Leaving Traces

“. . . for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” – 2 Corinthians 8:21

Someday we’ll die. We don’t get to choose how it will happen – and sometimes death is sudden. So, here’s a question: If you were to leave this earth unexpectedly, what traces will you leave behind?

  • What books will still have bookmarks in them – in progress, but unfinished? What will those titles tell others about you?
  • What underlinings and notes will there be in your Bible? Will those notes show your desire to know the Author?
  • What emails, phone messages, and social media posts will have just been delivered? What replies will your family see coming back to you?

I read about a 90+ -year-old woman who died in her sleep. Those who found her body also found on the bedside table her written goals for the coming year. Her family read them and smiled, knowing she had lived her life fully to the last moment.

We leave fingerprints and footprints wherever we go.  Someday we’ll make our final impressions on this earth.

When we live everyday in light of life’s fleeting nature,

when we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man, and

when we live in light of the potential of lingering effects in every moment,

we begin to be aware of not only being good and doing good, but looking good, too. Our imprints reflect on our God. Let’s make good ones!

“O may all who come behind us find us faithful, May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey. O may all who come behind us find us faithful!” – Steve Green

It’s good to be thankful!

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. “- Psalm 69:30

One day I was fussing around trying to get everything done, worrying about this and that when I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge: “Don’t you have something you want to thank Me for?” Of course I did. I stopped my whirlwind and gave him thanks for several things that came immediately to mind. Amazingly, as soon as I did, I felt my spirit move from restless to restful. 

So what really happened? God’s reminder to thank him was not for his benefit, it was for mine. A gratefulness pause made me realize all God does for me every day and how much he must love me to remind me of that even when I was “toiling and spinning” like the biblical lilies of the field. Recognizing his character, his faithfulness, and his consistent drawing of me to himself helped me to trust him even in the middle of what felt like chaos.

Trusting is an emotion that grows out of a confident relationship with God as we discover that he loves, protects, teaches, and rescues us – and has been doing it for years. Even brief moments of remembering his never-failing consistency nurtures the emotion of trust in my spirit. Over time, I am finding that trust is more often my first response to struggle instead of my second, third, or fourth.

Maybe we need to stop telling ourselves to trust God and, instead, start realizing who he is and what he does for us. As we make gratefulness a habit, trust happens. Understanding that has made a big difference for me. It can for you, too. Don’t you have something to thank him for right now?

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude.” – Thomas Merton

This post is an update of an earlier blog, but one that seemed appropriate for today. Enjoy!

Saying “no” will break my heart.

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple! 
– Psalm 65:4

Do you want to know how God really feels about you? Are you a bother to him? A pest? Do you talk too much? Ask for too much? Say the wrong thing? Take a deep breath. He’s saying something like this to you right now:

I want you to be near me. You can talk to me. You don’t have to stay in a corner or try not to be seen. Come closer. Stay close. I’m in love with you. I want you with me always.

“He will rejoice over you with gladness;
 he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

And, if that’s not enough, Jesus whispers, too:

I am your shepherd, your teacher. You can hear best when your heart is quiet and when you stay within the range of my voice. Stay close enough to hear me. 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27

Finally, the Holy Spirit asks in his own way:

I’m reminding you that you are invited to the dance. You are welcome at the banquet. Please come. I love you so much that, if you say “no”, it will break my heart.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30

Are you convinced yet of God’s love? Be brave and get a little closer. 

Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”  Jerry Bridges

Miracles or Wonders?

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” – Job 9:10

To some people everything’s a miracle: sunrises, finding extra money in their pocket, bumping into an old friend, and birds hatching in the tree outside their window. For others, miracles are phenomena of a time long past, but don’t happen today. Which is right?

The verse from Job, cited above, has helped me sort this out. Many of the things we see around us might be classified as wonders. Colorful flowers, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, or a wound that heals – these are wonders, part of God’s natural world. He made the world to work this way and we are the benefactors of his love of beauty, order, and regeneration.

But, sometimes there are miracles, too – yes, even today. They are events that occur contrary to the natural course of things. For example, someone being unexplainably healed or a prodigal returning home with a changed heart. These miracles are God’s intervention in the normal course of a disease, affliction, or direction. I believe these miracles are his way of giving us a glimpse of how it will be when the world is eventually restored to its original perfection.

Miracles are miracles, not because they are part of the natural order, but because they interrupt it. But that interruption is not guaranteed. God loves having us trust him enough to ask, but only he decides when and how he will respond to our prayer.

So, while we pray for the miracle we so desparately desire, we can continue to enjoy the wonders of God that surround us every day. They are his gifts to us, too!

“Believe in miracles, but don’t put your faith in miracles. Put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Adrian Rogers

Trouble with trusting?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

I recently read Paul’s recitation of his immaculate pedigree as a passionate follower of God through Judaism. When he became a Christian, his new understanding made him realize he’d been trusting in his own goodness and zeal to earn God’s favor. After his encounter with Jesus, he understood that none of his efforts earned him any gold stars from God. Instead, God’s favor was gained by putting his trust in Christ, not himself. A commentator on Paul said, “It takes humility to trust.”

I began to think about ways in which pride can block our ability to trust God. Maybe it’s because humility means . . .

  •  acknowledging our own helplessness to change a situation.
  •  realizing that only God can see the future so knows best what to do for us and others.
  •  giving up control.
  •  accepting that what God chooses might hurt us for a time, but a greater purpose will be accomplished, even in our pain.
  •  believing, even when we can’t understand, that God is who he says he is and all his words are true.

You can imagine with me why it’s hard for a proud person to do the things listed above. Our pride doesn’t like helplessness, submission, accepting the truths in God’s word without argument. If there is any pride in us, we’ll find it hard to trust God.

Are you having trouble with trust? We all do, sometimes. When that happens, we should examine ourselves and root out whatever may be prideful or self-serving. Every time we do that with sincerity, we find it easier to trust God – our faith grows and his ability to use us grows.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – Anonymous

Need some soul work?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23:1-3

Yesterday, I had been far busier than I intended and felt frazzled. So, near the end of the day, I sat in my comfortable chair and thought about how my Good Shepherd leads me beside still waters and makes me lie down in green pastures. The stress began to leave my body and I felt comforted and calmed.

My mind moved to the next statement, “He refreshes my soul”. What does that mean? Christian scholar J.P. Moreland has spent years studying and writing about the soul and he believes it contains five faculties:

  • senses (touch, taste, smell, seeing, hearing)
  • will (capacities to choose)
  • emotions (ability to experience joy, love, anger, etc.)
  • mind (thoughts, beliefs, ability to reason)
  • spirit (means by which we relate to God). *

In sum, our souls encompass our entire internal being. And that’s what needs to be refreshed – our whole selves, not just our bodies. 

It’s important to pay attention when our soul cries out for refreshment. When it does, we are invited to connect with the only one who can provide what we need. As God restores our souls, he renews our desire to have him near, cleans up the sinful smudges gained from the day, and draws us close. We begin to feel whole, complete, spiritually healthy. That’s refreshment!

This can happen only when we stay close to the Shepherd, asking him to make the changes and restoration we crave. Then we wait. He will not leave us helpless. Soul work is what he does!

