Archive: October, 2009

"Got Trouble?" By Kelli Zaniel

Got trouble? God has a solution! If you “devote your heart to him, stretch out your hands to Him; and lift your face without shame, you WILL stand firm without fear,” (Job 11:13-15). If you do this, you WILL forget your troubles and your life will be, “brighter than noonday and darkness will become like morning,” (Job 11:17). When I find myself in a heated match against overwhelming circumstances and puffy white smoke begins to trickle out of both ears, all I have to do is simply abide in God’s Truth…

1. Devote my heart to Him;
2. Extend my hands to Him and reach for Him; and
3. Allow Him to be the, “lifter of my head,” so that I can lift my face without shame.

Take the focus off of your small tidal wave of momentary troubles by remembering the following verse. “Forget what is behind you and press on toward what is ahead in God’s perfect plan for you,” (Phil. 3:13). What you are experiencing is in the past. Isn’t it comforting to know that God stands in our past, our present and our future? I need to make a correction. God isn’t just passively standing in our past, present and future, He is carrying us, He is holding our hand, He is guiding us and He is walking alongside of us as we experience the highs and lows of life. His perfect love cannot and will not give me second best!

Lord, give me the words to say today when I feel discouraged, angry, happy or sad. Psalm 81:10 teaches that if I, “open my mouth, you will fill it.” Thank you for not leaving me to go through my struggles alone. Thank you for listening when I call upon you (see Jer. 29:12). Teach me YOUR way so that I will walk in YOUR truth all day long (Ps 86:11); Help me to find reassurance today in the truth that, “great is your love for me,” (Ps. 86:13) and that is all I need!

"Love Is," By Kelli Zaniel

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling,” Exodus 15:13

“Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements (Deuteronomy 11:1); serve him with all your heart (v. 13); walk in all his ways and hold fast to him,” (v. 22). Am I really loving God, serving Him, walking with Him and holding fast to Him? Do I even know what biblical love even means? As I read chapter 5 in, “Crazy Love,” I was desperately impacted, convicted and challenged by Francis Chan’s discussion on God’s definition of relentless, crazy and amazing love.

The Holy Bible defines love as: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth,” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). In “Crazy Love,” the author challenges us to insert our name in the verse as a substitute for the word love. I decided to participate in the challenge. I felt as if a thick blanket of conviction had been thrown over my head as I began inserting my name into the verse. Here we go…

Kelli is patient and kind (I began to move uncomfortably in my seat);
Kelli does not envy or boast;
Kelli is not arrogant or rude;
Kelli does not insist on her own way (small beads of sweat began rolling down my flustered face);
Kelli is not irritable or resentful (ok, now I just have to stop).

As I wiped the perspiration off my forehead and repositioned myself in the chair, I felt like a fake, an imposter! I was not comfortable with the “me,” version of this verse. On this particular day, I gave myself about a C minus. If I am only an “average,” student in the subject of love, then I must not be loving other people the way God intended. If I am failing at loving others well, then I must not be loving God well either. Ouch! How can I really love God the way He describes in 1 Corinthians if I can’t even do it in my everyday life?

The Old Testament has plenty to say about God and love. “The LORD, is a compassionate and gracious God, who is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6). “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion,” (Numbers 14:18). God is not only “love,” but He is abounding in love. His love is unfailing (see Exodus 15:13).

How are we supposed to love God? The Bible says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Joshua 23:11, even goes so far as to tell us to be, “very careful to love the LORD your God.” He wants us to love him and others the way He first loved us and continues to love us. If we don’t know the proper biblical meaning of love, then how can we enjoy a love relationship with the Father? How can we love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength?

“The LORD is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 13:3). I hate to be tested, but when God decides to pull out a pop quiz on love, I want to be more than just average. I want to excel for him. I want to give God my very best, my most excellent everyday, because that is what He wants to give me. We will be rewarded.

This week, make your own personal confession to God, allow your heart to feel heavy with conviction, and challenge yourself to love those around you as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4. God deserves an “A+,” student in the subject of love. Lets take the “Love Challenge,” this week and strive to biblically love those around us the way God truly intended. Substitute your name for the word love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, write it down and study it everyday. Lets humble ourselves in the presence of God this week and ask Him to give us a heart that is abounding in love.

