How Long Has It Been Since You Prayed This Prayer?

Several years ago we had missionaries visit our church. They came to bring a report about what they’d been doing on the mission field where they serve. When asked what specific prayer we could be praying for them they had a quick answer.

You might imagine they asked that we pray for protection. Maybe they wanted us to pray for their finances or the current projects they were working to accomplish. But that’s not what they asked for.

Do you pray on a regular basis?  Do you ask God to meet your needs? There isn’t a thing wrong with that. He tells us to pray for what we need and he will provide for us.

Do you pray for the needs of your friends, your community and the events happening in the world? That’s good too. God tells us to pray for those around us.

While all of those prayers are absolutely in line with what God has said we should pray, there is another prayer that is perhaps even more important than any of those. And actually, if we prayed this prayer, we would be addressing all those other prayer needs at the same time.

What is this prayer? What did these missionaries ask for when the request was for specific, personal prayer? Without hesitation, they asked this.

“Pray that God will use my life.”

Period.  Nothing more.

How long has it been since you simply asked God to use your life? No restrictions, no directions about HOW He chooses to use it. Just the offering of your life for His service.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB)

God, Mocked? Not Going to Happen

I remember occasions when I was a little girl when my brother and I did something we’d been told not to do. We somehow thought we’d get away with it.  Usually, there were consequences assigned to what we’d done. More often than not, the price we paid was being grounded. Sometimes we were told we’d have to spend an entire week of our summer inside instead of playing outside with our friends.  We were never happy about being caught and having this sentence passed down.

But we knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Our parents were pretty predictable in the way this went. We would be grounded, told we wouldn’t be outside for a whole week. But after about 2 days we somehow found favor and were miraculously released from our sentence early. Now you could call that inconsistent parenting or you could look at it as an example of grace and mercy. But the fact was, we had come to expect to be let off the hook early. In a sense, we were mocking our parents’ authority.

Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” While God is a God of mercy and His grace is amazing, He is also a just God who means what He says.

Mocking God is no small matter. We see many examples of scoffers in the world. Sometimes I read a headline in the news about someone spouting off toward God and I just cringe knowing that God will not ignore such actions.

But what of us? What of God’s children? Are we still in danger of becoming mockers? Or is it just the ungodly who wear that label? God warns us that their poison is contagious, for we are told not even to sit with them.

 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, – Psalm 1:1

As with my disregard for my parents’ rules as a child with no real fear of the consequences, perhaps we can get easily deceived into believing that we can expect God’s mercy no matter what we do and He will always rescue us from the consequences. But that is not the case.  Someday we will all stand before God.

Jesus calls us out when he says in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Is this any different than being a mocker?  God knows our hearts, we are only deceiving ourselves.

 

 

Who Are You Allowing to Steal Your Joy?

I overheard a woman in a store complaining that someone else had done something that “ruined her day.”  That’s actually a pretty common thing for people to say these days.

So I have to ask myself, why is it that we allow other people to have so much power over us?  Allowing someone’s actions to have the ability to “ruin our day” is giving them way too much power.

We all have difficult people in our lives. We all have the same opportunity to choose how we will respond to them. It could be a neighbor, a coworker or even a family member who seems to always say the thing that pushes your buttons.  But how you respond is always your choice. No matter how much frustration they cause, no one has the power to control your response. YOU are the only one with that ability.

So who is the thief in your life?  If you named a particular person I have to tell you that you are mistaken. The real thief isn’t a person at all.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

And 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So you see, that situation that upset the woman I heard in the store was actually a trap. A trap that she fell into by her own choice. We have an enemy but it isn’t that person you struggle to get along with. It isn’t the things other people say or do that we should be concerned about.  There is an enemy and he has a plan. Our job is to be watchful and not take the bait.

So again I ask you, who are you allowing to steal your joy?

 

 

God’s Works Last Forever

There is so much truth in the book of Ecclesiastes. If we could remember just how brief this life is and try to pay more attention to the eternal consequences of our actions we would be so much better off. But of course, we don’t.  Instead, we tend to live for the moment and when it’s all so unsatisfying we wonder why. Then when we read something like Ecclesiastes we can become discouraged and be tempted to conclude “what’s the point?” just as Solomon did.

 That’s when it’s good to remember a few of the specific verses in the book that give us hope.