The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine Grace.” – Brother Lawrence

*From Finding Quiet by J.P. Moreland

Longer Prayers

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

Don’t you wonder how Jesus spent all night in prayer with the Father? All night?

Years ago, when I had a severely depressed friend, I promised to spend an hour in prayer for her, pleading with God to meet the deepest needs of her heart. In about ten minutes, I had said all I had to say. But I had committed to an hour, so I expanded my prayer, repeated some things, and paused more often. It felt like a very long hour!

So, praying all night seems impossible to me! And the gospel writers indicate that it was Jesus’ habit to spend long hours in prayer.

Then I realized that for Jesus and God it was, very likely, a two-way conversation. Jesus talked and God responded, like a loving father and son would do. If you’re with someone you love, there are times when you talk and talk, then wonder where the time went.

That’s probably what it was like between Jesus and God. Intimate conversation. And God, with his heavenly perspective, giving direction, guiding Jesus’ ministry, telling him what to do next.

Jesus showed us how we humans can relate to our Father in heaven. Prayer is a big part of that: Asking for and then receiving direction, comfort, hope, empowerment, and provision. If it’s lovingly intimate and involves both speaking and listening, our short prayers tend to get longer. Jesus showed us what to do. It’s up to us to figure out how – through relationship with the One to whom we pray.

O, let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth.” – Andrew Murray

Do whatever you want.

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. “ – John 14:23

Samuel had just privately annointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. Then Samuel told Saul that God’s Spirit would come powerfully upon him and change him from the inside out. When that happens, he said, “. . . do whatever your hand finds to do because God is with you” (1 Samuel 10:7). Can you imagine having God’s presence so control us that whatever we chose to do would be pleasing to him? What would it take for that to happen?

  • Being so filled with God’s Spirit that everything we decide would originate with him
  • Loving God so much we would never do anything we think might displease him or hurt him
  • Following an irresistible desire to live out what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and in his parables
  • Having the inner capacity to forgive easily, give generously, and never, never worry

I think that’s exactly what God intends for us: to be transformed to be so much like Jesus that we never have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” – instead, we would just do it. We will never be perfectly like him until we see him face-to-face, but it should be our desire to have transformed minds and Holy Spirit control to the extent that we are growing closer and closer to that goal each day!

As you think about that, have a great day doing what God wants you to do and praying, as you do, that he makes it what you want to do, too!

“Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” – Augustine

Power Hungry

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. . . ” – Ephesians 3:16

Sometimes we feel helpless as we look at power in the world today. Nations testing other nations, each claiming superior force. Politicians exchanging influence for favors. Bosses barking out orders or withholding increases in pay. Authority, glory, and power are evident – but not for us it seems.

We don’t have to feel helpless because the Bible promises us power, Paul prayed for it for the Ephesian church, and Jesus promised it to his disciples. We can assume though, the kind of power Jesus and Paul were talking about isn’t very much like what we see in the world around us.

What does Christian, God-given power look like? I think Frank Laubach (missionary to India and Africa in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s) had it right when he prayed for power this way:

“. . . power to see souls behind faces, power to pray for those I see outside this car window, power to ooze into or push into the inner souls of others with my prayer and carry Thee with me all the way to the center.”

I’m hungry for that kind of power, aren’t you? Power to have understanding of the hidden needs of those we meet, power to pray constantly, power to reach people at a heart level with the truth of God’s love and provision for them, power to change them for eternity.

Please, Lord, may my life be lived under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit within me, for the good of those I touch, and for your great pleasure.

“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Charles Spurgeon

Around the Bend

“A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” – Mark 4:26b-27

When C. S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer and was struggling through emotions and questions in his grief, he wrote, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”

We’re all on a journey. For Lewis, it was through grief. For many of us, it’s through another of life’s challenges. And, while we struggle, we get discouraged. That’s when God renews us with whispers:

  • Don’t quit because you feel like you’re failing. You’re making progress.
  • Don’t quit becuse you’re tired. You’re getting stronger.
  • Don’t quit because it’s hard. The rewards for perseverance are great.

That’s when we realize we just need to keep walking. God is at work even when we can’t see it. Strength comes. Spiritual growth occurs, and he‘s doing it, not you or me.

Eventually, we do go around the bend Lewis mentions and, when we do, we see something new and beautiful. Something we didn’t know, or some gift of joy or relationship or insight. At that point, we realize staying on the path is worth the effort and we keep going, wondering what different and inspiring landscape will appear just a little further down the road.

The gifts of success, strength, growth, and joy include the struggle. Let’s not quit! There’re no shortcuts to becoming.

“I long to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young lives, to give you at once the key to that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers, but you must work for these inward treasures yourselves.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

On the Brink

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived— the things God has prepared for those who love him.”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

In some ways, I feel like I’m living on the brink of something about to happen. There’s an anticipation in my soul that there’s going to be a big change and it has nothing to do with winning the lottery or receiving great acclaim. It has to do with holy expectancy.

Do you ever feel like your getting to a point where God’s about to take you to a new level of relationship with him? If so, don’t do what I did many years ago. I told God being so close to him was making me afraid. He will never take us where we’re not ready to go. He didn’t abandon me, but he withdrew the intensity of his presence.

I’m living on the edge again, the brink of something new. It might be eternity. We don’t know when our life as we know it ends and our life on the other side begins. It might be a new level of intimacy with God. It might be a new area where I might serve him. But I love living with anticipation. There’s an excitement in the air when God is at work in our lives.

Do you sense it, too? Don’t run away. Let him teach you, lead you, cleanse you, minister to you, and anoint you for service. The infinite God is asking you and me to come closer, to recognize his work in the world around us, and never to stop living in excited anticipation of what he will do next.

“We have received an invitation. We are invited to make a pilgrimage – into the heart and life of God.” – Dallas Willard

Does what I’m doing matter?

Who may go up to the mountain of Adonai?
Who can stand in his holy place?
Those with clean hands and pure hearts,
who don’t make vanities the purpose of their lives
or swear oaths just to deceive.

– Psalm 24:3-4 (CJB)

Do you ever avoid approaching God? Or just are not too excited about worshipping  him? You know you’re his child, but you don’t go skipping to the throne room to share your heart with him. King David of old might be able to help us here.

In Psalm 24, he asks who is qualified to worship God. Then he answers his own question: Someone who is honest, has clean hands (actions are right), and a pure heart (attitudes are right). Those qualifications are pretty clear to all of us.

Then he gives one more requirement: Those “who don’t make vanities the purpose of their lives”. To understand what vanities are, we need to look at the book of Ecclesiastes. This author (likely David’s son Solomon) tried everything: wine, women, song, lands, learning, power, and popularity. Nothing satisfied. He said it was all vanity, meaning empty. It had no substance, brought no satisfaction, and vanished into thin air in light of eternity.

Are there “vanities” in your life? Things that are attractive in the moment, but don’t bring long-lasting satisfaction? Or activities that distract you from the true purpose of your life? In our hearts, we know the most important purpose is knowing and following Jesus, worshiping and serving God, loving and caring for our neighbor. When the unimportant takes its proper place, God says we will be ready to worship.

We may all have some sorting out to do!

