“Who Can Satisfy?”

(1 Timothy 6: 17-19, The Message) Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Growing up in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, before technology became so commonplace and advanced, wealth seemed like a very foreign concept.  If you were around during that era, watching TV every evening as many of us did, then you probably remember the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  It was hosted by Robin Leach, a British reporter in a sport coat with a very posh, London accent.  He would take us viewers on exclusive tours through the homes of very famous and extremely wealthy people from all over the world.  Because of this show, I saw things that seemed completely unreal to me — wealth beyond what I could ever imagine.  During those years before social media, the public loved famous people, but they weren’t so accessible, so the obsession with wealth and fame just wasn’t so widespread.  Those were the days when becoming famous wasn’t so easy, and though middle class was the norm for many people, wealth was a pipe dream. 

Over the past 20 years there has been a tremendous shift in society, and we have become more obsessed with looks, money, possessions, and fame than ever before.  I blame it on technology (even though I do so love it and depend on it in my own life).  But I digress…

Because it is just a lottery ticket, a screen tap, or a You Tube video away from our grasp, our society has become distracted by the relentless pursuit of wealth and fame.  As a result, we have become more and more selfish, self-absorbed, success-driven, money-hungry, greedy, competitive, and judgmental.  But let me remind you, if you are Christian there is no place in our lives for these rotten fruits that our current world produces.  If you take the time to actually pay attention what what we are being fed by the media, you will find that every bit of it is in direct opposition to the good and sweet fruits of the spirit that God has to offer His children. 

I can’t help but think about junk food.  It is so plentiful, so easily accessible, and so addictive.  We have a taste and we just want more and more…until we’ve had so much that we are literally sick!  We know that there are healthier choices out there for us to eat, but we get sucked into the craze and the need for more of the junk.  Eventually, we forget how delicious and filling all of the healthier foods can be to us, and we just keep going after those empty calories that never satisfy…that always leave us longing for more.  Recently, my husband and I have been on a journey toward better health.  We’ve cut out junk food, sugar, and most carbs.  We’ve both lost a lot of weight and are feeling pretty great, but the main thing that we have come to learn is that we are so much more satisfied after meals now.  We are making conscious efforts to partake of foods that will fuel our bodies and nourish us, and we are never left feeling guilty or lacking. 

The junk that this world has to offer us will never bring true satisfaction.  No amount of money, no house, no new car, no vacation, nothing…none of it will ever make us feel complete.  We are born with our very own, unique purposes, and they are not to simply make a good living, acquire stuff, and die.  NO!  We have a responsibility and an obligation to our Heavenly Father — to be generous (especially when we are blessed), to love and forgive, and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through our words and deeds.  So we cannot allow the distractions of the world to suck us in and lull us into the trance.  We can’t continue to fill up on all of the junk, leaving no room for any of the goodness of God’s way and plan for our lives.  We must instead follow hard after Him, seeking and loving Him above all else.  In return, all that we could ever hope to have and experience will be stored up for us in the heavenly places. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes I forget that nothing we acquire here can be taken with us when we leave this world.  So whether I struggle every day of my life, or whether I am blessed with wealth that most of us could only ever see on TV, I know that I must make every effort to be a generous steward with what you have given to me.  Help me stay focused on You.  Amen.

May I Put You on Hold?

1 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” 2 So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. 3 And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land….. 6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

I must confess that being put on hold frustrates me. Sometimes it feels like I’m being put in a closet while the person on the other line goes on a break to get a fresh cup of coffee! I know that’s not true, (at least, I hope it’s not!) but it’s frustrating none the less. Sometimes being put on hold is necessary so that the right individual can be located, or until they can complete a call they are already on. To me, the very worst is being put on hold without any background music. Even though I may not particularly care for the music selection, at least I know that I’m still connected; when there is no music, I begin to wonder if I was disconnected. Still, when asked, “May I put you on hold?” I generally agree.

I was thinking about the woman in our scripture text today and wondered what it might have been like to be told by the prophet that she would be put “on hold” for 7 years. She had been the recipient of a life-giving miracle when her son had died. God raised him back to life and they were living in the moment of divine blessing. But, then…

The prophet instructed her to do the following:

  • Depart from this land. (God had called for a famine)
  • Take your entire household with you.
  • Go wherever you want to go. (The destination was not important.)

