Archive: February, 2010

"Valley of Blessings," By: Kelli Zaniel

Sometimes I feel weak. For example, last week a bottle of bleach was violently sprayed across my backside as I bent over cleaning the toilet. Nothing like a little bleach across the backside to a humble a girl, huh? Cause- Assault by squirting Lysol with bleach; Effect- my favorite lounging pants were ruined and my toilet was still dirty. I felt weak because I blew it and pitched a fit in front of my kids. Sometimes I feel strong. As I sit here trying to think of an example of me being independently strong, I can’t think of one thing. I am reminded that I am never strong without God, even when I feel that way. I am always needy, always incompetent, always inadequate, always desperately dependent on God. Without him I can do nothing. There has never been a time when I have been strong without the presence of God.
God’s people in 2 Chronicles 20 knew they could do nothing without God. The “Valley of Blessings” is an example of immeasurable faith, radical obedience and absolute surrender to the will of God. We pick up the story a few days before the big war. King Jehoshaphat (we will call him “Joe”) was King of Judah. I like to call him the evangelist of B.C. times because he loaded up the Book of Law in the ark and sent people out to surrounding cities to teach God’s commandments. King Joe prayed constantly to God and sought Divine counsel in everything. Joe honored God and God honored him.
One fateful night, messengers told King Joe that the armies of the Moabites and Ammonites were engaging him in war. Joe knew he was the underdog against this vast army and it would take nothing short of a miracle to defeat them. King Joe was in luck because God tends to be in the miracle business!
Before taking any action, Joe prayed for guidance and instructed all of the people of Judah to fast. Then he gathered his people together and they prayed to God for deliverance. Joe looked at his limitations and then looked to the Lord as the only source of his help: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” That’s a prayer we should breathe every moment of every day, not just when our backs are against the wall. When that becomes our mindset then significant things will surely happen.
As the people prayed, the Spirit of the Lord spoke through one of the men and said, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours but Gods–you will not even need to fight!” God literally gave the people their marching orders that day. He instructed them to, “take their positions; then stand still and wait for the Lord’s victory” (see 2 Chron. 20:17).
After God told the people what to do, rational thinking took a step back and a big dose of faith stepped in. The people found themselves in complete reliance on the Almighty God for their ultimate survival. There was no questioning; no second guessing; no wondering if God would actually show up. The people embraced a high risk situation because they knew God would protect and deliver them. God loves when His people are in desperate need of Him because when he delivers and He WILL deliver, no one can steal His glory. I find myself in this place sometimes, don’t you? A place where you know God is leading but it feels a little too risky to go there. Sometimes, we tend to avoid situations where we really need God. Places which are just so uncomfortable that we tend to look the other way? Why? Maybe a small seed of fear takes root in our heart and we are deceived into thinking that if we fall, God will not be there to catch us. Maybe we are afraid of what God may require of us?
When the people heard this word from God, they didn’t march to war with butterflies in their stomachs, sweaty palms and brows…no, they marched shouting, singing and praising God! They actually praised God as they walked to war. A war that would have been lost had they relied on their own strength. They sang, “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever” (2 Chron. 20:21). When God heard his people praising Him, he made the other side begin fighting amongst themselves defeating each other! Once King Joe’s team approached the valley, there was no one left to fight against. The army took three days to collect the valuables of the enemy including gold, silver, and precious jewels. Hence the calling of the valley “The Valley of Blessing” (shown in the picture above as it looks today).
God is not confined to just using His people. God made the enemy His servant that day and used them to complete His purposes. God is the creator of everything–His creation is at his disposal however and whenever He desires to use it. When you feel God calling you into uncomfortable places, trust in Him, embrace His spirit in yours and sit back to see how perfectly He works.
Our God is awesome! The same God that defeated the Moabites and Ammonites to protect his people and their inheritance is looking for hearts that are fully committed to him today to strengthen and deliver (see 2 Chron. 16:9). I might not be able to handle bleach on my pants and dirty toilets but when I am weak, He makes me strong. God gives me the strength to battle through a bad attitude with grace. He empowers me to produce vibrant fruit in the midst of my struggles instead of killing it with my Lysol bleach!
Lord, help me to follow you into places where I NEED you. Places that are uncomfortable; places I would never go alone. Places where I cannot manipulate things in my own strength. Help me to stay dependent on you and desperate for you. Help me to remain humbly submitted before you so you always get the glory! Don’t let anyone normalize me…help me to stay passionate about you, sacrificial for you and radical because of you!