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”—Charles Spurgeon

Praying for Daylight

My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
    Yet the desires of my heart
turn night into day;
    in the face of the darkness light is near.
 – Job 17:11-12

Is sometimes the night so dark, the storm so strong, and the pain so deep that all you can do is pray for morning to come? You are not alone.

In Acts, we are told about the horrible storm Paul and Luke and many others experienced on their way to Rome. At one point, in the two-week-long nor’easter, the sailors took soundings and realized the water was getting shallower – they were approaching land. But it was the middle of the night, the ship was out of control, and they couldn’t see where they were headed. It was dark and scary and dangerous. Luke says, Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29). They did the only thing they could do – they waited and they prayed.

If you’re in a dark place right now, you can’t see what’s ahead, you are fearful and frantic, hang on. Morning will come. God promises it will. “. . . weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). 

In the meantime, focus all your attention on him. Pray for light. Pray for comfort. Pray for the security of his arms around you. Pray for the joy that will come when the storm subsides. The one who stills the waters is in the boat with you. He’s been there before. And he has promised never to leave you alone.

“Waiting for God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon our thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Live your own life!

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

Whose life are you living? If you’re constantly called to commiserate with an overly reliant friend, if you’re consistently focused on another person’s decisions or actions, or if you’re preoccupied about what may happen today or tomorrow in the life of someone you love, you may be missing the life God gave you to live. 

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in empathizing with those who are struggling, helping those in need, supporting our children to adulthood and beyond, and being a true friend. But, when worries about other people’s lives dominate our thoughts, we’re surely missing what God is offering us.

Today, he wants us to experience his leading in every decision, blessings from his hand, peace beyond understanding, and love that refreshes our souls.

Today, he wants the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our hearts: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I want that, don’t you?

So, how do we care deeply about others and still position ourselves to receive what God wants for us? 

  • Think about our blessings.
  • Acknowledge that the life God has given us is good. 
  • Cherish each day.
  • Praise God.
  • Yield to his direction.

When we live in distraction, we cannot take in all God wants for us. So, let’s live our own lives – deeply and gratefully. Then we will be able to do more than worry about or sympathize with friends or family –  we will enable them to live their own lives, too!

Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

–Thomas Merton

How much is it worth to you?

. . . anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6b

Do you want to get fit? Your success may depend on how much you’re willing to endure changing your eating and exercise habits.

Do you want to earn a degree? Your success will depend on how much you’re willing to prioritize, maybe even giving up sleep and social activities to reach your goal.

Do you want financial security? Your success may depend on how well you say “no” to things you can’t afford so, just maybe, you’ll be able to afford them later.

Now, here’s the bottom-line question. Do you want to know God better? To hear his voice? To know he hears your prayers? To sense his presence with you every minute? Your success will depend a lot on how much you’re willing to prioritize time, deny yourself, and say “no” to lesser things so you can pursue God with everything  you have and are. Anything as important as our relationship with God is going to cost us something. It may even be painful at times. 

Is it worth it? From my own experience, growing close to God is worth everything! Getting up early to read his word? I’ll do that. Talking to him throughout the day? That, too. Praying my heart out for people I love? Yup. Letting go of my need to control? OK.

The reward? Realizing and receiving his enduring love for me. Finding myself happily singing for no reason at all. And living with peace because trusting him has left me with fewer burdens to carry. Worth it? Oh, yes!

“The only thing between who you are now and who you want to be is the pain you are willing to endure.”

Rabbi Aryeh Markman

Abiding and Asking

“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:24

When Jesus knew he was about to be arrested and crucified, some of his last words to his disciples were these: “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

The last conversations of a person’s life are important ones. This was something Jesus wanted etched on the hearts of those he would soon leave behind. Let’s take a look at what he was asking of them (and us):

Abide in me: This directive describes a deeply united relationship with Jesus. Abiding requires our giving of attention to him, constantly staying close to him, and never wandering off on our own: Always connected by conversation, prayer, thought, and intention.

Let my words abide in you: He wants us to meditate on what he taught. And, we have so much of his teaching recorded in the gospels! We should study to know what he said, think about how his message applies to us today, and memorize enough of his words so the Spirit can bring them to our minds when we need them.

The result of those two kinds of abiding? An ongoing, effective prayer life. Jesus promises that if we stay close to him and open to him, he will hear and answer us when we pray. Maybe because we will be praying the right prayers!

“Jesus Christ does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with–better still, using us as one of the fingers of His hand.” – Charles C. G. Trumbull

Imperfect?

” I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. . .
But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God. My times are in your hands.”
– Psalm 31:12 and 14-15a

I know a potter who used to throw his less-than-perfect pieces against a concrete post until only shards remained. Then he discovered there were people who liked the pots, vases, and mugs that had slight flaws. Now he has a special sale each year of his “ruined” pieces which then become cherished treasures to those who see beauty or usefulness in their imperfections.

Sometimes I imagine God walking through tables full of “ruined” vessels – people who are broken, flawed, or maybe just what others would call odd. I don’t think he wants to throw them all against the wall in frustration. I think he’s saying,

“I can use this one, and this, and this.” 

“Oh, my, this piece has a peculiar beauty.”

“This is a unique shape. I have the perfect place for it.”

“A little patch here, and this pot will be just right!”

Do you have a weak spot? Or a failure in your past? Don’t despair! When we go to God, confess our sins, he forgives, restores, renews, and then says, “This one is perfect for the plan I have for him!” Believe it! Then watch as he repairs you and leads you to new levels of relationship and service. He does have a plan for you – don’t worry about the cracks!

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

– Vance Havner

While you wait . . .

“I am the Lord; for they shall not be put to shame who wait for, look for, hope for and expect me.” – Isaiah 49:3b

We’re probably all waiting for something: restored health, reconciliation of a relationship, financial stability, answered prayers, return of our prodigal, settled peace. What are you waiting for? We never know how long our wait will be, but there’s good news:

God has big plans for our waiting time. While we wait, he nurtures us and promises to give us rest, hope, direction, and encouragement. If that’s what you could use right now, read on.

Rest and renewal come from waiting.

“. . . they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

Waiting can be filled with confidence and hope.

“I wait longingly for Adonai; I put my hope in his word. Everything in me waits for Adonai. . .” – Psalm 130:5-6a (CJB)

Our waiting invites God to act.

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

We can run ahead of God, but that would be foolish, wouldn’t it? If we wait for him, he refreshes us, he gives us hope, prepares us for his response, and then he acts – in his timing, to be sure, but with all the power, wisdom, and effectiveness than only God can have. His intervention is well worth the wait!

If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for . . . The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.” – Charles Spurgeon

God is love.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – Psalm 107:1

It’s a very simple Bible verse and one of the first we learn as children, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8b). Many of us assume that God is love as we define love and as we think it should be lived out in our world.

But, maybe this verse isn’t telling us what God is like. It might be telling us what love is like. It means that God is the definition of love. If love is defined by who God is, we have to accept, though it’s difficult, that love can include anger, correction, and punishment for sin (sin is also defined by God, not us). We are much more comfortable with a God who is only gentle, kind, and generous, and will simply ignore wrongdoing. But, as every parent knows, there’s more to love than acceptance.

