Do You Feel Heard?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who you knew wasn’t listening? They may have been distracted by activity around them or perhaps they were in pain or worrying about something else happening in their life. We can excuse those things because we all have stuff to deal with and sometimes lose our focus.

There is a similar conversation that may be more challenging and hurtful. It’s the conversation with someone who isn’t listening because they’re too busy thinking about what they’re going to say next. They’re so focused on the importance of what they want to say that they can’t really listen to you. This situation is addressed in Proverbs 18:2.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (ESV)

Sometimes we can be so self-centered that we don’t even realize what we’re doing but God doesn’t let us use that as an excuse. In James 1:19 it says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (ESV)

Still, we are human and we will continue to make mistakes. But there is good news! God is never distracted when we talk to Him. He isn’t in pain; he isn’t worried; he isn’t distracted by what else is happening at the moment. And the funny thing about this? God isn’t focused on what He wants to say—even though His words are THE most important words in the Universe!

God is focused on you. He wants to hear every word you say. He wants you to come to Him with every care and every prayer. You can talk to Him without concern that He isn’t interested. Try it!

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2(ESV)

Are You Staying the Same?

I volunteer in the guest services ministry at my church on Sunday mornings. As I stand under a bright orange tent at one of the many entrances of the building, I watch for the people to arrive, looking for first-time visitors. At first, folks begin to trickle in, just a few at a time. At a certain point, usually about fifteen minutes before the service begins, I can look across the parking lot and see a steady stream of people all moving toward me. They come in couples or groups and some come alone. I greet each one with a smile and say good morning.

Today, one man looked at me and said, “You just can’t stop smiling, can you?” He was right. I couldn’t stop smiling as I saw so many of God’s people coming to His house to worship together. It was a beautiful morning, much cooler than what we’d experienced for several months, and many of us were cheerful. But it wasn’t the weather that made me smile. It was knowing that God’s people were gathering together.

After the rush was over and the service had started, there were still a few stragglers who came quickly up the sidewalk; I welcomed them as they hurried into the building.

Then it got quiet, and I thought about the people I had greeted. Some smiled and responded to my words. Others nodded and glanced away. There were also those who refused to make eye contact at all (I don’t judge them, they are probably introverts like me!)

The people going in were of all different walks of life, different ages, and different marital statuses. They were also at different levels of understanding of the things of God. I thought about how God saw each person who had passed my greeting station and I realized something important.

God doesn’t care what we’re like when we walk IN the doors. He doesn’t care how we compare to the people walking behind or in front of us. He cares about what has changed in us and what we’re like when we walk back OUT the doors. His purpose is for each of us to change when we encounter His presence and the teaching of His word. He never stops helping us grow.

Did you go to church on Sunday? Did you leave changed, never to be the same again? If not, God was speaking, were you listening?

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:28 (ESV)





Stay Away From the Edge

Have you ever hiked in the mountains? Two years ago I had a son get married in the mountains of Tennessee. Since I’ve lived most of my life in rather flat places and now live in Florida, where it’s very flat, I’ve always had a fascination with mountains.

During our trip to Tennessee, we took some time to visit one of my son’s favorite viewing spots. We drove up and up a winding road and finally came out on the top of a mountain with a breathtaking view.

As we walked along the boardwalk to the viewing platform, I could see spindly little trees determined to grow out of the crevices in the rocks. I could see the many variations of green as I gazed across the mountain range, and since it was the beginning of fall, there were splashes of oranges and yellows.

I walked to the edge of the platform and leaned against the fence to look way down into the valley below. Suddenly I realized that I wouldn’t be able to stand where I was without the fence! I’d never have the courage to stand so near the edge without some sort of barrier.

The Lord showed me a beautiful truth at that moment. God wants us to experience great pleasure and joy in this life. He has so much to share with us while we are on earth, but He’s put safeguards in place to keep us from falling; barriers to keep us safe. We are not to flirt with sin, so He desires to keep us away from the edge. While there are times we must be near the edge, perhaps in ministry to others, we must always take care to stay behind the fence.

We can also use this picture to understand how accountability works. Are there areas in your life where temptation is great and you find yourself dangerously close to the edge? That’s the time to reach out to a brother or sister in Christ and ask them to help you build a fence.

God doesn’t use fences to hold you captive; He does it to keep you from falling. It’s for your good that there are barriers in your life.  

“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” Jude 1:24-25(HCSB)


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Transparent for God’s Glory

Recently, I had a conversation with a woman about how much I love to journal. I said it was good to get things in writing as it often made the issue seem smaller when I could look at the words on paper.

Then I said something about how it was also important to share our struggles with others because it could be helpful for them.
Everyone needs to know they aren’t the only ones going through challenges. Tell Your Story

Then the woman said she felt that often it was better to stick with the journaling and not share your issues with others because it could be embarrassing for both you and your listener. Embarrassing?

As I’ve thought about this, I have to say I disagree. I keep thinking of that verse that talks about being a fool for Christ. In First Corinthians 4 Paul is talking about the way the apostles have been made a spectacle for God. He says they are fools for Christ while the Corinthians see themselves as wise and distinguished. The church was more concerned about their own reputation than they were about God’s.

