Do you know?

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. – James 2:23b

As we relate one-on-one to God, we learn things: how much he loves us, how deeply he teaches us, and how desperately we need to rely on him. We find the Bible coming alive as we read, – correcting, encouraging, directing. We gain so much by living in close connection with our Creator! But do you know how much he wants that connection, too?

God desires relationship with us as much as we do with him. Probably more. Think about Abraham, a mere human, called by God to leave the familiar and go into the unknown. James says Abraham was a “friend of God.” Or Moses, who was not a perfect man, yet we are told God communicated with him face-to-face. Then there were the disciples who lived in close proximity to Jesus for months. On the night he was arrested, Jesus said to them. “I no longer call you servants . . . Instead, I have called you friends , , , ” (from John 15:15).

Why would God want to be a friend to humans? I don’t know, but story after story in the Bible tells us it’s true. And the better we get to know him, the more we believe it. As I was beginning to understand how important our closeness was to both of us, God whispered “That’s something many of my children don’t know.”

Do you know? God loves having your attention. Relationship with him is what you were made for. He wants to be your Savior, your Lord, and your friend. I think he wanted me to tell you that today.

“Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.” – Henri Nouwen

Christian Privilege

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:5-6

We hear a lot these days about privilege, most frequently “white privilege”. We know it’s true, don’t we, that some of us grew up in more privileged circumstances than others? We had food to eat, decent clothes to wear. We had a safe place to live and got to go to school every day. 

We also know that with privilege comes responsibility. The Bible itself tells us that in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked.” It’s a biblical principal we must take seriously.

In light of that, think about this: As Christians, we have a far greater privilege than that which is afforded by our ethnicity, race, family stability, or the level of our education. We have the privilege of knowing and serving the living God! And with that comes greater responsibility than any social privilege might give us.

How do we live out that responsibility? We learn to yield to the Holy Spirit who will enable us to live as Jesus would if he were living our lives. We already know Jesus was confrontive with abusers, kind to children, compassionate toward the weak, patient with his followers, and enlightening to seekers of truth. His was the greatest privilege of all – after all he was the Son of God! He showed us how to live out privilege through humility and self-sacrifice.

The good news is that Christian privilege is available to all, no matter religion, race, gender, or intellect. If we know that, we have a responsibility to spread the word!

” . . . life’s joys are only joys if they can be shared.” – Ravi Zacharias

 

Using Money

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” – 1 Timothy 6:18

Whether we have a lot of money or a little, God teaches us how to use it. This is what I think he has in mind for the cash in our pockets:

If we have a family, we’re responsible to take care of them. Children need clothes, food, shelter, education, and healthcare. Elderly parents may need financial support as their savings are depleted. Family is priority in God’s economic plan (1 Timothy 5:8).

Then, we are to be as generous as we are able. God expects us to give money to the church and to his work in the world. But, sometimes the “giving away” goes directly to someone we know who is struggling. We are to be merciful to those in true need if we have the ability to help (Luke 10:36-37). In doing so, we gain friends for God.

There are so many needs, though. How do we know where to start? The Bible says to help other Christians first (Galatians 6:10). They are like extended family to us and their needs take priority over those outside the faith. Then, if we have more, we offer our help to the needy ones God places in our path day by day.

The bottom line: God wants us to use money to build relationships! Sometimes that means taking the kids out for ice cream or going on vacation. Sometimes it means sacrificing for the good of a neighbor in need. Whatever the opportunity, money is a tool to be put to work for eternal good. (Luke 16:9). 

 

“But for money and the need of it, there would not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good if divinely used.” – George MacDonald

Prayer for the Sad

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

I have two friends who are struggling with depression. They know God. They pray and they ask friends to pray for them. But still, God seems far away, and the sadness and hopelessness remain. If you are there, too, you are not alone.

David was one of God’s favorite people of all time, yet, he had many problems in his life. There were times when David was depressed and, when he felt that way, he was honest with God:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
– Psalm 13:1-2a

And he doesn’t give up. He keeps praying and, at the end of the psalm, though things are not better, he expresses trust in God’s love and salvation.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me
.” – Psalm 13:5-6

David was honest with God and he was committed to trusting him – that may be a good pattern to follow when we are depressed, too. In fact, one of my struggling friends sent me a prayer she is praying in her sadness, believing with the best of her ability that God hears and, in his time, will answer. Maybe this is a prayer we all need to pray:

“Lord Jesus, enlighten what is dark in me,

strengthen what is weak in me,

mend what is broken in me,

bind what is bruised in me,

heal what is sick in me, and lastly,

revive whatever peace and love have died in me. Amen.” – Anonymous Author

NOTE: Prayer and Bible reading are our “go-to’s” for sadness, but if you are deeply depressed over a long period of time, you may need to seek professional help. God uses many means to meet our needs and good Christian counselors and doctors are on his team.

