Monday, November 30, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Training Ground?

I've recently been thinking about soldiers. They're in the news a lot, or at least the wars they fight are.

Soldiers go through grueling, intensive training before they're sent to the battle field. They're challenged and required to do the impossible. While training they live with deprivation, discomfort and pain. It's not fun. It's hard work. And it's necessary, for one day they will face the enemy.

If our commanders went easy on the men and women we call on to defend our country where would we be? Where would the soldiers be? They'd be in harms way . . . unprepared. It would be foolish and unjust to send our fighting men and women into battle without proper training. They know it. While they train you won't hear them complain (well not much anyway) because they understand tough conditioning is necessary to their survival and to victory.

Once on the battlefield brave men and women perform feats that take great discipline, stamina, strength and courage. They will be called on to do things they may have considered impossible. And yet, they succeed because they've been properly prepared; they're ready.

Have you ever considered yourself a soldier? We are, you know. We don't fight against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. But we do fight. God has called us into battle and like a drill sergeant he readies us.

Ephesians 6:11-17 tells us how to fight and what armor we must wear if we're to succeed. We are to gird our waists with truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, shod our feet with the gospel of peace, and take on the shield of faith. We must wear the helmet of salvation and carry the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

God prepares us by taking us through our own "boot camp". Life is a good training ground. We'll be hit with the hard stuff. We won't be comfortable. We'll be challenged to be faithful and courageous. God is wise and just. He knows what we need if we're to be victorious.

I'm thinking that the next time we face a test (training) we need to be thankful. Without proper training one day we'll step onto the battlefield unprepared. So, give thanks for the hard stuff. God is building our faith, our knowledge and our courage so we'll be ready. For the battles are coming.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Quiet Moments With God--Timing

Have you ever had an experience when something you wanted or hoped for occurred at exactly the perfect time? Something that was just what you needed when you needed it? I love those moments. I suppose some are coincidental, but there are times when I'm certain God's laid a blessing upon me.

I experienced just such a moment this morning. I've been carrying a heavy burden, unnecessarily. Finally I did what I should have done weeks ago. After church I sought out a dear friend I know to be a prayer warrior and shared my heaviness of heart with her. Less than twenty-four hours later God shone His light on the core of the problem--the reason I've remained burdened for so long. He knew exactly what I needed to hear.

While in The Word, God met with me. He loves to spend time with His children. :-)

God doesn't mince words. He was clear and to the point. I now know what I need to do. The Lord isn't going to do it for me, but His love and strength will make me able. Relying on Him opens doors for transformation.

To become who He wants us to be we must take every thought captive. Our imaginations, desires and worries can get the better of us when we allow them to rule our lives. They ensnare us and we lose sight of God--lose confidence in His perfect plan.

We can overcome and unburden ourselves by trusting the Creator, the one who placed the stars in the heavens. He is our strength. Set our minds upon Him. He will transform our lives and we will walk in freedom and confidence.

Praising God for His goodness.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Left Waiting?

Do you have someone in your life that you've been praying for, but there seems to be no change, no leaning toward the Lord? Is there a need in your life that's gone unanswered in spite of fervent prayer? Or an affliction that perseveres although you groan with the longing for release? Perhaps you've prayed for a situation for years and received no indication of change.

It's likely we've all been in this place. When prayers go unanswered, or seemingly so, it may feel as if God doesn't hear or doesn't care. Of course if we believe God's Word to be true, we know He always cares and always knows. So, what should we do when we are left waiting?

God's Word tells us to persevere, to push on, to run the race . . . to believe. In 2nd Corinthians 5:7 it says, "For we walk by faith, not by sight."

If we're to rely fully on God we must choose to do so. In the midst of a storm or confusion our only hope is to fix our eyes on Him. When we do, our faith is strengthened and we will be able to stand and to wait. Faith almost always requires waiting. We need to remember that God can move mountains. We can rely upon Him.

If my heart and mind are set upon the Lord then my hope is in Him. I can believe and trust. The kind of strength that brings about change comes from God not from man's fragile unsteady self reliance.

