Tag Archives: abundant life

Something New

It seems that God is doing something new in my life lately, and I have found myself at a loss as how to proceed. Even though I am not a very structured person, I still find myself wanting to do things the way I’ve been doing them for such a long time. Change is difficult for us. Even the most flexible of us create our own traditions, and breaking out of them is HARD. This passage from Mark seemed to be exactly what I needed to read today.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22

Jesus came and challenged everything the religious leaders valued. He questioned their way of doing things, and even their interpretation of the law. They constantly criticized him for violating the Sabbath, but he pointed them to the heart of the Law, rather than the letter of it (see Mk. 2:23-28). As Believers, I am sure most of us see ourselves as far more spiritually savvy than the Pharisees and Scribes, but I’m not so sure we are. We get used to our traditions, and begin to see treat them as though they are the very oracles of God.

In my own case, I’ve been doing good things–even spiritual things, but I’ve come to realize that I may have been focusing on things that were not my calling. So now, I find it difficult to figure out how to order my time. Should I continue to do the good things, or should I jump out in faith? God is calling me to take some huge steps of faith, but continuing on the path of least resistance is so much easier. The problem is that it’s not so much more blessed. I know that until I am obedient, I will not be able to walk in his best for my life. So today I’m making a choice to throw out the old wine skins. I reject my own “old” way of doing things, and choose to embrace the “something new”to which he is calling me.

How about you? Have you held on to your old ways for too long? Are you willing to walk in the newness of life he calls us to live? I know it can be hard, but it is the only path to blessing. So out with the old! In with the new!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Is. 43:19

BeginningIsNear

 

 

The Trouble with Victims

I lived over twenty five years my life as a victim. From the time I was 14 until I was nearly 40 I was involved in an abusive relationship, and breaking free was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. During those tumultuous years, I lost nearly everything I owned and barely escaped with my life and my two girls. In the years that followed, I faced great financial loss, angry children, and continued threats on my life. I had nightmares, and found myself freaking out at things that had nothing to do with me. When I heard people around me complain about everyday struggles I wanted to laugh in their faces and say, “Are you kidding me?! That’s nothing!” I wanted the world to know that I had been wronged, and somehow come and make it right.

The odd thing is the more I complained, the less people wanted to listen. They seemed to alienate themselves from me, which made my situation even more miserable. I could have stayed in that pattern forever, but as I cried out to God I began to realize I would never be an overcomer until I dropped my victim mentality. I realized that people did not know how to handle the severity of my losses. I am sure it made them uncomfortable—perhaps even guilty that they had been blessed with an easier life. I realized that I needed to stop making my unfortunate past my identity, and made a decision to pour my complaints out to God rather than people. I chose to believe his promises towards me rather than my feelings. Although that decision did not immediately change my circumstances, it did make all the difference in the world. Today I am a victor rather than a victim, because I decided to believe him.

In the years since I transitioned from victim to victor, I have many opportunities to work with other victims. I have seen some apply themselves to the truths of God’s Word, and basically blossom before my very eyes. In those cases, it has truly been like watching butterflies come out of their cocoons. From all outward appearances their situations have seemed hopeless, but God has performed miracles for those who have learned to trust him. Trust like this involves a decision to believe God rather than emotions and past experience. I have never seen God disappoint those who have chosen to really trust him. The outcome has always been beautiful.

On the other hand, some of the women I have tried to help have refused to let go of that victim mentality. When I direct them to God’s promises, they give me a thousand reasons not to believe them. Their attitude reminds me of the man Jesus healed at the pool in Bethesda in John 5. Even though he stationed himself in the place where the angel stirred the water to be healed, he basically told Jesus it was impossible, because somebody always beat him to the water. He was full of bitterness and excuses. When Jesus healed him in spite of his negativity, he showed no joy, nor did he stop to thank Jesus. Instead, when the religious leaders rebuked him for carrying his pallet, he blamed Jesus. Jesus knew his heart and came to him later with a warning, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (5:14).  But he simply went out and reported Jesus to the leaders. Jesus set him free, but he chose to remain bitter.

That’s the problem with so many victims, they fail to see and appreciate God’s provision in their lives. Instead, they choose to remain bitter, and make excuses for hanging on to their anger. They basically cut themselves off from God’s blessings and blame everyone around them (even God) for their negative circumstances. I love to contrast the story of the man at the pool with the healing of the man born blind in John 9. When Jesus healed him his life was changed immediately. He became a believer, and was willing to profess his faith in spite of harsh opposition. As far as outward circumstances go, he probably fared worse than the man healed at the pool. Yet, he was filled with joy over what Jesus had done for him. Like King David (who spent years running for his life) he chose to praise God in the presence of his enemies rather than cling to bitterness.

The truth is that bad things happen in this world. Many of us end up at victims at some point, and it grieves God’s heart. We suffer unjustly and it isn’t fair, but God knows exactly how that feels (Heb. 4:15). Our God is a redeemer, and nothing is wasted when we know him. He can turn our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11), and use tribulation to mold us into the image of his son (Rom. 8:29). But in the midst of our troubles we must choose to trust him. We must choose to let go of the bitterness that poisons every relationship in our lives and keeps us in bondage (Heb. 12:15). The problem with victims is they are often not willing to make this choice. Instead, they hold tenaciously to their right to be miserable and angry, and unwittingly finish the job their enemies began.

