Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Week Forty-Eight - Our Achy-Breaky Hearts


Sometimes because we are hurting, we fail to understand or see that others are also hurting. Or that they struggle just as we do. We tend to think they have it all together, are nigh on perfect, and have found the secret to living without problems. 

It's easy to read the works of others and feel inadequate or unworthy. Some writers are more open about their weaknesses, but nearly always tell us how they conquered their issues and are now using their experience to build a ministry. We might grow envious or judgmental because we haven't come to peace and victory with our problems yet. 

Our achy-breaky heart tries to tell us we must get everything right, or we are failures, or if we still have problems, we aren't good enough or smart enough. It leaves us feeling hopeless and sad.

I don't know about you, but I don't have everything figured out yet. And the older I get, the less I understand. And, I'm finding that the less it matters in some ways. Where would I find a need for faith or hope if I could figure everything out? If I had all the answers, why would I seek God? But I don't have all the answers, and neither do you. As a matter of fact, you won't find God requiring that of us anywhere! Instead, He calls us to trust Him, believe His Word, and walk by faith.

I think that is what Paul was saying in Philippians 3:12 - He hadn't apprehended everything. To apprehend is to capture, imprison, or gain mastery over. 

Paul hadn't understood everything. But what excites me is that it didn't seem to bother him. Instead, his heart motivation meant he didn't let the unknown deter him from what he had already learned. Instead, he reached forward and pressed on. 

Philippians continues with precious instructions on how to do that.

Be of the same mind - the mind of Christ.

Rejoice.

Live in moderation.

Don't fret and worry.

Pray, and let God calm your heart.

Think about the right things - good things.

And then, do. Do what you know the Bible teaches, and there is the promise of God's peace in your life.

Philippians is full of more instructions on dealing with our achy-breaky hearts. And in every case, you will never find a command to figure things out, to be superficial or pretentious in how you live. Instead, there is an openness about our human frailty, the fickleness of our puny hearts, and a solid admonition to recognize God at work.

1:6 - He began the work; He will complete it.

2:13 - He works according to His will and for His pleasure in our life.

4:13 - He will strengthen and aid us to do all things.

4:19 - And He will supply all our needs.

Trying to figure everything out is a waste of effort; acting like we have it all together or are above human frailty reveals the pride in our hearts. I've found it best to bring my achy-breaky heart to the throne of grace and accept the balm of His love and forgiveness. And that is true for each of us.

Maybe those who look like they have it all together have already learned this secret? Perhaps we should too?

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Week Forty- Seven - Thank God for Pie

It's Thanksgiving week! Time for turkey, pie, and all the trimmings. As I write, my turkeys are cooked, and today I will spend baking in anticipation of a big potluck meal with colleagues tomorrow. So what is it about getting ready for a special celebration that fills the heart with such joy?

I look forward to the smells of dishes coming together, warm fellowship, and loads of laughter as we express our thanks for all God has given. 

Like most all my Thanksgivings for the past many years, the only blood relatives around the table will be those washed by the blood of the Lamb as my children and extended family are across the ocean. But that doesn't detract from the beauty of the day or the thankfulness in my heart. One taste of the pumpkin pie, and I am transported back to memories of years of family gatherings and the warmth of grandma's kitchen.

I don't know what your Thanksgiving day will entail, but I pray you make time to stop and praise the Lord for the beautiful things He places in your life. Don't let the struggles around you remove the joy of God's blessings or cause you to fail to take count. 

Here's a recipe for the day - 

Romans 13:15, "Now the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Fill your pie with joy, peace, hope, and faith, and make sure it is deep dish!

Then, 2 Corinthians 4:15 says, "that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God." Let your pie be generous in grace, full of flavor, and thanksgiving so God gets the glory.

Then, as you tuck into a slice of pumpkin pie or a slither of pecan, pause to thank God for pie! It holds a flavor like no other.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Week Forty-Six - Chasing Your Problems Around

My friend, Charlotte, shared a devotion on prayer with me, and I want to share a portion with you. It has some amazing thoughts! The devotion is from The Gift of Self by Heather Ward.

She writes, "Prayer is primarily something God does in me, it is allowing God to flow through me. My part is to make myself available for this, to become consciously with, and in, the God who is always with and in, me. Consequently, however much I may feel myself to be the initiator I am, in fact, always responding to a pressure, a hint, an invitation from him. 

Her wording might seem a bit heavy, but I hope you saw some of the thoughts I noticed. I was caught by her idea that we are not the initiators of prayer; God is. Our desire or motivation to pray is a calling of God, a wooing of the Spirit, and an invitation for heavenly fellowship. Isn't that beautiful?

Our ego may desire us to be on equal terms with the Lord, determining the time and place for the meeting, but it is not so. The dethronement of ego begins with this recognition, and continues when we grasp its corollary, that prayer is to make us available to God and not the other way round. 

This idea of the dethronement of ego captured my attention. Do I come to God trying to call Him into my life instead of making myself available to Him? Are my prayers egotistical? Am I bossing God around instead of humbly seeking His favor? Good questions.

Prayer easily becomes need-centred, consolation-centred, experience-centred: we pray for what God does for us, for the strength he gives us, for the satisfaction of feeling with him. 

These thoughts give us a way to evaluate our prayers. Are they extra heavy on the needy part, always looking for personal comfort, or looking for an emotional experience? Am I a taker? Or a giver coming with a heart of gratitude and praise?

All too often we feel that our prayer is totally for God because we have brought all our trouble to him, acknowledging our need, but then praying from within our distress becomes immersion in it. We do not leave our problems with him but continue to chase them round in his presence. Gradually attention has been diverted from God in himself towards our ego, with God as its helper."

And the last section made me laugh when she spoke of failing to leave our problems with the Lord and chasing them around in His presence. I have to hold my hand up in guilt there. I know there are times when my prayers are exactly like that. I chase my problems around looking for solutions while I tell God what I want to happen, what I fear, and what I think He should do. Thankfully, He still listens and speaks directly to my heart, even when my prayers aren't all they should be.

I hope these thoughts challenge you as much as they challenged me. Maybe next time we come to prayer we will come in recognition of His calling and lay ourselves before Him iinstead of chasing our problems around in His presence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Week Forty-Five - God's Giants

Nope, I'm not thinking of Goliath. Instead, I'm thinking of a quote by Hudson Taylor, who said, "All God's giants have been weak men who did great things because they reckoned on God's power and presence to be with them." 

When I think about his statement, I question. God's giants? Is that what we're after? To be head and shoulders above everyone else? And great things? Is that why we serve? To see the big stuff?

I know the pressure of these ideas. Who is the best? Who does the most? Who is most influential? But honestly, that is not wise. If we serve the Lord with this goal or make this the estimation of our life, we have missed God's ideal.

Granted, God has used some people in more extraordinary ways or with more notoriety, but that doesn't detract from the value of the individual who stays at their post with no recognition or recorded exploit. You won't find God saying that only His most prestigious servants matter or that we should strive to become some self-made spiritual giant to prove our worth.

No. God makes it plain in Micah 6:8 that God is looking for those who do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

There's a great book by J.R. Vassar called Glory Hunger. His premise is that man constantly searches for the glory he lost in the garden. Sin took man's glory away. Pride, power, and prestige make him feel better, but underneath he is constantly searching to regain what was lost.

