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Archive for the ‘Daily Bread’ Category

Recently I read this delicious little portion of ministry and I’ve been meaning to share it. It’s from a book on prayer and the portion I enjoyed is a commentary on the story in John chapter 2, when the Lord went to the wedding in Cana and changed the water into wine. If you’re not familiar with the story, basically it goes like this – Jesus is invited to a wedding, along with his mother and disciples. While they’re there, the wine runs out and Jesus’ mother comes and tells Him that there is no wine, obviously wanting Him to do something about the situation. His answer to her is “Woman, what do I have in this that concerns you? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) I was always quite puzzled by this reply. To me, it kind of sounded like something a teenager with attitude would say to his mom. Anyways, Mary obviously didn’t get the hint and goes ahead and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. He gives them instructions to fill the water pots with water and then to draw some and take it to the master of the feast. Upon drinking it, the master of the feast declares that wine to be better than the previous one.

So here’s the portion I enjoyed:

Marriage is the center of human life, and a wedding feast represents the pleasure of human life. The Lord came to the earth and entered into us in order to become the center of our human life and the pleasure of our human life. He did not come to ignore us or to be unconcerned with our affairs. He came to bear responsibility for our affairs. However, as a prerequisite, we must hand all authority over to Him and give Him full liberty.

The fact that the wine ran out means that something central and crucial was missing at the wedding feast. Since the Lord was there, He was surely interested in the feast. He would not stand by without doing something. Nevertheless, Mary, the Lord’s mother in the flesh, a person who represents us in our way of contacting the Lord, went to the Lord to propose that He do something. She did this with good intentions. In contacting the Lord we must beware that our intentions should not go before His intentions. (The Meaning and Purpose of Prayer, p 41)

First of all, I was encouraged that Jesus was at the wedding. I’m sure He was busy, teaching, preaching and healing people. But He took time out to go to this wedding, to be involved in something so common to human life. He wants to be involved in, is concerned with, and even wants to bear responsibility for all our human affairs. He didn’t skip out and say, “Sorry I have more important things to do, I’m here to carry out God’s will on the earth.” Yes, He’s here to carry out God’s will, but He does that by entering into our situations so that when we realize the “wine” has run out, He’s there to give us the better wine.

Secondly, because He’s concerned and wants to bear responsibility for our affairs, there’s no need for us to direct Him. Like Mary, I’m often quick to direct the Lord when I sense there’s a need in a certain situation. I pray for the Lord to do something and even offer Him proposals and advice on how He should do it. But His response to Mary at that wedding is clear indication that He doesn’t need our proposals or counsel. He knows our need better than we do and He has His timing and His way to meet it. We just need to stop directing, start listening and do whatever He says. If He says to fill the water pots to the brim, then amen, that’s what I’ll do, even though I don’t see how that helps the situation. If we all could learn this lesson when it comes to everything that concerns us – our marriage life, family life, work life, church life – I think there would so many more opportunities for the Lord to change our water into wine.

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I recently came across this awesome portion in my random times of ministry reading –

The entire New Testament involves these two words: come and go. The New Testament involves coming, and it also involves going. To come is to receive grace, and to go is to impart grace into people. By our coming and going, we will eventually express a desire to the Lord. We will say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 2:20). Therefore, the second “come” is connected to the Lord’s coming again. Hence, the entire New Testament is concerning these three words: come, go, and come…May the Lord strengthen both our coming and our going. If we daily come to the Lord in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, we will surely go and testify to people. The issue of such coming and going is that we desire and yearn for the Lord to come back. (The Age of The One New Man, Witness Lee, pp. 56-57)

I love how this passage summarizes so simply the essence of the New Testament and of our Christian life. Our Christian life should just involve these three actions – we come to the Lord, we go to people, and then we yearn for the Lord to come. So simple, yet if we’re faithful to live a life like this, it will be one filled with joy, meaning, and purpose. The Lord has been touching me lately to step out of my comfort zone and to go visit people I normally don’t see on a regular basis. People that I haven’t seen in the church meetings in a while, new people that I’ve met at the church meetings, other stay at home moms that I might not know so well, basically anyone that the Lord would put in my heart. Often the Lord will bring a person to my mind, and yes, while I’m faithful to mention these ones in prayer when that happens, sometimes the Lord will nudge me to go a step farther…text them to see how they’re doing, invite them over for tea, or just drop by for a visit. I usually am not that good in obeying those nudges, but the more I come to the Lord, the more I’m learning to be one with Him in His sending. And when I do obey, the supply of life just flows and my joy is truly made full.