The Blessing of an Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Ps. 86:11

It’s interesting that David talks about an undivided heart in relation to fearing God. I believe this is because fear is one of the best tactics of the enemy to destroy our spiritual walk. I’ve always said that whatever we fear will control us—that is why is is so important to fear the Lord. For so long I lived in fear of a man, and as a result he became the god of my life. I knew God was there, and I prayed to him regularly, but my heart was very divided. My first thought when deciding on an action was usually how my husband would respond to it. If it was something I wanted to do, and didn’t think he would like it, I might do it anyway and hide it from him. Still, the bottom line was that my life revolved around him rather than God. My divided heart put God second by default. Unhealthy fear enslaved me. An undivided heart is one that is fully surrendered to the Lord, and fears him more than anything or anyone else.

For many years the phrase “fear of the Lord” was an enigma to me, but it really shouldn’t have been. The type of fear that ruled my life with my ex husband was basically one that filtered nearly every thought through his possible reation. I feared his wrath. Although I have been redeemed from God’s wrath, a healthy fear of him would basically do the same. I would be more concerned about pleasing God than anyone else (including myself).  It is not so much a dread-based fear, but a love-based one. My love for him should far outweigh my love for anything or anyone else, and when it does I will give him control over my life. My heart is undivided, because there is no question that God comes first in every decision I make. He is in control rather than fleeting circumstances or unpredictable people. The wonderful thing about fearing God first is that it leads to peace. He is unchanging and all-loving, which means when I place my life in his hands I don’t need to fear anything else. I am surrendered and he is in control, so whatever happens I can trust him for the outcome. That is the blessing of an undivided heart.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray that my heart will be always undivided — that nothing on this earth will be more important to me than you! You are worthy of my praise, worthy of my fear, and so very good. I can trust you completely. Human nature tends towards fearing circumstances and even people, but Lord I know what a trap that is. That is like building a house on the sand. When the storms of life come, “great is the destruction” of that house. Father I ask that my life will be built upon the rock, because I put you first in everything. “All other ground is sinking sand.” Amen

What Defines You?

As I look back on my life, I realize that the most trying times have turned into the biggest spiritual triumphs for me, but I believe I could still be living in defeat if I had made different choices. It would have been easy for me to take on a victim mentality and remain stuck. As I was reading the first chapter of Ruth today, I recognized that all-too-familiar victim dynamic in Naomi. She had been through a long set of tragic circumstances, and when she returned to her hometown she was so bitter people barely recognized her. When they called her Naomi (which means pleasantness), she corrected everyone and told them to call her Mara (which means bitterness). Naomi defined herself as a victim.

When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning (Ruth 1:18-22).

Isn’t it interesting that Naomi wanted to be defined by her circumstances? Rather than choosing to cling to her faith in God as Job did when he lost everything (Job. 13:15), she chose to make tragedy her identity. Ruth had also suffered loss, but she chose to love God and love others. She took action and did not profess bitterness as Naomi did. I love the way this passage ends. Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning. Hopeless and bitter Naomi was too consumed with her pain to see that God was at work, but Ruth took action. She walked in the little provision afforded her by the law, and arrived just in time to do it.  As a result, God blessed her by sending her to the field of the very person who could change their circumstances—their kinsman redeemer.

Without Ruth, Naomi could have very likely perished in her bitterness. At the end of this story the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, had given birth to him.” (Ru. 4:14-15) Boaz and Ruth’s child did become well known in Israel. Through his line would come both King David and our Messiah. Truly Ruth was better than seven sons, because she did not allow her circumstances to define her. She chose to follow God, and to love others. As a result, history was changed forever.

We all have tragedy and unpleasant circumstances at some point, but we also all have choices. We can choose to be defined by our circumstances, or we can look for God’s provision in the midst of it. We can choose to follow God and love others, or we can choose to be bitter and self-centered. Our choices will determine the outcome. God will make a way for those who refuse to allow calamity to define their lives. Our Lord always has redemptive purposes in mind for those who love him and are called by him (Rom. 8:28). Our job is to simply choose to believe and follow him daily. Those who belong to him are his heirs (Gal. 3:29). That is who we are, and that is how we are defined. Circumstances do not define us, unless we choose to let them. All things are possible to those who believe (Mk. 9:23). Will you choose to believe?

Hope for the Discouraged

Those who belong to God have no reason to walk in fear or discouragement. His promises and presence help us overcome our natural tendencies to be fearful and discouraged. Walking with him sets us free from fear. My reading in Joshua recently emphasized that point.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

I find it interesting that God repeatedly told Joshua to be strong and courageous, but that wasn’t all. He also repeatedly told him he would be with him. That is where our source of courage comes from—from walking with him. When we go out on our own without his leading, we will end up walking in fear. His presence and his Word are the remedy for fear and discouragement. Discouragement is strongly related to fear. When we are afraid we can’t do something we become discouraged. When we are afraid of failure, or afraid of looking foolish, we get discouraged.