How sad when this search enters the realm of ministry. Christians vying for positions or trying to be heard above others does not bring glory to God. It doesn't make us spiritual giants. Instead, it shows how genuinely selfish and sinful we are.

Why do I say that? Because throughout the Word, we are reminded that we are laborers together, brothers and sisters, and the body of Christ with every part having value. When we stand before God, none of the stuff we strive for will matter. He will cast all our works into the fire to be tried, and only the ones of genuine worth will remain. That will be true whether we are the Apostle Paul or Naaman's wife's maid.

I don't want to detract from Hudson Taylor's thought, but maybe it might read better this way, "All God's servants have been weak individuals who obeyed by faith and saw God work because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them." To me, this puts the glory back on God. It reminds me that God gives the increase. My part is to keep myself in the love of God (Jude 24), remain faithful, and point others to Christ. God will do the rest.


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Week Forty-Four - Frustration


Do you ever grow so frustrated that you want to give up on people? I've been there. They ask for advice, and then ignore it. They have the same repeated problem and fail to initiate change, then wonder why things don't work out. They seem to enjoy their misery and look for someone else to blame instead of taking personal responsibility. It can be very wearying.

Malachi 2:17 reads, "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words." So even God grows weary with disobedience, obstinacy, and half-hearted cries for help.

And that's not all. Moses grew weary of the children of Israel, and God did too! Samuel grew tired of the sin of Israel and the inconsistency of Saul. He had warned them of the dangers of appointing a king. But they wanted to be like everyone else and insisted they were willing to pay the price. And when it didn't work out as they had hoped, they turned back to Samuel, wanting him to continue ministering to them. Samuel answered, "As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way" (1 Samuel 12:23).

Samuel knew, as Jesus knew, that God sends his servants to the sick, not the healthy. (Matthew 9:12). He did not take the people's response as a rejection of him but as an indication of their walk with God. Samuel was serving God, not the Israelites. He could do nothing else when God commanded him to minister to them, despite their resistance to his message.

I learned this truth years ago. I am to keep my eyes on the Lord. My job is to obey Him with my life. I serve Him. I do not serve people except as God directs. And even then, my service is to be done as unto the Lord. When I get my eyes on the people, I grow discouraged. I get frustrated. But when I serve with my eyes on the Lord, He gives the blessing. He gives the increase, and I find peace in that truth. It gives me the motivation to continue serving.

Remember people sometimes will not respond to the message God sends through you. Don't become discouraged; it reflects their relationship with God. You are God's servant. If Jesus spent His time with the spiritually needy, you can expect Him to ask you to do the same. Don't lose your patience with God's people. Use a measure of grace and keep in mind that God loves them as much as He loves you.


Adapted from Blackaby, Experiencing God

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Week Forty-Three - Revenge

Sometimes I read things that I feel I must share with you just as they come. Henry Blackaby's devotion on revenge is one of those things. 

He says,

"One of the hardest areas in which to trust God is in the matter of justice. When we perceive an injustice, we want to see the guilty party punished. We want justice to prevail, especially if we are the victim. We become impatient if we are not avenged quickly. Yet God warns us that vengeance is not our prerogative. We are to desire justice, but we are not to seek vengeance (Micah 6:8). When someone offends us, our responsibility is to respond to the offense with forgiveness (Matthew 5:44). God takes the responsibility to see that justice is done. God loves people too much to allow sin to go unchecked."

This sense of demanding justice when offended seems totally out of control today. People push and push using cancel culture and intimidation to get a sense of justice. But when we remember that this is God's call, His job, we must recognize that only He can get the right level and attitude toward justice. He is just. We are not. We are always influenced by our prejudices.

"Peter claimed that God is not slow about His promises to us, but He is patent and long-suffering before He brings about judgment (2 Peter 3:9). Yet ultimately, God has prepared for absolute justice. There will be no sin committed that He will leave unpunished. Either the punishment will fall on His Son, or it will be charged against the sinner, but everyone will ultimately give an account for everything they have done (2 Corinthians 5:10)."

When my husband and I read this devotion together, it prompted many conversations about one sentence in particular. "Either the punishment will fall on His Son, or it will be charged against the sinner, but everyone will ultimately give an account for everything they have done." How true and how beautiful!

Our sin demands an account. It must be taken care of. Either our sin will be forgiven by the death of Christ on the cross, or we will face God without the covering of Christ's forgiveness - we will answer for ourselves. Friend, you cannot answer for your sin except by death. You cannot pay for your sin though you spend an eternity in hell. But there is always the option of accepting the price already paid - the death of God's Son for your sin.

"God is absolutely just, and only He can ensure that justice is fully carried out. If we are impatient and seek revenge, we presume that we are wiser than God, and we reveal a blatant lack of trust that God will do the right thing. Only by trusting God's sovereign wisdom will we be free from our anger and preoccupation toward those who have committed evil. If we refuse to trust God's justice, we become enslaved to bitterness and anger. We must guard our hearts and trust God to exercise His judgment against those who oppose Him."

Dear friend, be careful how much you allow the injustices of life to push you deeper into bitterness or anger. Instead, guard your heart and trust Him. Vengeance is His, and He promises to make all things right in the end. There will be perfect justice for all.

So, let's follow Jesus' example. Forgive. Wait on God. Seek peace and pursue it. And commit the keeping of our souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19)


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Week Forty-Two - Are You Ready?

Are you ready? That's a good question.
Ready for what? That's another good question.

In my devotion today, Henry Blackaby stated, "There is no substitute for spiritual preparation." If we are going to be equipped for unforeseen crises or opportunities, we need to be prepared. We will be vulnerable to life's unexpected events if we are unprepared.

The parable of the Ten Virgins is a perfect example. All ten were waiting for the bridegroom's arrival, but only five came prepared for the wait to be longer than anticipated. They had extra oil. But the other five were ill-prepared. So when their oil ran out, they had to go get more. And while they were away, the bridegroom came, and they missed out on the celebration.

Blackaby writes, "If you are spiritually prepared when a crisis comes, you will not have to try to develop instantly the quality of relationship with Christ that can sustain you. If you suddenly have an opportunity to share your faith with an unbeliever, you will be equipped to do so. If you enter a time of worship spiritually prepared you will not miss an encounter with God. If you are spiritually filled when you meet a person in sorrow, you will have much to offer. If you have established safeguards in your life in advance, you will not give in to temptation. Christians lose many opportunities to experience God's activity because they have not devoted enough time to their relationship with God."

It has been my experience that God often prepares my heart and mind long before a crisis arrives, and when it comes, I already have the peace of God and the comfort of His Spirit assuring me of His hand. Some might call it intuition, but I know it is God's work preparing me for what I am about to face. 

But this preparation doesn't come by wishing or hoping, it is the fruit of time with God, time in His Word, and a heart yielded to His will in all things, come what may. So are you ready? I hope so.

But there is another event for which we need all be ready, and that is the imminent calling away of the saints of God - the rapture. Dear friend, the Bible teaches that the trumpet of God will sound, and those who know Christ will be called away from this earth in a split second and ushered into the celebrations at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Preparation for this event must be done today. After that, there will not be a second chance, no time to go get more oil or make an appeal. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," the Bible says, "at the last trump...we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). Changed into what? Into our immortal bodies, ready to live in heaven. Are you ready?