If God is the definition of love, we can take great comfort and hope that everything he does or allows has a loving purpose. Love sometimes lets bad things happen – even to good people. Love sometimes says “Okay, then” when a person rejects him, but always forgives and welcomes when he/she turns back. Love gives great gifts and blessings to those who follow him. Love always invites us to come closer.

Once we have known God as love – the parts we like and the parts we don’t understand – we find out one if its best characteristics: His love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8a). Our eternal God gives eternal love to those who know and follow him. Human love can let us down. God’s love never will!

“The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” – C. S. Lewis

#Godislove #Forgiveness

Did God say “no”?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

God speaks often about persistence in prayer, asking until we receive, and trusting he hears and will respond. But, apparently, there are times when we need to stop storming the gates of heaven for an answer we want desperately. Sometimes God simply says “no”. 

If that’s happened to you, you’re in good company. Moses had that experience when he pleaded with God to let him go over with the people into the promised land and God said: “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:26b). In other words, “Stop asking me, Moses. I already told you ‘no'”.

Paul had something similar happen when he prayed three times for his physical problem to be taken away. God didn’t answer the prayer the way Paul had hoped, but he did promise that his grace would see Paul through the difficulty.

If Moses and Paul, amazing saints, didn’t always get “yesses” to their prayers, we realize that sometimes we, too, have to accept “no” as an answer! When that happens, what do we do?

  • We stop repeating a prayer we know God has already said “no” to.
  • We don’t protest.
  • We persevere, asking for faith to rely on him to be with us in the difficult circumstance.
  • We acknowledge, as Paul did, that human weakness can be an avenue through which God displays his power – in ways we couldn’t even think to pray about.
  • We keep on loving, trusting, and worshiping God.

And then, at some point, we’ll find that God’s “no” was a great blessing!

“God’s refusals are always merciful – ‘severe mercies’ at times – but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Results

” . . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

The quality of the life we live is the product of many small choices we make each day. God tells us  “the fruit of righteousness will be peace, the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17).

If righteousness brings peace, quietness, and confidence, what does it say about choices I’m making if, instead of those qualities, I’m experiencing anxiety, turmoil, and fear? Maybe I need to take a closer look at righteousness!

What kind of life would God consider righteous? Loving him comes to mind, as Jesus clearly stated. Jesus also taught that right living hinges upon loving those around us and showing that love in tangible ways. It seems that righteous living includes seeking justice for the mistreated and help for the suffering. We would all agree that righeousness includes virtuous living: purity of actions and thought – in eating/drinking, sexual morality, caring for our bodies, and protecting our minds.

Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to live righteously. So, if we want the peace, quietness, and confidence that right living brings, we need to turn to the One who stands ready to transform our hearts, minds, and souls. He won’t do it without our invitation and cooperation. But, when we invite him, we begin to be sensitive to his conviction of wrongdoing and to his nudges toward good decisions. As we respond to those convictions and follow those nudges, we grow, realizing, as we do, that all righteousness is God-given. Without him, it’s impossible!

“The One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who, by your consent, lives that life of righteousness through you!” – Major Ian Thomas

Why worship?

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11

Sometimes we have a problem thinking of God “demanding” to be worshipped. If we struggle with that concept, it’s because we don’t really know God. The better we get to know him, the more we realize that inviting us to worship him is one of his great gifts to us. Why?

First, because we were designed to worship something or someone. There is only one being or object in this entire universe worthy of our worship: God Almighty, Jehovah, Adonai. We must worship. But let’s not worship other people, angels, creation. Worship God and only God. He is the one we were created to adore.

Second, because worship completes a circle of connection with God. He loves us, provides for us, leads us in rights paths, protects us. We respond with thanksgiving and worship for who he is and for his intimate involvement in our lives. He keeps on showering his grace upon us and we keep responding in worship. It’s a great circle to be part of!

Third, because worshipping God helps us to see him as he is – high and lifted up, majestic in holiness, great and glorious Triune God, ruler of heaven and earth. The more we see him in his glory, the more worship will naturally flow from our hearts, lips, and lives. And that kind of worship makes us more like Jesus, little-by-little, prayer-by-prayer.

Though worship pleases God, it is amazingly good for us. So, let’s not save it for Sunday morning services. Let’s worship God every day, every hour of the day as we are reminded of his glorious presence with us. Never pass up an opportunity to worship him!

“Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God – it whets our appetite.” Eugene Peterson

You are not alone.

“The eternal life of which Jesus speaks is not knowledge about God, but an intimately interactive relationship with him.” – Dallas Willard

The song by folksinger Karen Money touches me every time I hear it. She sings, “. . . all I long for most is mine when He draws close to me.”

What is it you long for most? Surely we long for God’s gifts, including joy, peace, blessings, and answered prayers, but at some point we find our deepest longing is for God himself and not just his gifts. We desire . . .

  • To have a heart-stirring awareness of his presence
  • To know he’s leading our thoughts and decisions
  • To receive his love in life-changing ways
  • To be amazed at his holiness and power

If this kind of closeness to our Creator becomes our experience, we want it again and again. Why? Because that vibrant, feeling-level relationship with God is what satisfies the deepest needs we have. He truly is the One we long for most.

The amazing thing to me is that Jesus has the same longings for intimacy with us. He wants it so much he came to earth, lived with humans, gave himself to a terrifying death so we could relate to him. Coming to him for salvation is only the first step. After that, not to respond to his ongoing presence by communicating with him constantly is to reject the relationship he desires even more than we do.

Our acknowledgment of his unseen presence is what we need to meet our deepest longings. Every moment of every day, knowing he is with me, I want to be engaged in mental or verbal conversation with him, inviting him into my activities, decisions, and relationships. That interaction thrills us both!

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you seen as wise?

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. – Job 12:13

Do you sometimes feel like we are living in a world turned upside down? We see disorder, disrespect, anger, and chaos where there used to be civil discourse and attempts at mutual understanding. Long-held moral values seem to have been discarded. Many people feel they are adrift, without an anchor in truth. They long for common sense, direction, and wisdom.

That’s where you and I might be able to be of help. There’s a passage in the Bible where Moses is summarizing for the people the commands of God and his history with his people. Referring to God’s laws, Moses says, Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'” (Deuteronomy 4:6)

My paraphrase of this directive is something like this, “Because God tells us what a well-lived life should look like, if you obey him, people observing you will think you’re wise.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? God alone knows how humans function best!

There is something attractive about a person who understands what gives life meaning, lives confidently under God’s design for humans, and is not easily swayed by the churning world around us. Scripture seems to say if we live as God has directed, others will look at us and think we are wise. And, by God’s definition, we are. Fearing, following, obeying him, he says, is the beginning of wisdom.

Our world needs wise people, living God-directed, spiritually rich lives. I want to be one of them. Do you, too? 

Wisdom in scripture is, broadly speaking, the knowledge of God’s world and the knack of fitting oneself into it.” – Cornelius Plantinga

#Wisdom #Following God

Thinking of Him?

” . . .we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. – 2 Corinthians 10:5b

Are you sometimes unsatisfied with the quality of your life? Do you want it to be more meaningful? To be more in cync with God’s will? When I’m feeling that frustration, I remember that the less I think about me and the more I think about God, the richer and more significant my life will be. He is the only source of purpose and joy. And he responds when we turn our attention toward him.