I looked, and then I looked again to see if the prophet included a promise of restoration. There is none. Only a call for obedience. I guess the word “sojourn” might be the closest thing to a promise because it would indicate a continual journey that might ultimately lead them back home. But that is a stretch… Instead, the prophet’s words are a simple explanation of God’s intention to put famine upon the nation for a period of 7 years.

So, what does one do when God calls for obedience without a corresponding promise of blessing? Scripture clearly records her response in verse 2. “So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.” I don’t see any questions. No discussion. No attitude. No rebellion. Just simple obedience. Her whole life was being put on hold, primarily because of the sins of others, and she basically responds with a shrug of the shoulders and a resounding, “Let’s roll!”

How did she have the courage to leave her comfort zone to journey into the unknown? Simple. She trusted that the word of the prophet reflected the love of God for her. After all, she had already received her son back to life because of the goodness of God. She could not see, and had not been told what the end result would be. She trusted God.

Sometimes the story ends right there. Just obedience. The writer of Hebrews tells us,

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40)

At other times the story ends with greater blessing than we previously possessed. After 7 years, the woman returned home and requested her land be returned. The King appointed her own representative to see that her holdings were returned, AND that she was given ALL the fruit that was yielded from her land during the 7 years.

Are you on hold? If so, simply trust the Lord and know that your future is in His hands!

PRAYER: Father, my past experience with you allows me to trust during seasons of uncertainty. When I’m traveling a winding road, I’m able, by faith, to trust that you are directing my steps. Thank you for that confidence!

Find Your Wall

2 Kings 20:1-9-  “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet… came to him and said… “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him. “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David… I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will heal you… and I will defend this city for my own sake, and for my servant David’s sake…’” And Isaiah said, “… the Lord will do the thing that he has promised.”

 

I find much peace in security; and change tends to stress me out. I like to know how a situation is going to end before it even starts. I want to know that everything I care about is safe and stable and the people I love are happy and healthy. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

No doubt we’d all sleep a little better at night knowing all things we hold dear were in the best of conditions without any fear of contamination. But, we’re not in Heaven yet, so we understand that’s not going to be the case. A lot of us have learned how to walk in grace and survive in the midst of heart-wrenching and mind-boggling situations, but what about those who haven’t? Or what about those moments that just knock the breath right out of you?

Hezekiah was a faithful, godly man. He ruled Judah under God’s direction and obeyed His commands. The Lord was always on his side and he walked in prosperity and victory throughout the majority of his reign. But there came a day when the king of Assyria attacked Judah and took it captive. He began to scorn Hezekiah and his faith, taunt the country, and mock God. As soon as King Hezekiah heard this, he immediately found a place of prayer. He was fearful, but his trust in the Lord was not shaken. And, faithful to His people, God moved on their behalf and delivered them from Assyria’s hand.

Not too long after, Hezekiah became very ill. When the prophet Isaiah informed him that God had spoken and said his life was near its end, Hezekiah reached a breaking point. And again, he turned his face to the wall and prayed… He cried out for mercy, wept bitterly, and poured out every ounce of himself at the feet of his God. Within just moments, God spoke back. “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you… and I will defend this city…”

The Lord doesn’t always answer us according to exactly how we pray. If it’s not what’s best, He will change our hearts and give us peace when we ask for answers. Still, we must understand, that in order for change to take place, for miracles to happen, and for the “impossible” to be accomplished, we have to follow Hezekiah’s example. We have to find our wall… and do so prior to any other action we may make.

We’re impatient creatures. We don’t like to wait, we want our emotions justified immediately, and we want to have a part in achieving the results we desire. I’m convinced the majority of us naturally pick up a phone the moment uncertainty grips our hearts. When financial crises sneak up on us, I’m sure we instantly sit down and look at what costs we can cut or brainstorm how to bring in more income. During times of unwelcome health issues, we are on the edge of our seats waiting for a good report from the doctor to ease our nerves. In the midst of family drama, we lean too much on our own words and/or efforts to mend broken relationships.

