Today I am desperate…

“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." John 15:5

Open Doors June 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 12:20 pm

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:6-8

Have you ever felt like you had too much on your plate?  And yet every one of the things on your plate were things you had asked for?  You just never imagined that they’d all show up at the same time.

Today, I searched the scripture for a deeper understanding of the passage above.  Like many other passages, this is one that is used often to encourage a brother or sister who is  discouraged.  And like many others it is a passage easily misused.  Indeed, God is not in the business of forking over whatever our little hearts desire or minds can conceive.  Always feeling at risk of misinterpreting God’s Word, I find it extremely worthwhile to understand the context of what I am finding comfort in.  So, as I find comfort in the familiar “ask, seek, knock” passage, I am intrigued and challenged by the previous chapter’s instruction.

Matthew chapter 6 includes the also familiar instructions; giving selflessly (Matthew 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”), proper prayer (Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”) , the warning about the place where we store our treasure (Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”), and the equally challenging warning against our propensity to worry (Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”)  Matthew 6  is packed full of challenging truths!

The fact that these instructions come just before the very freeing permission to ASK God for what we want, SEEK it with the hope of actually finding it and the proverbial KNOCK, that we anticipate will turn into the open door we have been looking for, is humbling.  It’s almost as if God set up the boundaries before he said, “Go”.  I find a certain comfort in this idea.  Just as I have learned as a parent, that my children thrive and are more comfortable when they understand the boundaries, I believe that God, as our Heavenly Father, knows that we too need boundaries.  Certainly, if all God said to me was “ask, seek, knock”, I would be tempted to show no restraint and then be terribly disappointed.

Please don’t misunderstand though.  I believe in a big God who delights in giving in a big way.  I have asked God for many bold things in my life, sometimes without restraint.  God’s not mad at me for that.  In fact, returning to my “full plate” analogy from the top, I am currently experiencing a flood of blessings related to specific things that I have asked for.  It’s worth noting that it is within the my personal effort to seek these things out, that God is allowing me to realize them.

Ask!  When we ask God for something, it is in the context of prayer.  As in my case, frequent prayer, earnest prayer.  God hears us.  But He’s unlikely to bestow the blessing without our show of effort–Seek!  I love the way that the Matthew Henry Commentary states this, “We must not only ask but seek; we must second our prayers with our endeavors; we must, in the use of the appointed means, seek for that which we ask for, else we tempt (test) God.”  And finally, Knock!  Think about what happens when you knock at someone’s door.  It’s such a common action that we don’t really consider our feeling when we do it, but if we do, there’s a moment of anticipation wondering if someone will come to the door and open it or not.  We wonder what their reaction will be when we knock, don’t we?  It’s no accident that this precept is concluded with knocking on God’s proverbial door.  The ask is easy.  Done from far off perhaps, a safe place that’s not too close and demands little interaction.  Seeking is a personal thing.  I can seek something on my own, again without a great deal of interaction.  But knocking demands an expectation. After all, you wouldn’t have knocked if you didn’t expect an answer.  In the realest sense, the final step here involves a very personal interaction with God.  We may wrestle with God, plead with God.  But once we’ve gotten the gumption to knock, it’s in our best interest to keep on knocking.  Persevere friends!

The best news is that by Asking, Seeking and Knocking, we are promised to be given to, to find and that the door will indeed be opened.

So, to wrap this up,  let us be encouraged once again that though our plates be full and at times we are overwhelmed, remember  that we have asked for and sought after many of these things.  May we simply recognize the door that’s been opened due to our knocking.

 

Discernment June 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 10:08 am

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

If you’ve been a Christ follower for any amount of time, or have ever questioned your destiny in front of a Christian, chances are you’ve heard this verse or memorized it, claimed it, plastered it in our mirror or wall.  Perhaps you carry it in your wallet for those desperate moments of uncertainty.  It’s the kind of verse that sticks in your mind and you don’t necessarily pull it out on a regular basis, but when the going gets tough and you feel anxious about the future, BAM!  The promise is there.  “God has a plan for me…”  And not just any old plan, a good plan.

He plans to make you prosperous…

pros·per·ous/ˈpräspərəs/Adjective

1. Successful in material terms; flourishing financially.

2. Bringing wealth and success.

Could this verse be misinterpreted?  Could we resolve that if God doesn’t provide the financial freedom that we so desire as Americans, then perhaps his promise fails us?  The Bible has plenty of translations, making it’s interpretation difficult at times especially when there is an emotion attached to it.  See, if I were wrestling with God over a financial matter, I might read this verse and lay the matter to rest…that is until my financial matter didn’t resolve itself.  So, as a student of God’s Word, I am inclined to dig a little deeper.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (NASB)

Ah, “welfare”, not just material security.  Now the sky’s the limit on the definition of welfare.  But by it’s very basic definition, I am convinced that God intends to protect me and keep me faring-well!  The Greek Lexicon describes the original word, Euodoo, as:

  • to grant a prosperous and expeditious journey, to lead by a direct and easy way
  • to grant a successful issue, to cause to prosper
  • to prosper, be successful

Now that it’s settled that God isn’t simply the giver of material wealth, I’m eager to understand what this promise for a future and hope are all about.

Just like I would like to believe that God’s promise for my prosperity means that he’ll bless me with lots of material things, I would also like to go on believing that His promise for a future means that he’ll grant me my wish for whatever I want for my future.  But indeed, my best understanding of the original text is that by promising a “future” (Mello is the Greek word) I am confident that he “has intentions” for me and that God has me “in mind” in his consideration of the future.

Why is this not as comforting as the belief that he will grant me the future that I desire?

Perhaps that is what the Psalmist was thinking when he God inspired these words:

Psalm 37:3-7

 3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 5 Commit your way to the LORD;
   trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
   your vindication like the noonday sun.

 7 Be still before the LORD
   and wait patiently for him;

I wrestle with God regularly about what I am supposed to do with my future.  My interaction with God on this subject derives from different places in my heart depending on my life circumstance.  I am most uncomfortable wrestling with God, however, when the subject of my future revolves around money and material things.  I confess that’s where I’ve been lately.  As I prepare to have all three of my kids in school full time, I find myself wondering if I should be going back to work or what!  I have lots of emotions about this, but suffice it to say that God and I are in regular communication about it.  Hence the dissected passage of scripture.

Thank you God for your truth.  Thank you for your promise to have me in mind always.  Please grant me discernment as I discover your plan for my life.

 

To Be Chosen June 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 11:14 pm

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:11

Predestination, the frozen chosen…these are the topics of great theological conversations that I have enjoyed in my college days.  Sitting around dorm rooms or friend’s apartments engaged in intriguing subjects such as this.  For the sake of this post, I have no intention of getting into the theology that surrounds the topic of predestination.  But some thoughts I had today reminded me about the security that we have in Christ; that I have been chosen and so I should not worry that someone is going to slide in and take my spot.

I suppose that it’s because of my competitive nature that I am always worried that someone is going to beat me to the place I want to be or steal my spot (or spotlight)!  I have recently been blessed by several amazing people within our church.  God has set up some very divine appointments and has allowed me to receive blessing upon blessing simply through new friendships and opportunities.  In such a large church, I have often wondered how I would ever break in and get to know people.  But it has become clear to me, as it does time after time, that it is not about what I do, but what God is able to do when I step out of His way.

I was blessed this week to be asked if I would be willing to join the core leadership team for the annual VBS event for next year.  This was a great invitation and I was happy to accept.  I felt chosen, in a way.  But for some reason, this morning on my way to VBS, I was plagued with these negative ideas that someone would somehow steal my spot.  Each opportunity that becomes available to me gives me that same thrill of feeling chosen.  I realize that the negative ideas and worry comes purely from a place of selfishness and self-centeredness.  If I were honest, I am probably quicker to pat myself on the back for being “chosen” than I am to give God his due glory.  God chose me when I made my decision to follow Him.  And God has a plan in place for my work here on earth.  There should be no worry that I will get the spot that I want.  That spot is already mine…I just have to wait on God to put me in it.  You see, I’ve already been chosen.

 

 

Freedom June 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 5:07 pm

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”  James 1:21

Today was the first day of VBS at our church.  I volunteered to be a nurse for the week and was unsure of how things would go.  Though with over 1500 kids at VBS, I was pretty sure that the nurse’s station would get at least a little bit of action.  And, as predicted, we had a couple injuries requiring nothing more than a band aid or ice pack, a sweet little one with a pseudo tummy ache (i.e.  “I don’t feel like participating”) and my favorite nursing action of the day…tick removal!  If you just went, “ewwwww”!  That is the proper response.  Ticks are nasty little creatures that I’m sure they have some purpose on this earth, but I don’t have any idea what it is.  Thankfully, my most recent career venture came in uber handy in dealing with this tick.  As an American Heart Association First Aid and CPR instructor, I have been teaching classes  how to deal with such a thing (among many other, more significant life saving skills).  So, I found a lucky set of tweezers in the First Aid kit and followed the guidelines that I’ve been teaching.  The guidelines recommend a careful method of removal as to not leave any part of the tick in the skin.  The head in particular can cause a variety of minor complications if left behind.

This event caused me to consider what happens when we don’t consciously and completely remove sin from our lives.  Certainly, I realize that we cannot completely remove sin in a fallen world, but indeed we can flee from it as often as possible.  When we are acting in sin and the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts, we are challenged to rid ourselves of that sin.  But we would not be obedient if we didn’t get rid of the whole thing, nor would we experience the freedom that comes from getting rid of a particular sin.  For example, if we allow our words to be filled with gossip, foul language and hatred and the Spirit convicts us to change how we use our words, then the challenge set before us is to let our words be edifying and filled with grace at all times.  But, if we find ourselves falling into our old ways when we are with certain people, it’s the same as if the head of the tick were left in the skin.  It will make things complicated in the future and likely cause some hurt.  God sent the Holy Spirit to act like those tweezers to pluck away the sin that stands between us and  God.  And He sent Jesus to get rid of the whole sin, not just a small part of it.

I was able to successfully remove the tick (from the child’s ear, no less) and left nothing behind that will cause her any further complication or hurt.  I can only pray that just as that tick let loose of her skin, she too chooses Jesus to free her from the sin that so easily grips our lives.

 

Control June 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 10:52 am

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phillippians 3:19-20


I admit that I am a bit of a control freak.  I like to plan the way my life should go and then to see to it that it happens my way.  Surrendering control is a choice I have to make from the time I open my eyes in the morning until I close them at night.  A choice, I might add, that I get wrong a great deal of the time.  But, one thing is for sure, when I am obedient to surrender control, PEACE REIGNS!  God has promised goodness to me and it’s a goodness that I cannot create by my control.  It comes through handing over control to the One who’s in control anyway.

It’s like trying to take the wheels off a car and then asking it to drive smoothly down the road.  It’s not possible.  The two things don’t work without the other.  When I try to take control out of God’s hands and expect my life to run smoothly and peacefully, it can’t happen.  God is in control no matter what, even when I try to be and think that I am.  The difference is that without submitting that control to Him and trusting Him with it, my life is neither smooth nor peaceful.  It’s like fighting with God over something that is innately His.  He will not give it up to me, at least not completely.  Thank goodness.  Imagine what would happen if just for one day, God said, “okay, you think you can do this?  Here is control.  You try it.”  I would screw things up royally.  I can promise you that.  I’ve had a glimpse of that before.  I believe that God does allow us to make choices for ourselves and we don’t always choose according to his best.  Sometimes, I decide that I must know better than God and then I choose accordingly.  I might get what I was after, but it comes at a cost.  I soon lack peace and find myself navigating a very rough and uneven path.  Thankfully, when God allows us to wander down that road, he is quick to rescue us to a peaceful path again when we submit that control that we were sure belonged to us.

I am faced even today with a temptation to grab the control reigns from God.  I was woken this morning with a flood of thoughts about an opportunity that hasn’t even been presented to me, but I want it.  At least I think I do.  When I think about it I get all tied up inside, which is what happens to me when I start to manipulate.  It’s a feeling of unrest and fear that if I don’t do something to control this situation, it might not end up the way I want it to.  The good news that surfaces is that if I submit my desire to God and actually let him control what is already His, then I receive peace and ultimately behold a greater blessing.  More than anything else it’s about allowing things to be in their rightful place.  Control belongs to God alone.