Believe. Trust in God, not in circumstances. Be strong in the Lord. He hears our cry and will not turn away from us. Never give up hope. And if God's answer is not the one we expect trust all the more. Rest in his will, for He sees the beginning and the end. And it is in His loving arms that we will find peace.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quite Moments With God -- In the Everyday

It was just an ordinary day. Nothing stupendous happened, yet precious images created will remain with me always.

Sunday means church for my husband and me. Today, our oldest daughter, her son and my three other grandchildren, plus another little girl joined us at church. During worship I found myself close to tears, grateful to be with loved ones. As we lifted our voices in worship my daughter and I looked at one another and then I felt her arm around me. Love embraced us.

After church, my husband and I, our daughter, her son, my three other grandchildren and the other precious little girl set off for home. We'd decided a hot dog roast shouldn't be exclusively a summertime event. In the chill of the November afternoon we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

The children relished very black, kind of black and nearly raw hot dogs. And while they ate, they talked about silly things, made jokes, laughed and thought up adventures. I can still see smiling faces and eyes alight with childish joy. Innocence is never wasted.

When it was time to roast marshmallows--some youngsters carefully cooked just one at a time while others piled three on their sticks. They all decided that no matter how many they were cooking that they must be perfectly browned. They waited patiently, turning their sticks and double checking to see if the color was just right. When they deemed them perfect, the children ate the sticky sweet treat, leaving melted sweetness stuck to their lips and fingers.

After the meal the youngsters piled onto the sofa and buried themselves beneath blankets as they settled down to watch a movie. A row of smiling faces waited in anticipation for the show to begin.

It was just an ordinary day, but I have new memories of bright smiles, silly jokes, and the perfection of simplicity stored away in my memory--treasures really. Treasures to be rediscovered time and again. They will be there when everything else fades.

So, gather up real treasure . . . while you can.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Press On

The last three days I've mostly stared at the ceiling while flat on my back and under the influence of pain medication. This is not my first experience with a cranky back. Since an accident with a log truck in 1991 I've spent many days in bed when I'd rather be doing something more fun. I don't like it.

During these spells I go through a myriad of emotions--frustration, depression, anger, fear and sometimes even joy. I've been through enough episodes to know what to expect. And yet, I can't count on being gracious.

This time in the midst of my restrictive circumstances God graciously led me to some helpful verses. Philippians 3:12 - 13 says, "But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. O, dear brothers and sister, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

I've learned it does little good to sit in a puddle of self pity. And keeping my attention on my previous troubles is no better. I've got to look forward, remembering that God is not done with me yet. I have a race to run and God has given me the ability and courage to do it. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

God means to shape me into the likeness of Christ and that can't happen without obstacles to overcome. I can't learn to lean on and trust the Lord if there's nothing to trust him for.

Therefore, this week has been a struggle and it may continue to be so tomorrow and the day after, but I will press on. I will not look back, but I will keep my focus on what's in front of me. And I will continue to run the race.

We do not run alone, therefore let's do our best to run well.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie Leon

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- It's Not About Me.

Yesterday a young woman in our church shared some of her upcoming plans with the congregation. She's a beautiful and gifted young lady who has chosen to serve God above all else. She's already spent a great deal of time on the mission field and now believes God is moving her to a new location overseas. This new place will not be filled with the comforts we are accustomed to.

As she shared her heart and what God is doing in her life and around the world I felt tears begin to build. I'm in awe of her, and I'm so proud to be part of the Christian family. We are imperfect, but through the years I've witnessed a great deal of love, faith, and generosity.

As many other Christians have done, this gal is giving up a great deal -- a comfortable home here in the states, family and friends, security and safety and so much that we take for granted. She's doing it out of love for the Lord and for the people in this world who do not know him.

As I listened, personal conviction grew. I too serve God, but sometimes my desires have little to do with him or other people, but rather they are about me. My focus becomes distorted by desires for worldly things--money, possessions, time.

I have no right to complain. I serve right here in my home country, and I live in a cozy, familiar house and sit in a comfy chair where I write books and blogs, and notes to friends. I get to work on Bible studies, speeches and workshops. I love all these things and yet, there are days when I detest the duties given to me. Some days it feels too difficult.

