Lean on Me

Smitten. That one word sums up how my husband and I feel about Remy, our rescued standard poodle. And Remy delights in us, confidently knowing he hit the jackpot the day we adopted him and took him out of what had been a painful situation for him. Leaning against us whenever the opportunity presents itself, he demonstrates his total devotion and affection for us. This is no gentle lean against our thigh, but similar to Velcro, he adheres his whole 65-pound body to us, leaning so “hard” that we can easily topple over. We’re Remy’s protection and his safe place.

Do I lean into God and is He truly my safe place?

If you’re like me, perhaps you worry more about productivity and all the things that we have to do, when God quietly calls us to lean in and believe in his provision. Often we just grab hold of the steering wheel and move forward in life in our own power. Do we sincerely know how to rely on Him? Do I completely trust Him as wise King Solomon exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV)?

As the saying goes, it’s so much easier said than done. We give it to the Lord, and then we take it back, rather than depending on His provision and love. God yearns to have us draw near to Him when:

  • Life is painful and we hurt. Perhaps it’s illness, impending surgery, or struggles with children or grandchildren.
  • We’re overwhelmed. We have too much to do, we’ve poured ourselves out for others and we feel drained, and fatigue has set in.
  • We continually struggle with besetting sin. It might be poor choices, habits, or addictions, but sin has ensnared us and we know it.

We may feel like a restless ship out in the open seas dealing with all life has thrown our way. But, just as incoming boats find rest in a safe harbor, Jesus invites us to relinquish our cares and abide in Him. When everything crumbles around us, it’s only by opening our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, our bread of life, will he nourish and sustain us. We can’t overlook the importance of spending daily time in Scripture and communing with Him in prayer for this sustenance, but let’s also delve a little deeper. Are we taking the time to wait on Him and to allow Him to speak to us through His Word or during prayer? I know I often don’t, and that’s when I start taking control once again and lose that intimacy with our heavenly Father. We need to be faithful to lean and listen, because as a dear friend of mine likes to say, “God’s got this.”

We delight in Remy as he leans into us and takes comfort from us. How much more so as we lean into our Lord with all we have, confident He will meet us and tuck us inside the shadow of His wings. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7, NIV).

Father God, I confess I like being in control, but I just can’t do all of this on my own. I acknowledge my need for you. Please help me lean into you, trust you, and relinquish my situation to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Exodus 14:14 (NIV): “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Psalm 18:2 (NIV): “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV): “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

John 15:4-5 (NIV): “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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When God Says: “First, You Need To ….”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, over half of Americans (55%) say they pray daily. Women respond as more likely to pray daily than men do (64% versus 46%). With the majority of us women praying, we can logically conclude that there are many different types of answers we receive to our prayers. A Pearl of Great Value will be exploring a few of these in a seven-part series on prayer entitled, “When God Says ….”

Part 3 of 7

You’re praying, but you’re not sensing quite the response you desire. Rather than receiving the direct answer you’re chasing after, the Lord takes your attention elsewhere. Back to you and to where your heart is and to what He wants from you. You perceive that still, small voice saying, “Perhaps, but first you need to ….” You wonder, “First what?” What in the world does this mean when God says, “Perhaps or maybe?”

Often we need to prepare and practice before God answers our specific prayer.

Our Lord may desire a preparatory season from us—a time seeking Him and delving deeper in the Word. A period before He will entrust (fill in the blank) to you. We see in Acts 9:19-29, following the Apostle Paul’s conversion to Christianity, he immediately began preaching in the synagogues and spending time with the disciples. However, Galatians 1:15-2:2 informs us that soon after this, Paul went into Arabia for 3 years and then into Syria and Cilicia for possibly 14 years. There is disagreement among scholars about the exact dates for these years, referred to as the “intermediate years” or the “hidden years,” and we certainly don’t know all Paul was doing then. However, we do know God used those days, months, and years as a time of preparation for Paul and the missionary journeys God would later commission him to take. These were years devoted to study, to prayer, and perhaps to solitude. Years that provided a maturation of his faith and relationship with the Lord. If Paul needed years of preparation, it certainly stands that we will too.

To excel at any sport it requires practice, practice, and even more practice. How much more so will we need to practice when the Lord is preparing us? The gospels give an account of Jesus sending the twelve disciples out to preach the good news of salvation, to heal disease and sickness, and to drive out evil spirits. Dispatched out two by two, He gave them authority, power, and specific instructions (Matthew 10, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6). For the disciples this would become a time of practice—for soon Jesus would no longer be with them physically and they would be on their own (but certainly with the power of the Holy Spirit). By going in pairs, I envision the disciples muttering statements such as, “Well, that didn’t work so well, so next time let’s do it this way ….” This period was like a practice round before the main event. God may want to see us faithful in the small things and following His directions before He entrusts the larger “project” to us.

