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.

Which Will You Choose?

“Ignorance is bliss.” I’m sure everyone is familiar with this phrase. Or, how about “what you don’t know can’t hurt you?”

I think most of us at times, would like to think that we can hide behind ignorance. If we don’t know about it then we don’t have to worry about it and we aren’t responsible to do anything about it either. But God has a different view of ignorance.

In Ezekiel 45:20 the priest is told to atone for the sins committed in ignorance. It was still sin even though the sinner was unaware that he was sinning.  And in Ephesians 4:20 Paul says that the Gentiles had been “excluded for the life of God because of their ignorance.” That doesn’t sound like bliss to me.

So, if ignorance is not a good thing, what other options do we have? I can see only two.

We can rebel and turn away from what we know or we can be obedient to act in the way God’s Word directs us.

1 Peter 1:14 says as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior.”

In order to step out of ignorance, we must make the decision to become informed. We have to learn what God’s word says, and then we must choose to do it.

Deuteronomy 28 is an entire chapter outlining the blessings the Lord had for Israel if they chose obedience. It also outlines the consequences of choosing rebellion instead.

It’s really very simple. We have three options; ignorance, obedience or rebellion. Only one allows us to receive the blessings God has stored up for us.

Which will you choose?

When the Christmas Season Hurts

You may be celebrating your first Christmas without a loved one. Or perhaps you just lost your job and have no idea what the future holds. Maybe you long for the Christmas in your memories when you and your family were close and could all celebrate together. You might be facing Christmas in the midst of broken relationships that you have no control over.

We all have imperfect lives that we share with other imperfect people. At Christmas time, it seems that all the difficulties are magnified because we want it to be the perfect season, the “Hallmark” Christmas. Even before Hallmark got into making movies, they had their Christmas card commercials on TV that gave everyone those warm fuzzy feelings about the holidays. This may cause us to set our expectations too high.

I learned long ago that it is a rare occasion to have all my family together at Christmas. Last year was one of those years and it could be a long time before it happens again. I’ve learned to be thankful for those family members that I have around me each year and enjoy my time with them rather than waiting for the “perfect” Christmas with everyone present.

But maybe your family has had some bigger challenges and aren’t even speaking to one another. The holidays can become something you dread instead of look forward too.

This is when you must remind yourself of the reason for the season. Jesus came to give us hope. He brings peace on earth. And only He can bring peace into our families. Only He can comfort our hearts in the midst of our sorrows.

If Christmas looks bleak from where you stand, change the direction you are looking. Turn around and look for those you can bless. Finding ways to brighten someone else’s holiday will bring joy to you as well as others.

How can you show the love of Christ this Christmas?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” – John 14:27

Help With Your Laundry

Doing the laundry can be an unpleasant experience. When I had a houseful of little boys it was sometimes downright disgusting. It’s not something you would want others to see so it’s done out of sight if at all possible. Sometimes in a separate room or the basement. Far from where you would entertain guests.

We all have dirty laundry. It’s really laughable to think about how we hide that sort of thing thinking it would be inappropriate for others to see.  I’m sure all of us have laundry stories. None of us would be shocked by yours.

I remember a season when I was in a difficult circumstance. I’d just had my seventh child by an unplanned C-section. My husband was self-employed and working long hours. I needed help with household tasks and the laundry for nine people topped the list. While I didn’t relish the idea of others doing our laundry, there were a few close friends that I felt comfortable entrusting that chore to. I knew they wouldn’t love me less when they saw my disgusting laundry!

Can I tell you that this picture is a picture of the church? While it isn’t really appropriate to “air your dirty laundry in public” there are people God has put in your life who will not only still love you when they see the ugly things in your life,  they will pull out their washboards and help you sort it out and scrub it clean.

Sometimes we just need to allow others to see into our lives so they can come alongside us and help us work through our stuff. Maybe they can’t solve the problems but they can listen and perhaps lighten the load a little. And God has just the right people in mind for you. People who won’t be shocked by the things you share but who will roll up their sleeves and start scrubbing.  Be willing to do the same for them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” –
Galatians 6:2(ESV)

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”1 Thessalonians 5:14(ESV)


Do you know of someone that could use this word of encouragement today?

Please share this with your friends. Perhaps it’s just what they need to get through their day.

Sometimes You Gotta Do the Hard Stuff

Several years ago, I sent my 15-year-old son on a plane by himself. I knew it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t the easy thing to do.

And I don’t think it was a coincidence that at the same time he was changing planes in Chicago, I was working on my Bible study lesson. The lesson was about how difficult it would have been for Paul and Silas to send Timothy to the Thessalonians by himself. He was young and inexperienced but they had confidence that he would be fine.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I thought about how God orchestrated that moment to show me something. As I wrestled with the feelings a mother gets sending her children off on their own, I heard God speaking to my heart.

There are many times that God asks us to do things that seem hard. Many times we feel stretched beyond our capacity to face the challenges that are set before us.

But the good news is that God has full confidence in us as he asks us to do the hard things. He already knows the growth that we will experience by trusting Him as we take steps that might feel a little scary.

What are you facing that seems hard today? Be encouraged! God will walk each step with you. As a mother, I couldn’t go with my son on that plane, but I knew that my Heavenly Father was right there with him.

And who knows what work the Lord did in that young man — and his mother — because we were both bold enough and brave enough to trust Him with the outcome.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)