In this passage, God is surely asking Joshua and the Israelites to do something that would seem foolish in the eyes of the world. The task alone would make most discouraged, but rather than standing still in fear they chose to move forward in the promises of God. Rather than cowering and longing for the comforts of Egypt, they chose to follow God’s leading and believe his promises. The generation before them had failed this same test. They looked at things from a human perspective and failed to enter the Promised Land. Finally their children made the better choice to walk by faith, and they were able to take the land. They even walked into it on dry land as the waters of the Jordan parted for them.

When we choose to trust God, rather than looking at circumstances, he makes a way when there seems to be no way. It involves a choice on our part to walk by faith, to believe his Word, and to stay in his presence. When we do these things, fear will not be able to overtake us.

Lord, it is so easy to live by fear rather than faith. In fact, I would say fear is our natural human tendency, while faith is a choice to reject our natural inclinations. Faith is not the easy road, but it is the better road. When we decide to walk by faith, you always make a way. I am so grateful to be your child, because otherwise I would be paralyzed by fear on a regular basis. Thank you for delivering me from myself. I love you Lord! Amen

Treasures from Leviticus… Say What!?

I’ve got to admit that reading through Leviticus is not one of favorite pastimes, but I want to be acquainted with the whole counsel of scripture, so I do it anyway. It recently came up in my yearly bible reading plan, and I actually found myself complaining to God about it. Rather than deciding to skip it, I decided to ask him to help me get through it and find something valuable for my spiritual walk. Who knows? Besides the clear references to Messiah Jesus in feasts of the Lord in chapter 23, I could possibly find some other nuggets of truth for daily living. I realize that the temple was a shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice. The book of Hebrews seems to connect the dots fairly well. However, there is still so much I struggle to get through in this book. Take all the blood for example. When you read it, you realize what a bloody place that temple had to have been. The pathway to the Holy of Holies was covered with blood. For a woman who gags over raw meat, it’s just not a pleasant read. Yet, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. The penalty for sin is death and separation from our holy and perfect God (Rom. 6:23). In the Old Testament, the priest laid his hands on the animals, and the animals bore the penalty for the people. When Jesus laid down his life, the sacrifice was made once for all, and animal sacrifice became unnecessary. Interestingly, the temple was destroyed within a generation of Jesus’ death, and sacrifices have not been made in Israel since then. He was the perfect, spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Because of his sacrifice, we can come boldly before his throne (Heb.4:16).

Under the old covenant, only the high priest could come into his presence only once a year, and he ran the risk of dying if he failed to follow every detail of instruction on atoning for sin. However, now “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). I find that completely amazing! In a world that is so tainted by sin and evil, we have been washed and made holy— even as he is holy. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co. 5:21). That just blows my mind. Can you believe that you are the righteousness of God? That you are holy? I have a hard time wrapping my head around that, because I know how weak I am. I fail daily, and yet my amazing and gracious Lord sees me without spot or blemish. Wow! I truly do stand amazed!

This morning as I read chapter 14 of Leviticus, I found myself pondering verse 14. The verse pertains to lepers who had been cleansed. Many believe leprosy to be a picture of sin. The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. When I did a little research I saw that Moses had done the same thing to Aaron and his sons when they began making sacrifices in the wilderness tabernacle. After the sacrifice had been made, the blood was applied to these very specific areas. Obviously, we hear with our ears. Faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17), and Jesus often ended his messages with “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Obviously, our hearing has to be redeemed so that we can hear his message. The world’s message is loud and clear, but hearing and understanding spiritual things does not come naturally. In these Leviticus passages, the blood was mixed with oil to anoint the ears. Oil in the Old Testament seems to represent the Holy Spirit; so not only do we need redemption to hear his voice, we need his Spirit. These things are foreign to those who have not been redeemed.

After anointing the right ear, the priest would anoint the thumb of the right hand and the toe of their right foot. As I thought about this, it seems the hands represent doing. Redemption involves a change in what we believe, but “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Those who have been set free become his instruments of grace to a lost and dying world. This is not about following a bunch of rules, but putting action to our love for God and others.

Finally, the priest would anoint the foot of the cleansed person, which would seem to represent going or walking. Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of our flesh. It is so easy to follow our own desires and once again, without his Spirit, we cannot do it. We must daily surrender our flesh to his Spirit, and keep in step with him. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are empowered to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). As his children, we are called to be his hands and feet in this world. We should reflect his goodness and grace in all we say and do. Thank God it is not dependent on us, but his finished work on the cross and his Spirit. When we fall in love with the one who loved us and gave his life for us, we will be forever changed. He imparts his Spirit into us, and as we daily surrender to him, we will listen for his voice, do his will, and walk in his ways to impact this dark world for his kingdom.

