Taking Every Thought Captive

Today I have a special treat for you! My husband is my guest blogger. While Randy is usually writing about woodworking, today we get to hear from him about the Scriptures. I know you’ll be blessed!

There’s a storyline in the Old Testament that has as much relevance today as it did as an historical milestone for God’s people in Judah around 700BC. You can read about it here:

It’s a story about Hezekiah, who became King of Judah. He followed a long line of kings who abandoned their faith in the God who had redeemed them. God was so fed up with His people’s constant and consistent disobedience throughout the generations that He scattered them.

Hezekiah was a refreshing change. He honored the Lord and tried to restore the kingdom’s reliance upon God, their creator. The Bible says, “He remained faithful to the Lord and did not turn from following him but kept the commands the Lord had commanded Moses.” Fourteen years into his reign (Hezekiah was 39 years old), the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) initiated a campaign to attack all of the fortified cities of Judah. He then sent a massive army and a spokesman to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Hezekiah sent three high-ranking officials to meet with the spokesman, including a court secretary and a court historian.

The King of Assyria, through his spokesman, began his verbal attacks. He questioned Hezekiah’s loyalty. He questioned his faith. He mocked the Lord God. As a matter of fact, the Assyrian King claimed to have a command from the Lord to “attack this land and destroy it.”

The spokesman turned his attack to those within earshot, against the wishes of King Hezekiah’s spokesmen. He was trying to start a riot–a revolt. He told them, “Don’t listen to Hezekiah.” He asked the people to surrender and promised that he would take them to a land of grain, new wine, olive trees, and honey–so that they may live, and not die.

The spokesmen returned to Hezekiah with their report. He became distraught and immediately went into the Lord’s temple. He said, “Today is a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace.” They were helpless. They sought out the prophet Isaiah who relayed this message from the Lord: “Don’t be afraid because of the words you have heard.”

While Hezekiah was distressing over the situation, the King of Assyria sent another message. “Don’t let your God, on whom you rely, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be handed over to the King of Assyria…will you be rescued? Did the gods of the nations that my predecessors destroyed rescue them? Where are the kings of these nations now (paraphrased)?”

Here’s the interesting part–Hezekiah took this written message from the King of Assyria, went to the temple, and spread it out before the Lord. I can picture it, can you?

Then he prayed. He praised God for who He is and what He has done. Then he asked God to listen and hear and to open His eyes and see. He finished by asking God to save them “so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God–you alone.”

It wasn’t a selfish request. Hezekiah wanted it to be known throughout the lands that he serves the one true God. He wanted it to be a testimony and a witness to God’s grace and mercy.

There is so much more to the story. I encourage you to take the time to sit and read it.

What thoughts have been going through your head lately? What have you been hearing? Are you hearing a parent say, “You’re never going to amount to anything?” Are you telling yourself that you’re not much good to anyone? Are you afraid of stepping out in faith and doing what God has called you do to…to be who He called you to be? Are you trying to solve your problems on your own? Are you desperately seeking quick fixes to your problems, frantically looking for relief? Are you questioning your faith right now? Are you questioning whether God even exists and if He does, does He really care about you? Are you looking at a hopeless situation with no relief in sight? Are you seeing the consequences of bad habits but don’t know how to break them?

The lesson we learn from Hezekiah is prayer. Earnest prayer. But it has to be coupled with a recognition of who God really is–our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer. The Old Testament is really a story of Jesus. He was there then and He is here now. He, like Hezekiah, intercedes on our behalf to God the Father. Seek Him. Spend time with Him. Every day. Read and study His word. It’s full of stories of how God can conquer our enemies, the thoughts that keep us from fulfilling His purpose for our lives, “so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God–you alone.”

But look, the Lord keeps his eye on
those who fear him —
those who depend on his faithful love
to rescue them from death
and to keep them alive in famine.
We wait for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name.
May your faithful love rest on us, Lord,
for we put our hope in you.