Sometimes God intends our “maybe” or “perhaps” answers to prayer to lead us deeper. He has a work He wants to do in and through us, but first it will require preparation and practice. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Father God, I’m stumbling in my prayer life because I really want something. Help me to turn this around, and enable me to discern first what You want from me. I confidently ask You to prepare me and give me practice for the work you want accomplished in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Matthew 23:3 (NIV): “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

James 1:22 (NIV): “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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A Psalm 119 Approach

Excitement bubbled inside me as my husband and I finally made the decision to redo the majority of our master bathroom. Then we faced the dilemma of where to start. A multitude of decisions piled up in front of us and the choices seemed overwhelming. Glass shower enclosures, bathtubs, tile, paint—the list appeared endless. It became obvious before tackling this project we needed a game plan. Understanding exactly what our needs were was vital. This encompassed determining exactly what needed replacement and what would fit within the space we had. Only then did we proceed to look at and determine which models/tiles/fixtures fit our budget and needs, making our selections from those options. And finally, we applied our choices to our remodel through the contractor we hired.

Breaking down our remodel into several stages guaranteed us the success we desired to complete our project. And so it is with studying the Bible. At first it’s overwhelming, but by formulating an approach to scripture you can successfully study and understand God’s Word. As we read scripture and search for its meaning and application to our life, I perceive three stages:

Discern, Decipher, and Digest God’s Word.

Psalm 119 displays the heart of the Psalmist as he declares the priority of God’s Word in his life. How I desire to have the same nature—a heart yearning for God’s Word and placing it first in my life.

  • Discern

Before we read and consider scripture, we first need to discern what our goal is or more simply put, where we’re headed. Discern means “to detect with the eyes and to come to know or recognize.” Verse 18 of Psalm 119, asks the Lord to, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” A good first step for all of us is to seek discernment about what to study in order to see these “wonderful things.” Perhaps you’ve felt the Lord’s leading to participate in a group Bible study, Sunday school, or home fellowship using a predetermined course of study. Or, you know the Holy Spirit is nudging you to investigate a particular book of the Bible or do a topical study on your own.

I desire to recognize treasure in God’s Word, so I pray for discernment and awareness as I read and consider scripture in the course of study He has laid out for me. Verse 125 takes us deeper with, “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes,” which leads us into the next stage.

  • Decipher

Merriam-Webster.com defines decipher as, “To make out the meaning or interpret the meaning of.” Thus, when we decipher a passage of scripture we succeed in understanding or interpreting it. Verse 130 conveys this process with, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and give you insight, when you read your Bible. Additionally, there are many resources to take advantage of in our research, and a reliable Bible commentary, dictionary, handbook, and atlas are indispensable. With these materials accessible online, we have information readily available as we delve into scripture.

When we inspect and decipher God’s Word, he will give us understanding. Verse 27 promises, “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders,” which transitions us into the following phase.

  • Digest

Our final stage involves digesting His Word. When we digest something, we meditate on it. I’ve heard different pastors and Bible teachers compare meditating on God’s Word to a cow chewing its cud. A cow will lie in the field all day savoring the food he has eaten. As we assimilate and properly digest scripture, the “nutrients” are absorbed in us, and we will be ready to apply the truth we have learned. As we go about our day we can contemplate truth. Verses 15-16 declare, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”

A thoughtful, step-wise approach to our bathroom remodel brought about our desired result. In the same way, by discerning, deciphering, and digesting God’s Holy Word, we can discover truth and apply it to our lives. May we all aspire for a heart devoted to scripture as that of the Psalmist who penned Psalm 119.

Father God, I desire to know more of your Word, but sometimes I look at the Bible and feel overwhelmed. Please assist me to discern what to study, enable me to decipher scripture, and finally help me to digest your truths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 119:36 (NIV): “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”

Psalm 119:133 (NIV): “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”

Psalm 119:148 (NIV): “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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It Feels Like a Tightrope Act

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV)

Viewed by many as overly organized, I like to get matters taken care of. Teaching a Bible study, writing Christian devotions, maintaining a home—all good things I easily become engrossed in. But as I’ve heard it said before,

I don’t want to be so busy working for God that I’m too busy for God.

Today’s featured scripture tells the story of Martha who was so occupied tending to preparations that she was missing what Jesus had to say. Can you envision Martha fluttering around her house tidying up, cooking food, and serving her guests? Meanwhile, Mary is sitting near Jesus soaking up his teachings. Martha was probably disturbed, but she didn’t know what else to do. So many tasks, even though I believe her deep desire was to listen to the Teacher after she readied the meal.