None of these things are wrong… but they’re only minimally effective. We only have limited ability to solve problems. True power lies within the hands of God Almighty. (Matthew 19:26- With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.) We have to isolate ourselves at times; get some uninterrupted alone time with our Lord. Turn our face to the wall, drown out all other voices, ignore every doubt and lie the devil throws at us, and erase every scenario we’ve fixed inside our mind and let Him speak; let Him work; let Him move in a way that only He can. (James 4:2b- … you have not, because you ask not.)  

Life can get tough! Situations become uncomfortable. But, when you’re back is to the wall, just turn around for a second. Cry out to the Lord and watch things start to happen.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for hearing me when I pray. How blessed I am to have You on my side. Help me come to You first, as I know You are the difference maker in every situation. I love You, Lord. Amen.

“Hopelessly Devoted to You”

(Colossians 4:2, NLT) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I will be the first to admit that my prayer life is not always what it could or should be, according to the word of God.  I don’t always take enough time to actually commune with Him, and I don’t do it as often as I should. Worse still, when I am busy, or depressed, or frustrated with life, I find myself putting this most important part of my day off until the very end.  I lie in bed and I offer up what’s left of me from the day, listing off requests and sometimes even falling asleep in the midst of my internal ramblings.  In all honesty, this isn’t prayer, is it?  These “prayers” are, at best, Cain offerings — and they’re not fit to bring before the King of Majesty.

I confess this to you today, because I think I am probably not alone in it.  Look, we all have our failures and struggles, and there are parts of our spiritual lives that must be developed over time.  Prayer isn’t something that we just instinctively know how to do, or even something that we are born with the wisdom of knowing how important it is to our lives.  Prayer is a discipline.  It is a careful balance of speaking and listening, it is a time of communication with God — both mentally and spiritually, and it is an act of sacrifice unto Him.  When we make time for it, we are giving up our own plans and schedules to show our Heavenly Father that He matters — that He comes first.  We must become devoted to our prayer lives. 

Think for a minute about what that word devoted truly means.  When you are devoted to something, you’re not doing it sometimes or rarely.  You’re not thinking of it at the end of the day when you’re too mentally and physically spent to give it your best.  When you’re devoted to something or someone, it is a top priority.  You make time for it.  You give of yourself, and your resources, to ensure that it is an integral part of your life.   

Do you remember your first love?  The way it felt to wake up each morning just longing to hear his/her voice and anticipating that moment when you got to see this precious person again…  The way it felt to want to be in his/her presence every moment you got the chance, and it just never seemed to be enough…

Whenever I hear the word devoted my mind instantly goes to the song from the movie Grease, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”  I can just hear Olivia Newton John singing it now…as she, or Sandy, pines for Danny…tossing pages of a love letter to him into a backyard kiddie pool.  She’s singing of her devotion to him — about how she’s not going to give up on her love for him.  That’s young love though…hopelessly devoted…you just can’t help yourself! 

Hopeless04

We have to return to this kind of love in our relationship with Christ.  If we are not careful, our love for Him becomes muted by our lives.  We begin to forget that initial excitement…that joy of our salvation.  It doesn’t mean that our faith is dead, or that our works are void.  It simply means that we have to change things up a little and recall that first love for Him.  Like any relationship, it takes dedication and work, and the only thing that will inspire us to do so is our devotion to Him.  We have to be hopelessly devoted to Jesus.  When we make efforts to pour out our best at His feet, that is when we come alive again — when that stirring in our hearts begins to awaken once more.  So when Paul wrote that we must be devoted, coming to the Father with alert minds and thankful hearts, he is gently reminding us that we owe God our best.  Our Lord deserves to have our attention, don’t you think?  If we can give our attentions to Netflix, to our families, to Facebook, to our jobs, to our friends, and to our hobbies, then surely there is a chunk of each day that can be devoted to Him and to Him alone.  Just something to consider…

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I need your forgiveness, because I have not always been fully devoted to You in my prayer life.  Sometimes I lose track of what is most important to the life and breath of my soul.  Thank You, Lord, for this most timely reminder!  You deserve my best.  Amen. 

Reset!