Spiritual preparation is imperative both for living on this earth and for living in heaven. So I hope you have your lamp all trimmed and bright. I’m ready. Are you?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Week Forty-One - Do Something Good Today

 

I'm one of those people whose first thought each morning is what I need to accomplish. Those things form my prayers and plans even before I push back the covers.

Sometimes I wonder how it will all get done, and feel apprehensive about how things will work out, but I usually hear God say, "That's okay. That's not your job. Just get up and get started." 

There's an old song that goes,

Each day I'll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need.
My time on earth is but a span,
And so I'll do the best I can.

And Scripture is replete with similar admonitions.

Micah 6:8 tells me what to accomplish each day. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

Luke 10:27 points me to the main goal. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself."

Ephesians 4:1-3 tells me how to get there. "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

As I look at my fellow travelers, it isn't hard to see many who are struggling with hurts and disappointments. Some face heavy heart-wrenching trials, while others feel lonely and isolated. God placed you and me as encouragers for them. We are to be salt and light. By the way we live and the words we say, we should be pointing them to hope in Christ.

Our time on this earth is but a span - a set and unknown time limit - so while we are here, we need to follow our Lord's example and go about doing good. Help others, pray, go to church, sing, praise, give, and show Christ in your everyday life by kind words and acts, speaking of Him, planting seed, and watering the tender vines. Let your faith and hope permeate those around you. Be influential by doing what the Lord called you to do - the good works for which you were designed. Ephesians 2:8-10

Let me leave you with the lyrics of another really old song by Carrie Breck.

Look all around you, find someone in need, Help somebody today!
Tho' it be little, a neighborly deed, Help somebody today!

Many are waiting a kind, loving word, Help somebody today!
You have a message, O let it be heard, Help somebody today!

Many have burdens too heavy to bear, Help somebody today!
Grief is the portion of some everywhere, Help somebody today!

Some are discouraged and weary in heart, Help somebody today!
Someone the journey to heaven should start, Help somebody today!

Help somebody today,
Somebody along life's way;
Let sorrow be ended, the friendless befriended,
Oh, help somebody today!

So, what will you do today?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Week Forty - Be a Gleaner

It is Saturday morning, and I've just returned from a four-day retreat in the Derbyshire Dales with a precious and hilarious group of missionary women. We had a great time chatting, eating, laughing, shopping, and gathering around the Word of God. 

As I took time this morning to reflect on those days and gather my thoughts, my mind went back to when I was a young missionary and the great times of fellowship I shared with my more mature colleagues. Unfortunately, all of them are gone now. They are either with the Lord or serving in other places, but I will never forget their significant influence and encouragement to me. I gleaned so much from them.

To be a gleaner means you purposefully pick things up along the way. A basic definition is a person who gathers small amounts of grain or other produce left behind by regular harvesters. And that's enough to get my thoughts going.

What am I picking up from those ahead of me? Am I purposefully picking up good things or thoughtlessly trampling over them? Do I have a place to store my little kernels, or do I fail to consider their value? Am I too proud to bend over and pick up the fruit? What am I leaving behind for others?

The book of Titus talks about the older teaching the younger holy behavior, proper speech, temperance, marriage, child-rearing, discretion, and obedience. As we talked at the retreat about these and other things concerning ministry, I pray the younger ones grabbed hold of the precious grains of promise. I hope they gleaned from the role models ahead of them who are trying to leave handfuls on purpose.

But I also got to thinking about the things I glean from the younger women. First, I love their zeal and enthusiasm. Second, I enjoy watching God working in their lives and ministries, and I listen intently as they share things they are learning and struggles they are facing. These things excite and challenge me, and I love rubbing shoulders with my sisters in service.

Here's another thing about gleaning. We can take the opportunity to learn and grow by purposefully picking up what God leaves for us, or we can stubbornly eat our own stale grain. We can humble ourselves to take instruction or foolishly cast it away. The choice is ours.

Friend, I'd much rather be out there in the harvest influencing lives than cooped up in the barn. I'd rather pick up good advice and sound instruction that will keep me from starving in the brutal winter of trials. How about you?

So, let's leave good stuff for others to pick up as we rub shoulders with the other gleaners. And let's be gleaners drawing strength from our fellow laborers as we allow the Lord to double our portion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Week Thirty-Nine - Prayer Doesn't Give You Spiritual Power

My husband and I enjoy using the same devotion book. Each year we choose a new one and find that reading the same thoughts each morning gives us something to talk about. This year, we have been using Henry Blackaby's book, Experiencing God Day by Day.

One of his devotions on prayer caught my imagination when I read this statement, "Prayer does not give you spiritual power."

What? Prayer does not give you spiritual power? But prayer is so powerful. Elijah used it to call fire from heaven. Hezekiah prayed, and God extended his life. Throughout the Bible, we see prayer as a precursor for significant events. So what does Blackaby mean by "prayer does not give you spiritual power?"

He said, "Prayer aligns your life with God so that He chooses to demonstrate His power through you."

Prayer aligns your life?

I got to thinking about the times when my life was not aligned with God, when I was fearful, uncertain, or worried. Prayer definitely brought me back to a better perspective. I know prayer removed my fears and concerns, causing me to put my focus back on God's ability.

Then, Blackaby said, "The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to change your circumstances but to prepare you to be involved in God's activity. The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost did not induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Prayer brought them to a place where they were ready to participate in the mighty work God had already planned."

Wow! "The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost did not induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them."

How many times have we been guilty of thinking we could pray hard enough to make things happen? Have we ever thought that we could "induce" the Spirit of God to act by the strength of our prayers? That seems rather presumptuous, doesn't it? That we could pray and make God do stuff?

Blackaby explains that prayer actually brings us, as he said, into alignment with God. Prayer changes us and helps us see and cooperate with God's already designed outcome. It chops away the hindrances and questions, solidifying our faith in God.

Blackaby then recounts the events that led to the Pentecost. Jesus had told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem, and they obeyed, waiting for God's next instruction. While they waited, we read of them using prayer to discern the addition of Matthias as the new apostle. When we come to Pentecost in chapter 2 of Acts, we see they are "all with one accord in one place." "Prayer," Blackaby says, "prepared the disciples for their obedient response."

As I thought more about that first statement: "Prayer does not give you spiritual power," I realized that prayer did not cause Pentecost. It was a mighty act of God. But God used prayer to prepare the disciples for what was about to happen and through prayer, they were guided into God's will.

Blackaby is right. Prayer doesn't give me some mystical power, but God uses it to prepare my heart for what He is about to do. Prayer changes my outlook, installs faith and willingness, and gives me hope and expectation to look for God's mighty acts in my life.

How about you? Are you trying to pray hard enough to make things happen? Do you believe your prayer aren't answered because you haven't prayed with enough faith? Or can you see, as I did, that prayer aligns us with God's plan? How much more power would be in our prayer life if we began seeing it as preparation for our obedient response?


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Week Thirty-Eight - Wearing Your Feelings on Your Sleeve


The other day I came across this shared post. Have a read and see if you have experienced something similar.

"Last couple days, the devil hit me where it hurts - rejection. I'm sharing and making myself super vulnerable here because I want you to see how he operates.