With that in mind, I’m reposting one of my poems which I published in a blog in 2016. I’m sharing it now because it’s where my heart is and I’m thinking it may resonate with you as well.  

Thinking of Him?

When the lights grow dim
Are you thinking of Him?
Or is your mind too cluttered
With thoughts un-uttered
And words unspoken
And promises broken?

When the day is at end
Do you talk with your Friend?
Or are you doing the dishes
And pondering wishes
And things yet to do
E’re the evening is through?

When you woke in your bed
Was it His name you said?
Or were you thinking of rights
And yesterday’s fights
And battles to win
When the sun comes again?

Our mind is the measure
Of what we most treasure.
It shows us what holds us
And constantly molds us.
If we’re centered on Jesus
And how He does please us,

The thoughts that disturb us
And tend to perturb us
Will crumble and cower
And lose all their power.
Then when the lights grow dim,
We’ll be thinking of Him.

“I am trying to be utterly free from everybody, free from my own self, but completely enslaved to the will of God every moment of this day.” – Frank Laubauch

Just Glimpses

“Behold these are but the outskirts of his ways and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” – Job 26:14

Don’t we all want to know what God is like? Moses wanted that, too, and asked God to show him his glory. God said, in essence, ‘I really like you, Moses, but you can’t look on me and still be alive.’ God decided, though, to share a little more of who he was, so he had Moses stand in a cleft on the mountain and allowed this humble human to see the remnants of his glory as he passed by. 

And, as humans, that’s all we ever see of him – glimpses of his glory. We see a bit of it in thunderstorms and Bible revelations, but just whispers, just shadows. We have to be careful not to try to figure God out based on those remnants or on our own experience. He is bigger, greater, more astounding than anything we could ever even think of! We don’t have the capacity to imagine or grasp his greatness, power, or magnificence.

So what do we do if we want to know more about him? We start with what he has allowed us to see in the Bible and in creation.  He’s strong, present everywhere, majestic, kind, all-knowing, good, holy, artistic, and loving toward all he has made (that includes us!). We, at this point, have to be content with what we can know of him. And what we know is just a faint shadow of the reality of who he is – an almighty, all-loving, awe-inspiring God worthy of our worship!

“Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.” – John Wesley

On the Other Side

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. – Isaiah 30:21

God had already taken the people out of Egypt by his powerful hand, had led them day by day by a cloud and at night by a pillar of fire. When his cloud moved, they moved. When it stayed put, they stayed put. He was clearly leading them, and they willingly followed the cloud.

Now, they find themselves at the edge of Canaan and the spies come back to report there are giants in the land. The people are afraid, but Joshua and Caleb say this, “The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land!” (Numbers 14:7). God has ‘outstandingly good’ things prepared for them. They just have to move forward when he says to move. But in spite of the amazing promises on the other side of obedience, they resist, they rebel, they refuse to move when God was saying “Go”.

I don’t want to be them and neither do you. We want to obey God and receive the blessings he has prepared for us! Think of it this way:

Dear Lord,

When you say go, I’ll go.

When you say stay, I’ll stay.

When you say speak, I’ll speak.

When you say be still, I’ll be still.

When you say give, I’ll give.

When you say withhold, I’ll withhold.

When you say pray, I’ll pray.

When you say work, I’ll work.

When you say listen, I’ll listen.

I’m trusting you, Lord, for the promises that come on the other side of obedience.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” – Oswald Chambers

Being Still

“The Lord will fight for you and you have only to be silent.” – Exodus 14:14

The people of Israel had escaped from Egypt but now realize Pharaoh and his mighty armies were hot on their heels. They run faster. Then they stop dead in their tracks. They’re confronted by the Red Sea and there’s nowhere to hide from the advancing armies. The people cry out to Moses. He cries out to God, and God says he will fight for them. They just need to be quiet and wait.

This may be one of the most difficult commands in all of Scripture! It involves:

  • Silence. No crying. No shouts. No complaining. Just quietness.
  • Waiting. Unable to anticipate if God will act and, if so, how? And when?
  • Standing still. No helping. Only waiting for God to do something.
  • Being cautiously hopeful. Just maybe God has a plan.

He does have a plan. Always! But often we keep protesting our circumstances and trying to help God out with ideas of our own. We run ahead, we pace the floor, we plead. Right now he might be saying, “I’ll fight for you. Just sit still and be quiet.”

What do we do while we’re practicing quietness? We can thank him for his his loving care and his mighty resources – the ones we have experienced already and the ones we don’t know about yet. Then praise him for his power, his mercy, and his majesty. Wait. Thank. Praise. The answer will come – right on time.

For the Israelites, the Red Sea opened for them to cross into safety, out of reach forever from the Egyptian armies. What will it be for me? For you? Let’s wait in great anticipation of God’s amazing grace.

“It takes more effort to be still than to run.” – Brennan Manning

Show them.


“. . . you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” – Colossians 3:9b-10

My dear image-bearers –

There’s a reason I’ve revealed My character to you in pictures that give glimpses of My reality.  

I told you I’m your Father so you would know to treat your children in the same way I treat you. Discipline, yes, but also mercies that are new every morning, love that never fails, and lots and lots of grace. Throw in some longsuffering and patience, too. I do.

I told you I am the Good Shepherd, so you would have the same heart-wrenching concern for those outside My fold as I have. They are wandering, lost, alone. They need you and Me desperately.

I told you how much I love my church – enough to die for her. That’s how I want you to treat your brothers and sisters in the faith, so the world can see your relationships and believe in the reality of My everlasting love for them, too.

I told you I’m the Bread of Life and demonstrated that by feeding thousands of people at a time – a picture of the spiritual food you all need. Reflect My compassion to the world in need around you. They are hungry, sometimes for food, always for Me. You can help them find both.

These images let you see Me and My desires for you and the rest of the world. Go now and live as I lived when I walked on earth. Together, we can  show them who I am!

Your loving Lord


“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” ― A.W. Tozer

Credit to author and speaker Rebekah McLaughlin for image concept.

Not force, but flow

“When your will is God’s will, you will have your will.” – Charles Spurgeon

One time, as I prayed for God to show me his will, his answer was not what I expected. It went something like this in my mind:

My will is for you to get to know me better. My will is for you to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. But, don’t worry.  It’s more like “flowing through” than control. I want you to know me so well and to be so aligned with me that operating under the Spirit’s control will be as natural as breathing.

I do not control by force or coercion. I control by uniting my very self to you and, as we become one, my will and your will coincide. Not force, but flow. That’s my will for you.

As I considered this messsage, I realized that we, as God’s children, need to focus on one thing: getting to know him. Some of us have been learning about him for a long time now by reading the Bible, exploring creation, observing his activities in the world, sharing our hearts and lives with him day-by-day, and listening for his response. We all have a long way to go in our journey to knowing God, but everything we’ve learned about him so far should make us more able to give him control – to allow his personality, perceptions, and passion to flow through us every day. 

When we do that, we don’t have to ask as often what his will is. The closer we stay to God, the more we are simply living his will day-by-day. 

“. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

Thinking It Through

“Send forth your light and your truth; let them guide me;” – Psalm 43:3a

Nehemiah had gone to Jerusalem to oversee rebuiding the walls around the beloved city that had been destroyed by war. While in Israel, he not only rebuilt the walls, but became a leader in their society – teaching how God wanted them to live.

One day the people brought him a problem. Many didn’t have enough to eat and were being taken advantage of by those who sold grains and food. They were going into debt, mortgaging their fields, and selling their children into slavery, just so they could eat.

There had to be a better way! I love what Nehemiah did next. He says, “I took counsel with myself” (Nehemiah 5:7). After that thinking time, he confronted the nobles and officials, demanding they follow God’s way by returning the lands they had taken, stop charging interest, and engaging in fair dealings. Surprisingly, they agreed to do as Nehemiah said.

Do you ever “seek counsel with yourself”? There’s a way to do it that I’ve found quite effective. I sit in a quiet place acknowledging God’s presence and his lordship over me. Then, I begin to talk about the problem, thinking it through out loud with him. I am “seeking counsel with myself”, but doing it in God’s presence. He and I work it through together. Often, the answer to my dilemma becomes clear as my thinking is guided by God.

Sometimes, even before we seek counsel from others, maybe we need to do what Nehemiah did. Often God will help us find an answer or a path – just between the two of us.


“God is already present in my life and all around me; prayer offers the chance to attend and respond to that presence.”  – Philip Yancey

The calm comes.

“Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.” – John Ortberg

After some minor surgery recently, I was disoriented and agitated as I woke from the anesthetic. Nurses were trying to calm me, asking what I was feeling, reassuring me. One nurse turned my face toward hers and said, “Look at me. Everything’s OK.” I was still distressed.

Then, glancing over her shoulder, I saw my husband. His were the eyes I locked in on. His words, almost the same as hers, were the ones I trusted. In the middle of my confusion, his was the voice that connected with my fear and brought peace.

Are you thrashing about in life today? Not feeling anchored? Distraught? Angry? Worried? Listening to music might help, or taking a walk, or talking with a friend. But often messages from those around us aren’t enough to bring peace. What do we do?

We look over the shoulder of this world to see Jesus. He understands what it’s like to be human, and he’s strong enough to carry our fear or pain. We read from the Gospels to gain confidence in who he is. We pray, knowing he not only listens, but is loving enough to respond – with power or with a quiet voice inside us. 

Whatever way we find to turn to Jesus, when we lock our eyes into his, we are able to stop struggling against circumstances or emotional reactions. Peace comes when our trust is placed in the One who knows just what we need. He will take care of us.


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

Looking in the mirror?

“God sees hearts as we see faces.” – George Herbert

How often do you look in the mirror to check your hair, clothes, or smile? For both men and women these days, life without mirrors would be a problem! 

After the people of Israel had been rescued from Egypt, God gave instructions for building a tabernacle. Moses asked the people to bring offerings from their own supplies: fabrics, jewelry, and precious metals. In Exodus 38:8, we are told many women brought their mirrors. 

These mirrors were made of bronze, not glass as we know them today. Do you know how Moses used these mirrors? He reconfigured them to make the bronze basin where priests cleansed themselves before offering sacrifices.

Think of what these women represent to us today:

  • They went from looking at themselves to looking toward God.
  • They moved from attention to outward appearance to attention to their spiritual selves.
  • They were willing to sacrifice the temporary for the eternal.

Peter echoes a similar understanding when he says,Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4). 

I think both men and women can learn from Peter’s message: We want our appearance to be pleasing, but how we look should not be our focus. Who we are on the inside is infinitely more important than what we look like on the outside. Let’s ask God to help us value the eternal more than the temporary and to look more at the inside than the outside, both in how we see ourselves and how we see others. After all, that’s what he does!

 

Faith’s Interruptions

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” – Micah 7:7

Faith is a funny thing. How many times did Jesus tell people their faith had made them well? Faith in what? Probably faith in who he seemed to be: willing, able, and loving.

I think of the woman who secretly reached out to touch the hem of his robe and was healed immediately of a disease she’d had for twelve long years. When Jesus called her, she came trembling, fearful of his anger and receiving, instead, his loving words, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

Dear God, I want to have the kind of faith she had. Faith that believes . . .

• you are with me.
• you love me.
• you hear me.
• you will use me.
• you have a plan for me.

Living by faith makes every day an adventure. What door will God open? What new understanding will he give? What person will he bring across my path with a need only I can help with? What prayer will he answer?

We like to strategize, knowing the next steps of each day. I think God smiles when we do that, because he knows he might find it necessary to interrupt those carefully crafted plans. We’re OK with that, right? His ways are always better.

Our faith should expect God to intervene, to act, to redirect our steps. If we trust him to be wise, good, powerful, and loving, we will start to live a life filled with opportunity, possibility, and adventure. 

O, Lord, may my faith be the kind that knows who you are and invites you to interrupt my day.

“ Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”– Corrie Ten Boom

Keep it simple.


“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17

If you’re like me, you sometimes hesitate to talk about your faith and, usually, our silence is because we’re afraid:

  • Afraid someone might ask a question we can’t answer.
  • Afraid they’ll think we’re not very sophisticated in our thinking.
  • Afraid we just won’t say it right.

Here’s where Paul comes in with a God-given insight (see verse above): It’s not about our intellectual words, knowing all the answers, or having the power to persuade – it’s about Jesus. When we simply point people to Jesus, his message, his actions, and his cross, we can’t go wrong. Paul says, in fact, that if we’re too good in arguing our point or using impressive words, the attention goes to us and our message falls flat. If we can direct someone to Jesus and the cross,  Paul says, that’s where the power is. Not us – him. That was Paul’s message to the people of Corinth in the 1st century and it’s ours today.

So, if someone asks what we believe or why we have hope or peace in this sometimes-crazy world, let’s not get sidetracked with reconciling the Bible with science or theorizing about prophecies. Let’s just talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and what he has promised to those who follow him. Then he does the rest. No more fear!

“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'”- Billy Graham


Angels: Heavenly and Human


“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

Have you ever thought about angels? The Bible has a lot to say about them. Let’s look:

First, there are angels, as in the heavenly kind. They do things like these:

  • Job tells of angels shouting for joy at the creation of the world.
  • Psalm 91 talks about angels guarding us, and Psalm 148 tells of angels praising God.
  • The angels rejoice over sinners who repent.
  • In the book of Revelation and in the gospels we are told angels will be involved in the final judgment of the earth.
  • Peter says angels are submissive to God’s authority and they are stronger and more powerful than humans.

I’m thankful we have powerful angels to fight spiritual battles for us. That they are sent by God to minister to us. That they are filled with joy and with praise to God.

And then there are those few human beings who seem to be like angels to us.

The Bible talks about that, too: When David was hiding from King Saul, he took refuge with the Philistine king, Achish. After they had been together for some time, King Achish said to David, “You have been as pleasing in my eyes as an angel of God.” (1 Samuel 29:9)

At times, God seems to use humans to minister to others, to glorify God, and to stand in for the weak just as he uses angels. You may know some people like. Or you may be a person like that!  

May I, Lord, be as pleasing as an angel to those around me today! 

“Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you . . . make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.” – Francis de Sales

What’s on your card?