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

Ever had a day where nothing seemed to go your way?  If you are breathing, I am going to assume the answer to that question is “Yes!” It’s just a fact of life that you will face some unpleasant circumstances, whether trivial (waking up and discovering that you are out of coffee) or more serious issues (health concerns, relationship problems, etc.). Some circumstances we are able to change, but others we have to simply endure. The most important factor in dealing with difficult situations is our attitude.

Our attitudes form the framework or lens through which we view our circumstances and greatly influence how well we are able to cope with things that we cannot change.  As a parent, I sometimes have to remind my son that he is going to cut the grass, clean his room, or participate in some family activity whether he wants to or not.  It falls to him to decide whether he is going to do it with a good attitude or bad. As he matures, he is learning that some of the things he fought the hardest end up not being that big an issue when he just accepted it and pushed through.

The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of this kind of thinking.  His letter to the Philippians, written while he sat imprisoned, gives us a glimpse at how he approached the circumstances of his life.  We see that:

  • Attitude has little to do with circumstances (v.11) — Your attitude is not determined externally (by fate or fortune), but internally (by you!)
  • Attitudes can change, just like circumstances (v.12) — You are in control of your responses, which means you have the power to change your attitude when it stinks!
  • Attitudes can be improved, if we learn the secret (v.12) — Good attitudes don’t just happen, it is a learnable skill.
  • Attitudes have a source for their strength (v.13) — No matter what happens, God will sustain us and give us victory!

This is not new or ground-breaking information but occasionally we need a reminder. It is not unusual to find ourselves stewing in negative thoughts and feelings and needing something to help us get out of that feedback loop.  In our family, we offer each other the chance to call for a “reset” when we’ve been speaking, acting, and reacting in a negative way. It’s our way of giving someone an out — an extension of grace.

God offers each of us the same grace. So, the next time you find yourself with a stinky attitude, just pray — ask God for that “reset” — and determine that you are going to have a better attitude.  It will make all the difference in the world!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being the source of our strength.  Circumstances change but you do not. Help us to control our thoughts and maintain a positive attitude. Let your Holy Spirit comfort us in our frustration, and give us an eternal perspective.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Repair the Altar and Look for Fire

1 Kings 18:20-39- Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves… and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God. And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” … … … And they (the prophets of Baal)… called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us! But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made… … … And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me…” And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down… And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did… And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did… And the water ran around the altar… And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God…” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water… And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

 

It’s hard to turn on the news channels today, isn’t it? There’s so much violence, betrayal, deception, and hatred… It makes a heart break. And nearly every mainstream circuit reports negatively anything relating to Jesus Christ. They rally and march for anything that opposes Him, and petition and mock things He commands. As a Christian, we can sometimes feel lost in a sea of angry, vengeful faces, can’t we?

We’re like a lone Elijah surrounded by 450 prophets of Baal.

Are we responding the way he did, though?

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” – Leo Tolstoy

I’ve noticed so many who claim wholeheartedly to follow Christ become easily swayed by the view of the majority. I’ve watched as their beliefs drowned from the wave of opinions constantly crashing over them. Truths were all of a sudden viewed as preference and faith in Jesus Christ was deemed equal to any other.

It’s so easy to blend into the crowd. Instead of discerning when it’s time to speak up and disciplining ourselves to radiate the spirit of Christ, we just sit back and say short, silent prayers. I’m guilty of taking on this pattern myself. But, I hunger for something more. I yearn to be used in a mighty and purposeful way. We were called to lift Him up and offer hope to this world.

Can we do that if we just hide among the crowd?

Elijah knew his God. He knew His attributes, His abilities, and His Sovereign power. And when a time came for Elijah to proclaim what he knew, he didn’t let it slip by. The strength of his faith was so intense, he was ready to put the glory of his God on display.

As we mentioned before, there were 450 people who claimed to be prophets of Baal… and there were, mingled in the throng, people who simply followed after them. They shouted out for answers all day long… They asked for proof, an act of power, any kind of sign of Baal’s existence… and they received nothing. “…there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.”

Can’t this be said of the world today? People have all these “amazing” ideas that are sure to bring about equality and peace… but are we seeing that? No! There’s more division and violence than ever before. There’s a push to “be true to  yourself,” yet people are changing their affections, their genders, and their appearances on the regular! What’s wrong with this picture?

