronicles 20:30)

Gabrielle reminded her mommy to sing praises to Jesus in the midst of life's storms.  Aside from Christ, I have no power to face a vast army.  Not knowing what to do in and of myself, my eyes are fixed on Him in prayer, fasting and praise.

Then they cried out to the 
Lord in their trouble,
    and He brought them out of their distress. 
He stilled the storm to a whisper;

    the waves of the sea were hushed. 
They were glad when it grew calm,

    and He guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love 
    and His wonderful deeds for men.

Psalm 107:28-31

Thankful that He stills the storm to a whisper 
and leads us to our desired haven.

Sharing the praise today!  Recently I was honored to assist Michael O'Brien at the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina.  Michael is an amazing worship leader who adores His God, his beautiful wife and his children.  I would love to share Michael's worship CD ~ Be Still My Soul ~ with one of you!  Just leave a comment (be sure to leave your email or contact information)!  I will pray for you, and the winner of the CD will be announced on Monday!

Also, the winner of the Blackaby "Experiencing God Day By Day Devotional" from the Really Running With Jesus post is "Laurie" - runner and mom of four!  Laurie ~ email me your full name and mailing address so I can send you your devotional! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Really Running With Jesus!

Good morning, friends!  Welcome to the table!  Pull up a chair and sit for a while.  If you have just come in from a run, grab a glass of water.  If you are just waking up (like me!), sit with a cup of coffee!  I am honored to have my friend Joanna share her heart and her love for Jesus today.  And to encourage you in  your daily quiet time with the Lord in His Word, I will be giving away a copy of one of my favorite devotionals!  Just leave a comment for Joanna and you will be entered to win!  ~ Sharon

"...train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, 
but godliness has value for all things, 
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
1 Timothy 4:7-8

I LOVE RUNNING!  Sometimes I don’t always enjoy the process, but I love the days when I feel like I can run for miles and miles.  

I recently did a long run with my favorite running buddy, Mindy.  That particular day we were scheduled to run 13 miles and we had chosen to run along the Delaware Canal tow path.  The first miles were great.  We chatted as we ran along talking about our families and movies we had recently seen.  

After completing 8 miles, we headed to the car for a quick drink.  As we went back out for the last 5 miles, we were feeling pretty good…and then it hit. My legs started cramping and I felt like I was running through wet cement.  Mindy was feeling the same way and we both slowed down quite a bit.  We barely made it the last two miles.  By the time my watch beeped 13 miles, I felt light headed and nauseous and had to sit down for a few minutes.  

As we sat on the step of a local store, gulping PowerAde’s, I begin thinking over what went wrong.  I knew our problem wasn’t lack of preparation – we had diligently been following a training plan for the past 6 weeks – our problem was fuel.  You see, we should have known better than to try to run for that long with only a few sips of water.  In fact, we do know better.  Every athlete knows they need frequent hydration and nutrition.

Sometimes my relationship with Jesus can be just like that run.  I am going along just fine, following my training plan – reading my Bible, doing my daily devotions – but in truth, I am not spending quality time alone with God.  Yes, I am reading my Bible, but am I truly allowing His Word to sink in?  Or instead do I just say a quick prayer – like those few sips of water – and try to go on my way?  When I rush through my prayer and devotions, I am not refueling my relationship with Jesus.  I am just crossing one more item off of my busy ‘to do’ list.

“Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.” Psalm 4:4

Am I taking the time to be still and listen to God’s quiet voice?

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
I love the NIV translation of that verse.
“Cease striving and know that I am God.”

‘Cease striving’ as I am running along, logging the miles in my busy life, do I ever cease striving long enough to be filled by him?
So what did I take away from that grueling run?  I discovered that as much as I need to take in frequent, proper hydration when running, more importantly, I need to take in frequent “hydration” in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Quiet time alone with God is a necessity.  

Frequent, heartfelt prayer is not an option.

Dear Lord, as we ‘run’ through this life, let us never forget to spend precious time with You each day.  May we take time morning, noon, and night to dwell in Your presence.  Help us to remember we are never too busy, there are no items on our ‘to do’ lists, more important than spending time with You.  Amen.

© 2012 by Joanna Lieberman. All rights reserved. 

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  I John 5:20-21

Leave a comment!  I will be giving away one of these: