Fence Post Vision

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

About six years ago, my husband and I made a deliberate decision to ask the Lord to “grow us up quickly.”  We thought we knew what we were asking for, but didn’t realize the full extent of what we would get when we asked for it. Like the old advice, “Don’t ever pray for patience,” you can probably guess what we got: plenty of opportunities to grow up.

We have had no shortage of “growing pains” over the past six years. I would be less than candid if I told you this process had been a “barrel of laughs,” and yet, both my husband and I would agree: we would do it all over again to get the same results. There were many times, as we were going through particularly challenging times, we had an “ah-ha!” moment; we would remember that we had asked for this.

My husband grew up in the farm country of Minnesota. He spent many summers bailing hay and helping various uncles with farm-related chores. He will tell you about fences, plowing, and the animals of farm life. He will tell you that he didn’t particularly understand, and rarely appreciated, the life lessons he learned as he functioned as “free labor” to his various uncles.

Fences on a farm have a somewhat different purpose than those in my suburban up-bringing. In farm country, fences tend to keep animals in, while in suburbia, fences mostly keep neighbors out. On a farm, fences also act as a fixed point at which to focus while you plow, ensuring you have a straight row when you have finished.

My husband and I have decided that we need God to give us “fence post vision.” We want to fix our gaze on Him so that we “plow” a straight furrow to the far side of the field. We need to know that, even though we can’t see the entire field, the row that we are plowing is straight. Each row, fence post to fence post, eyes remaining fixed on the point the Holy Spirit gives us, the completed field will be full of straight furrows.

In a sense, “New Year’s resolutions” function as fence posts in the fields of our lives. Rarely though do we keep that “fence post” in view as we plow our field during the year; most of us lose sight of them after only a week or two.

Maybe the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are ours. We make them, and then intend to keep them, through our own strength and determination. I wonder what would happen if we actually asked the Lord what He would have us accomplish over the next year and then relied on Him to help us complete them.

One thing I know for certain: what He ordains, He provides the strength and ability to finish. If we walk in obedience to the path He sets before us, He is faithful to see that His Word and His Will are accomplished.

As I prayerfully consider what goals God would set before me this next year, I must keep my eyes fixed on His “fence posts.” If my past life is any indicator, there is no doubt that when I have taken my eyes off of Him, the rows of my life has become “crooked.” I don’t know about you, but I have had enough of “crooked furrows.” In fact, I am fed up with my bumbling and stumbling along with little progress in many areas of my life.  The progress has been miniscule and frustrating.

It seems like my life would be so much easier if I just let God set the vision before me which He has determined is best, rely on Him to steer my course, and let His Strength see it to completion. I might actually make it to the end of the year with one of my New Year’s resolutions “crossing the finish line.”

Funny how that works.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” Philippians 3:12-15 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

A Blessing–The Perfect Gift

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

There is no argument that the greatest gift we have ever received is that of Jesus Christ’s birth, atoning work on the cross, and His resurrection.  In this Christmas season, we are mindful of that Perfect Gift to all of mankind, but, we can also be distracted by the commercial emphasis in the market-place as merchants bombard us with the need for giving gifts to each other.

This Christmas, as never before, I want to focus on something of eternal value in my gift giving.  So few of the gifts any of us will exchange this year will even be used or remembered by next year at this time. The gifts that we give to our children are often quickly broken or forgotten as they are turn their focus onto the next hottest item advertised by commercial interests.

A church that we previously attended had a lovely custom for its graduates, one which I had not previously been aware of. It is based on the Biblical principle of the father’s blessing.  Each graduate is given a Bible and then the father (or mother, if no father is present or available) is encouraged to pray for his child and speak a blessing over him as he enters into the next phase of his life.  It was a great disappointment to us that only two of the fathers in the group of graduating seniors officially blessed them. My husband was one of that small group. He spent a number of hours working on the blessing that he would speak over our daughter during that ceremony.

It is so easy, as parents, to focus on many things where are children are concerned. We work diligently to pass down to them the knowledge and skills that they will need to make their own way in the world.  We try to provide them with a rich environment for learning and character development. Within the home school community this becomes a full-time occupation for at least one of the parents.  However, I believe that most parents omit one fundamental gift to their children in this growth process: the father’s blessing.

There are a number of examples of the father’s blessing within the Old Testament. As a father passed down to his sons their material inheritance, he also spoke over these sons a spiritual blessing.  Genesis 27 recounts Isaac’s blessing to Jacob:

Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come near now and kiss me, my son.’ And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: ‘Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!'” (Genesis 27: 26-29 NKJV).

Clearly this is more than just the gift of material blessings. This blessing speaks into the spiritual realm something of real significance.  How is it that those of us in the church have neglected something this important?  What has been lost because we have done so?

Prior to my daughter’s departure for college, many people expressed their sincere sympathy about the impending loss in my life. I was told about the difficulties of “empty nest” syndrome and how I would struggle emotionally with it.  I was informed that my marriage would be stressed and that I would continually weep as I grieved over her going away from me. Actually, neither one of those occurred. Did I miss her?  Yes greatly, however, those moments of emotional distress were few and far between.  I believe that this was mitigated by several factors. Besides the obvious grace and mercy of God, the fact that our daughter is exactly where God has ordained her to be has been an incredible blessing to us.  She has not distanced herself emotionally from us, even though she physically no longer resides in our home for the better part of the year. Our marriage has not suffered either. We had twelve years of married life prior to the birth of this child which we never thought we could have.  Our patterns of marriage were well established and we returned to that which we had before she was born.

My husband and I have discussed many times as to why our experience was so radically different from most of the people we know. We have come to the conclusion that this ease of transition had much to do with the blessing my husband spoke and prayed over our daughter during that graduation ceremony. In that blessing we released her into the next phase of her life. As we let go of her in the physical and spiritual realm, God gave us peace in the emotional realm. Here is the blessing that my husband spoke over her that day:

“A Father’s Blessing

Hannah, joy and delight or our lives, I charge you today before God, our family, and our friends to serve the LORD wholeheartedly, to seek His kingdom first, and above all, to faithfully run the race He has set before you with joy and perseverance. As your father, it is my honor and privilege to bless you with wisdom and insight, to bless you with courage and grace in the face of the challenges you will face in this next stage of your life and service to the Lord.  I bless you with Divine Protection in every activity–in your daily life, in your travels, in your dance and dance training, that in every way God will cover you with His wings and keep you from all harm.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I bless you and I release you into this next stage of your life and service to the LORD, with our love and our full assurance that God will direct and protect your every step.”

This year as we contemplate what gifts we will present to our daughter on Christmas morning, I have decided that the most important gift I want to give her is a mother’s blessing.  I want to speak into her life that spiritual inheritance which will have eternal value.  Just as my husband and I chose our daughter’s name to exemplify one of the spiritual qualities we wanted to be most evident in her life, I want to continue that spiritual inheritance with a mother’s blessing.

A Mother’s Blessing

Hannah, you are such a treasure to us. We have been blessed to see so many elements of your father’s blessing already manifesting in your character and in your spirit.  I charge you today before God to continue serving God wholeheartedly, seeking His Will and His purpose for every decision that you make.  As you grow in Him and walk into His Divine plans for your life, I would bless you with those elements of a godly character that He most values in women.  And one day, when God blesses you, I charge you to give to your husband and children that which God has so generously given to you.  I bless you with the godly attributes of the “Proverbs 31 woman.”  It is His Desire, and mine, that you will be an example to all of that which constitutes a virtuous woman: that the heart of your husband and children will safely trust in you; that you will do your husband good and not evil all the days of your life; that you will willingly work with your hands to provide food and a loving home for your family; that you will gird yourself with all spiritual strength to meet whatever challenges come your way; that your lamp will never go out, even during the darkest of nights; that you will not be afraid, trusting the LORD your God in every situation; that strength and honor will be your clothing; that you will open your mouth with wisdom and speak the law of kindness; and that you will watch over the ways of your household, not eating the bread of idleness.  As you walk in these godly attributes, your children will rise up and call you blessed and your husband will also praise you. It is in agreement with the Word of the Living God, that I speak His Truth over you today; that you may continue to walk in His Ways and be a living example of His Love to all those He brings into your life. As you do so, you will bring Glory and Honor to the King of Kings, both today, and for the rest of your life.”

As we think about those gifts we want to bless our children with this Christmas season, let us not forget the God’s Perfect Gift. I would also ask every parent to consider what spiritual blessing you might speak as a gift into each of your children’s lives. This is not a gift that will be quickly broken or forgotten. This is a gift that has eternal value and will continue to bear eternal fruit.

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of hands.”  2 Timothy 1:3-6 (NKJV)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
All rights reserved

(Edited version of original which was posted on 12/12/2010 as The Perfect Gift–A Blessing)

Bits Of Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) is best known for his work, “My Utmost For His Highest.” A man of faith and prayer, he “walked the talk.” Below are just a few of the words of wisdom he left behind to help us in our walk with the Lord.

“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves. The Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”

“Every time we pray our horizon is altered, our attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we don’t pray more.”

“Prayer is often a temptation to bank on a miracle of God instead of on a moral issue, i.e., it is much easier to ask God to do my work than it is to do it myself. Until we are disciplined properly, we will always be inclined to bank on God’s miracles and refuse to do the moral thing ourselves. It is our job, and it will never be done unless we do it.”

“We impoverish God in our minds when we say there must be answers to our prayers on the material plane; the biggest answers to our prayers are in the realm of the unseen.”

“God’s “nothings” are His most positive answers. We have to stay on God and wait. Never try to help God to fulfill His word.”

“Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life.”

“Character in a saint means the disposition of Jesus Christ persistently manifested.”

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.”

“Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

“Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.”

“Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

“Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking.”

“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there, keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”

“The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience. If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience.”

“God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”

“The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

“If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. ”

“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.”

“Suppose God wants to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased”–are you ready to be offered up like that? Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in a bucket–to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?”

“When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him.”

“The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.”

“Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you. Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside, so enchained my spirit’s vision, gazing on the Crucified.”

“The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting.”

“Let the consequences of your obedience be left up to God.”

Original Content: Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson

All rights reserved

T’was The Month Before Christmas

This was posted recently on a blog that I regularly follow called “Not Happenin’ On My Watch.” I understand that this poem has been around a while, but I hadn’t seen it before. She has kindly given me permission to re-post it here (link to the original post is embedded in the title).

T’was The Month Before Christmas

T’was the month before Christmas
When all through our land
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas – no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people’s feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a “Holiday.”
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks, and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Lady Gaga, an X BOX, an I-Pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down,
At Lowe’s the word Christmas – was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penney’s and Sears
You won’t hear the word Christmas;
It won’t touch your ears
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith.
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace,
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded,
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate ‘Winter Break’ under your “Dream Tree,”
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say.
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holiday!

By Michael Brannon