**Post a comment (or email me if you have trouble posting) about which part of 1 Corinthians 13:4 convicts you this morning. (Mine was the getting her own way part!) All who post today will enter a drawing to win a CD entitled, “Road Trip,” by our November speaker Renee Swope. I will post the winner on Tuesday!

PRAYER: "The Must Have Girl Essential," Part 2 By Kelli Zaniel

Communing with God satisfies the soul, even if it does take place in the closet.

The welcoming sky greeted the glowing morning sun as its rays sparkled underneath the closet door. As I quietly closed my Bible, I could hear little giggles and tiptoeing of toddler sized feet approaching. The door knob twisted and the door slowly creaked open. Two sets of sleepy eyes peeked in, then two noses and finally two tiny faces. The two intruders asked, “mom, what are you doing in the closet?” I replied, “spending personal private time with God.” The following day, I was cleaning the house and noticed that things seemed way too quiet. I began looking for my “up to no good children,” only to find them buried behind a bubble gum colored blanket in the closet. I asked them what they were doing in the closet. They replied, “having personal quiet time with Jesus.” I guess naked Barbie, Ken, a weeble wobble and a headless Cinderella also needed personal time since they too were hiding in the closet. I thought to myself, even though I blow it and fail at this mom thing alot, I do get some things right. If nothing else, my children know that every morning, mommy has a rendezvous with Jesus in her closet.

Lets unearth the treasures Jesus left behind regarding prayer and how we are to commune with the Father. Jesus was the perfect prayer example as he,

1. Prayed constantly and passionately;
2. Came to God in reverent submission;
3. Learned obedience by things he suffered;
4. Never waivered commitment to the fathers will (“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish his work,” John 4:34);
5. Did not respond by repeating routine words (Matt 6:7) or trying to impress those around with his spirituality (Matt 6:5);
6. Maintained a close vital relationship with the Father; and
7. Looked at prayer as his lifeline to the Father.

“Their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place,” (2 Chronicles 30:27). Sometimes we as Christians think of prayer as our personal gift to God. Unfortunately, these gifts sometimes come with strings. “God, I will do this (blank) if you will just do this one thing for me first.” I am guilty of rambling on and on around the important issues, never allowing God a chance to speak. Maybe that is why scripture says, “be quick to listen and slow to speak,” (see James 1:19). Without that constant reminder, we would never learn anything because we (especially me) would be talking nonstop. A two-way relationship means I am talking AND I am listening. Ask yourself, am I listening to God in our time together? Do I talk too much and listen too little?

Prayer is not our gift to God, it is a privilege handed down by God to us with a personal invitation into his throne room. Once I began to realize that God pursues hard after me, desires to spend time with me and consistently invites me into His dwelling place, prayer changed my life. I began living my life totally sold out for God.

When we release our lives to God through prayer, even Satan trembles. Why do you think Satan trembles when we pray? Because even Satan knows that when we pursue a significant prayer life, we are fully equipped to obey and honor the Father. Through prayer, God enables us to become more effective Christians, therefore, making life for the wicked one much more difficult. Satan relishes his starring role in the play of life as, “the deceiver who leads humanity astray.” His devious agenda is annihilated as we draw near to the Father and the Father draws near to us. Satan may laugh over our struggles and mock our wisdom, but he is defeated when we pray. I find comfort in knowing that Satan has a soft spot…my prayers!

Are you packing your “must have girl essentials,” today? Do you have a heart filled with gratitude and love for your Savior? When we abide in Christ and allow Him to be the provider of our “must have essentials,” we will travel through our daily duties and rough patches with grace. Take this prayer promise from God with you today: Once we are cleansed from all the filthiness of sin, God will give us a new heart and renewed spirit (See Ezek. 36:22); Because we have this new, inexperienced heart, the Bible teaches that we as believers, “are to pray without ceasing,” (1Thess. 5:17) because we can’t do, “anything apart from abiding in Christ,” (1 John 15:5). I know that if I surrender to God’s will in prayer, He not only hears me (1 John 5:14) and responds (see James 5:16) but He gives me everything I need (see Mark 11:24).