“It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.” Jeremy Taylor

I have a former colleague who’s caring for his father who suffers from dementia. He describes a recent morning this way:

“I woke up at 4:30 this morning to find Dad already dressed, with his winter coat and gloves on, just standing in the kitchen, staring off into space. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he was ‘ready to go.’ I asked him where, but he had no idea. I told him he didn’t need to be anyplace for another five hours.

“He was clearly distraught, confused, and tense. I got him into his easy chair, gave him a bright green, 3×5 note card and told him to hold onto it. On it, I wrote, ‘Relax, everything is fine,’ then signed my name. He read it, and I watched him smile as the tension melted away, but he still held onto that card. Dad trusts that I’m watching out for him. 

“As I pondered this, now unable to go back to sleep myself, I thought of God’s note to me, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). What a loving Father! God’s got this!”

Do you trust that God is watching out for you? That he gives you messages to hold in your heart to reassure you when you get anxious or distraught? What message do you need to hear today? Ask God to give you a verse for this time in your life, then write it on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Let his words melt your tension away.

Here’s mine:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
– 2 Timothy 1:7

Assumptions

“None knows the weight of another’s burden.” – George Herbert

There is so much to learn from the biblical book of Job! What I’m thinking about today is all the assumptions Job’s friends made about him. They thought he was proud, dishonest, uncompassionate, and hiding some terrible sin. They kept telling him if he’d just repent, God would stop punishing him and everything would be OK. The problem is Job can’t think of anything he’s done wrong. And what he doesn’t know is that God agrees with him. God, in talking to Satan, describes Job as totally “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8b).

So what do we learn from Job’s friends? Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t give the easy answer. If you do, you most likely will be wrong! I can’t help thinking about times when I’ve done just that. I see a mom struggling with a defiant child (needs some parenting skills) or a person who is overweight (lack of self-control) or underweight (psychological problems). Or I know of someone always short on money (bad financial decisions) or who loudly spouts his own opinions (arrogant): Negative judgments based on outward appearances and nothing more. What we don’t know is that the child has special needs, the heavy person and the thin one have significant health problems, the money is being spent to care for an elderly parent, or the loudmouth is insecure. Until we know, maybe we should withhold judgment. Why?

Because once we open ourselves to empathetic understanding, our negative view often melts away and we are able to respond with God’s wisdom and love. That kind of attitude will take down barriers and create bridges. Maybe then we can actually help!

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – John 7:24

 

 

 

 

Pray for me.

” . . . far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

(1 Samuel 12:23a)

Last week, I had a friend ask me to pray for a specific thing to happen in her life. I did. When she called me a few days later, letting me know that our prayers had been answered, I was just as happy as she was and we both gave our thanks to God for his intervention.

I’ve wondered why we ask people to pray for us. Do we think if we have enough voices storming heaven on our behalf, God will be convinced to answer our prayers? I don’t think it really works that way. I believe even one prayer has enough power to move the hand of God. So, then, why do we ask for help in our prayers?

I think the reason is identified for us by Paul when said, On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11). Paul certainly would have had God’s listening ear if he had prayed for himself. But here he says he had asked other Christians to pray for him, so they could all thank God when the answer came. The goal is more than accomplishing something for ourselves. It is giving glory to God. And when many pray, many give him praise. 

We all have needs. Let’s ask one person, maybe more,  to pray for us, so we can all give thanks to God for his answers!

No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” – Charles Spurgeon

In the Desert?

“Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. Some day people will realize what that means. They will know nothing of life till they do.” – Oscar Wilde

Nobody signs up for suffering, but it happens to us all: sickness, tragedy, loss, and pain. The hardest of all is the struggle that just keeps hanging on and day after day we feel alone in a hot, dry desert.

If you are there, be encouraged! God uses desert time to make us strong, to help us learn dependence on him, and, often, to prepare us for something he wants us to do. Think about Moses who spent years there tending sheep before God called him to lead his people out of slavery. The Israelites spent four decades in the desert learning to trust God alone to meet their needs. Jesus was in the desert for forty days of fasting and prayer before beginning his public ministry. His wilderness time included direct confrontations with Satan. The desert can be a difficult and dangerous place!

Desert experiences tend to strip away the trappings of life so we can see what is truly essential. It is then that God can reach down, touch our souls, and feed us with food that will satisfy: Manna, refreshment for the spirit, just enough until we are healthy and strong and ready to be led out of the wilds into a more abundant life.

The desert truly is holy ground. If you are suffering today, be as open as you can to God and his Spirit within you. Over time, his healing touch will come.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever. –
Psalm 30:11-12

From Generation to Generation

“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed our wishes and our thoughts.” – John Calvin

On a recent trip to a South Asian country, my hustand and I attended worship services in a language we couldn’t understand. What we did understand, though, was the loving hearts of parents who brought us their children, asking that we pray for them. They trusted our prayers would be heard and their children would be blessed.

When Jesus was here on earth, there were mothers and fathers who brought their young ones to him for the same reason. If you are a parent, you understand. Who would not want his/her child to be blessed by God?

I remember, years ago now, sitting in the rocking chair, soothing my babies to sleep and praying over their fuzzy heads that God would bless them. I’m sure many of you have done the same. You know what? We can still bring our children to Jesus for blessing even if they’re not babies anymore

One of my favorite signs of God’s blessing was on his own Son – no longer a child, but all grown up. Can you imagine the joy in Jesus’ heart when he heard from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”? As a young man, Jesus was experiencing his father’s blessing because he was was making him proud.

God doesn’t stop blessing us just because we’re grown up. We’re still his kids! So, let’s not stop asking for God to bless our children. And let’s ask him to bless us, too. We never outgrow our need for his goodness toward us.






“Give thanks to him and bless his name! For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4b-5

Give me your life.

“It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.” – Brother Yun

When God commands us to have no other gods before him, it doesn’t mean he wants to be highest on our list of priorities. It means he wants to be our only priority. He doesn’t force himself on us, though. Instead, he waits for us to decide whether or not to make him our one-and-only God, the Lord of our lives.

It’s risky business to make him our Lord because sometimes he asks big things of us. Christians throughout history have been persecuted for their faith, some have been imprisoned or even martyred. Others have been marginalized in their jobs or ridiculed by neighbors. Many of us don’t ever experience that kind of persecution, but the question is the same: Is God first in our lives? Would he still be first even if it cost us everything to serve him? Or are there still some lesser “gods” that interfere with our total devotion to him? 

Maybe our home? Family? Health? Reputation? Or even more obscure things like exercise, favorite foods, hobbies, or activities. As we examine our hearts, let’s ask God to show us if anything might be in the way of our total commitment to him.

Making God first doesn’t necessarily mean we will suffer, but it means we will be willing to. Willing to sacrifice everything for him if that’s what he calls us to do. But in return, we gain his favor, direction, and intimate presence. God asks that we not live our life and make him part of it, but that we give him our life and let him lead it. 




“I am the Lord your God.” – Ezekiel 19:20a

How’s it going?

“Help me to live awake.” Macrina Wiederkehr

How many times have you had this pseudo-conversation?

“How’s it going?”

“Great, thanks.”