"You Are What You Eat" by Heidi Avery

The phrase “you are what you eat” is an age old one that originated in the 1800’s by a man whose name I can’t even say, so I won’t bother sharing it with you. Its meaning is obvious to us… whatever we consume for food contributes to the overall physical health of our bodies. I think it’s a true statement. A poor diet puts us at great risk for high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many other numerous health concerns.
The bible clearly tells us that our bodies are a Holy temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) therefore it would make sense that we should care for the health of them while we are here on this earth. I think we can all agree on that. While this is important for us, I’m actually thinking of “you are what you eat” on a much deeper level.
I went to a conference last month and the word appetite became alive to me, beyond eating and beyond a physical hunger for food. What we crave has very much to do with what we consume on a regular basis, that’s true with food, but it is also true in life as a whole.
Jesus tells us “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51
He is the bread of life. We can consume Him and drink Him in. It’s why He came, so we could live and not die because of our sin. We all crave joy, peace and love. Our appetites for these things can only truly be satisfied by God. We know this. Yet, we still find ourselves feeding on the tantalizing vast all-you-can-eat buffet offered up by this world.
The more we consume the more our hearts and minds subtly accept and justify and dwell on what the world calls lovely instead of God who is the lovely of lovelies. It’s quiet and subtle and before we know it we’re hooked. CS Lewis was right, “we are far too easily pleased.”
One would think we had no chance with the inundation of worldly influence that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Reality TV invites our needy flesh to feed on out of control train wrecks filled with deception, humiliation and sexual immorality, among many other things. It’s not just reality TV, its regular programming too and the commercials in between corrupting our minds. It’s in the latest horror movie that takes us into a darkness that seems so real that we can not forget what we’ve seen. Worldly living is woven into the simplest and seemingly harmless romance novels and women’s magazines. It can also be heard singing in the lyrics of our favorite music. What do we do with the songs we like the most? We memorize them and sing them in our heads even while we sleep. It’s on the computer, seen by accident, or on Facebook and Twitter tempting us to return to the flesh… cheering us on to submit to our “true” selves. Yes, we are surrounded at every turn and our victory looks bleak.
In “The Pursuit of God”, AW Tozer says that we have a veil in our hearts… “It is the veil of our fleshly, fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross.”
It’s our fiery, undicisciplined flesh that desires this self-life and works hard at keeping it under cover. It’s the world that keeps this self-life fed. The world is our dealer, giving us the fix we need over and over again. We’re so addicted to the man-made joy, peace and love offered by the world that we miss the free-flowing pure versions that God has to offer. We move from quick fix to quick fix and we miss that there is no fix necessary when you are getting it from God himself.
So, what to do? The only thing to do is pray that God will create an appetite within us for Him. Only He can create that physical urge within us that causes us to run to Him, to eat of Him and Him alone. In the meantime while we wait, we let our love for God lead us into deep relationship with Him. We believe what His Word says “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Delight in Him and your desires will become Him.
How? Meet him in the morning and lay your request before him and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3) Hate what is evil and cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9) Ask him to teach us to do His will and for His Spirit to lead us (Psalm 143:10) and lastly, offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God… not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:1-2)
So, I know what you’re thinking… are we to put blinders on and shelter ourselves from everything? Sometimes I feel like doing just that, but that’s not the answer. We have to remember what the bible says… “everything is permissible, but everything is not beneficial.” (1Corinthians 10:23) We are completely free to do whatever we want, but when it affects our ability to connect deeply and completely with God and when it dethrones God and up-lifts us it is not beneficial. Anything that separates us from God even for a second is not beneficial to us in any way.
You remember the children’s song that goes like this…
“Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear, be careful little ears what you here, for the Father Up above, is looking down in love, so be careful little ears what you hear.” It goes on changing what you hear to what you see, what you say, what you do, where you go, what you think and what you love.
The answer is there in that song. However, we are only equipped to guard our hearts and minds when all that we consume is the Bread of Life. Otherwise we leave ourselves open to be victimized by our flesh, the devil and the world that bows down to them both.
AW Tozer also says “We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate… The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the living God.”
We are indeed what we eat… the physical and spiritual health of our bodies, our minds and our hearts are clear evidence of what we consume.
Father, consume me so with blazing fire,
Burn up my flesh and sin desire
Pursue me, draw me in forcibly
Bread of life let me crave and taste and see
Take up my cross and let me die
To live life unveiled with You on high!