Critic or Companion?

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. – Psalm 103:14

“God’ll get you for that.” That was a supposed-to-be-funny, but semi-serious, retort when I was growing up. I think it was a view of God that many in my generation shared. God was just waiting for us to step out of line. Hard as I might try as a teenager, I knew I stepped across that line too many times. I kept waiting for God’s hammer to fall. 

Do you ever feel that way? That you really can’t measure up to God’s standards, so you might as well quit trying? If that’s your mindset, you may need a new view of God.

Yes, he is holy and wants us to live in ways that honor him, but he knows we are weak and will fail. That’s why he sent Jesus to live the perfect life we cannot live and to die and be raised to pay for all within us that falls short of God’s standard. Does that sound like a God who’s just waiting for us to step out of line so he can zap us? No! It sounds like a loving God who made a way for us to become better over time – not by our own efforts, but by the power of the new life he gives us through Jesus. 

It may be our view of God needs to change to be more consistent with the God Jesus revealed. As we walk with him, he guides and grows us. When he finds something to correct, he always does it lovingly. He is never out to catch us in a fault, but to help us overcome it.  

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. – A. W. Tozer

Someone should be taking notes.

“Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.” – John 8:47a

I was in a meeting once with a consultant who had been brought in to advise on a non-profit organization’s proposed development project. He began his presentation, then looked around the table and said, “If I’m talking, someone should be taking notes.” That seemed arrogant on the part of an engineer, but it’s not at all arrogant when it comes to God.

Sometimes we do hear God speaking to us, don’t we? Usually it’s a thought, a highlighted verse of Scripture, or a nudge to do something we hadn’t planned to do. That’s often how God guides, encourages, and teaches us. As we get to know him better, we learn to recognize those messages.

When God speaks, it’s something to take seriously. For that reason, I like to keep a journal close at hand, so when God says something to me, I can take notes. Recently, for example, I asked him about a situation in my life and his response seemed to be “I will make a way.” It was clearly from God, and I wanted to be sure I’d remember it, so I made a note. That thought has come back to me numerous times since. I do the same with Bible verses or phrases that seem to speak to me on a particular day. Writing these messages down cements them in my memory and also makes them available for revisiting – sometimes years down the road.

God’s word is eternal. What he speaks may be valid for more than one situation. Let’s write his messages down, then read them again and again. When he speaks, we all should be taking notes!

“People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to.” – Dallas Willard

Cloudy Days

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. – Psalm 68:4

I like sunny days! When the clouds come in, it feels sadder somehow. But that sadness gets a bit lighter when we realize what God says about clouds. Think about it with me:

Clouds were the backdrop for the rainbow he placed in the sky to promise never to destroy the earth again with a flood.

He used a cloud to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise.

We are asked to imagine God riding on the clouds (Psalm 104:3 and Psalm 68:4). That’s quite a picture, isn’t it?

Finally, we all know rain comes from clouds, and in every place in the world that depends on crops to eat, rain is considered God’s blessing.

One of my favorite statements about clouds is given by the prophet Nahum when he says, “His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet”. (Nahum 1:3b). It’s as if Nahum is saying that when we look at the underside of clouds, we see where God is walking. Stirring up dust. Making his presence known. Somehow, that makes me see clouds in a whole new way – whether they are the clouds in the sky or the clouds that seem to follow me in life. What is God stirring up to get my attention?

This new perspective tells us that clouds represent God’s presence, his comforting cover over us, and his provision for us. Clouds in our lives, whether real or figurative, are designed to draw us to him. Let’s go there!

“God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.” – Tony Evans

Bring the Whale

 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.” – Isaiah 65:1a

Do you know someone who seems to be running away from God instead of toward him? I think we all do, and if they are close to us as friends or family, we have great concern.

My husband and I pray together nearly every day for those we know who are turning their backs on God. Most were exposed to the truth early on, but are rejecting what they once knew to go their own way instead.

As we prayed one morning, Warren remembered Jonah, who ran from God, was thrown overboard into the stormy sea, was swallowed by a great fish, then after three days, was vomited up exactly where God had sent him in the first place. Thinking of those we were praying for and their choice to turn away from God, he simply prayed, “Bring the whale!”

Some people come to God through scripture, relationships, sermons, or gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit. Others must be compelled by overwhelming forces that might be compared to Jonah’s fish. C. S. Lewis called himself “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . drug into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”*

So, if you know of those who need to turn from the path they are on, don’t be afraid to pray a bold prayer, “Bring the whale.” Sometimes that’s what it will take.