PRAYER: "The Must Have Girl Essential," (Part 1 of 2) By Kelli Zaniel

“Keep praying and don’t give up,” (Luke 18:1); The resources of God are available to the one who prays so, “cry out day and night to God,” (Luke 18:7).

I caught a brief glimpse of shimmering silver lurking on the bottom of my overcrowded diaperbag slash purse as my children and I prepared to run errands. I slowly maneuvered my shiny keys to the tip top of my diaperbag slash purse. Of course, everything inside stuck like static cling to the AWANA cubbie bear dangling from my key chain. This caused all of the contents to tumble out of my unzipped purse and onto the kitchen floor. The inventory that scattered across the floor consisted of, lip plumper lip gloss, chapstick with no top, a chocolate smudged cell phone, a wallet, a 2009 calendar (at least I have the right year), one unused Disney princess diaper, one snotty Kleenex, a stick of gum, freshly chewed gum, and tootsie roll wrappers. The only thing that remained in the purse were a couple of Dora the Explorer gummies that seemed to be fixtures stuck to the very bottom. My oldest daughter, Savanna, walked towards me with her 6 year old purse flung over her dainty, little shoulder as she surveyed the damage. “Mom, you only need the ‘must have girl essentials,’ in your purse when you leave the house,” Savanna replied with a snickering grin. I thought to myself, “did my 6 year old just instruct me on how to pack my own purse!?” Savanna continued, “you really only need keys, sparkly pink lip gloss, your drivers license and some cash.” Wait, did she just say cash?

Today’s busy woman would not be caught without her, “must have girl essentials,” tucked away somewhere on her person. These are as follows:

Keys- to get you where you need to go;
License- for justification;
Lip gloss- for presentation;
Phone- for emergencies and/or talking; and
Money- for planned or (the occassional) unplanned purchases.

When I prepare to leave the house, I need my, “must have girl essentials,” to get me safely and legally to my desired destination. If I wouldn’t leave home without my purse and all it contents, then why would I leave my bedroom in the morning without God’s “must have essentials,” for my daily life?

Lets do our own personal character inventory by comparing the “never leave home without it essentials,” to God’s “don’t start your day without it essentials:”

Just like dropping my keys into my purse, devouring God’s truth gets me where I need to go; License- Jesus steps in and provides justification; Presentation- I reverently humble and submit myself before the Lord; Cell phone- I am in constant 2 way communication with my Father; Money- because of what Jesus did on a lonely hill, I am His planned purchase.

My morning quiet time and conversation with the Creator of the Universe is my “must have girl essential.” Through my prayer time with God, I discover the four “R’s.” He gives me rest, reflection, restoration and right choices (see Ps. 23). Meeting with the One who orchestrates my day is my first priority. I like to call it, “dating Jesus in my closet!” Who wouldn’t want direction from the One who, “holds our eternal destiny in his hands,” (Matt 10:28)?

Early morning quiet times are difficult. Recently, God called me to meet with him in the early morning. He desired to draw me deeper in prayer with him (probably to equip and prepare me for my upcoming challenges). My usual time slot from 3:00pm-4:00pm in the afternoon just wouldn’t do. The telephone was ringing, my computer was dinging, supper was boiling and the occasional brawl echoed throughout the house. How could I possibly have “quiet time,” with the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth during all of that? God graciously reminded me why we call this “quiet time” – He wants it quiet so we can really listen to His voice. We need to find a location and secure a time slot in our day that is completely free of all the static and noise of life so that God can hear US and we can hear GOD.

In those early mornings, sometimes Satan tempts me by saying, “hit the snooze button just once more;” or “you really need the rest… just a few more minutes underneath the snuggly warm covers!” He is very sneaky, isn’t he? I simply combat those temptations with the truth that God chose me, I am His treasured possession, he wants to spend time with me and he armors me with His mighty strength when I feel weak (see 2 Cor. 12:10). Oswald Chambers said it best, “prayer is not a preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not the preparation for the battle, it is the battle.”

If my morning is filled to the rim with God’s daily essentials, I react in a way that is much more reflective of Jesus. I notice when I am standing on the front lines of a 3 child meltdown, endless pity parties and ultimate fusses over who can sing Hannah Montana songs the best, I am slower to anger. When the pressue intensifies and the house feels as if it might bust at the seams, I can rationally stop, pause and think, “how would Jesus react in this situation?” At that point, those fruits of the spirit are ripe for the picking.

(Part 2, To be continued tomorrow…) *The first person to post a comment today about how Jesus has changed your life through prayer, gets a free copy of “Experiencing Prayer with Jesus,” by Henry Blackaby!

(Something to think about: Being a disciple comes with a cost. There is a cost to denying ourself of things we want, taking up our cross daily by putting to death all of our selfish desires and following Him no matter what storms are twisting in our lives that day (see Luke 9:23). If God did not spare his only son from the agony and pain of the cross, then we should not expect Him to spare us from the cost of being his disciple. Whatever our cost, it will never measure to what it cost Jesus on Calvary’s cross to secure our place in heaven.)

"Crosses to Bear" By: Heidi Avery

Do you have any “crosses to bear?”

You know, the little daily disappointments or huge past regrets that we just can’t seem to let go of. Bad decisions made either by us or made by someone for us that ended in unfortunate consequences. They could also come in the form of personal shortcomings, disadvantages…physical, financial or emotional.

I’ve got some. We all do, don’t we?

They are where the “if-onlys” that Kelli mentioned in her last blog are born. They are uninvited guests that attach themselves to our hearts and minds. Uninvited, yet we seem to be powerless to remove them from the premises. They slowly consume us filling us with any of the many negative emotions, such as discontentment, anger, pride and bitterness. Sadly they follow us around, clouding our view of what is truly most important. It’s not just our view that is affected though, our relationship with God is sacrificed. We can not truly know God when our hearts and souls are caught up in the crosses and losses of our lives.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3: 7-10 NIV “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

J.I. Packer in his book “Knowing God” states “When Paul says he counts the things he lost rubbish, or dung (KJV), he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly on his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God.”

What can I say about that except that it is true?

First, to actually think that our losses are anything comparable to the “Cross” seems almost blasphemous to me. There is no loss that any one of us could experience that would hold a candle to what Christ endured on the cross for our sake.

Second, it is in new light that I see my losses as little and insignificant (nothing) compared to what I gain in Christ (everything). So much time is spent thinking about how life might have been better if the cards had fallen differently. We blame ourselves, others and even God for not having the life we dreamed… forgetting that we actually deserve nothing.

Last, we have the choice to either dwell on what is lost over what is gained and it’s an important choice. As Christians we can only get so far in our journey of loving and knowing God if we make the wrong one. It’s a maturity in our walk, a beautiful and freeing revelation, a place we should all end up if we really do want to know Him.

To be freed from the chains of losses to gain intimacy with God. When we see it like that it’s an easy, no questions asked choice, right? But, old habits do die hard. Habits like these are embedded into our flesh and they will never go completely away. However, they can be mortified, not in our strength of course, but by the Spirit within us.

J.I. Packer also poses the question… “Can we say, simply, honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is a plain matter of fact, that we have known God, and that because we have known God the unpleasantness we have had, or the pleasantness we have not had, through being Christians does not matter to us?”

I can’t, but I want to.

Father, like Paul I want to consider all things a loss compared to the gain that I have in Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. I praise you God for the new light you have shed on words I’ve read so many times. May your Spirit rise up and mortify the selfish deeds and thoughts of my flesh, so that I may truly know you.

"If Only…" By Kelli Zaniel

A few weeks ago, I went to visit a girlfriend of mine whose home looks like it was showcased in Pottery Barn meets HGTV magazine. After our visit, I stepped through her beautifully hand carved door, down past the charming multi-colored flowers that ruffled alongside the freshly cut grass, back to the car thinking of new ways I could recreate my home to look more like hers. My home improvement dreams came to a screeching halt as I remembered the invasion of the wild dandelions peaking up from in between the cracks of my driveway, paint chipping off those too hard to reach spots on the front of the house and shingles listed as “missing in action,” off the side of the roof. If only I could have the dream design team of ABC’s Extreme Make-Over: Home Edition stop by for a day, then I would be happy. I could feel myself disappearing into a little ole thing called the “if only,” trap.