–Psalm 33:19-22 CSB

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and rescued me from all my fears.

–Psalm 34:4

What Are You Dwelling On? Perhaps It’s Time for Some Winnowing

Winnowing is a step in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. In its earliest form, it was when the wheat, which had already been beaten on the ground to loosen the wheat from unusable parts of the plant, was thrown into the air to allow the wind to blow away the chaff. What was left was the pile of valuable wheat kernels which fell to the ground and could be collected.

We have a similar process we use when we sift flour, but the results are just the opposite. After sifting, left in the sifter are the impurities and the clean flour is in a pile beneath the mesh screen of the sifter.

We understand that both actions result in the same outcome. We have separated the good from the bad. We have removed the impurities that would make the end product unusable.

How does this apply to our thoughts? Take a moment and consider what your mind has been dwelling on for the past few days… or weeks… or months. If you are like most of the rest of us, you have been thinking about viruses, riots, statues, masks, loss of income, political arguments, name calling, destruction…chaos.

I feel the Lord calling us away from this obsession with darkness, fear, and anger. We have been tricked into focusing on all the distractions in this world and have gotten away from what God calls us to do.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy–dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:8 (CSB)

I am not saying we should hide our heads in the sand and ignore the things going on around us. I AM saying we need to stop fixating on the problems and focus on the only One who has the answers.

How much of what you’ve been thinking about fits into the verse from Philippians? My challenge to you is to rise up and take your thoughts and throw them all into the air so the Lord can blow away the chaff and let what is of value become your focus.

There is a saying, “glance at your problems and gaze at the Lord.” I think we may have it backwards.

What Does it Mean to Really Follow Christ?

Today I was thinking about this question. What does it mean to really  follow Christ? Of course it means that we have made that life-changing decision to ask Him to be Lord of our lives. But when we agree to that, we may not fully understand that it means Lord of everything. Every. Thing.

So really, following Christ isn’t just saying yes to Him. It’s saying no to the world over and over and over.  Every time we say no to something the world offers we are saying yes to Jesus again. We are reaffirming our commitment to follow Him.

It’s a daily, moment by moment, kind of thing.

The decision to follow Christ is really a collection of daily choices made one decision at a time. Forever.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24 (ESV)

You Show Love When You Listen

In the current state of our culture, it seems that everyone is talking and no one is listening. There are so many topics to discuss and everyone has an opinion. But it seems that no one is listening.

A few years ago I went through a trying time where I felt like my opinions, ideas and suggestions were not valued or welcomed. I struggled with feelings of rejection that lead to some depression. During that time, I did some research and learned that I was not alone in my experience.

Studies show that one of the best ways to show someone love is to listen to them. Listening to others seems to be a lost art these days. What kind of listener are you?

Are you listening to understand? That means you intentionally choose to turn off all distractions and engage with the person speaking. Or, are you listening to respond? That’s means you’re listening but also formulating your response before the speaker is even done talking.

The Bible has strong words regarding this. It says in Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Ouch!

So how do we show love by listening? We take time to allow someone to share their heart. We put their needs of being heard before our own. We give them the gift of our time and we wait until they have finished what they need to say before responding. Sometimes a response may not be appropriate at all. Perhaps they just need someone who will share their load without trying to “fix” things or have all the answers.

Who in your life needs you to just listen? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? Your friend or coworker? When was the last time you laid aside your own agenda and offered someone a listening ear? Isn’t that what our entire culture needs right now?

I encourage you to start today. Make yourself available to listen without feeling the need to make sure everyone else knows your opinion.

Just listen.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. – James 1:19

God’s Promises

God’s provision is not based on our productivity.

God’s love is not based on our loyalty.

God’s protection is not based on our performance.

God’s compassion is not based on our commitment.

God’s mercy is not based on our merits.

God’s peace is not based on our position.