Oh Father, I am so grateful for your provision. Thank you for sending Jesus to take the penalty for my sin, and for sending your Spirit to empower me to walk in your ways rather than mine. Thank for the love, joy and peace that flow from walking in your Spirit. You have freed me from myself! Hallelujah! I praise you and ask that you will help me to daily yield my ears, my hands and my feet to you so that my life will make an eternal difference in this world. Amen

Choosing Joy, Refusing Fear

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:4-5)

 Oh how true this has been in my life! When I sought answers and relief from my troubles, my fears only increased, but when it became clear that all my solutions had failed, there was nothing left to do but seek him. As I found comfort in his love and care, my fears diminished. His perfect love truly does eliminate fear (1 Jn. 4:18). In time, I learned to refuse fear and seek him instead. Now fear no longer controls me, nor does it urge me to try to control everything around me. When I lived in fear, I lived with shame. Everything was hidden. I did not want people to know the truth about our lives, so we kept secrets. I was ashamed that our family was so damaged, and I could not fix it. But when the light came shining in to expose the dead bones behind the façade, the shame was exposed to the world. My response was to seek God. Everything else, and I mean everything, had failed. I always say it was a terrible and wonderful place to be. It was terrible, because all my secrets were exposed, and because I was being betrayed by the person who had become my idol. It was wonderful, because the idol toppled, and there was nothing left but God. He was and ever shall be enough! His love brought me through, and used the trauma for good. Knowing his amazing love does eliminate fear, because we know he’s got us and that he will redeem whatever we experience. Hallelujah! That is cause for great joy!

Lord, remind me daily that I never need to fear as long as I am looking to you. There is nothing on earth that should cause me to live in fear, because you have it all in your loving hands. I bless your name, and trust you. What a joy it is to be your child. I pray I will radiate your great love to others. Amen

 

Selective Blindness

“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Ex. 32:32-34)

 I can’t help but laugh when I read this account of Aaron’s role in the golden calf incident. Not only did he resort to the typical blaming of others, he acted as if the calf that he so skillfully formed just popped out of the fire without his input. I’ve seen this sort of reaction time and again in my life. People act shocked and surprised that sin basically took over, and indicate they had no control or say in the matter. I am sure that on more than one occasion, I have done the same thing. The funny thing is that when is comes to other people, it’s a completely different story. It’s so much easier to see their faults. Aaron’s statement, “You know how prone these people are to evil,” shows that he recognized the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, yet when it came to his own, it was completely accidental. I call this selective blindness. We find it easy to judge others, but completely evade our own culpability. The sad thing is that feigned blindness does not prevent very real consequences. In this case, the result was deadly for thousands.

It is our human nature to try to cover up our own iniquity, and to blame others. The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t change the outcome. There are consequences to straying from God’s path, and trying to deny, cover up or blame others simply adds insult to injury. I think about the difference between the first 2 kings of Israel. When Saul sinned, and the prophet confronted him, his reaction was similar to Aaron’s. The result was that God removed his Holy Spirit from him, he was eventually killed in battle, and the kingdom was taken from his family. When David sinned, his actions were much worse, but when the prophet confronted him, he was quick to repent. Even though there were still consequences for his sin, his genuine repentance redeemed the situation. God called David a man after his own heart, and I believe that is because he refused to cover up or choose blindness when he was forced to face what he had done. He pleaded with God not to remove his Holy Spirit from him. David treasured God, and therefore chose to look honestly at his own heart. The heart that chooses blindness is self-centered, and cares far more about self than God. The heart that loves God will deny self, but as a result will find the path to abundant life.

 Lord, please help me to always be willing to look at my own heart honestly. Do not allow me to be so insistent on my way that I fail to seek yours first. Let me always be willing to confess and willing to repent. Help me to see my own sin before I see the sins of others, and help me not to judge. My sweet Savior, help me to love you more than I love myself, and in doing so make your ways a priority over my own. These days my sins are usually heart issues rather than blatant actions, and when I look at other people, I tend to judge their heart attitudes too. Open my blind eyes Lord, and help me to see  my own failures before I start pointing my fingers at others. Amen

Laughing with God

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Gen. 17:17-19)

 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (18:11-12)

Is anything too hard for God? (18:14).

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Sometimes God just makes me laugh. I have walked with him long enough to know that he rarely does things the way I expect, but beyond that, his ways often seem downright crazy from a human perspective. Years ago, when I met my husband, I started to get the idea that God had put him in my path, in spite of my protests. I had lived through abuse, and really wasn’t open for a new relationship, especially not with somebody who was so…well, so flawed and human. Yet, the more I objected, the more God seemed to change my heart and convict me of my judgmental attitudes. I continued to voice my complaints in the form of prayers to God. Oddly enough after each prayer my soon-to-be husband would, without any provocation from me, volunteer the answer to my prayer concern. This happened 3 specific times to the point I was just dumbfounded. If I hadn’t been praying silently, I would’ve thought the man had my house bugged. I struggled for a few weeks in prayer, and the answers kept coming in ways that blew my mind. Finally, when it became undeniable that God was in it, I said, “Lord, this is not what I expected!” In my spirit I could almost hear him laughing and asking me, “When have I ever worked in the way you expected?” Good question! Because as long as I have known him, his ways have surely been higher than mine, and have never gone according to my preconceived notions. I couldn’t help but join God and laugh at myself for forgetting that wonderful truth.