Whether it be looking for a response from several people and not being able to get a hold of anyone, unintentionally interrupting someone and being told to stop, being told by people they would have to call me back, the devil used these experiences as evidence for his accusation - see, no one wants you around.

But in all of these cases, people's actions aren't personal. In fact, most had absolutely nothing to do with me. But my flesh and the devil worked in unison to make it all about me.

So, rather than just letting the devil continue to knock me upside the head, I was like, "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't it the devil's plan to isolate me? Isn't it his plot to cause division and strife? To make me feel unwanted, rejected, and disgusted by my mere existence and kill me by my own hands?"

Yep.

So I picked up my sword (the Word of God) and fought back. I got angry at the devil - not at these innocent people.

I said, "I cast you out, spirit of offense and rejection, in Jesus' name. I belong in the name of Jesus, and no weapon formed against me shall prosper."

And he fled.

That's what you have to do. You must take every thought captive that does not align with the Word and submit it to Christ. Sometimes you have to get violent in the spirit. Once you realize the war isn't with other people, it is with the rulers of darkness and your flesh, you will be so powerful."

by Paige DeRogatis

As I read her post, I remembered times when my feelings had been unintentionally hurt by the words or actions of others. I was wearing my feelings on my sleeve instead of using wisdom and discernment. There were even times when the enemy got the advantage, and I found myself whimpering in a corner and complaining instead of standing in God's truth.

Let's take hold of the lesson here. We must be vigilant and aware of the enemy's tactics, dressed in our spiritual armor and standing in truth, so he has no chance for victory. So if you are wearing your feelings on your sleeve, maybe it's time to shake them off!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Week Thirty-Seven - With the Passing of Our Queen

Elizabeth George wrote, "Nothing has just randomly happened to put you where you are. God has a plan in it all."

We can be sure, and scripture affirms, that God places people where He wants them according to His plan. So when that first little girl was born to King George VI, her life was already destined for the throne. And, she came to leadership very early, but that was also by God's hand.

Before you wag your tongue or have a negative thought, remember that God places everyone in position, family, and circumstance according to His design. You are who you are and where you are by God's plan, and so was she.

Since her passing, television has been full of documentaries and commentaries on her life. And with each one, thankfulness has been expressed for how she carried out her role. She has been an excellent example of accepting responsibility and fulfilling duty.

When Elizabeth George wrote, she was not thinking of the Queen, but as I looked back at some notes I had taken, I see how these four things she advised aptly apply. If we accept that nothing just randomly puts us where we are, but God has a plan, we will recognize that the good times and the bad go together. Nothing is outside His control. Our part is to live out what God places before us so His name is glorified. Here are Elizabeth George's four points.

First, we must be willing to acknowledge God's hand. He is the one who designs and controls our lives. We were made by Him and created on purpose. We are not here by chance. And God works all things together for our good and for His purpose.

Then, we must work within what God has given us. She calls it blooming. We bloom where we are planted as we develop our lives using our God-given talents, abilities, and resources. The goal is to make a good life and to be a benefit to those around us. We are to make things better where we are. We certainly cannot make things better where we are not, so wishing for a different set of circumstances or to be someone different is a waste of energy. Instead, we are wisest to receive what God has given us and do our best. 

I have found that when I accept who I am and content myself that I am perfectly designed for what God wants to accomplish in my life, I am more thankful, productive, and creative. We can certainly see these qualities in the late Queen. She accepted her God-given role and used her entire life to fulfill it, saying, "I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

As Christians, we are not left alone to work this all out. We have the promises of God to claim, scripture for directives, and the Spirit of God to point us to the truth. Queen Elizabeth spoke many times about her faith and reliance upon God. We cannot judge her heart, but her actions reveal a woman of faith.

Finally, Elizabeth George says we should do something useful. We are not here to simply fill space or be takers. We are here to give, to serve God and others. The first two commandments teach us precisely that. Love God, and love others. 

Dear friend, with the passing of our Queen, we would all do well to examine our own lives. Do we understand God placed us here for a purpose? Do we make it our life's goal to improve things around us, to make life better? Are we blooming where we are planted? Are we claiming the promises of God and relying on Him in all we do? And are we actively loving and serving God. Finally, are we genuinely loving others?

A - Acknowledge God's Hand
B - Bloom where you are.
C - Claim and concentrate on the promises of God
D - Do something useful - serve God and others


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Week Thirty-Six - Dud Days


Ever had a dud day? A day when you feel totally blah? There is no apparent reason; nothing is wrong, but nothing is right. You just don't care. Nothing makes sense, and you're not bothered to think anything through? When if you do think, it turns to worry, frustration and fear, so distractions are a better option. When prayer feels like silence and nothing holds any joy.

I'd imagine we have all been there at one time or another. I find these days most annoying because I don't seem to accomplish much. I usually go to bed hoping the next day will hold brighter prospects. I've also learned a few other things about dud days.

First, they are a gift from God. "Really?" you might say. "How can a dud day be a gift?" 

Well, it is a gift of a day without controversy or drama. It is a day with no demands or expectations. It is a day to sit on the shelf and rejuvenate. It is a day that causes you to appreciate other days. There are lots of ways to look at it as a gift. And looking at it this way is much healthier than stomping or pouting your way through.

Having said that, I've also learned that my attitude on dud days is essential. When I face a dud day, I can still choose to hope in God, pray, believe, do right, rest, and wait. I know I am still loved and can be thankful for the downtime. It's even an excellent opportunity to be looking for God's hand. He's up to something and has probably put me on hold until He is ready for my next assignment or He is preparing me. Nothing is wasted in God's economy, even dud days.

I've not found a place in Scripture that speaks directly to dud days, but I have learned a few principles. Paul says, "my strength is made perfect in weakness...when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). On the dud days, I feel at my weakest, my least worthy and useful, but maybe that is precisely what God wants me to feel, so I will learn to better rely on His strength and not my own.

Another thing I've learned is that those dud days give me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life. I can sit and stare or I can take a good hard look at how I am managing life and what changes I might need to make. With no distractions or demands facing me, I have time to peer through the fog and make a better plan.

And dud days are a great opportunity for reading, cleaning, and creativity. Sort a closet, refresh a wall, finish another chapter. Even a little progress helps you feel better.

And even during dud days, our souls long for God. I think that's why we feel so empty. Or maybe, dud days remind us of the futility of this life. For whatever reason, I believe the psalmist David experienced something similar when he wrote Psalm 42. There are hints throughout the chapter of his emptiness and struggle. But he rested with this thought, "I shall yet praise Him." And we will, too! Dud days are but for a moment. So be thankful, and let your soul rest instead of growing frustrated!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Week Thirty-Five - Don't Believe Everything You Hear


It is hard to sort the lies from the truth these days. It seems to depend on who you choose to listen to and the motivation behind their information. Because I got to overthinking about the war in Ukraine, the raid on Trump's vault, the warnings about considerable increases in energy prices, and who in the world is going to be the next Prime Minister in the UK, I found myself growing concerned and started trying to figure this all out. Well, you know that was a waste of effort! I'm not in charge or responsible for any of those things. I have no power to change them, and my voice would make no difference. Neither would yours! We are just peons, victims of this world's actions. But are we?