May you all have a blessed week of comings and goings! Come to the Lord continually to receive grace and go with that grace to whomever the Lord would send you. If we would all do this, I believe there would be the corporate cry within us all of “Come, Lord Jesus!”

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winter retreat

This past weekend we were with some students from the Christians on Campus club at UC Berkeley for a weekend retreat in Sacramento. We have this retreat every winter as a way to kick off and prepare for the new semester. We went over some messages on the book of Exodus and I so enjoyed our times of eating the word together. As we prayed over the verses, the Lord was really faithful to speak to and through each person there.

I particularly enjoyed two verses concerning the manna, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Then Jehovah said to Moses, I will now rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day… (Exodus 16:4)

This is the bread which came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever. (John 6:58)

In the book of Exodus, God performed many miracles for the children of Israel, but only one miracle lasted 40 years. For 40 years while they were in the wilderness, God rained down bread from heaven for them to eat. Can you imagine that? Every morning little pieces of bread rained down from heaven and this was the only food that sustained them for 40 years! In the gospel of John, the Lord Jesus is referring to Himself when He says, “this is the bread which came down out of heaven…” He is the real manna and He came down out of heaven not as a king to rule us outwardly, but as little pieces of bread to feed us inwardly. If we eat of Him as this bread, we will also live because of Him (John 6:57).

Just as the children of Israel, we believers today have the opportunity to experience this long term miracle every day. Every morning there is living bread raining down upon us, but we have to be faithful to gather our portion for that day. To do that, it’s as simple as reading a few verses a day and really chewing on them and taking them in as our spiritual food. As we do this, God has the way to change our diet and reconstitute our being.

The forecast for today and the day after and the day after is manna. Don’t forget to go out and gather your day’s portion everday!

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Recently I’ve been reading through a ministry book by Witness Lee titled “The Sufficiency, Pursuit, and Learning of the Lord’s Serving Ones.” I’ve been reading it in the snatches of time I have during the day – while waiting at the bus stop, on the bench at the park, during CC’s swim class. Reading it in little snippets during the day has been so enlightening, helpful and supplying. I’ve really enjoyed a particular portion I read a few weeks ago, which I’ve been chewing on and quoting to everyone. It’s so good, I’ll just quote part of it here –

Genuine spiritual life grows in desolate circumstances. We should not expect to always receive light when we read the Bible, to have the Lord’s presence when we pray, to save many sinners, or that our wife, husband, children, parents, and siblings will be spiritual. These expectations are unrealistic. Those who are genuinely spiritual pitch their tent between Bethel and Ai. God does not allow us to be free of desolate situations…God desires that we remain in the status in which we were called…If we can be normal human beings in our troublesome, complicated, and fallen situations, then we will have the genuine exercise of spirituality. Living between Bethel and Ai should be our normal experience.

Our outward circumstances in coordination with the operation of God give us the opportunity to develop a genuine spiritual life. We should not expect to be in a situation that is heavenly and without any problems…We have the weaknesses and desolation, but we also have the Lord’s blessing. We must leave our spiritual longings and learn to experience God in our desolate situations so that we may have genuine growth in life.

Is that not encouraging? To give some background, in Genesis chapter 12, Abraham was led by God to pitch his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means “the house of God” and Ai means “a heap of ruins.” This is exactly where God also leads us to pitch our tent today. In our Christian life, our experience is often that we face the house of God on one side, but a heap of ruins on the other. We may be enjoying God in His house, but we also often find ourselves in the midst of many desolate situations that cause us to wonder if God is really with us. So often I have the mistaken concept that the more I grow in the Lord, the easier my life should become. But I was so helped to be reminded that genuine spirituality and growth comes out of the experience of Christ in the midst of all the desolate situations. We should never expect our life to be problem free, but our normal experience should be one of living between Bethel and Ai.