As I read the story of Abraham and Sarah this morning, I recognized the all too familiar dynamics. In Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations, and it was credited to him as righteousness. By chapter 16, Sarah and Abraham decided to help God out. Sarah was past her childbearing years, so even though they believed God, they figured he was going to work in a way that seemed possible on human terms. I’ve done this many times. “Sure I believe you God, but obviously, you must have meant you would bless me this way.” The problem is that when we decide to “help” God it often complicates the situation greatly, as in the case of Hagar. We think we are helping, but usually we are hurting ourselves by failing to wait on his best. When God came back and let Abraham and Sarah know they were wrong in their assumptions, they both laughed. God’s response was to tell them their future son’s name would be Isaac, which means, “he laughs.” Isn’t that great? For the rest of their lives, they would be reminded that they laughed at God’s promise. I can’t help but think that God was laughing back at them. They were limiting him to the realm of human possibility, and he was about to show them that mortal limitations are nothing to him. I’m sure he takes great pleasure in doing that. Like any good parent, he enjoys teaching his children. And what a lesson it was! By this this point both had lived long, full lives and knew how things work in this world. So when God showed up with something completely unexpectedly, the result was laughter. They were laughing at how preposterous it was, and yet I am sure they both felt a twinge of hope.

That is how it has been in my life. When God shows up unexpectedly I shake my head and laugh at how absurd it seems, but I also know that something wonderful just might happen. These things don’t happen every day. If they did we wouldn’t laugh, because they wouldn’t seem impossible. We live in a world bound by limitations, but every now and then God comes in and blows them to smithereens. It’s not something we can contrive or force, but for those who walk faithfully with him, it is bound to happen every once and a while. Sometimes the absurdity requires action on our behalf, so we could possibly end up looking pretty foolish too.

When my sister was young, she got caught up in a pretty harmful lifestyle. I had been praying diligently for her salvation and deliverance. One day she called to tell me she had been in a motorcycle accident, and was home from work unable to walk. After we got off the phone, I got the strongest impression to go pray for her healing, and as much as I tried to fight it, I couldn’t shake it. That night our church had an evangelist speaking, and this crazy thought kept nagging me that if I would go pray for her healing, and then get her to church, she would commit her life to God. Crazy!! I argued, “Lord, who do you think I am, Oral Roberts?” But as crazy as the whole idea seemed, I had enough concern for my sister and enough hope in God to act on it. I called my mom, who had faith to pray for anything, and she agreed to drive the hour with me to go and pray for healing. When we arrived, we briefly explained to Paula that we were going to pray for her healing. Being a captive audience, she had little choice but to agree, so we laid hands on her and prayed. Nothing happened! I began to wonder if I missed God. In fact, with all the pain meds she was on, she actually fell asleep. Mom and I looked at each other wondering if we should go or stay. We decided to stay and chatted for about 15 minutes. Suddenly, Paula woke up and ran to the bathroom! The knee that was swollen and unable to bend earlier was moving just fine! When she came out of the bathroom, we pointed out that her leg was better, and her eyes got as wide as saucers. I then suggested that since God healed her, she might want to come to church with us that night and thank him. She agreed, and sure enough, at church she committed her life to Jesus. She has never been the same since, and it all started with a laughable thought that I feel sure God planted in my mind.

True faith will inevitably bring you to moments that will seem absolutely absurd, foolish and even laughable. Like Abraham and Sarah you will find yourself asking, “Really God, are you kidding?” Surely the father of our faith and his wife had prayed for decades to have a child, but it was not until all hope seemed lost that God showed up. That’s just what he does. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that reveals a pretty good sense of humor on his part. Just when we think we have it all figured out, he comes in and completely turns all of our perceptions upside down. He does it to remind us that even though we are limited by time, space and brokenness, this world is not all there is. We have a God who lives outside the boundaries of the earth, and occasionally gives us a glimpse of life beyond it by miraculously suspending the rules of nature. Can you imagine the twinkle in his eye, the smile on his face, and even the chuckle in his voice as he gently reminds us that he is so much greater than anything here in the temporal realm? I love Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Cheer up! Maybe even stop and laugh for a moment. Take joy in the One who delights in you and invites you to share in his joy. A life of faith is one of laughter and surprises. What an awesome privilege we have to share it with our amazing God!

Tapping the Power Source

Lord, I am just a mess. It seems like I have developed technology-induced ADD in my old age. My mind won’t stop wandering, and too much of that is tied to worry. I know better! There is no excuse for allowing myself to entertain worry. I know the answer, and though the spirit is willing, the flesh is surely weak. I need your help! It seemed so much easier to turn to You in my moments of need when I was a younger Believer, or even during times of major crisis. Right now it’s just a matter of dealing with the challenge of stepping out on faith and feeling like maybe I missed You. I find myself doubting my calling. I know the answer is to stop and spend time in your presence, but the concerns of this world just seem to be screaming at me. They can be all consuming. However, I don’t want them to be! I want to be consumed with You!!!! And I believe that if I could quiet my anxious soul long enough, and enter your presence more regularly; You would guide my footsteps to handle earthly concerns better. I need to stop allowing them to hold me down.

It’s so hard living in this world! It’s a constant struggle. I imagine You allow these struggles to keep me dependent on You, and I know I need to stop looking at other people wishing I could have the ease and blessings they seem to have. Forgive me for that. I only want what You have for me. I have this vision I thought You put in my heart, but with all the responsibilities weighing on me I can’t see it happening. Sometimes I think that maybe I am just going in the wrong direction altogether.  Show me Lord! I am willing to walk away from my endeavors. I don’t want to be wasting time! It is too precious! I want to walk in what You have for me, not some pipe dream I manufactured. Everything is so difficult right now. Nothing is falling into place, so all I can say is that I need for You to show me if I am working against You. I’m really clueless as to what other direction I could take. So Father, I ask You to help me to make the most of my time. Help me to dwell in your presence, and to be directed by your Spirit. Only You can direct my steps so that I’m not spinning my wheels. Teach me Lord, and in spite of me, use me! Don’t let me get so caught up in worldly responsibilities that I fail to live each moment for your kingdom purposes. Help me to find the balance I need! Lord, I am desperate! Please come and overcome me with your Spirit! I give You permission, I invite You. Please don’t leave this to me. I am so stuck without divine intervention! Come now Lord Jesus! Amen

Dear child, striving in your own power will only keep you trapped. It is not by your might or power, but by my Spirit that this mountain will be overcome (Zec. 4:6). You can not muster it up. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit they were waiting on Me. Can you wait one hour with Me? You live in a society that thrives on instant gratification, but that is not my way. I have promised that if you seek Me, you will find Me– when you seek Me with all of your heart (Jer. 29:13). This means that though you have to live in and toil in this world, you must not allow any of your worldly pursuits steal your affections from Me. Empty yourself daily before Me, and see what I will do. I can only fill vessels that have been emptied. Release your desires to Me. Surrender them all to Me dear child. I am able to use all you entrust to Me for your good. I will release my power in your life when you release everything to Me– every care, every concern, and every desire. Let them all go dear child, and I will meet you there. I will empower you with my Spirit. In your weakness, run to my loving arms and rest in the warmth of my embrace. That is where you will find the strength you need. There is immeasurable power in my love.

Let go of the things the world sees as important, and realize I treasure you, not what you have to offer. Abide in my love, because that is what is most important. Yes, I know you share my values, but still the world has more influence than you realize. You have not completely overcome the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). These refining fires are intended to help you see that. Trust in my loving plan dear one. I will not disappoint you. You have a glorious inheritance in Me, and I have made the immeasurable greatness of my power available to you. It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Ep. 1:19-20). Surely, it it sufficient to overcome these temporary problems. I will never leave or forsake you, so trust in Me, abide in Me, and let Me carry those burdens. In finding that place of quietness and trust, you will find your strength (Is. 30:15). 

“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses…” (Acts1:7-8).Who will you compare Me to, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, and why do you assert: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my claim is ignored by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Is. 40:26-31)

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:4-5)

 Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel and His strength is in the skies. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God! (Ps. 68:34-35)

Mustard Seeds & Mites: The Amazing Economy of God

Have you ever felt like you have nothing to offer God? I know I have. Some days it just seems like all my efforts amount to nothing, and that I am not accomplishing anything for the kingdom of God. The interesting thing is that God knows our efforts are meager, yet He delights in us as we yield them to him. Jesus told his disciples they only needed faith the size of a tiny mustard seed to move mountains (Mt. 17:20). If you think about it, all the great men and women in the Bible did was offer what little they had, and God met them there. When God called Moses, he was more than reluctant to take the job, because of his inadequacies (Ex. 4:10).  In the Psalms, David often referred to himself as poor and needy  (40:17, 85:1, 69:6, 86:1, 109:22). The usually bold prophet Elijah gave into weakness. He ran away and asked God to take his life after his amazing showdown with the prophets of Baal (1 Ki. 19). Even reluctant Jonah prompted a miraculous revival in Nineveh when he finally surrendered to God. When Paul brought his limitations to God, the response was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The deal is this: we give God our weakness, and He gives us his incredible power (Eph. 1:19). Paul says it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead!

 What an incredible exchange! What a privilege it is to be his child! Still, as weak as we are, for some perplexing reason, we tend to be full of pride and God resists the proud. However, He gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6).  Therefore, if we humbly come to him, and bring him what little we have, his sufficient grace will carry us and his power will be perfected in us.  God allows his Spirit to radiate from weak vessels “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).  What glory would He receive if his people showed no sign of weakness? How could we offer help to others struggling with weakness? The only option would be to try and save them ourselves. Wait, doesn’t that sound a little co-dependent? We are meant to shine his light, not to be the light. Honestly even the strongest of us are very limited. It is so much better to run to and point people to the limitless One who will stoop down and meet us in our frailty. We honor him when we offer the little we have, just like the widow in Mark 12. Jesus observed her giving the smallest offering of all that had been given that day—just 2 mites. Many others had given very large amounts, but Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor woman has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she out of poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mk. 12:44).