"Hear, Know, Grow, Go" By Kelli Zaniel

The chore of getting ready to go anywhere translates into a mountainous laundry list of things that must be accomplished before our family can get out the door.

Get in the shower…
Dress myself…
Locate a bulldozer to shovel my husband out of bed…
Wake up three sleepy girls with extreme bed head that even a brush is challenged by…
Break up a fight about who gets to hold the Hannah Montana movie in the car…
Get into a wardrobe war with a 5 and 6 year old…
Once the clothes are on, try to limit the spills of apple cinnamon oatmeal that usually takes a tumbling nose-dive off the spoon and into someone’s lap…
In the background, hearing my husband’s chants of, “Are you ready yet…?”
Push down the horns that are beginning to emerge from the top of my head…
Find socks and shoes that actually match…
Throw a few coats on and we are perfectly ready to go!

The great news is that when God calls us, we don’t have to be perfectly ready. God calls the unprepared and the unqualified. The Bible tells us He prepares and qualifies us as He calls us (see Col. 1:12). The main ingredient begins with our heart. Is it a willing heart? Is it a pure heart? If this main ingredient is present, you will hear from God (see Matt. 5:8). If we are available to God in a maximum way, we will be, “transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18) which will enable us to then, “walk worthy of the calling” (Eph. 4:1-3).

He chose us out of the world (John 15:19) because we are His treasured possession (see 1 Peter 2:9). We were chosen as His dearly loved children even from the beginning of time (2 Thess. 2:13). Isn’t it nice to know that God had something special in mind when He saved us? God handpicked us for a specific purpose. Our personal journeys and life experiences whether good or bad make us perfect for a life that is on mission with Him.

When we feel less than adequate and unworthy to be called, we can be reassured that, “He will instruct us the way chosen for us” (Ps. 25:12). He gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him (Phil 2:13) so that He can complete the good work he began in us.

When God initiates the call, it is not always about the “wow factor.” It is usually for the purpose of changing us, growing us, strengthening us and molding us into His perfect image–into people with more than just a mere knowledge of God. It is to stretch us beyond Sunday morning. It is to develop in us a heart that anticipates and expects to experience Christ during the week.

Why does he call us? That is simple! He calls us because He loves us. He draws near to us so that we can have eternal life, which is to “know Him and Jesus Christ whom He sent” (John 17:3). From Genesis to Revelation, God speaks to His people. Who are these “people,” he calls? The Bible says, “all are called” (see Rom. 1:5-6). The very moment you received Christ in your life, you were releasing your life to be used anyway that God would choose! Since we are all called by God, the only difference is the type of assignment He gives each one of us. So when the God of the universe comes knocking, lets be one of those who is ready to hear, know, grow, and go!

"As I Wake" by Heidi Avery

As I wake to this new day,
fix my eyes Lord, lest I stray.
Hear my prayers; I wait on my knees;
for your wisdom, your will to be seen.
Move ahead, make my path clear,
liven your Spirit, stay ever near.
Take my worries; give me your peace,
may I live in your presence, make my faith increase.
Invade my thoughts; hold them captive to you,
transform me Lord make me new.
Be my refuge from all my fears
give me courage and strength to persevere.
Rescue me from myself, wrong roads I do take,
convict me, forgive me, cover my mistakes.
Prune me, cut away all that is useless and dead,
fill me with your fruit, so in your ways I am led.
Use me today, send me where ever you want me to go
equip me Lord to make your Kingdom grow.
And when this day comes to an end,
grant me rest until I wake to find you again.