God’s promises are not earned by our behavior. Sometimes He tells us, “if you will do this, I will do that.” He requires our obedience but that’s not the same thing as performance or merit. God sees our potential and not our failures. We cannot be disqualified from receiving God’s promises if our hearts are truly His.  We don’t have to earn His love, compassion or peace by measuring up to some standard.  He loved us first, before we had a single opportunity to prove our loyalty or commitment and His peace can be received anywhere, anytime. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than He already does.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Each One is Unique

This is a devotion I posted in 2013. In light of the current cultural chaos, I think we would do well to apply this not only to ourselves, but to everyone. God created all of us for a purpose, let’s embrace our calling and allow all those created in God’s image to do the same.

The scriptures are full of examples showing us that God was intentional in making each of us a unique creation. Just look at the folks in the Bible stories. They are all very different. Each one was created for a specific purpose that God planned in advance.

Sometimes it’s easy to be caught up in the comparison game where we look at others and wonder why we weren’t made more like them. We are not just tempted to look at the outward appearance; we also compare talents and abilities. We might be tempted to ask God why he didn’t make us smarter, more outgoing, more organized, less sensitive, more confident, slimmer, taller… the list goes on and on.

We’ve heard the verses in Psalm 139 often. We may even have them committed to memory. Verse 16 says Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God had our future designed for us before we were fully formed. He knew exactly what he created us to do.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God already knew what Jeremiah was going to do before he was even created. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah was designed for a special purpose and God was thinking about that purpose when he was creating Jeremiah. Much like a craftsman knows what his project will be used for even as he’s cutting the wood. He doesn’t just cut all the wood the same way. Each project has specific dimensions that are required depending on the final purpose of the finished project.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we too have a specific purpose. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

I believe Dr. Seuss had an understanding of this truth and put it so simply when he said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

When God was finished making you, He was pleased with what He had done. He sat back and smiled at his creation. He loves who you are!

Having Done All, Stand








Some days are just hard. Sometime it’s weeks, months, or years that are difficult. That’s why Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God and stand. When we have done everything we possibly can in our own strength and can’t go on for another minute, God is there to keep us standing.

There are times when He miraculously resolves an issue we are facing but most times He chooses to walk us through it…and not around it.

Ephesians 6:13 says, “For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”

And I love how it’s put in this paraphrase version.  Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.”  (The Message)

God has equipped us with all that we need to win every battle. When you feel that you are at the end of your strength remember that the source of your strength is limitless. God never runs out of strength so that means you won’t either. I like that part of the verse that says, “take all the help you can get.”  God has also put you in a community of believers who will stand with you in your most difficult times. Allow God to use them to help you stay standing. And when they are facing a battle, return the favor.

Reasoning With a Toddler 








Have you ever tried to reason with a toddler? They have a very narrow perspective.  At their stage of development it’s all about them.  They aren’t really capable of understanding the complicated reasoning that is sometimes required to make grown-up decisions. All they know is they want it their way and they want it now! And if they don’t get their way the scene can get pretty ugly. And as they get a little older, they demand to know “why?” It might be tempting to say something like “because I’m the mom!”

I wonder if that’s how we look to God sometimes. How often He must feel like he’s trying to reason with a toddler. We don’t take no for an answer, we don’t trust his wisdom and we ask “why?” all the time.

Perhaps that’s what prompted the Lord to give us these words:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor 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 (NASB)

I believe the Lord would encourage us to take a step toward maturity and learn to trust Him as our Heavenly Father. He knows what is best for us. He knows when things need to happen in our lives to help us grow spiritually healthy and strong. Are we willing to let him lead us without always demanding He answer all of our  “Why? ” questions?  Can we trust that He understands even when we don’t?

It’s not easy, but if we just toddle toward Him, one step at a time, we can be sure that He’s waiting with outstretched arms. He will help us, steady us, and lead us. He is the perfect parent!