It’s certainly easier to keep quiet and not draw attention to yourself, but when you do that, you miss the chance to give God glory. If you never share your struggles, then when you have a breakthrough, or God does something spectacular, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves because no one knew what was happening BEFORE God intervened. For God to Get the Glory

Preserving our reputation will always interfere with what God is doing. Being aware of how we represent Him as ambassadors of Christ is the reputation we should be concerned about.


 “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” – 1 Peter 4:14(ESV)

“We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!”
1 Corinthians 4:10(ESV)

What God Really Wants for Your Life








Still Waters

Do you ever feel lonely? Do you think you don’t fit in? Do you compare yourself to others and discover that you fall short? Do you wonder if you’ll ever amount to anything? How about feeling restless or lacking in direction?

Do any of these questions cause you to nod your head? You are not alone.  But God knows the answers to all of them. Renewal.

God wants to revive your strength. He promises to restore your soul and to renew your mind. The questions come from a heart that is weary. When you are physically tired, don’t you find yourself less patient, less interested, less focused? Your body is telling you that you require rest. When you allow your body to be refreshed, your strength to be restored. It’s the same with your spirit. When you need refreshing, you become vulnerable to the enemy’s lies.

No one loves you. You don’t fit in. You’ll never amount to anything. You are a failure. The lies grow louder when your spirit needs to be renewed. God tells us how to get the refreshment we need. The answer is resting in His presence.

What does God really want for your life? Renewal. Take some time today to allow God to restore your spirit.

 “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV)

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29 (ESV)

Do You Think Like a Criminal?

I recently attended a mandatory training for prison ministry in the State of Florida. It’s an annual requirement for all volunteers. It’s a rather routine session reviewing the rules for those entering a prison compound. We definitely went over the rules and there are many of them! The rules are for the safety of the volunteers as well as the staff and inmates. And as often happens, I found something that has application in our Christian walk.

I learned a new phrase. Criminogenic thinking. It means exactly what it sounds like. Thinking like a criminal. We could get into a detailed discussion about what that means, and how they measure it. There are studies done to evaluate how much a person thinks like a criminal and the likelihood of them actually committing a crime.

After the meeting, I began thinking about what the presenter had said. She summed up the concept like this:

“Criminogenic thinking means going around the rules to get what you want.”

How many of us are guilty of bending the rules from time to time? Of justifying our actions as “not that bad’, or” not hurting anyone.”

I did a little research on my own and found some additional ways that criminals think. And after studying these a bit, I came up with some Christian behaviors that sound pretty similar.

Closed Channel Thinking – “Good at pointing out the faults of others.” This is what we call judging!

Victimstance – “Blaming others for our circumstances.” How about “my church isn’t feeding me so I’m not growing.”

Views self as a good person – “When we refuse to acknowledge our own faults.” Or, refuse to acknowledge our own SIN. “At least we don’t do (fill in the blank).”

Lack of effort – “Unwilling to do anything they find boring or disagreeable.” This is the avoidance of suffering and a lack of obedience.

So I ask you, do you think like a criminal? Perhaps you find this offensive. Perhaps it’s uncomfortable seeing yourself in that light. But look at it from God’s perspective. We all have sinned. We all think like sinners. The criminal justice system didn’t come up with these defining behaviors on their own. Their list is based on moral principles that, whether they admit it or not, came from God’s standards.

Just as those working in corrections try to retrain the thought patterns of offenders to keep them from being repeat-offenders, God gave us His Word to retrain the thought patterns of sinners (us) so we would not repeat our sinful behavior. His “rules” are for our good. We must allow God’s Word to change the way we think. We need to stop going around the rules, thinking they apply to others but not to us. Scripture is full of encouragement that will transform us if we allow it.

Here are a few verses to get you started.

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (ESV)

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”– Romans 8:6 (ESV)

Why Are You Waiting?

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called, What Are You Waiting For? It was about how God had already given us the command to go tell others about Him but we often don’t.

Lately, God has been talking to me about a different kind of waiting. This time it’s more about seizing the day. We often have an opportunity to do something that brings glory to God and it isn’t necessarily talking about the Gospel. Now don’t get me wrong, sharing the Gospel is the primary activity we have here on earth, but sometimes God directs us to do other things and we procrastinate.

Have you ever heard yourself say, “one of these days I need to…” What keeps you from following through and actually making a plan to DO it? We could be talking about things like washing the windows or cleaning the garage. But it could be something much bigger. How about visiting that elderly neighbor to see if they need any work done around their home? Or perhaps you know a single mom who would appreciate an evening to herself while you entertain her children.

How many times have you had good intentions to make a difference in someone else’s life but you allow yourself to say, “one of these days I need to…” and then get busy and forget about it.

I know of an older, childless couple who regularly volunteers to entertain more than a dozen young children while their single moms enjoy bible study together. And there is the young man who mows and trims for his elderly neighbor at no charge. I’m sure you know of other examples of people going out of their way to serve others.