I had to get my thinking re-aligned with Scripture. When it comes to war, God said we would experience battles throughout the centuries. Nothing new here. Trump's vault is his business, not mine. Increased energy prices are scary and unpredictable, but these things have always come and gone. God already knows about them. And the next Prime Minister will be by God's design.

Isaiah 40 popped up in my mind. It holds several promises and thoughts that help us when we hear the world's noise. First, verse 4 assures us God will make the crooked places straight and the rough places plain. He will make a path for us. And His word will stand forever (vs. 8).

Then, verses 13 and 14 put before us a serious question. "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counseller that taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?" In other words, who am I to think I could out-figure God or tell Him what to do? I needed to get back into my place.

Then, verses 15 and 17 really caught my attention. "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. The nations before him are as nothing." Wow! What a difference it makes when you get things back into God's perspective.

Chapter 40 finished with more great verses. Verses 28 and 31 read, "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

So, what are we listening to? Proverbs 14:15 gives us this admonition, "The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." 

Do you believe everything you hear? Is it causing a cloud of despair to follow you around? Let's not listen more intently to the news and the world's voice than we do to the eternal, unchanging voice of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Week Thirty-Four - When Troubles Comes

We're going to do something a bit different today. I want us to see how the psalmist David dealt with trouble and hopefully learn a better way to do the same ourselves. So follow along with me in Psalm 77.

Psalm 77:1-4, "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak."

Have you felt this way when trouble came to your door? Did your sore run in the night? That means you were drained of power and wept through the night. You refused to be comforted. No amount of words or prayers seemed to help. Can you see how the psalmist felt? Look at the other words in the verse, overwhelmed, complaining, and unable to speak. He was distraught. I've been there, have you?

Psalm 77:5-9, "I have considered the days of old, the years of the ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah."

The psalmist is trying to figure things out and searching for the answer to his trouble. But notice, he wasn't afraid to ask God hard questions. And, he gave himself a good talking to - he communed with his own heart and made a diligent search. You can look at the questions he posed to God in two ways. Either he is asking with a complaining tone of resignation, or he is declaring the truth and the answer to each question is a resounding"no." God has not forgotten. His promises do not fail. Which way would you be asking those questions? What questions do you put before God when trouble comes your way?

Psalm 77:10-12, "And I said, This is my infirmity but I will remember the years of the right and of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

He readily admits he has a problem, an infirmity. And the next word is critical: but. Even when trouble comes, he chooses a change of focus. Instead of looking at the situation, he turns his attention to God. He decides to remember better times, and places his hope and faith on their return. He chooses to talk about God. Notice he was so distraught in the first four verses that he could not speak, but now that faith has become a part of his thought, he opens up. Do you see the choice he made? Do you understand why?

Psalm 77:13-20, "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the heart trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

At the beginning of the psalm, the psalmist flays around in bed, cries, and refuses comfort. But now, he stands confidently in the greatness of God. Look at all the power displayed by his words. The waters are afraid of God. the lightning (arrow) and the thunder fill the sky, making the earth tremble and shake. He is a good, good Father who redeems and knows what is happening. God becomes the source of his encouragement.

When trouble comes, we need to get this right. Cry if you must, but then turn your hope back on God. Meditate, remember, sing, and follow on by faith.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Week Thirty-Three - Prone to Wander


Number 15:39 reads, "Remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring."

That's an awfully stark warning, isn't it? It makes me question, how many times must the Lord remind us not to "learn the way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2) and that "the way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15)? How can we so easily forget the Lord's benefits and blessings? Why is the allure of the world so powerful? Why are we such forgetful learners and prone so easily to wander away?

In his book, Glory Hunger, J.R. Vassar wrote, "Man is looking for the glory he had in the garden. Thinking any glory will do, he fails to see the glory in Christ applied to his life." Is this why we drift? Because we are looking for our own glory instead of God's? Are we so easily duped into seeking our own hearts and chasing after everything we see that we fail to understand or consider the consequences? Do we discount God's commandments and replace them with our own?

Henry Blackaby broached a similar thought as he wrote of God's relentless love. Using Hosea and his wife, Gomer, as an example, he noted that though she was totally unfaithful, God sent Hosea to buy her back.

Blackaby says, "God's message is clear: when we reject Him and turn our devotion elsewhere, our rejection carries the same pain as an adulterous betrayal. But His love follows us to the depth of our sinfulness until He has reclaimed us. He continues to pursue us." We are His child, and He will not abandon us, even to ourselves.

And can't we be so thankful for that! Grateful that in all our ignorance and half-hearted devotion, we have a God who has not surrendered His beloved and still seeks to draw us back. He still calls, knocks, and waits, ready to forgive.

O Lord, I may not go out to purposely seek the world, but I know a bit about my own heart. It is prone to wander. Like the songwriter wrote, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above."

Thank you, Lord, for the reminders of your love, the promises of the Word, and Your unfailing love that pursues me still.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Week Thirty-Two - There's a Bad Wind Rising

 

Like as the wind fills the sails of a boat, whatever controls us directs our path.

So many Scriptures flood my mind as I read that little sentence encouraging me to consider carefully what wind is blowing through my life. Am I allowing anger to fill my sails? Do I think I have no power to control the wind or change course? Am I like a city without walls, and the wind is blowing everything of value away? Am I yielding to excuses or labels and failing to recognize my responsibility and God's power?

Years ago, God brought a little piece of Scripture to my heart and hammered it into my mind. 1 Corinthians 6:12 reads, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

I can do whatever I want, but not everything is good for me. Not everything is a wise choice. What I choose becomes the wind in my sails. It powers my life and eventually brings me under its power. So, what wind do I want driving my life?

This is the idea of Ephesians 5:17-21. Whatever we are filled with controls us. In this passage, the Lord contrasts being filled with wine or His Spirit.

"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."

Let me show you some other things the Bible says we can be filled with.

We can be filled with sorrow. "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart" (John 14:6).

We can be filled with madness. "And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11).

We can be filled with wrath. "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath" (Luke 4:28).

We can be filled with fear. "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day" (Luke 5:26).

You see, many winds fill our sails, but God directs us to cooperate and submit to the wind of His Spirit and His Word. Why? Because allowing ill winds to have sway leads us to undesired havens. We won't find ourselves in a good place if we allow them to bring us into bondage or run us aground.

Romans 6:14 assures us that "sin shall not have dominion over you." We have power in Christ to shift the wind, change direction, and yield control to God instead of whatever ill wind blows across our path.

The thing is, these ill winds aren't satisfied only to affect you or mess up your day. They carry on to misdirecting your marriage, your parenting, your employment, and life decisions. So, choose wisely which winds you allow to blow through your life. Fill your sails with the Spirit of God. Allow Him to control you, and you will arrive at safe harbor!

Lord, fill my sails with Your Spirit and move my life according to Your course, for Your glory.
Amen


Monday, August 1, 2022

Week Thirty-One - Keep It Simple


Let's think a bit today about the idea of keeping things simple. Simple, instead of complicated. Simple, without contaminants. Simple, easy to see or understand, and not clouded by activity, rhetoric, or crafty designs.