“We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” – C. S. Lewis

*from Lewis’ spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy

Yielding

“Now may the God of peace . . .equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21

Jesus taught what it means to follow him. It means saying “no” to our own ideas and walking with him. Not second guessing his plan.  Not explaining why we prefer our way to his. It means yielding decisions and desires to him. Why? Because he knows what we need better than we do:

  •  We want sunshine every day. God knows the earth needs rain, snow, and even a good lightning storm once in awhile.
  • We want trouble-free lives for our children. God uses troubles to mold them and draw them to him, just as he does with us.
  • We want everyone to like us. God wants obedience, boldness, and holiness over acclaim.
  • We want good health. God wants us to realize our frailty, our dependence on him. Maybe he allows failure in our bodies to help us share in his sufferings.
  • We want everyone to live at peace. He reminds us that he knew his coming to earth would create division, but he came anyway.

Yielding to God is not fatalistic. It’s following as his disciples did: walking with him wherever he led, stopping when he stopped, listening when he taught, and doing what he asked. It’s trusting his understanding and his intentions. Leaning in. Living confidently. Listening for his whispers. Following with anticipation.  His way is better than my way every time!

“In all his acts God orders all things, whether good or evil, for the good of those who know him and seek him and who strive to bring their own freedom under obedience to his divine purpose. “ – Thomas Merton

What do you really want for Christmas?

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings . . .” – Hebrews 10:22a

It’s Christmas morning. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Soon everyone will gather, the paper will be ripped and balled and the gifts unveiled. Exciting. Fun. We like to give gifts to each other. We like to receive them, too!

But, when it’s all over at the end of Christmas Day, will you get what you wanted? Will your deepest needs be satisfied? Or have you discovered, as many of us have, that the things we need most will never be found under the tree?

Do you know that Jesus wants us to tell him what we want? Once when he was walking to Jericho, a blind beggar called out to him. Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man could have asked for anything, but he asked for what we all might agree was the most logical thing: “Restore my sight”. Jesus gave him exactly what he said he wanted. But, if he had asked, Jesus would have given him far more: eternal life, forgiveness, joy, peace, relationships, unconditional love, and his ongoing presence.

Maybe this Christmas Day, Jesus is asking each of us, What do you really want for Christmas? What will you ask him for? It’s an important question. Ask big. Only he can give you the things you long for most – things you will never find under the tree.

“Come close. My heart is ready. Come close. My heart is here. Show me I’m longing for you. Draw near. All I ever wanted is found in you. Come close.”

Lyrics from Come Close by One Hope Project. You can listen to the entire song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqBF4TtMmxM

The Me You See

“Since it is through the Spirit that we have life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day.” – Galatians 5:25 (CJB)

Have you ever had a conversation with God that went something like this?

God, to me, reminding me of an attitude I had yesterday: “That wasn’t you.”

Me: “Yes it was. I’m just like that. I do it over and over. I’m sorry, Lord.”

God: “Oh, Bev.” (I heard his disappointment, not with what I had done yesterday, but at my sense of hopelessness today). “I know who you are now, and I know the you you will be when you are a finished product – and that is the you I see. This attitude isn’t part of it.”

Me: “Oh, Lord, change me. Make me like Jesus. I repent. I turn to you to make me better, to turn me into the me you already see.”

When we have willing hearts, God’s correction is always loving, always gentle, always for our good. He works within us to make us want to change, to want to be more like Jesus. Then, as we cooperate, he begins to carve away everything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus. He adds a few things, too – more patience, compassion, peace, truthfulness, perseverance, and prayerfulness – Jesus things.

At some point, we’ll see Jesus face-to-face and will realize how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. But, the promise is there, “we shall be like him. . .” 

Thank you, Lord, for seeing me as a finished product. For working with me to remove everything that is not like the me you see!

“Don’t get upset with your imperfections. . . Simply surrender to the Power of God’s Love, which is always greater than our weakness.” ~ Saint Francis de Sales

Who’s in tune?

“. . . imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”- Hebrews 6:12b

I am learning a little bit about music from my musician husband. One thing he’s observed is that if a section of the orchestra is out of tune, it may be because the musicians are tuning to each other and not to a standard beyond them. For example, one violinist might suspect she’s playing a little flat, but will still tune her instrument based on what she hears played next to her so she will be in sync with the other violins. The result is the entire section might be playing flat. 

There’s a way to change that. If a strong, in-tune instrument moves closer to the problematic section, the players will begin to hear a new standard and will tend to tune to the stronger instrument. One by one each player in the section will follow suit. The result? Everyone will be playing in tune!

Most of us tend to tune our spiritual lives to the people we hang out with. Are they warm toward things of God or cool? Turning to him for direction, or relying more often on their own wisdom? Or, worse, are they focused on their own interests and not those of God at all? If those we spend our time with those who are out of tune with the Holy Spirit in their day-to-day lives, we might be following suit without even knowing it.

The solution? We need to find friends who live in harmony with the Spirit and then get close to them. We can listen to their talk, catch their spiritual enthusiasm, and seek their counsel. Spending time with in-tune Christians will help us stay close to God, too!

“Only a disciple can make a disciple.” A. W. Tozer

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