Do you ever feel this way? It's easy to get off track, to forget to be grateful, to forget that our gifts are meant for service and that being called to serve by the creator of the universe is a privilege.

The most beautiful moments in my life are the ones when I've made a positive difference in someone else's life and in the world. We can't force good and lasting things happen. God does that. We must simply keep our eyes on Christ and off of ourselves. God will take care of the rest.

Life can't be about me. If it is, then it's not about him.

Let's make it about him.

Grace and peace to you from God.

Bonnie Leon

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Honor God's Creation

When I gaze at a mountain range in the distance I see God. I see Him in the mirrored reflection of a quiet lake. And I am awed by Him when I stand on a sandy ocean beach and gaze at waves marching toward shore. I love what He has made, for it offers me a glimpse at His greatness.

However, when I look in the mirror I often forget that the person staring back at me is also part of God's creation. More times than I'd like to admit, I undervalue this piece of his design.

We can't deny the value of God's creation nor His love for us. Psalm 139:13-17 clearly states our worth. It says, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered."

I love these verses! They remind me that God tenderly and thoughtfully created me. When I read them I know that I'm precious to Him. I can feel my Father's arms around me.

There is nothing that compares to the love of our heavenly Father. Even our love for our own children is a weak comparison. I love my parents and I'm grateful for all they've done for me. I admire them and want them to be proud of me. I wouldn't even consider dishonoring them. Why then, would I dishonor God?

It's not something I do on purpose, but every time I belittle myself I dishonor Him. I am--we are--His. We were created for His pleasure. If we appreciate our Father and all He's done for us, why don't we take better care of ourselves?

I haven't done such a great job. Self care is not one of my strengths, but is more often a source of personal sin. Physically I'm out of shape and over weight. I have no excuse. Plus I'm terrible at guarding my time. I say yes when I ought to say no, which robs me of the rest I need, and steals time I could spend with my husband and family and friends. Ultimately I have little or no time to re-energize.

In our super charged world it's difficult to set boundaries that create personal health and well-being. If we want to change course where do we begin?

I believe we start with God. Time with our Lord offers strength and direction. It helps if we have a friend to pray with us and who will hold us accountable to our goals.

Secondly, with God's help, we need to pinpoint the problem. Is there something we detest about ourselves? We believe in forgiving others; we need to forgive ourselves as well. Do we lack energy? If so, why? Is the drain physical, emotional, or spiritual? Or is it a combination of all three?

After we've sought out God, friends, even our doctor and have taken an honest look at ourselves, the next step is to face what we've found. Be honest and change what needs changing. If we don't we'll continue to get what we've always gotten.

There are some things to consider. Am I holding a grudge against myself? Do I need more sleep? Less food? Healthier food? Do I spend enough time in God's Word? Do I love others? Do I serve too much or too little? Do I allow the world's worries to steal my joy?

Each of our circumstances are unique. I cannot solve the mystery of your lack of self respect. God can.

If we seek the truth, He will reveal it.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Our Life Matters

This morning while sitting in church something my pastor said, rang out at me. He quoted a statement from J. Stafford Wright. "Man knows enough to be held responsible for whatever he does or fails to do."

We have no excuses. We know what we ought to do. There is a voice inside that speaks to us, if only we'll listen.

Our life matters, and every day is filled with opportunities. The whole idea of living a life of significance thrills me right down to my toes. We may ask, "What am I supposed to do?" Micah 6:8 gives a straight forward answer. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Each day we face circumstances that force us to ask what should I do? God says demonstrate justice, mercy and humility. If we consistently exhibit these qualities we'll have a positive impact on those around us. And not only others, but ourselves as well.

My pastor said something else, about the Lord, that set me on fire. "He wants our life to adorn His grace." I thought, Wow! That's beautiful! That's powerful! I want that!

Even though I fall far short of perfection I know if I keep my eyes on the Lord I WILL look more and more like Him and my life will adorn His grace. Amazing! And it can happen only because God loves His children and works in their hearts.

Shall we look into His face and know Him? Only then shall we be transformed.

Grace and peace to you from God.