"Lets Swap!" By Kelli Zaniel

All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children,” (Isaiah 54:13).

Pint-sized voices giggling, tea cups clinking, 5 pairs of feet stomping, bells ringing—those were some of the sounds drifting from my daughter’s overcrowded bedroom. Next, I heard small voices whispering, “I’ll take this one and you take that one, I’ll swap you this one for that one!” Then, the door flung open and the commotion was put on hold as they all sashayed out of the bedroom. I asked my children and their friends what they were doing. With an accomplished look on their faces and eyes gleaming, they replied, “We are swapping toys!” Later, it was decided that swapping toys might not be such a good idea. Someone had aggressively forced an overpriced American Girl doll outfit and fuzzy pink slippers on an oversized one-eyed teddy bear. The Ken doll, who was once very dashing and fully clothed, had not only lost his self-respect and his one true love (Barbie) but his head too! As I explained to the girls that this ritual needed to be discontinued effective immediately, something clicked in my head. I advised them that someone might receive and “uneven swap,” and that person would be very sad.

I thought to myself, Jesus made a very uneven “swap” for us at Calvary’s cross. He, being the perfect sacrifice, “took our sins away by nailing them to the cross,” (Col. 2:14). There on that lonely hill, Jesus, the “visible image of an invisible God” (see Col. 1:15) said, “Do you want to swap with me?” I imagine Jesus saying to us, “If you will only believe in me, love me and commit wholeheartedly to me, I will swap your sin for my righteousness. Jesus was definitely “short-changed” when He “swapped” His righteousness for our sin. He was short-changed but that did not effect how He loved us. He, being man and God all at once, “passed on to us what was most important”—the gift of salvation (See 1 Cor. 15:3). In this uneven exchange, God equipped us so that we could “know” Him, relate to Him and experience Him everyday.

I had my daughter sit down and draw the picture shown above (picture inspired by Rev. Bob Tebow). A cross, a picture of her and the swapping of her sin for God’s righteousness. I explained that like the exchanging of toys, she emptied out an oversized bucket containing all the bad stuff she had ever done or ever will do into Jesus’ perfect and mighty hands. In return He tightly clothed her with all of His goodness, all of His righteousness. She didn’t have to do anything to receive this uneven swap…it was free. It was as if she gave Jesus a dirty old rag and in return He gave her the most beautiful princess gown she could ever imagine! Why? Because Romans 3:24 tells us, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.” God gave Jesus the ultimate assignment which was to “die for our sin,” (1 Cor. 15:3). That way when God looks at us, he no longer sees the stain of our sin but Jesus’ glistening love shining in and through us!

God, the Bible says your thoughts are precious about me (see ps. 139:17) and my prayers are like incense before you (see Rev. 5:8). You are with me at all times (Ps. 139:18). You promise that you will “always go ahead of me,” never abandon me or forsake me (see Deut. 31:6). Search me Lord and know my heart. Thank you for your, “overflowing redemption,”(Ps. 131:7). Please speak through me as I teach my children about your undeniable love for them.

Where Are You Aiming Your Kids?

(By: Dr. Tim Kimmel)

“Your name is known to every generation” (Ps. 135:13).

1. Look at your calendar. How much of your time do you spend nurturing an “others-oriented,” attitude with your children?

2. Look at your checkbook. How much goes to serving others rather than yourself?

3. Look at your attitude. What makes you feel like you are doing a great job at raising your kids?

4. Look at your heart. What are the things that bring joy and satisfaction to you and your family?

5. Look at your reputation. How would your friends, co-workers, teachers, and neighbors characterize your priorities?

6. How much TIME are you spending with your kids?
T ake
I nitiative for
M eaningful
E xperiences