They’re following after the wrong gods… They’re going about all of this the wrong way.

When it was Elijah’s turn to call on his God, the first thing he did was “repair the altar that had been thrown down.”

Altars are known as a place of prayer, right? Prayer is something that this world has thrown aside, for sure. Yet, even honest Christians admit that it’s lacking in their lives, as well. And it’s the very core of the Christian faith! I firmly believe, (because it’s scriptural), that when we fall back on our faces before the Lord and pray consistently for this world in which we live, we will see wonders. We will see “fire fall from heaven.”

If we want to see miracles- if we want to see change- we have to do things differently than the majority. We can’t hang everything on walks and rallies. Life changing moments can’t be achieved simply by meetings and gatherings. While it’s definitely necessary to put our faith into action, we have to lead our hearts back to prayer.

Elijah didn’t have to do anything elaborate. He didn’t need excessive resources or a support system. He had faith in the One True God, and that was enough! He prayed a short prayer and God moved on his behalf and a whole nation was turned back to Him.

There is so much power in prayer! “Satan tries to limit your prayer, because he knows your prayer will limit him!” It’s so simple, right? So why does it seem nearly impossible to find time to fit it in? Going forward, let’s make time! Let’s repair the altar of the Lord! He is sure to intervene!

 

Prayer: God, thank You for always being readily waiting to hear me. Give me the determination to make time every day to be alone with You, for You are the only Thing that can make an effective difference in this world. I love You, Lord. Amen.

 

Sink or Swim

(Philippians 2: 12-13)  Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

No one ever said it would be easy…this pursuit of righteousness that we begin when we choose to live for Christ.  In fact, sometimes doing what’s right is the absolute hardest thing to do.  Sure, there are those who make righteousness and godliness look easy.  My grandmother was one of those people.  She just always did the right thing.  She was kind, thoughtful, reverent, prayerful, considerate, loving, generous, hard-working, accepting, forgiving, and just as Christ-like as a person could ever be.  Her life was a basket that was overflowing with every fruit of the spirit — and it spilled out into the paths of every person who ever had the pleasure of meeting her.  She made it look so easy.

Then there are people like me.  I have always sort of struggled with right and wrong.  I don’t typically see things in black and white, so the line between just seems a bit vague to me.  I’m a questioner and a skeptic, so I never take things as they are presented to me.  I want to know why.  I crave a deeper understanding.  I wanted to be one of those people who just ease into obedience and holiness without question, and I felt bad for having questions and for needing to know so much extra from God.  So many times I have stifled my own reservations and uncertainties, because I felt I should just be able to naturally trust and obey.  But it just isn’t easy for me…

But what are the “results” of our salvation?  Does that equate to ease and perfection?  Does that mean that we are all the same, without questions and struggles?  Of course not!  No!  These “results” are the obvious changes that are taking place in our lives as we go through our metamorphoses in Christ.  They are the things that make us unique individuals who are actively overcoming the battles that we face, both internally as well as on the surface. 

Whether we make it look easy, because it just somehow does come to us fluidly, never making any waves, or whether we are ones who jump in feet first and spend the majority of our swim thrashing and trying desperately to keep our heads above water, we are all in the same ocean together.  It’s a long swim, friends.  We are so blessed to have one another to hold onto when the waters get choppy and the waves overcome us.  We may look out at the vast and endless sea of our lives and think, “How can I do this with no end in sight?”  But God hasn’t called us to know it all — to have the answers we need.  He has called us to jump in, and our only job is to trust and obey, holding onto the anchor that is His word.  We can’t give up when it gets hard, because our lives are a testament to what He can and will do when we obey…so that others may see and know the beauty of this transfiguration that takes place when we offer our lives to Him. 

My life looks nothing like my grandmother’s life.  And do you know what?  That is okay.  It’s great even!  Because God created me to be exactly as I am.  My story will speak to others where my grandmother’s cannot.  My heart can go out to people that my grandmother’s could not.  My life is my own — in all of its frantic, mistake-laden, problematic flailing — it is mine, and I am going to work hard to show the results of my salvation.  When I mess up, I’ll keep on doggy-paddling, backstroking, treading water, or whatever I have to do!  Because I’ve come too far to drown now!