One day last week the Lord reminded me of this in a very practical way. It was a regular weekday and the day began as all other regular weekdays begin. Some time after breakfast CC discovered that his little brother had destroyed his Lego creation from the night before and a level 9 tantrum ensued. Let’s just say the situation quickly deteriorated from there. We missed the school bus, and as I was trying to get the boys out the door so that I could drive CC to school, they began fighting about who would open the door. By the time I got both screaming boys buckled into their car seats, I was on the verge of screaming myself. I was tempted to just leave them there and go back into the house and crawl back into bed. That’s when the Lord spoke that portion to me again. Here I was in the midst of a desolate situation, here I am facing Ai, but that is perfectly normal. If in the midst of that, I turn to the Lord and learn to be a normal Christ-enjoying mom to my children, then that can be an experience of genuine spirituality and growth in life.

So as I drove, I let the boys scream until they were all screamed out. I inwardly called on the Lord and tried my best to speak to them with my soft non-screaming voice. I don’t think I ever had the chance to get into the Word or spend much time in prayer that morning, but I felt like I touched the Lord and had a real experience of Him in the midst of that loud minivan. When we cooperate with His operation in the middle of our troublesome circumstances, whatever they may be, then God will really be able to grow in us in a practical way.

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Happy December everyone! I can’t believe there is only one more month left to 2014. Crazy how the years fly by the older the kids get. When they were babies it seemed like those long days of nursing and cradling would never end and I would faithfully track their progress month by month. Now in the midst of packing school lunches, swim classes, and our busy family and church life, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. The months go by too fast for me to remember how many months Turner is, so I’ll just keep telling people he’s 2 years old until he turns 3.

Parenting in some sense has become significantly easier now that I’m not so sleep deprived. But the older the kids get, the more I feel like I’m entering uncharted territory. It has gone beyond simply caring for their physical well being and growth to caring for the people they are becoming. Now I feel like there’s so much more to worry about. When they’re little, the dangers are more obvious, like making sure they don’t put dirty things in their mouths or play with sharp objects. But now that CC is older and going to school, I worry that the dangers are more subtle. I worry that I might not be able to see or protect him from all the germs that are getting into his mind just by growing up in this corrupt world we live in.

A friend of mine once told me her reasons for homeschooling her young children – she knew she couldn’t shield her children from all the immoral germs of the world, but she wanted them to spend their formative years with her so that she could at least make sure they build up a healthy immune system. While we don’t feel to homeschool CC at this time (although that could change), I wholeheartedly agree with her about the need to help our children build up a strong and healthy spiritual immune system. I recently attended a parenting workshop and I was so helped to be reminded again that raising our children is a stewardship entrusted to us by God. It’s not just about clothing them and feeding them, but even more about caring for their spiritual welfare. As parents we will all be accountable to the Lord for how we handled our stewardship. On the one hand, how they turn out is up to the Lord’s mercy, but on the other hand, we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

The practical point I took away from the workshop was simply that I need to spend more quality time with my children. More time talking to them, more time listening to them, more time praying with them, and more time modeling to them what it means to love God and fear God. I had the stark realization last week that CC must hear and take in so much at school, but I don’t spend the adequate time with him to help him process and even filter out everything that’s getting into him. Besides the perfunctory, “How was school today?” to which the reply is usually, “Good,” I don’t really know what happened in his day. Now I’ve been trying to practice sitting down and having more meaningful conversations with my son, REALLY listening to him, and I’ve been surprised by how much I don’t know about him. I’ve learned that sometimes his classmates make fun of him for being little and that makes him sad, and I’ve learned that his favorite activity in choice time is computers (that didn’t really surprise me). I’ve also restarted the practice of praying with him before bed, and that sweet time has also been a window into his little heart. One night he wanted to pray that his friend would like his birthday presents, and another night he wanted to pray that the new substitute teacher would know the right songs to sing. I want him to always feel free to tell not just me, but God also, all these things on his heart, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.

So instead of wasting time worrying, I’m going to use that time to pray and to get to know my children. The influence of the world might be strong, but the God who lives in me and hopefully will one day live in them is stronger. As long as we lead our children to know this one, I think they’ll turn out just fine.