 So there you have it. Jesus is not seeking supermen and women. He does not delight in our valiant efforts or great aptitude; He delights in our full surrender. Great men and women of God are those who simply bring what little they have to him, and He miraculously multiplies it.  So if you are feeling inadequate, wonderful! If you know you are weak and needy, fantastic! You are exactly where God wants you! He wants to become your all-in-all. When you recognize that you can do nothing without him (Jn. 15:5), you are half way to victory. Too many of us stop at that point, and begin to wallow in self-pity and doubt. Without faith it is impossible to please him, but thank God you only need the tiniest seed of faith to find victory. Rather than allowing your doubts to consume you, will you choose to exercise the little faith you have and commit yourself to the One who loves you most? Make a choice to believe his promises, and watch what He will do. When I look back over my life, I see that the greatest times of spiritual victory came in the wake of the greatest weakness on my part. In those times, when there was nothing left to turn to, He showed up in mighty ways. Paul said he could boast in his weakness, because that is where God’s strength is best revealed. Everything He does seems contrary to the world’s economy. The world teaches us to be strong, and be all we can be, but in God’s economy we simply have to surrender what little we have and watch him move. Just think about it. The omnipotent God who created the universe has made his power available to us! When we are weak, then He is strong. I don’t know about you, but this weakling stands in utter awe.

Trusting the Shepherd

Lord, today I ask You to give me ears to hear and eyes to see. The world is full of darkness and noise that make hearing and seeing spiritual things difficult. Yet, You have overcome the world, so I ask You to help me walk in your provision for Me. You said your sheep hear your voice, and I know I belong to You. Make me extra sensitive. Help me to be one of the first to come when you call. I have spent too many years with dull senses, and too many years having to be pulled in by your staff. Help me keep one eye on the pasture and the other on You, so that when You move I move too. I long to please You Lord, because You have done so much for me. You are gracious far beyond what I deserve, and your love has sustained me through the most difficult of circumstances. You pursued me even when I insisted on following false gods, and You came to my rescue when they toppled. You are so good! I don’t deserve such love, but I am forever grateful. Today I ask that You would help me reflect your goodness everywhere I go. Help me show people that You are so much more than the image portrayed by so many who call your name. Shine through me today, so that perhaps darkness will be dispelled in someone’s life. Help me make an eternal difference today. Amen

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Ps. 150:6). I inhabit the praises of my people so begin with praise (Ps. 22:3). It will open your eyes to see, and your ears to hear. Abide in my love, knowing that nothing in the world can separate you from it (Jn. 15:9, Rom. 8:39). No matter what you go through, I am with you. The waters will not overflow you, and the fire will not scorch you when you walk with Me (Is. 43:2). Nothing on earth has power over you, not even things that seem out of control. I am your shepherd, and it is my job to protect you. You need not walk in fear or confusion. Simply follow my leading. You may not see where the road leads, but I know where we are going. I promise to lead you to still waters, and to restore your soul (Ps. 23:1-3). Sheep do not have to figure everything out, they only need to follow and trust the shepherd. Pursue Me and not the path. Before you realize it, the destination will be just ahead.

Lord, don’t you care?

Good Morning Lord. Here I am sitting at your feet waiting to partake in the good part of life. Everything else is temporary, and yet too often I get a wrapped up in things that will not last. Help me to live for your eternal kingdom today by loving You and others first. There are many things that have to be done, but just help me to see life through your eyes, so I know what is truly important. When I put too much emphasis on circumstances, it can make me question your goodness. I think about the story of Martha and Mary.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

I used to see myself as a Mary, and it’s true that I love You fervently! But nothing in this passage indicates that Martha didn’t love You just as much as Mary. The difference is that she let the demands of life take precedence over the eternal, and when circumstances became the most important thing, she suddenly questioned your goodness. “Lord, do You not care…?” is one of the most telling lines in scripture. It’s a question I used to ask all the time when things weren’t going my way. I would never go so far as to mouth the words, but each time something negative happened—when people didn’t meet my expectations, or when negative things happened, I would sure wonder whether or not you cared. Then the worst trial of my whole life happened, and in the midst of that I realized that You not only care, but You share in my suffering. You care immensely, but your agenda is so much greater than merely making my life pleasant. You have used suffering to teach me so much! I have found your goodness in the midst of extreme pain, but I had to choose to seek You rather than instant relief. In those dark times, sitting at your feet offered the only peace and comfort.

Now that life is a little easier, I find myself acting a lot more like Martha than Mary again. “To do” lists tend to run my day rather than your Spirit, and I find myself anxious and bothered about many things. I know it is possible to live in this world, but not be controlled by it, yet I seem stuck serving “urgent” demands rather than waiting on You. I know part of the answer is figuring out what is truly urgent, and the other part is making the decision to sit at your feet and tune everything else out at the beginning of each day. Some days my efforts are just pathetic. I’m like a horse raring to get out of the gate, and trying to look away for a minute to focus on something else. I have it backwards! The race I should be running is towards You, not life demands. I need to keep my eyes focused on You. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Father, today I ask You to help me lay aside every weight, every urgent “to do” on my list, and run towards You. I know that is my calling. My relationship with You is the most important thing, “the good part,” that can’t be taken away. So help me focus on the eternal side of life rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Thank You that I actually know there is a good, eternal part to life. I can’t imagine how people live without knowing there is more to life than things that pass away—it seems so futile and hopeless. What an awesome honor and privilege to understand there is more, and to be called your child! Yet I focus on the lesser things in spite of what I know and the One I know. Forgive me Lord, and right now I choose the better part that can’t be taken away. Amen