I have struggled with this same issue in my life, and while I don’t have it down perfectly, I’m learning. My goal is to achieve a Martha-Mary balance between doing what it takes to get ministry items done versus spending time with our Lord and other important relationships.

The balance is tricky, but prioritizing will benefit us. As Pastor Andy Stanley plainly states, “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”

To begin with, we need to make time each day to meet with our Lord in prayer and Bible study. Some days are smoother than others are, but God knows our intentions as we give Him our heart. Soon enough, the remainder of the day will evaporate, so let’s attempt to set aside time. Time at our desks or kitchen tables for regular Bible study. Time for prayer as we remove ourselves to a quiet spot in our homes or go on our morning walks, while remembering we can also talk to our Heavenly Father throughout the day.

Next, take time for relationships. When busyness swallows us up, and what we believe to be urgent is our preoccupation, we run over and forget people. This includes our family, our friends, our neighbors—all vital relationships. Recently I’ve had to scale back on a ministry activity because it wasn’t allowing me the freedom to nurture and sustain some friendships. Do you find yourself in a similar situation?

Finally, I encourage you to run a smooth household, but without tripping up over petty details. It keeps family members happier and in the end, frees you up. Every home is different, and you know whether it involves getting dinners on the table in a timely fashion, or keeping an up-to-date calendar, or clearing away the clutter. My encouragement is to get it done, as over the long-term those action steps will provide additional time for you to abide with your first love—Jesus.

A certain amount of busyness seems a guarantee these days. But if we become absorbed in all the “stuff,” we fail to see Jesus in the midst of our lives. Such a cliché—stop and smell the roses—but how true it is. My prayer for you, and for myself, is for us to slow down and know Jesus.

Father God, Often my Martha-like actions prevent me from being more like Mary. I want to immerse myself in Your presence, but still live in a responsible manner. Please help me to achieve a Martha-Mary balance in my life which glorifies You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 46:10a (NIV): “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV): “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Matthew 6:33 (NIV): “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 11:28 (NIV): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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Irrefutable

Having a background in science, I often ponder the scientific evidence supporting the existence of God. The latest discoveries—in fields including astronomy, biology, and oceanography—are fascinating reading pointing to a universe showing confirmation of the hand of a Creator. The proofs are impossible to deny and are right in front of our noses. It’s irrefutable. While there are a myriad of validations, let’s look at light, our human body, and the seasons.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that [women] are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV)

During a recent summer road trip, we had an inspiring conversation with a retired eye doctor about the physics of light. Unfortunately my expertise in this area isn’t quite up to par because I met my future husband in college physics (we were lab partners), and I wasn’t paying as much attention to the class as I should have been. So, I’ll sketch out the basics we discussed that evening. Light is a fundamental component of our universe, acknowledged when we read in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Our human vision only sees a small portion, from 400-700 nanometers, in the light wavelength range. Multiple times in scripture Jesus refers to himself as “the light of the world.” (John 8:12, 9:5, and 12:46) There is a possible analogy between His presence, which we don’t see, and the unseen wavelengths of the light spectrum. Explaining phenomena on a scale too small to see with our eyes, quantum physics is the theory connecting the energy of photons and light wavelength. Suffice it to say, though, there is much you and I can’t see directly or fully understand, but which is very real. It’s also interesting to note a “star in the east” proclaimed the birth of Jesus—a great light.

And He fashioned our human bodies. The DNA, the mitochondria, the nerve synapses—all designed to the tiniest detail and not a random occurrence. Our God is a God of order, not chaos, and He perfectly shaped and intertwined our functioning bodies. King David describes in Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) how he was woven together: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.”

As our seasons change, I see God’s fingerprint in the cadence of His creation. Haven’t you wondered why the daffodils and tulips know to burst forth every spring? Or why the trees lose their leaves every autumn? Or why there are cycles to the moon along with low and high tides? Or why there is day and night? The design is masterful and authored by the Master himself. “The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night ….” (Psalm 104:19-20a, NIV) These orderly laws of nature are not an accident, not chance, but God’s pulse in the days, the months, and the years.

It’s irrefutable—a universe formed and fashioned by the hand of the Creator.

Take a thorough look at God’s creation—the mountains, the oceans, the forests, the rivers, and the lakes. Screaming out at us, it testifies of His existence. According to Romans 1:20, today’s featured scripture, we are without excuse and are accountable for what He has revealed to us “from what has been made.” He manifests himself to us through His creation.

Father God, You are an awesome God and your creation is magnificent. I look around me and marvel at the display of your hand in all you formed and fashioned. I thank you for the intricacies of science which show you are irrefutable.

Bible Truths:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

“I form the light and create darkness.” (Isaiah 45:7a, NIV)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11, NIV)

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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