Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Week Five - Monday Mornings

Mondays with My Old Pastor by Jose Navajo is a fantastic book about every minister's struggle. I read it several years ago and heartily recommend it. It is the type of book every person in ministry should read and any person looking to understand the pressure on a pastor and learn more about the spiritual life. I came across some quotes I copied out, and they blessed my heart again. Today, I'd like to share some of them with you.

Speaking of prayer, the author writes, "Although I fall down undone at times, I always get up renewed, transformed, victorious . . . and most of all renewed . . . It's on our knees before Him where we find balance."

This has been my experience of prayer as well. Sometimes, I come entirely broken, disheartened, and confused. But the Lord meets me there and revives my spirit. How about you?

Then he says, "I kept on cooking for God, but I had kicked God out of the kitchen." I've done that, too; I've gotten so busy working in ministry that I forgot God. Suddenly, I would notice I was doing things in my own strength. I'd kicked God out. How about you?

Consider this one. "When the axe gets dull, we will have to spend double the energy to obtain half the results." Oh, my! I've been a dull axe. I've found myself expending double the energy and seeing less happen. Have you? It forces me to stop my whirling and return to my spiritual center. No amount of my effort accomplishes more than my faith in God's ability.

Let me quickly list a few more short quotes.

"Serve as you pray and pray as you serve."

"God loves fellowship more than work."

"Don't work for God; work with God."

"Do not make changes in times of storm."

And I could continue on with the wealth of wisdom held in just this one book. If you are in ministry and struggling, get yourself a copy and enjoy the beauty of the story. If you are looking to grow in your spiritual life, glean from the experience speaking and see if God doesn't use this book to encourage your heart.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Week Four - Needing Directions

Before the days of the GPS, there was the MAP which sometimes became an object of contention as we travelled America on deputation. I prefer a straight route, and I'm not afraid to take a shortcut. But my husband prefers main roads, even if it takes a few minutes longer. Needless to say, we had several heated discussions about which direction we should take, and sometimes we got utterly lost.

Now that the GPS directs our path, we have fewer discussions but sometimes still wind up on a crazy route. Anyway, this idea of direction is often a part of Scripture. Let's look at some things God says about direction.

We are to direct our prayers to Him each morning.

     "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up" (Psalm 5:3).

He directs our path.

      "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6).

He directs our hearts. 

       "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ" (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

He directs our steps. 

      "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

I don't know about you, but I need directions. I feel more confident when I see where I am going and what I am supposed to be doing. As I take time each day to commit my day to the Lord through prayer, I invariably find He directs my day. It might not be the path I had in mind, but it is the path God designed. And as I remember that He directs through love, I find my heart more willing to be patient and trusting. I might have my own idea of what the day should bring, but when I allow the Lord to direct my steps, He has a fantastic way of making the day more than I could have imagined.

So, if you need direction, ponder these few verses and ask the Lord to do the directing. He's much more trustworthy than a GPS or MAP!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Week Three - Open Reward

We have sat for hours at football games, wrestling tournaments, and archery competitions, with track season still ahead of us. As our grandchildren succeed in their sports, we see the other side: the dedication and discipline it takes to make it to state competitions and be noticed by college scouts. No young person enters the winner's circle without the private discipline of self-sacrifice and hard work. 
       Christian, if we expect to receive reward, there must also be the unseen discipline of self-sacrifice, not working for our salvation but because of our salvation. The Lord's promise is for those who serve in secret.
       Jesus teaches us, "That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. . . But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . .That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
       We are to do three things secretly: give, pray, and fast. And the promise is of open reward. Matthew Henry writes, "The reward will be open; they have it honorably." Honorably, because they have used discipline and followed the commands of God. Just as the athlete disciplines his body and follows the coach's instruction to a successful outcome, we, too, may be assured of open reward as we do the same.
       And what does an open reward look like? Psalm 23:5 gives us a hint. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." God's favor is a reward. He displays it before our enemies by blessing our lives. Open reward is seeing our prayers answered. Tangible or visible blessings upon our ministry, work, family, or business may also be considered reward. God knows how to reward us; when He does, we recognize it and give Him thanks and praise.
       The reward can seem far away when we are in the secret place. But just as the athlete trains secretly, we must remember God's promise and remain faithful, consistent, and believing. 
       Two verses come to my mind. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10). God sees your secret life. He has not and will not forget you.
       And, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:35 36). The perseverance of the saints has great recompense of reward. Recompense means payment of something due. 
       God will keep His promise of reward to those who follow His commands about their secret life. Never doubt it, Christian. There is a reward for the children of God both here and in eternity.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Week Two - Wide Open

The Lord has given me a rather unusual word for 2024, open. Last year's word was adjust, and we experienced a lot of changes in ministry and housing. God was faithful to help me adjust my attitude and expectations, so I'm sure adjust was the right word for 2023. But, open?

My initial thought was to be open to whatever the Lord has for 2024. And I pray that is my continual attitude. But as I look through Scripture, I see even more.

Deuteronomy 28:12, "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure . . . to bless all the work of thine hand."  What a precious promise. It was given to Israel as a part of God's blessing connected with their obedience. 

"O, Lord, may I be obedient and see your goodness and blessing upon my work for You through 2024. Open to me your good treasure."

Psalm 51:15, "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise." 

Psalm 119:18, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."

Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry."

These are lovely prayers and promises, but the one the Lord keeps reinterating to my heart of Psalm 81:10, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."

It's a funny little verse, but so full of promise. If we will but open up, God will fill us with everything we need. If we open our lives, He will direct us. If we open our hearts, He will give us strength. If we open our minds, He will reveal His wisdom. 


So the question is, Am I going to be open with the Lord in 2024 or preoccupied with my own plans, controlling and demanding, or closed to His will?

It doesn't take much to meditate on what life might bring if I closed my heart and life to the Lord. But if I open myself, the promises abound, and the impossible becomes possible. The negative is flooded out by the positive expectation of God's hand and activity.

As Pastor Mark Formby said, "God is always doing great things, we just have to recognize it and allow it into our lives."

I want to be open and allow God to do great things, don't you? It's going to be exciting and interesting to see how He fills 2024.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Week One - The Tone of Your Life

Somewhere, I read the phrase, the tone of your life. It was noted in my little travel journal, and I thought, "What an apt evaluation at this time of year." Consider these thoughts.

What was the tone of your life in 2023? Was it loud and turbulent? Was it quiet and full of grace? Were you patient or demanding? Were you frustrated or trusting? Looking back, what attitudes, reactions, or decisions could have sounded better?

2023 is finished, but now, this New Year gives us an opportunity to adjust our pitch. If you've ever listened to the William Tell Overture, you'll recall it begins with peaceful music. Then, moves into the galloping section we know so well. Life can also be compared to classical music with a mix of slow and lively sections as we move from year to year or through different seasons of life. But each season, each year, there is a distinct tone.

No doubt you've been through turbulent times. I have as well, but even then, I recognize that the tone of my life remains my choice. How I respond to the circumstances reverberates to those around me and becomes the driving force behind my decisions.

Consider these questions. What is the tone of my life? What do others hear? Do I generate a clear pitch? Is there a constant annoying vibration? Is my tone steady or wavering? 

Here's something fun to consider. In the great symphony of life, what instrument might I be? A drum? A trumpet? A flute? Each instrument has a distinct tone and purpose, and so do you.

As we enter 2024, carve out a space of time to meditate on the tone of your life and do some self-evaluation. How would you want the music of your life to sing to others? What minor keys could be changed? What section of life are you in and what music is it creating? Ask the Lord to give you a new song in this New Year, and let that song be your testimony. 

"And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3).