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is a gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.” Eccl 3:12-14

God is in complete control! He will see it through until the end, and best of all? If we persevere we will receive the blessing.

Eccl 7:8 clearly reminds us, The end is better than the beginning!”

 

Who Can You Trust?

Have you ever had an experience like this?

Someone you trust promises they will do a specific thing. You believe them because you trust them. Then time moves on and what they said they would do doesn’t happen.  You begin to doubt their word. If you let it go further, you begin to doubt their character. You start asking questions like, “will they ever come through with their promise?” And maybe you even start second guessing whether they even care about you. Maybe you aren’t important to them after all. Maybe they aren’t even who you ever believed them to be.

Not many of us actually go to this extreme in our thought process but you can see how it could go even further than what I described. We have to admit that we DO allow our expectations of what people will or won’t do go off in the wrong direction sometimes.

Perhaps after you get all bent out of shape because you decide the person must not love you anymore and therefore never intends to fulfill their promises to you, they suddenly come through and you feel ridiculous about what you were thinking. It sounds like something out of a movie where the wife is completely convinced that her husband has been cheating on her because he’s late getting home. When he walks in the door to find a hysterical wife, he says he’s stopped to pick up flowers for her.  She feels ridiculous for worrying needlessly.

It all sounds comical but isn’t that what we do to God all the time?  When we ask Him for something we need and He makes us wait, we get impatient. Then we start wondering if He even heard us. Then if we aren’t careful we can begin to doubt that He even loves us. We allow doubt to creep in and cloud our thinking.

My pastor once said, ” Why do we believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs?”  That’s a great question. Why is it so easy to allow doubt to come in when we are waiting on God to answer our prayers?

Doubt was introduced in the Garden when the serpent said to Eve, “Indeed, has God said…?”  If we allow doubt to guide our thinking we will surely lose the battle.

So when we pray and we are waiting for God to answer, what do we do?  We’ve all heard the advice to “stand on God’s promises” but what does that mean?  It means making a decision to believe God is who He says He is. If His character is trustworthy then what He says is also to be trusted.  You will find His promises in His Word. He has given them to us in writing so there can be no misunderstanding.

Now when the devil comes and says, “indeed, did God say?”  we can go straight to God’s word and find out exactly what He said.

When the devil tempted Jesus to doubt God, Jesus went right to the word and quoted it back to the devil.

If it worked for Jesus it will work for us.  Try it.

 

We wait in hope for the Lord;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,

even as we put our hope in you. – Psalm 33: 20-22

Seeds and Fire Ants

A while back, we drove across the  Sunshine Skyway Bridge between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. 174 feet above the water. I’ve been over that bridge many times but it’s still breathtaking.  A huge tanker was going under the bridge just as we were going over. I wished we could just stop and watch for a while but there’s no stopping on the bridge! I wonder how many people going over that bridge were miles away in their thoughts and didn’t even notice the spectacular view.

After crossing the bridge, we drove for a few more minutes and arrived at our destination, Dooley Groves.  We were on a mission to pick Honeybell tangelos.  When it was our turn to go out to the grove, the guide gave us baskets and some specific instructions. The most important being, “watch out for fire ants.”  The lanes between the trees were filled with fire ant hills and stepping on one would cause the ants to attack the closest foot or leg.  Several times we had to quickly brush ants from the pants and shoes of one of us who, focused on the bright orange fruit, neglected to watch where we were walking. Fortunately, there were no serious bites to contend with.

We picked enough to fill our baskets and headed back across the bridge.  We were eager to taste the fruits of our labors which we had been thinking about all the way home.  After peeling a softball-sized fruit, I had juice running down my arms.  I’m sure I’ve never eaten an orange so close to harvest before. But as I ate, I realized that it would require some concentration to fully enjoy this treat. If I didn’t pay attention, I could break a tooth.  LOTS of seeds–I found four in just one segment.  I took my time and savored the sweet flavor, but I was careful!

Afterwards I thought, could we have just gone to the grocery store and bought oranges (without seeds)  with much less hassle?  Of course. But the experience and the waiting and the effort it took to eat this delicious fruit made it even more special.  And the memories we made in the process will outlast the sweet flavor of the fruit.

I think sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our calendar or our to-do list that we miss the blessings God has for us if we’ll slow down and appreciate the moment. In a lot of ways, I believe God purposely puts fire ants and seeds in our path to cause us to slow down and pay attention.