What would your day look like if you made that your goal? Maybe you'd choose something simple to wear, have a nice little breakfast, and an uncomplicated schedule. You probably wouldn't be striving to compete and frustrated at every hindrance. Instead, you'd take things in your stride and end the day satisfied you had done your best. Then, after a nice little supper, you'd pillow your head in peace. No fuss. No complications. 

Our days rarely go like this, though, do they? Instead, we fret over what to wear because of who will be seeing us and the image we want to portray. We skip breakfast and rush out the door because we allow the demands of our lives to be more important than a good start to the day. We hustle and hassle all day long with people, ideas, and pressures arriving home too late to enjoy a good supper, so we grab whatever we can find, flop on the couch a while, and wake up the next morning to the same routine. 

Something needs to change! And it begins with re-evaluating our priorities and changing our habits. Lockdown should have helped us in this area, but instead, it looks like we all bolted to the door and re-entered at the same speed or even felt we were behind. We didn't change anything. We didn't take time to re-evaluate and simplify. No, we just kept going and added more stress. We would have been wiser to evaluate what to add back, what to amend, and what to leave behind. Then we could have come through less complicated, less contaminated, and more focused on God's glory.

I can't tell you how to simplify your life because each life is different. But I can encourage you to pare things down, chop down that to-do list, and give yourself some space. Life is not about how fast you get to the end. It's about enjoying the journey. 

Did you know simplicity and contentment are kin? It's hard to have one without the other. So I challenge you to look at your life. Is it simple? Are you content? What is making it complicated? Can you re-adjust some things? What is causing the insatiable drive? Is it pushing you too far? What would your life look like if it was uncomplicated, without contaminants, easy to look at, and unclouded? Why not choose a couple of areas where you can change things around? 

Let me share some suggestions from Adele Calhoun.

1) Simplify things and activities that keep life convoluted, complicated, and confusing.
2) Prioritize your love of God first.
3) Downsize your possessions.
4) Cut back on shopping and uncontrolled spending.
5) Eat simple foods.
6) Enjoy simple pleasures.
7) Remove distractions and preoccupation. 

What will this do for you?

1) You'll have a less cluttered life.
2) You will become a more precise, more distilled person.
3) You will have more space for loving and serving God and others.
4) You'll begin experiencing freedom from envy and entitlement.
5) You'll learn to stake your identity in God's love, not accumulation and possessions.

Those all sound fine, but the most beautiful thing I find about keeping life simple is time. Extra time to enjoy things God has given me and time to sit quietly with a thankful heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-19c is a great reminder - "It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion...this is the gift of God."

So, dear friend, slow down. Take a breath. Let some things go and enjoy what God has already given you. Make life that simple!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Week Thirty - The Expert Juggler

In one of my videos, I talked about doing a brain dump to regain order in my life. By the way, if you didn't know, I have a YouTube channel, too. Just search my name on YouTube, and they should all come up.

Anyway, I was talking about when life gets scattered and confused, or tough things come, and you can't see your way through. At times like that, it is a good idea to focus only on the most important things, which can sometimes be hard to find. When I'm in that spot, I write down all the balls I am juggling and put them into order - most important, can wait, can get rid of, could complete today, etc. That usually unclutters my thoughts and brings me back on track.

But sometimes, I have trouble getting my balls to stay in the air or fall into a category. They become more like a ball and chain than a juggling ball! Or they won't roll straight or stay where I put them. That's when I am so thankful God is the one directing my steps. He knows where all my balls are and how they are acting.

Do you ever feel like that? To be honest, this usually happens when I create my own problem by taking on too many commitments. But other times, it is a deluge of activities and demands that all land uninvited on my plate. 

But God is the expert juggler. He manages everything. All nature, all our prayers, all kingdoms, and every broken heart are under His commitment. Nothing escapes His attention or is beyond His control. I love to think about that!

Even when my little life seems so scattered and unmanageable, God isn't afraid of it. He isn't intimidated or frustrated. He knows how it will work out. He knows how to keep all the balls juggling! And, He is right beside me.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." Many, many times, I have fallen back on this promise. When life is messed up and confusion sets in, I give the whole thing back to God, and He sorts it out for me. What a relief! He is right there - notwithstanding.

2 Timothy 4:17 says, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." We all need the comfort of that promise because we aren't expert jugglers.

So today, come to Him when life gets messy and you can't see your way forward. Commit your works and let Him sort your thoughts. He will help you see the way forward. He is an expert juggler!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Week Twenty-Nine - It's Too Heavy

Do you have needy people in your life? Do they drain your energy and try your patience? Did you ever think, or do you understand, that God is aware of what they lack and has given you the resources to meet those needs? I hear some of you sighing and feeling the pain of that statement. Sometimes, I also struggle to be the caring and giving individual I hope to be. It can all seem too heavy.

When I feel that way, I remind myself of the truth and pray. God does nothing by accident. Every person that comes through my life is there for a purpose. Iron sharpeneth iron, right? And there are the sandpaper people that God uses to knock off our rough edges. Another quote I copied from somewhere reads, "Look not at the irritation but at the opportunity."

Blackaby says, "When a need surfaces around you, immediately go to the Father and say, "You put me here for a reason. You knew this was going to happen. What did You intend to do through me that would help this person become closer to You?" Recognizing a need in someone's life can be one of the greatest invitations from God you will ever experience. It's easy to become frustrated by the problems of others. They can overwhelm you as you become aware of need after need. Rather than looking at each new problem as one more drain on your time, energy, or finances, ask God why He placed you in this situation. Allow God to help you see beyond the obvious needs of others to the things He wants to accomplish in their lives. Don't miss God's activity because you're reluctant to carry the load of others."

Galatians 6:2 reminds us to carry one another's burdens to fulfill the law of Christ. His law is love. It comes alongside patience, wisdom, perseverance, and a host of other qualities that can only be developed as we exercise them by faith. Pressure causes us to grow when we handle it correctly. That heavy burden just might be God's tool.

Another thing I have found that helps me carry these burdens is to carve out time for them. I set boundaries, but I also designate purposeful amounts of time for these dear ones. I give them my full attention and listen carefully to the Spirit as we talk together so I can point them to hope in Christ. He is the one who will ultimately carry their burden, and they must learn how to find strength in Him.

So, if you have a heavy burden weighing you down today, take it to the Lord, and ask for direction and wisdom. Let me leave you with a couple more thoughts.

F.W. Faber puts a real challenge before us when he says, "Blessed is any weight, however overwhelming, which God has been so good as to fasten with His own hand upon our shoulders."

Scott Wesley Brown wrote - 

There is no problem so big God cannot solve it.
There is no mountain so tall God cannot move it.
There is no storm so dark God cannot calm it.
There is no sorrow so deep He cannot soothe it.
If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders,
I know my brother that He will carry you.

So, dear friend, when it all gets to feeling too heavy, remember, the Lord is carrying you!


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Week Twenty-Eight - Abrupt Changes Ahead

As if two years of the pandemic weren't shocking enough, now our pocketbook is taking a hit at the pump, war is looming, and things around us are growing more and more unstable as we hear talk of blackouts, strikes, and unrest. We are going to have to begin making some necessary adjustments for the abrupt changes ahead.

For the past two weeks, I referred to Mary's response to the angel's announcement - total surrender to the radical turning point in her life. I know none of us relish abrupt changes, and they aren't usually preceded by a visit from an angel, but we, like Mary, are still called upon to trust God even when we don't understand. So how do we do that? What can we learn from Mary?