It may take a little effort to search out these opportunities to serve, but then again, maybe you could just ask God. I’m sure He has some great ideas!

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16 (ESV)

You Are Never Alone, Even in the Storm

God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. That’s easy to remember when we’re in the midst of blessings. When we see God’s hand moving on our behalf and things are looking up, we’re quick to recognize that He’s the one working things out in our lives.

But what about when things are difficult? What about when we’re struggling? How often have we wondered if God has forgotten us? If He has stopped caring about what happens to us? We may know in our heads that God will never leave us but in times of trial, it’s harder to convince our hearts. When the storm is raging we can forget His promise to always be with us.

As a parent, would you allow your small child to wander around outside in the middle of the night? What about during a dangerous storm? Of course not.

And neither would God. He would never send you out alone in a storm. He would be right there with you as the winds were blowing and the rain pouring down.

There is a story in the Bible where the disciples are in a boat on the sea and a storm comes up. Jesus is in the stern asleep.  He didn’t fear the darkness or the storm. Why?

Jesus was able to sleep because he knew that his Father never sleeps. He knew they were perfectly safe in his Father’s care.

God doesn’t get distracted. He is always alert and watching out for us in whatever situation we find ourselves. Trust Him to be with you always. He promised he would be.

“He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.”Psalm 121:3 (CSV)

 “For the LORD loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.”Psalm 37:28 (CSV)

Out for a Walk

“Have you ever taken a walk with a friend? What happens while you walk? Are you both silent, lost in your own thought? Not likely! Most of us talk as fast as we walk when we are out for a stroll with a good friend. We share all kinds of things, our hopes and dreams, our concerns and fears.

The Old Testament contains passages that say, “Enoch walked with God.” “Noah walked with God.” and “Abraham walked with God.”  Can’t you just see those men walking down the dusty road with their hands clasped behind their backs, talking with God as they move along?

Of course, the Bible uses the word walk in a different sense, to mean more than just the physical action of walking one foot in front of the other. It really means to live life on every level with God as your companion. It means to consider God’s instruction and direction in every decision. But I think there is something to the act of physically walking.

In Genesis it says, “God walked in the garden.” He was looking for Adam to walk with Him, but Adam had sinned and was hiding. God wanted Adam’s company. He wanted to talk with Adam as they walked along.

In Deuteronomy 6:7 and again in 11:19 the scripture says we are to talk to our children about the Lord’s ways as we walk along the road. In those days people traveled by foot most of the time and it was a very natural setting to teach God’s principles to their families.

While Jesus was on the earth, He physically walked almost everywhere He went. Once He had a donkey and a few times He went by boat, but mostly He walked from village to village. Can you imagine how much He taught His disciples while they walked?

Now for us, while I’m sure God knows walking is good for our health and He’s glad that we do it, He’s thinking more about the opportunity for conversation; the companionship we feel with a friend when we’re out for a walk on a lovely day. He wants us to invite Him along; he wants to talk with us and He wants us to share with Him those things we share so easily with a friend.

Listen closely, don’t you hear your Father saying, “Come on, let’s go for a walk?”

“Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (CSB)

 

 

Keeping up with the Traffic

When I was a girl I remember hearing a story about my grandfather’s driving habits. He worked hard all of his life and one day he bought the car of his dreams. A brand new Cadillac. After he retired, he moved to Florida but continued to make trips back to Ohio at least once a year. Driving a car with that much power would tempt anyone to drive a little too fast and Grandpa was no exception. On one trip north, he was pulled over by a Georgia State Trooper who had clocked him going 80 in a 55 mph zone. When the officer told him what his speed had been, my Grandpa said he was just keeping up with the traffic.

“Sir,” said the officer, “no one was passing you!” They both had a laugh, but Grandpa got a ticket anyway. And I’m sorry to say it really didn’t have much impact on his driving! People often justify their actions by comparing themselves to others. With speeding, I’ve even heard people say that it’s safer to keep with the traffic than to drive the speed limit. Whether statistics prove this to be true or not, it’s a dangerous premise to base your actions on.

What if we apply the same theory to other areas of our lives? We can know God’s commands, just like we know the speed limits, but we can choose to ignore them. We use excuses like “everyone else is doing it anyway so what’s the difference?” Like somehow there’s safety in numbers and God won’t notice our sin.

Perhaps we ignore the Sabbath because it’s bad for our business, we can’t let the competition get ahead. Or we ignore God’s command to always tell the truth by saying, “everyone else tells ‘little white lies’ so why does it matter?”

When we compromise what we believe to be true because it makes our lives easier, we are believing a lie. We can be tricked into following man’s principles instead of God’s by allowing ourselves to be led by someone else’s behavior. Like my grandfather, we’re just trying to keep up with the traffic, just going with the flow. It seems harmless.

God has given us the scriptures to guide us and train us for eternity. He tells us clearly, that we will not understand His ways. We have to trust that He is good and that He has set parameters in this life for our benefit.

We need to boldly choose to follow God’s principles and not be influenced by the ways of the world. It’s where we will find God’s blessing.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Proverbs 14:12

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9