Come to Me and find rest. You are weary and heavy laden because of your choices (Mt. 11:28). You wear yourself out over lesser things. In my presence there is rest and peace that the world cannot comprehend. You know it, and have experienced it many times. I am not standing over you ready to condemn. I am standing before you asking you to come and partake of the living water that gives true satisfaction. There is nothing that can compare. I long to help you find rest for your soul. Taste and see that I am good! (Ps. 34:8). There is nothing that compares to Me, so remember all the benefits of knowing Me (Ps. 103), and come into my presence. You need your time with Me! It will give you strength and wisdom to face each day. Without Me, you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Remember that and come freely. Do not come out of guilt or obligation, but out of love and passion—just as Mary did. Sit at my feet and partake of eternal truths that you will need to overcome the problems of life. Sit at my feet and bask in my goodness. Breathe deeply and experience my great love. It will carry you through the day in a state of rest rather than anxiety. That is my desire for you. It is not about doing, it is about being with Me. Come dear child, come.

Living in the Overflow

Oh Lord, how I love You! Today I pray that You will use me. Don’t let me get so caught up in worldly endeavors that I forget your eternal agenda in the midst of life. Give me spiritual eyes to see the important matters of life, and the resolve to give them priority. People that I love are blind and held captive by the evil one. I pray You use me to help them see, so that you can free them. Give me the wisdom and love needed to speak truth. Help me be more afraid for their souls than their reaction to my words. Your truth offends those who are perishing, yet it is the very thing that liberates. I guess it’s much like life-saving surgery. Give me the skill to use your 2-edged sword in a way that penetrates to soul and spirit, revealing the thoughts and intentions of the heart without damaging their spirits. I have seen your Word misused too many times. I know it is not my place to judge, but to proclaim truth. Let love be my only motive—not fear, not pride, not self-righteousness. It is your kindness that leads us to repentance so remove any remnant of impatience in me, and let me reflect your amazing kindness. I surrender myself now and ask that You would magnify yourself in my life today. Amen  

Dear Child, rest in Me today. The answer to your prayer can only happen as you wait on Me. That is where your strength is found. Abide in Me and in my love. Apart from Me you can do nothing. My Spirit dwells in you. Therefore, remember who you are and walk in the Spirit. My purpose for you is to bear fruit, and I have equipped you. Your obligation is to surrender your will and resources to Me daily. Remember it is my doing and my burden, not yours. You are simply to allow Me to shine through you. When you do, love will be your guide, because I am love. Love is patient, so your impatience will not be able to surface as you stay surrendered to Me. Anxiety and fear will have no place in your life, because my perfect love will cast them out. Your life will radiate with my kindness, and some will come to Me as a result. Keep your eyes on Me, and enjoy fellowship with Me. In my presence you will find peace and joy that will overflow into the lives of others. Overflow requires no action on the part of the vessel. It must only be available; therefore, yield yourself to Me and from your innermost being rivers of living water will flow out to a dying and thirsty world.   Hebrews 4:12, Rom. 2:4, Is. 40:31, John 15:1-17, 1 Jn. 4:8 & 18, Jn. 7:38

Overcoming Myself

Lately I have realized that I am a complainer! I complain about the weather, complain about the demands of life, and just complain about far too many things. The other day was one of my least favorite sort of days—cold and rainy. I grumbled every time I had to get in and out of the car. It was a particularly busy day, so the excessive complaints finally caught my attention. It seems I had spent the better part of a day whining. I guess it takes a lot to get my attention, but that day I realized I have a problem. If I am complaining excessively, it means I am focusing on the negatives in life rather than the greatness of my God. I thought about Paul’s command in Philippians 2:14. We are to do everything without grumbling or arguing. That day, I barely did anything without grumbling. Obviously, I was created with the will to choose my attitude, so I realized it needs an adjustment.

Today Lord I will choose to set my mind on things above, and will filter my thoughts through Philippians 4:8. I will not allow my mind to dwell in things that are untrue, dishonorable, unfair, impure, ugly, negative, shameful, or unimportant. Instead I focus on the better part of life—my relationship with You and your goodness. I know You are in control of everything. You allow trying circumstances and even lousy weather to mold my character. Help me to stay aware today, and not to default to my natural tendency to whine and complain. I surrender to You. I choose to praise You now. Amen.

My Child, I stand ready to help you overcome your own nature. I inhabit the praises of my people, so choose to stand in my presence rather than getting tripped up by human emotion. Let my word dwell in you richly, and maintain a heart of gratitude. Whatever you do, do in my name giving thanks to the Father. You cannot just force yourself to stop bad habits; you must replace them with new habits that flow out of a heart of love for Me. My Spirit gives you the ability to do all things, and to be an overcomer in this life. Do not focus on your weakness, but rather on my strength that is best revealed in your weakness. Rely on Me and not yourself. Otherwise, you will stay trapped by your human nature, even though I have given you my divine nature. You are no longer obligated to your sinful nature, so choose abundant life today. Set your mind on things above and you will find yourself soaring above the pitfalls of life. 

 Psalm 22:3, Col. 3:16-17, Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 12:9, 2 Pet. 1:4, John 8:44, Col. 3:2