Really? Are you sure it’s great? We tend to go through life without really thinking about how it’s going, don’t we? We move from one task to the next, one conversation (digital or personal) to the next, just hoping we’ll get everything done so we can get to bed at a reasonable hour and rise to do it all again tomorrow.

Maybe there’s a better way. What if we took a few minutes at the end of each day to think about the conversations, encounters, actions, reactions, joys, and sorrows of the day? Then we could move on to confessing as sin any thing we did, said, or thought, that didn’t please God. Finally, we could pick one specific thing from the day for which to thank him.

If we practice this, even on occasion, we’ll begin to learn something about ourselves and how we are using our hours and days. There may be some patterns of life we need to change. There may be relationships we need to be less invested in and others we should nurture. There may be an awareness of God leading us in a new direction in our work or our service to him.

The point is to pay attention to our lives. We don’t often have time to do that during the rush of the day. But, before we close our eyes in sleep, maybe a few minutes of reflection would enrich us and give God a chance to take us deeper into him. Let’s really know how it’s going!


. . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”. – Colossians 1:10

Trusting?

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped. – Psalm 28:7a

I want to learn to trust God more and that becomes easier when I think about the many good reasons to believe he is trustworthy:

He loves me.
He’s powerful, and able to help.
His character doesn’t change.
His purposes don’t change.
He keeps his promises.
His past blessings in my life make me believe he will keep blessing me.

If all that is true, there is no reason not to trust him. Maybe what I need to do is to put that trust in to practice. If I do that, maybe I would . . .

. . . be comfortable not being in control of every situation.

. . . stand back sometimes while others make decisions without my input.

. . . be more confident and less fearful in new situations.

. . . enjoy each day for what it is, including both challenges and blessings.

. . . see life as an adventure, knowing God has a good and perfect plan he will unfold one step at a time. 

. . . be OK with not having all my “why’s” answered, believing God has reasons I don’t know of and which he may not be ready to reveal to me.

. . . live to please God alone, knowing that, in doing so, I won’t always please others. And I have found God is quite easily pleased because he sees me through eyes of love.

Are you ready to trust God more, too? Think about what he has done for you so far in your life and then let him know you are trusting him with the rest of it. He will never let you down!


Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.     
John R. Stott

You have to ask.

“The Lord waits to be gracious to you . . . He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you.” – Isaiah 38:18a and19b

God offers grace – his intervention on our behalf as a free, unearned gift. Don’t we all want that? 

Naaman, Syrian military officer, (1 Kings 5) came to Elijah because he had heard Elijah could heal him of his leprosy. He was willing to ask.

Elijah tells Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River and he would be well. The proud soldier objected. There were much better rivers in his hometown – why wash in the dirty Jordan? 

His aides talked some sense into him: Elijah is not asking much, they say, why not try it? Naaman reluctantly made his way to the Jordan River and dipped in it seven times. Not surprisingly, he came out cured of his disease.

Experiencing God’s grace in our lives seems to require two things: Recognizing our need and being willing to ask. Some of us have a hard time asking for help, but God wants us to ask. 

If we are proud, as Naaman was, we can find it hard to receive what God offers as a free, unearned gift. We’d rather not need God and his grace quite so much. But that is God’s way: Ask and receive. We don’t earn it. We can’t pay for it. We just receive.

What may be keeping God from showing us his grace? Maybe he’s waiting to hear our cry, to acknowledge our desperation for him.  

“The best place any Christian can ever be in is to be totally destitute and totally dependent upon God, and know it.”- Alan Redpath

#God’sgrace 

 

 

Get ready!

If you were coming to my house for dinner, I’d clean my house, have good food cooking, and shake out the welcome mat. I’d want everything to be ready when you rang my doorbell.

Maybe those were some of the desires John the Baptist had when he began his public preaching. What was his message? Jesus is coming, clear the way. Get ready. Prepare for him. He wasn’t talking about cooking food or cleaning house. He was talking about spiritual preparation – getting ready to meet Jesus face-to-face.

Too often we have a casual attitude about God. We rush into his presence, present our list of needs, then leave wondering if we were even heard. Maybe we need some of the heart preparation John was talking about. He told the people to prepare the way for God’s Son by cleaning up their lives, by being honest and grace-filled in their relationships, and by not putting themselves first, but giving others preference. (Luke 3:10-14). 

Does your spiriual life need a boost? Do you want Jesus to come to you in a new  and fresh way? Are you ready for him to respond to your prayers? God’s Word tells us how: Prepare the way by humbly confessing sin and living in ways that please him. We may need to examine our attitudes, priorities, relationships, thoughts, and actions to see if there’s any rubble we need to get out of the way so the path is cleared for Jesus to relate to us in his fullness. And he will. 

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight . . . and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (from Luke 3:4-6)


“Certainly all virtues are very dear to God, but humility pleases Him above all the others, and it seems that He can refuse it nothing.” 
― Francis de Sales

#humility #holy living

You don’t need me?

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” – Acts 17:24

There’s a scene from the TV series West Wing in which the US discovers a nuclear explosion in another country. The president meets with the ambassador from that country and is told that it was not nuclear, it was an oil refinery fire. Not true. He gives the littany of evidence of their lack of security, training, and expertise in to be able to handle nuclear weapons and he offers to help. The ambassador says, “We don’t need your help.” The President leaves the room in anger, knowing she’s lying and, in not accepting expert help, is putting the world at risk.

Then I read the prophets of the Old Testament and realize the one thing that seems to make God leave the room in anger is when his people think they don’t need him. “We’ve got it covered, Lord.” And by covered, they mean they are hiding their messes, sweeping the dirt under the rug, putting false fronts on the disasters lurking, and hoping someone (other than God, of course) will step in to save the day.

The messes in our world are big. The messes in many of our lives are big, too. It may be time we admit we’re not doing a very good job of managing things ourselves. Maybe it’s time to turn to God and say, “I need you! I’ve needed you all along, but have been trying to do it on my own. Now look at this mess. Can you, would you, please help me?”

The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” – A. W. Tozer

#trusting God

Longings and Sighs

“He satisifies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” – Psalm 107:9

Do you realize we sometimes vocalize feelings without using words? There are times we sigh and those sighs hint at something deep within us. Do you know who can read those sighs? God can. Look at this:

“O Lord, all my longing is before you. My sighing is not hidden from you.” – Psalm 38:9

Do you want to know the longings buried deep in your soul? Simply turn to the One who can tell you why you sigh. The best part? Once he shows you your true desires, he helps you meet them. Life becomes more focused, more fulfilling, and far less frantic.

It’s OK to sigh, OK to have longings, and more than OK to tell God about them all. He responds to cries of our heart we didn’t even know were there. Pretty amazing, right?

When I asked God to show me my deepest longings, I realized there was one more compelling than any of the others: The longing to know him and sense his presense. All other sighs are reduced to faint whispers when I am with God.

Maybe today would be a good day to sit with our Father in Heaven and talk to him about desires of your heart. Let him reveal the ones you may not know you have – the ones that reflect the true you. Then invite him to lead you on the journey to having your deepest longings fulfilled.

“The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love; but if the soul cannot yet feel the longing, then it must long for the longing. To long for the longing is also from God.” – Meister Eckhart