If only… my flowers looked that nice;
If only… I had the Pottery Barn curtains;
If only… I didn’t have white dog hair plastered on brown walls;
If only… I could have carpet without red punch stains on it.

The “if only I had,” statements are limitless. They can defeat you at every turn. They can wedge in between you and your relationship with God. That statement knows no boundaries. If only I had… more money, a husband that was more romantic, children I could take in public places or feet that were bunion free (maybe that is just my issue). I don’t know what your “if only,” statements are, but I do know they will never completely fill you. They will never give you what you need. No possession or person can ever fill you the way God can. Lets take a quick look at some truths about God that carry me over my “if only,” hurdles.

… is the filler of my heart;
… is always ready to listen;
… never gives me second best;
… is the glue that pieces me back together when I fall apart;
… will always make me happy;
… will never leave me unsatisfied;
… will never go out of style.

AnyTHING or anyONE we use as a substitute for God is considered an idol or false god. Do you remember the story of Elijah, the people of Israel and the false god? It was a triumphant finish for Elijah but a complete flop for the people of Israel. God’s perfect will was to bring the people of Israel to their knees. He desired for them to repent, let go of their false god, pick up their cross and return to a love relationship with Him.

Elijah challenged the people of Israel to choose whom they would serve – the true God or their worshiped idol, Baal. The people prepared the bull and placed it on the alter. From morning and until noon, they shouted and cried out to Baal. “Oh Baal answer us!” Elijah taunted the people, “shout louder, maybe he is asleep and cannot hear you!” “Midday passed and the people continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention,” (1Kings 18:26-29).

This is a wake up call for us. What happened when the people worshipped and cried out to their false god? There was no response, no acknowledgement and no one paid attention. The people were left with nothing more than a bull on an alter and the harsh realization they had strayed from the only one true God. If we succumb to our “if only,” temptations, we will experience a similar response. No satisfaction. No fulfillment. No results.

When I think of my personal “if only statements,” I realize they brought me nothing but temporary satisfaction, a broken heart, a painful lesson and empty promises. They are all things or people that I can experience with my senses. I can touch them, see them and/or hear them. Isn’t it funny how those “things,” we can see and touch are constantly letting us down? The only One we can truly rely on is the One we can only experience through faith. He will always satisfy me and never let me down.

Next time you feel yourself being trapped in your “if only I had (blank) I would be happy,” statements, ask yourself these questions…

… will this truly fill me or provide temporary satisfaction?
… is this all about me?
… who will benefit from this?
… am I serving others?
… is God glorified?

"Special Delivery," By Kelli Zaniel

Looking into the face of a newborn baby is probably the closest thing to looking into the face of God. I am so thankful God invited my husband and I to join Him in creating three new precious lives. Children, even though at times are extremely difficult, are our undeserved reward from the Lord. They are masterfully designed by the Creator. They are carefully delivered from the loving hands of Jesus into our eager arms and homes.
Our spiritual life is very similar to the development and birth of a baby. A developing baby loves the place of security, warmth and nourishment that is discovered and experienced within the womb of the mother. When the highly anticipated moment arrives for the baby to make the infamous descent down the birth canal, he or she must endure extreme pressure, overwhelming stress and intense shock of this adventure called birth. It is a complicated and difficult process. However, if the baby resists this journey and remains in the mother’s womb, where lets face it, sometimes, the party is over and they just do not want to leave, growth is no longer possible and the baby will die.

This process is a lot like the development and daily maintenance of our spiritual lives. “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2). If we avoid the birthing process(es) of life, we may stunt and stagnate our spiritual growth. If we don’t allow God to deliver us from the warmth and security of our comfort zone, the focus remains on us. If spiritual growth comes to a screeching halt, we will never achieve the divine intimacy with our heavenly Father that our hearts were meant to experience. “Grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Get to know Him and give Him glory,” (2 Peter 3:18).

Just as the OBGYN delivers us physically, God delivers us spiritually because of the saving actions of Jesus’ intervention at the cross. The physical delivery of a baby can be touched, definitely heard and experienced by all of our senses. Our spiritual birth or “re-birth,” is experienced through our childlike faith in God’s undeniable and amazing love for us. In both instances, we are delivered as a new life, either born from our mother’s womb or re-born by the grace of God.