Perhaps today you can look at the things in your path that seem like a hassle and think about why God may have put them there.  It might just be that a sweet blessing is there waiting for you to notice.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.Psalm 34:8

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.Psalm 31:19

Who Determines Our Worth?

When was the last time you felt foolish… or embarrassed… or humiliated? Pick one. It probably hasn’t been that long ago. You may have felt shame as well.

All those labels try to attach themselves to us when we’ve done something, or been blamed for something that threatens our self-image.  Our self-esteem: something the world works very hard to build up and then tear down over and over.

You constantly hear the concept of self-esteem thrown around. “We need to build our child’s self-esteem.” Doesn’t that actually mean that we are trying to make our child see his identity as something he must maintain by himself?

This is never what the Father intended. We aren’t meant to have to work so hard to keep up an image of who we think we should be.  But back to those words again… embarrassed, humiliated, foolish… aren’t those just words that describe our feelings when our carefully designed self-image is threatened?

If we knew who we really were, would we be inclined to be so concerned about our image? If we recognized that we are heirs to the King would we be as sensitive about what people think? If we constantly evaluate life through the lens of self-esteem and reputation we miss the point.  Nothing… nothing we could ever say or do will make us more God’s child or less God’s child.

Our identity is secure. We are who HE says we are. The Father has determined our value and nothing can change it.  We are His and He determined that we were worth His Son’s blood. Perhaps we don’t need as much SELF-esteem as we think. We certainly don’t need to feel shame that we don’t measure up to someone else’s standard.

Psalm 71:1 says, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed.”

We need to rejoice that we have been redeemed and that God calls us His beloved children. We have no need of anyone else’s opinion.

Are you secure in WHOSE you are?

We’re in This Race Together

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, we saw a wonderful example of sportsmanship. But I think we saw much more than that.

In an incident during the women’s 5000 meter race, two runners, Abbey D’Agostino (United States) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) collided. Abbey stopped to help Nikki up and they continued. Soon, Abbey realized she had suffered a more serious injury and struggled to complete the race. Nikki returned the favor and helped Abbey up and they finished the race together. Because of their example of sportsmanship, they both earned a place in the finals.

I just finished a study of First Corinthians and at the conclusion of the study we tried to summarize Paul’s purpose in writing the letter to the Corinthians. What was he after?

I think Paul wanted them to realize that they weren’t in this world to make a life for themselves. He wanted them to understand that they were all in this together. He taught them to worship together and to work towards unity.

Those two Olympic runners had trained and worked for years to have a shot at competing in an arena most of us would never dream of. They came from different countries but had the same goal on that day. When the race began they were focused on one thing, running that race with all they had and achieving their goal.

But then something happened. A collision of their bodies and their worlds. They both made the same choice to put another’s needs before their own. They both risked losing all they had worked for in order to help a fellow runner.

In First Corinthians, Paul asks the church to do the same thing. To come together, to look out for one another and to serve the body of Christ.

Are you willing to set your own goals aside at times in order to help another brother or sister in Christ?

“Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1st Corinthians 12:24-26(CSB)


Biblical Ways to See 20/20 in 2020

During the Christmas holidays, we watched the movie “The Santa Clause.” In one scene, an elf says to Santa, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Who would have thought that a movie about Santa would have such a profound biblical truth?

Isn’t that what faith is—believing before we see?

I’ve been thinking about that and about the new year. I’ve been asking God what I should focus on for 2020. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was a play on words there. The best way to focus is to have 20/20 vision.

What would it take to have 20/20 vision in a spiritual sense? Here is what I believe the Lord showed me.

1. Take care of your eyes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” – Matthew 6:22

2. Guard your eyes.

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” – Psalm 101:3

3. Ask for your eyes to be opened.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18

4. Ask for your eyes to be turned.

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” – Psalm 119:37

5. Ask for your eyes to be enlightened.

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” – Ephesians 1:18

6. Clean out your eyes.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3

7. Look beyond what you think you can see.

“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:19

8. Lift up your eyes.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2

My challenge for 2020 is to ask God to help me become more intentional about these 8 ways improve my spiritual vision. As I do this, I believe God’s priorities will come into focus.

Will you join me in this challenge?

Mary and Joseph’s Packing List








unnamedThey embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according to the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.

What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were no suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!

But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”Psalm 23:1 (ESV)

They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.

They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.

They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.

What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you.

For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.