I can promise you this, you may not always want to do what’s right.  Sometimes it just feels good to be bad, because sin is what the flesh craves…day and night…and we tend to give into it from time to time.  However, remember that we are all works in progress.  God is doing a thing within us all — and if we are reverent, obedient, and daily seeking a deeper relationship with Him, then He will be faithful to His word…empowering us with the desire to please Him in every way with our lives.  Without Him, we simply cannot do it. 

It’s sink or swim, friends. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when it feels like I’m in over my head, when things aren’t easy and I want to give up, help me to remember that I am not alone.  Give me every ounce of strength and desire that I need to keep my head above water…no matter what.  Amen.

But…what if?

(Psalm 56: 8-11) 8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?


FEAR


When I was in the second grade, I checked out a book from the school library called Scary Stories to tell in the Dark.  I knew it was a bad idea but I did it anyway.  I had seen it at the book fair and was not allowed to purchase it, so I thought I would just sneak and check it out.  My curious nature got best of me.  That night, I curled up in my bed with a flashlight and the book and I read the entire thing.  As you can probably guess, I couldn’t get to sleep.  I had entertained fear and now every noise and every movement, to me, was a ghost or demon.  I was too afraid to move, paralyzed by my own imagination, and eventually I had to call out to my dad to come and “help” me.  We both lost sleep that night, and I got into a lot of trouble! 

Isn’t that how it is with us, even as adults?  We allow fear to inhabit our thoughts and it takes up residence there until we eventually have to call out to “dad” (Father God) to come to the rescue.  How often do you greet and entertain your fears?  The truth of the matter is, no matter your age, fear can rule your thoughts and greatly affect your choices when you give place to it.  And that fear, it’s like a stray cat…feed it, and it will stick around until it becomes your pet. 

A wise old Jedi named Yoda once said (yep, I’m using Star Wars reference), “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  Maybe you’re afraid of people…people who are a different race, who are foreign, who practice a different religion, people who have been in jail, people who have threatened you, or even people that you just don’t know.  But are we not called to love?  1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

Fear=Anger=Hate=Suffering 

Maybe you’re afraid of every “what if” and “worst case scenario” that pops into your mind.  Whatever your big fear may be, that thing that festers in your thoughts every single day, you have authority in Christ to banish that thought like the stray cat that it is.  “For though we walk in flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”  (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) 

It all comes down to choice.  You can choose to focus on fear and allow it to grow and thrive, or you can follow the advice that Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8 when he says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 


PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, Thank you for the wisdom of your word and the ability to understand it and apply it to the real situations in my life.  I’m so grateful that in YOU I have power over fear today and every day. Amen

Two Are Better Than One

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When I was growing up, I attended 7 different schools during my 12 year public education. In addition to the usual transitions from Elementary to Middle School and finally High School, I also had to change schools because my family moved several times. I remember telling my parents that I was glad that I had been to so many different schools because it forced me to learn how to navigate new social environments and make friends everywhere I went. Although my high school, like most, had different cliques, I did not limit myself to just one main group of friends. I could sit down at any table in the lunch room and be with friends.

One thing I have found to be true as I grow older is that it becomes harder and harder for me to make and keep friends. It’s not that I’m in any way less sociable, but my life no longer revolves around spending time with my friends. I have other obligations and responsibilities that come first, and so do my buddies. I’m sure many of you can relate to the experience of trying to plan some time with a friend, only to find that neither of you are available at the same times. It can be very frustrating! I think this is part of the reason that over time our social circle has a tendency to narrow to just family and a few close friends.

friends

One of the things that I absolutely love about the church, and SpiritLife in particular, is that it has extended my group of family and friends. I’m no longer limited to just one sibling (sorry, Sis!). Every week, I am living life with a bunch of brothers and sisters in Christ…worshipping, praying, teaching, learning, laughing & loving each other. These are people who are an important part of my life now that I may never have even met if it were not for this church!