The first clue is Mary's reference to herself as the handmaid of the Lord. Handmaid is the same word as bondservant. It is defined as "one whose will was not their own but who rather was committed to another. The slave was obligated to perform the master's will without question or delay." How many of us define our Christian attitude as one of bondservant? Do we see ourselves as slaves to Christ? Sadly, I don't think we really grasp the depth of this truth.

"A handmaid would sit silently and watch for hand signals from her mistress (Psalm 123:2). Through these motions, rather than any spoken command, the mistress would communicate her wishes. The handmaiden, having been trained to watch for these signs, would then obey them - without question or hesitation."

Mary, describing herself as a handmaid, says she has cultivated that attitude and mentality and is fine-turned in her attentiveness to God. Here's what Psalm 123:2 says, "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us."  Mary was paying attention. "So, that day in Nazareth when God moved His hand and signaled His will, Mary, His devoted handmaiden, noticed. At the flick of God's finger, she responded."

What a beautiful picture of obedience and acceptance. But that's not all we can see from Mary's response. When you look at Mary's words of praise, you see her working knowledge of God. She knew Him through the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets and had a deep reverence. Hers was not a shallow faith. No, she was well versed and strong, able to yield to the will of God.

That brings us back to Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" This verse is quickly followed by the admonition of Romans 12:1,2 - to be a living sacrifice. Mary certainly yielded her life as a living sacrifice to something she did not understand, and today, we continue drawing strength and encouragement from her willingness.

So, when strange things happen, we need not fall apart (1 Peter 4:12, 13) but cast ourselves upon the Lord (Psalm 27:13, 14). Either God is in control of the changes in our lives, or He is not. Either I trust Him to provide, or I do not. Our response and attitude reveal our faith. Are you His servant? Are you attentive? Would you notice God's hand? Would you see the flick of His finger? Would you obey and accept the abrupt change as Mary did? Or would you kick, cry, and complain? Good questions to consider, I'd say!


Adapted from Loving God with All Your Mind, by Elizabeth George



Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Week Twenty-Seven - Accepting the Unacceptable

Today I want to share with you a portion of something I read in Elizabeth George's book, Loving God with All Your Mind, that made me rethink my attitude toward situations I find hard to accept. She's discussing Romans 11:33, which reads, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" 

She says, "This single verse has taught me how to accept the unacceptable."  Her premise is that since God's ways are past finding out, we must learn to accept the unacceptable by faith and reliance on God's perfect wisdom. She gives us four things we do not have to do and eight things we should be doing when facing the unacceptable.

1. I don't have to understand everything. This brings great freedom. You can divorce yourself from the responsibility of explaining or trying to get to the bottom of every issue when you realize it is not your responsibility to understand everything.

2. I don't need to understand everything. This attitude lets you off the hook and acknowledges that God is in control.

3. I can't understand everything. I am finite and limited, but God - who knows all and understands all - is infinite and limitless. Since God's ways are past finding out, we waste a lot of energy trying to understand things beyond our capability.

4. Why ask "Why?" "Job grabbed on to facts about God. Facts like - God is too kind to do anything cruel, too wise to make a mistake, and too deep to explain Himself. Believing these truths about God should erase all why's." We are better to ask "who?"  Who is beside me? Who will carry me through? Who knows the answer to why? Answers to those questions bring us to worship and surrender!

And the eight things we should do?

1. Know that it's okay. When we entrust ourselves to God, we experience rest and peace. He will take care of us. Times might be rough, but God is still there. It might not look like it will be okay, and that's okay. If we believe in God, we know that Romans 8:28 is valid, and even if things look different in the end, that's okay, too.

2. Let it go. When we pry our grip off the problem, we experience freedom. Grasping and clinging to our idea of how things should work out never brings us peace. Letting go and letting God work things according to the purpose of His will is a much more exciting way to live a life of faith.

3. Let God be God. He is "Un-understandable, unsearchable, inscrutable, inexhaustible, unfathomable, and impossible to grasp." And that's how it should be because He is God!

4. Let go of your right to know. Stop demanding answers. Instead, entrust yourself to Him and let your heart praise His wisdom and sovereignty. Praise is much better!

5. These are God's judgments. "Whatever has happened to you is a part of God's judgments, and they are "unsearchable." You may never understand why, so you must accept the unacceptable by faith.

6. These are God's ways. And His ways are past finding out. Better for you to yield.

7. No vengeance. God will make all things right in the end. Therefore, we are best to defer to Him. 

8. It's not them; it's Him! "One person does not have the power to limit, alter, or change your life. People are only God's instruments, and He uses them to conform you to the image of His dear Son." So pointing out blame is futile. If we are always looking to blame others, we fail to find the peace we need, and we will miss God at work in our lives.

Finally, she writes, "For eight years, I wasted time and emotional energy on a situation that was causing me real distress. But it was a situation God knew all about - and had allowed. Those years were rocky and miserable because I didn't understand that the problem was evidence of God's unsearchable wisdom and knowledge, evidence of His unfathomable judgments and ways.

And today? I still don't understand the reasons why my ongoing problem occurred. But guess what? It no longer matters! You see, now I am free! I can accept that God's ways aren't my ways, and I don't need to understand.

And there's more! Finally, because of all God has taught me through Romans 11:33, I am also determined never to waste my time or emotional energy like that again. Instead, I am intent on remembering that God's judgments and ways are not like mine. I want to defer to His wisdom and knowledge. I want to say, along with Mary, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). I want to accept the unacceptable."

As I look again at her instructions, I can hear the dismay of some of you. Living in the middle of unacceptable circumstances is not a nice place to be. It is challenging and can be soul-destroying, but I have always found these truths Mrs. George puts to us to be the ones I fall back on as well. And you can too. In your unacceptable circumstances, you will always find more peace, freedom, and encouragement in laying yourself open to the Lord than in trying to manage the situation without Him. So let me challenge you today to rethink your situation in light of these thoughts and see if God doesn't meet you there!



Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Week Twenty-Six - Sweet Nothings

Sometimes we just need some assurance, don't we? Like when our father would put his arms around us and calmly say, "Everything will be alright. I won't let anything hurt you." We need that gentle word. In today's crazy world, we need it now more than ever. Well, God knows we need it too. So He listed a bunch of nothings that can calm our hearts. Have a look!

Psalm 139:1-4 Nothing will ever happen to you that God does not already know. He knows everything. Every thought you think, every word you say, and everything that touches your heart and life. He knows all about it.

Psalm 139:4, 16  Nothing will ever happen to you that is a mistake. God orders this world by design. He isn't haphazard. He works all things according to the purpose of His will. (Eph 1:11) And that includes the things that catch us off guard or that we don't understand. He never asks us to understand, but He does ask us to trust Him. He makes no mistake.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  Nothing will ever happen that you cannot handle by God's power and grace. He is your supply. He will strengthen you, give you wisdom, and guide your steps. So you can bring that tough thing to Him for power and grace.

Romans 8:28  Nothing will ever happen to you that will not eventually be used by God for some good purpose in your life. Hard times come to all of us, but the promise of Scripture is still true. God has a purpose in everything, and if we look, we will see Him at work in our situation, and eventually, we will praise Him.