There is Only One Who Can Truly Multitask








Are you good at multitasking? According to research done at Stanford University in 2009, the answer would be no. Their conclusions were that we don’t really multitask, or do more than one thing at the same time. What we actually do, is try to focus on more than one thing only to have our brains jerk back and forth between activities. This causes us to be less productive at everything and defeats the purpose of multitasking all together. Our brains are wired to concentrate on one thing at a time in order to do it well. We sacrifice quality for quantity every time.

So, let’s apply this on a spiritual level for a moment. While it is a good practice to try to be conscious of God throughout your day, in the midst of all your other activities, it isn’t the same as setting aside time to just focus on the Lord and nothing else.  God wants us to take time to make Him our central focus, our top priority. You have surely experienced what it’s like to be talking to someone who is doing a zillion other things at the same time and you eventually realize that the conversation is getting nowhere. They really aren’t paying attention; they have too many other things jerking their attention back and forth. God wants us to stop our frantic lives for a time apart with Him on a regular basis. It’s the way He has chosen to speak truth and life into our spirits and if we miss it, we miss something profoundly important to our growth and effectiveness in God’s kingdom.

But let’s shift perspective for just a moment. Do you realize that God isn’t wired like us in this area? He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He is the Master when it comes to multitasking. He is all powerful, he knows all things, and He is able to be everywhere at once.  He is never spread too thin, He never has too much on His mind to pay attention to your cries, and He is with you wherever you go.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:27-31 (NASB)

Doesn’t it make sense to set aside time to spend with the One who always gets it right? He has the answers you need and is waiting to share them with you.

Do We Try to Customize God?

We live in a world where we have a zillion options. When I was growing up, we were excited to see a new store open in our shopping center. Baskin Robbin’s 31 flavors. Imagine! 31 flavors of ice cream!

Today we have endless ways to create our own customized lives. We can choose what car we drive, in what color. We can decide how our homes are decorated, what kind of diet we prefer, what kind of phone to buy and what type and color of case for that phone. Recently, I got an email from my bank saying my card was expiring and did I want to choose a new picture to customize my new card? I did. My new card will now have a picture of a golden retriever—my idea of the perfect dog, by the way.

Since we have all these choices, we may be tempted to allow that freedom— to choose exactly how we want things—to carry over to our relationship with God. At first we might deny this. We might say we are happy to yield to God in all areas of life since we’ve given our lives to Him. But are we really happy to let Him do all the choosing?

How about Psalm 98:4 that says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” But I’m an introvert and don’t feel comfortable being demonstrative, especially in church. God understands that, since He made me, right?

Or how about 1 Peter 3:4 that says, “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. But I’m an extrovert and have a need to be outgoing and sometimes noisy. God understands that, since He made me that way, right?

Perhaps we should conclude that God, in fact, made us exactly the way He planned, and then intentionally asked us to do things outside our comfort zone. Hmmm. Kind of uncomfortable, isn’t it?

We take all these personality tests, Enneagrams, compatibility quizzes, and skills surveys, and we think we have come up with our “true” selves. Perhaps there is some truth to the conclusions we draw, but there is something very important that we must accept. Just because we know ourselves so well, we still don’t have permission to take God’s word and pick and choose what applies to us. We cannot customize God or His word. He says what He means and there are no exceptions based on our preferences.

We may think that all our choices, the ways we make our lives our own, are harmless. Aren’t we just trying to make this life as pleasant as we can? Is that really wrong? But if you want the truth—letting God do the choosing will bring us joy beyond measure. After all, He knows us better than we know ourselves. That doesn’t mean that you have to ask God what color car to drive but I’m sure you’ve had times when you thought you had no choice and God gave you exactly what pleased you.

My challenge to you is that you take a moment to sit quietly with the Lord and ask Him where you have been justifying your own preferences instead of desiring to be obedient to God’s direction in His word. You will be blessed. I promise.

“How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the Lord’s instruction!  Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart.” – Psalm 119:1-2 (CSB)