.

 

Patience June 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 9:13 am

Ah, patience!  I am likely to be desperate for this particular quality more than any other.  I have learned, though, that when I am practicing patience, life’s rewards are so much sweeter.  God often lays on my heart this very important question, “What blessing will I behold if I am willing to wait?”  God has things so perfectly planned that we should not worry, and yet we do.  I can’t think of a person who does not (just some handle it better than others). God’s not mad at us for worrying, but I imagine it becomes frustrating to the Master Planner when we let our worry and anxiety rule our decisions.  In my life, that has often translated into manipulating situations so that I can speed up my self- made conclusion.  I am certain that in my effort to manipulate over the years, I have surly missed out on some of God’s blessing along the way.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thankfully God is not slow to show up or bestow blessing.  No.  In fact, I believe that for every moment I agonize in wait, there is a blessing to beheld.  He’s just that good.  He knows better than even I how difficult waiting is…for me.  He made me.  And so He also knows that without some tangible evidence of His good and perfect plan, I am likely to slide off course in search of instant gratification.

There is so much to be said on the subject of waiting.  I think perhaps I could write a book about it.  God has provided and I have made for myself more life experiences that are squarely related to waiting that I think He’s making me an expert.  On the wall of my office I placed letters to spell the words “W R I T E  A W A Y”.  Most people that see it don’t realize how significant these two words are.  The multi-dimensional meaning includes my desire and passion for writing (WRITE) and to do it freely (AWAY).  But together the phrase is representative of my hurried life and need to get places fast.  It’s also a constant reminder to slow down and to wait on His perfect timing.  After all, God has a Master Plan and I have a choice each day to either run ahead of it or be blessed by it.  Today, I choose the blessing.  Patience!

 

Discipline June 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 3:56 pm

It’s gotta be something like round 750.  I’m referring to the number of times I begun a weight loss regimen and ultimately failed.  This is the story of my life as unfortunate as it sounds.  I’ve read lots of books, paid for lots of programs, tried the do-it-yourself method, even had an eating disorder and somehow, I fail with consistency and my will fails (and please, I am not suggesting that you can succeed with an eating disorder).

Isn’t that the truth about our wills though?  They always seem to fail us at some point.  I remember a great take away from one of the weight loss programs I tried;  “you can’t depend on will power, cause it will only take you through the first couple weeks”…if that!  One of the greatest, most heart felt passages of scripture that I claim regularly is Romans 7:15:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

This is a great Word that applies to human nature in so many ways, but I find it so relevant to my life long struggle to lose weight and keep it off.  I recently read “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst.  This was a great book demonstrating how as humans,  God created us to be needy and to crave…HIM!  That’s the key that so often comes up missing.  There’s no question that when I am putting God ahead of everything in my life, my discipline with eating right and moving more is closer to top notch than rock bottom.

It’s discouraging that such a seemingly simple and rewarding task ends up being over run by…well, many things.  Seeking God each day brings such reward through out the day and is even a delight in the moment, so why do so many Christ followers confess that it is a struggle?  I am one of them.  It is easy to draw a precise parallel with the journey of a healthy life, at least in my experience.  Every time that I reach the point of complete disgust with myself, usually after I’ve packed on 5 or 10 pounds (though it’s been more than that too), I come to my senses and  my husband and we agree together to get our act together.  As soon as we have just one day of healthy eating under our belts and just a single work out, we look at each other and say, “Why do we ever stop doing this?”  Much like the spiritual experience, eating healthy is enjoyable in the moment and you feel better for long after.  If you ask my husband, exercise is the real chore involved in getting healthy and while it may not always be enjoyable in the moment, the after effect is truly rewarding.

God is good to reveal such relevant parallels in  my life.  Each day requires renewed discipline both in the spiritual realm and the physical realm.  Thankfully, the latter is so much more attainable when the former is present.

 

 
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