Matthew 28:20  Nothing will ever happen to you without God's presence. He is with us always. Always. Think about that for a while. God is with you when you are sitting in the hospital waiting room. When you are about to go under the surgeon's knife, God is with you. When the phone rings and the message is hurtful to receive, God is there beside you. He never leaves you. Never.

Ephesians 1:11 Nothing will ever happen to you outside God's will and purpose. This verse has been my meditation all year. God started by giving me the word purpose for 2022, and He continues reinforcing it with this verse. "According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." As I think about this verse and apply it to the situations that come along, I relax more into the sovereignty of God and trust Him even when I don't understand. There is purpose in all He does, and since I know He works only from love, and nothing can separate me from His love, I am finding nothing outside His control.

That's a pretty good dose of nothings, isn't it? Do you feel the loving arms of God around you? Do you hear Him whispering words of assurance in your ear? How would your life change if you deeply trusted God's promises? How could God use you to encourage others as they saw your faith in hard times?

Let's use the example of one more nothing. In Luke 1:37, we read, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." This is found in the story of the nativity. I'd venture to say Mary needed all of the promises we read today when faced with the oddest of circumstances. Our reply needs to be the same as hers, "Be it unto me according to thy word."

Take time to go back and ask yourself where you stand on these nothings. You're going to need all of them at some point and time. Remember, they are promises of God, and His promises fail not. 



Adapted from Elizabeth George - Loving God with All Your Mind

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Week Twenty-Five - Bubble, Bubble

A while back, I saw a picture of a huge Christian conference. People had flocked to hear this speaker. I'm not against conferences, but the same day, I read this, "There should never be any dry spells in the Christian life. God said He would be like an artesian well, bubbling forth with a cold, fresh, never-ending supply of water, quenching any thirst, and always satisfying. You don't need to run all over the country trying to find sources of spiritual refreshment. Artesian wells do not run dry. Broken cisterns do." (Blackaby)

It got me thinking about how we feed and water our spiritual lives. Do we look to others to do that? Do we listen to all sorts of podcasts, videos, and stuff, looking for them to quench our thirst? The promise of Christ in John 4:14 is, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

I was forced to examine myself. Do I have that artesian well of life springing up in me? Do I know the freshness of fellowship with my Saviour? Or have I left my well unattended? Is it clogged? What does it reveal about me if I search for refreshment from outside sources instead of looking to the well of water Christ gave me at salvation?

Here's what I came up with. My best resource for encouragement is Christ. Only He can speak directly to my heart. Only He knows everything about me and still works in love toward my soul. My best resource for times of discouragement is Christ. He is the lover of my soul, the lifter up of my head, and the restorer of my hope. My best resource for direction is Christ. His Word promises direction if I will but seek it.

And the Word of God? That is the eternal source of water, the place where the well springs up as the Word comes alive to my heart. Also, the Spirit of God prays alongside me and teaches me more about Christ.

So, while I can benefit from listening to others, God never says they should be my resource. My comfort, encouragement, and spiritual stamina come directly from Him.

It reminded me of something else I once read, "Man's encouragement is gone in a moment. God's remains." I want encouragement that remains. I want that fountain of life that quenches my thirst and satisfies my longings bubbling in my soul and springing up each day.

How about you? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Week Twenty-Four - Short-changed


Are you satisfied with your Christian life? Or are you short-changing yourself by merely reading about God, and missing out on knowing His ways? There is a difference! You can see it when you compare Moses and the children of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 reads, "He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel."

The Israelites saw and witnessed God's miracles - His acts. They walked across the dry Red Sea just as Moses did. They ate the manna and quail from heaven even as Moses. But they were content to receive God's provision without ever knowing God Himself. They short-changed themselves. 

Are we, like the Israelites, content to experience God's activity without ever coming to know Him personally? Are we recipients of answered prayer, yet we have not come to know the Provider? Are we blessed by God's providential care over our families, homes, and jobs, yet satisfied not personally knowing the One from whom the blessings come? Do we benefit from God's protection, yet not acquainted with the Protector?

Such an attitude seems so selfish and dishonoring. It is presumptuous and disregarding. How would we feel if our children treated us the way we treat God? How much are we missing out on if we remain as bystanders snatching crumbs from the table when the Master wants a closer relationship?

Moses saw beyond the provision of God to the person of God. He knew God's ways. He wasn't content with only God's power. If he had been, he could have accepted the presence of an angel and been victorious in his efforts. But Moses wanted to experience more. He wanted to know God Himself, not just see God's activity.

How about you? Are you plodding along oblivious to the fact that the Master of all creation wants to be your friend? Have you come to know God more personally as a result of your experiences with Him? Don't short-change yourself - get to know Him better!

Start with a consistent reading of your Bible, prayer, and humility. These three open your heart’s door. Then, obey what you read, get into church and see what God does from there. 


Adapted from Experienced God Day by Day by Henry Blackaby

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Week Twenty-Three - I'm not Job!


I'm not Job; perfect and upright. I have flaws. I don't have ten children; I have five. I don't have livestock; I don't even have a pet. I don't live near my children. They are thousands of miles away. But each day, I ask God for His hand of love and protection around them. You might catch me wailing, complaining, and experiencing fear and worry when a crisis or trouble comes, but my reaction, like Job's, is my choice. What did Job believe that gave him such faith and spiritual stamina in dire circumstances? Is his secret available to me?

As I continued to read Job's story, I think I found it. The first hint is in Job 1:21, where he says, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Do you see it? Everything belongs to the Lord. Everything! Job knew God's hand brought him wealth, family, and prestige. He humbled himself and blessed the Lord because he knew the cattle on a thousand hills and all of his temporal possessions belonged to the Lord. 

That might sound rather cold, but sometimes the truth is like that. I read on and found a few more sparks of truth that helped me see beauty in the middle of Job's despair.

Not only did Job believe everything belonged to the Lord; he also knew everything came from the Lord. The Lord gives from His abundant supply, and it is His prerogative to administer every facet of His creation. Job knew this truth and settled his heart to accept God's sovereignty in all matters.

In Job 12:9-10, he says, "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." Sounds like Job already knew the truth of Ephesians 1:11, God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

In chapter two, Job's wife and Satan describe him as a man who "holdeth fast his integrity." Do you know what that means? We might think it refers to his manner of life, honesty, or consistency, but the actual definition means his innocence. Job believed he had not done wrong, that his circumstances were not the result of personal failure. His heart was right before God, so he didn't have to question why hard times came. He knew God was at work. There is a lot to be said for knowing your innocence. It means you don't face self-condemnation, and you stand before your enemy with a pure heart. It gives you a place from which you can evaluate the situation with more wisdom and peace.

The revealing thing to me is that though Job did not question these truths, he still grieved. "His grief was very great" (Job 2:13). He was human. I'm glad God didn't hide Job's emotions from us, but I am equally happy God showed us Job's faith. This makes it even more poignant to read Job 13:15 "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." Though Job did not know why hardship had come his way, and he felt the sting of emotions, he rested his hope on truth. Everything belongs to God, and everything comes from God. So Job chose to trust Him.

If we want to come through our trials shining like gold, like Job, we must follow his example. God works everything according to the counsel of His will. Rest yourself there. That's the secret!