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Sorry y’all…I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. It’s been a long and busy yet lazy summer and I’ve had two boys to entertain and amuse everyday. But that’s all about to change soon because school starts on Wednesday! (Cue in Hallelujah chorus). CC will begin his first year of kindergarten (well, technically Transitional Kindergarten because his birthday’s in October). Whatever they want to call it, the fact is that he’ll be in a school with big kids, I’ll need to pack him a lunch, and he might possibly even be riding the school bus home. I honestly don’t know who’s more excited about it, him or me.

Sending a child, especially my firstborn, off to school is a big deal. There are so many different conflicting emotions involved. I’m excited and proud to see him growing up and moving on to this stage in life, yet scared and nervous because it brings back all my own memories of being in school. What if he gets teased by the other kids like I was for being so small? What if he doesn’t make any friends, or has no one to sit with at lunch? Worse yet, what if he makes the wrong friends and learns the wrong things?

Every time these kinds of fears assail me, I’m reminded of the story of Hannah in the Old Testament. She wanted a child so badly that she bargained with God that if He granted her a son, she would lend him to Jehovah all his days. Little did she know that her prayer for a son was an echo of God’s own need to have a Nazarite who could turn the age. In that time the priesthood under Eli was corrupt and devoid of God’s speaking. But in Samuel, God found someone who would obey His speaking and cooperate with Him to bring the whole nation of Israel out of degradation. If it wasn’t for Hannah’s prayer, that never would have or could have happened.

What reassures me about this story though is that Hannah trusted God enough to allow her son to grow up in the temple with Eli, who, judging by how his own sons turned out, was probably not the best parent or teacher. His sons profaned the priesthood, yet they were probably the patterns Samuel saw growing up. What must have been in Hannah’s motherly heart, to send her young just-weaned son, to be raised in an environment like that? Surely she knew, as all Israel did, the condition of the priests at that time. Yet she also knew that she had made a vow to Jehovah and that Samuel did not belong to her. I can’t imagine how she felt those first few years of Samuel’s life, knowing that she would soon have to send him away. She must have taken every opportunity, even while he was a babe, to instill in him a fear and love for God and to remind him that he was a Nazarite. And she probably prayed for Samuel her whole life. I believe she laid a foundation in him, so that even when he was surrounded by negative patterns, they didn’t affect him, but rather became warnings to him of what not to be. This was probably the same with Moses. He grew up and was educated in the palace of Pharaoh, but he knew he was not Egyptian.

There would be no Samuel or Moses, if not for their moms. I aspire to be like Hannah, to take every opportunity to infuse the knowledge of God into my boys. To trust more in prayer and God’s mercy than my own mothering skills. To not be so afraid of their friends’ influence on them but to make them kids that would have a positive influence on their friends. To make sure they know who they are, even if they have to be educated in an environment that is corrupt and Egyptian.

So as we enter into this new school year, let’s not miss those little opportunities. To use the time while we’re making lunches to pray for our children, to have those little conversations in the minivan before dropping them off at school, to say that little prayer before tucking them in at night. In the end, those little things can really make all the difference.

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The prompt for this week is…

Grateful

GO

Sometimes in the midst of my messy noisy life, it’s easy to forget that I have so much to be grateful for. It’s so much easier to focus on and complain about the little imperfections I have to live with – yet another marker stain on the couch, toys that refuse to stay tidy in their spots, little boys who can’t get along, a four-year-old’s constant non-stop whining. These little things cloud my brain and even though I’m always telling my boys the importance of saying thank you, I know with my sharp words and short temper I’m modeling to them someone who’s not very thankful or grateful.

So I’m so grateful for this week’s word, grateful for the reminder that for me to raise grateful children, I need to be a grateful mother. Today I will exercise to give thanks to my heavenly Father instead of using my energy to inwardly whine non-stop about all the trivial things. Thank you Lord, for providing for all our needs, marker stained couch and all. Thank you Lord, for healthy happy children, even though they bicker and whine and drive me up the wall. Thank you Lord, for the most understanding husband who after you, bears the brunt of all my complaining and whining. Thank you Lord, for friends and sisters I can not only commiserate with, but also pray with. Thank you most of all, for your daily unending supply of grace. Thank you for your life in me that can make me a thankful person. Amen and amen.

STOP

 

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