Does this mean the church is nothing but a glorified religious social club? No, of course not! But it does make it much easier to develop relationships with others, especially the important relationships that make life much better and more fulfilling:

  • Spiritual Fathers & Mothers — It is so important to have someone in your life that can be there to love and support you unconditionally, to share their wisdom and experience, and to nudge you in the right direction when you get off track.
  • Companions & Prayer Warriors — We all need someone who will come alongside us and live in the trenches with us. These are the people that you can rely on to help, support, and cover you in prayer when life gets tough (and when isn’t it tough?!). They share in both your celebrations and your sorrows.
  • Spiritual Sons & Daughters — Scripture teaches us that it is imperative for us to instruct and invest in the generations that are coming behind us. It falls to us to show them the way of righteousness. When you sow into the life a young person, you will rejoice in the harvest for years to come!

In our increasingly private, segmented culture, it can be easy to keep all of our relationships superficial. We stick to talking about sports, weather, kids, and cars. But I encourage you to engage on a deeper level. Yes, you will have to open yourself up. That can be uncomfortable, but the potential rewards are worth the risk. When you have a posse with you, life isn’t nearly so scary or overwhelming!

Prayer: Father, thank you for inviting us into your family and for the righteous men and women who have poured into our lives. Help us to love each other, just as you have loved us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Do You Have The Shield at Your Side?

2 Samuel 22- And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies… He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior… I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple, he heard my voice… … … He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me… but the Lord was my support… You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God- his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

 

Just a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my mom regarding those seasons of life that keep surprising you with left hooks, if you know what I mean. I found myself feeling weak and weary, and honestly, I started questioning God’s faithfulness to me. I was feeling overwhelmed with unexpected bills, health issues, and family crises that all showed up on my doorstep just days apart. But, as I was listening to a song, this phrase stood out to me, “You walk on the water. You speak to the sea. You stand in the fire beside me.” I pondered on that line for a moment and my thoughts went to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3) I felt so ashamed for believing God abandoned me even for a split second, just because things weren’t flowing as I thought they should. I mean, if God always did things in a way that we could think up, the three Hebrew boys would have never entered that furnace. Nebuchadnezzar would have changed his mind, the fire would have gone out… something! But… they DID have to enter that fire… still, they weren’t in there alone and they came out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes!

Reading over the life of David, you quickly realize that he didn’t get much of break from “life” either. Still, he knew where his help came from, and he had learned that God would always equip him with the strength and resources to make it through any trial… through any trial.

Our Christian walk is referenced as a battle or war on several occasions. We’re being fought on every side by the enemy. Satan comes at us hard to make us weary. Principalities and powers use all their energy on us in the hopes that we’ll give in. War is not easy. Battles require some kind of fight. But, when we carry Him with us… He is our shield.

Shield- “used as protection against blows or missiles…”

A shield protects you from fatal blows, right? But, you still feel a kick or a jolt when the object aimed in your direction hits that shield. You will feel exhausted at times. Weariness and pain may even affect you. But, you are not defeated!

David never said that God kept him from having to wade through deep waters. But, he drew me out of many waters… Not everyone agreed with David or wanted the best for him, but because he relied on God, he could say, I am saved from my enemies.  He didn’t deny that he would face obstacles standing in his way. Still, by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. David knew that the world in which he lived would get dark at times, but You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness. 

David looked death in the face on many occasions, but even then, he knew that God was with him. No matter what David encountered, he understood that God would be there. Just as He is with us. Being His child does not mean we won’t ever face hardships. They’re going to come… and they might come in multitudes. But don’t lose faith or heart. Remember Who shields you. Because of sin, everyone will face things they don’t necessarily want to. It’s inevitable. But, as a child of God, we have THE SHIELD. He’s given us the material we need to overcome, we just have to utilize it! You might start to feel weak, but He is your strength, your deliverer, your refuge.

did i miss one

I may be the only one that gets in this selfish zone thinking He owes me an “easier” life, but I’m probably not. He reminded me over the last couple of weeks that He owes me nothing. I owe Him my life, my trust, and my praise. Still, He chooses to walk with me and keep me safe… When we allow the flesh to overrule our spirit, we notice everything that hits us… but we have no idea about everything He protects us from on a daily basis. We don’t have to know… We just have to trust. Hold Him close and let Him be our shield.

 

Prayer: Lord, increase my trust in You. Forgive me for my doubt. Remind me daily of Your faithfulness. You are my shield and my refuge and I thank You for Your protection. Amen.