If…Then

God’s Word is full of promises. He tells us that if we do things His way then what will follow will be good. He has a lot of “if – then” statements. He’s laid it out simply so it’s easy to understand. But it isn’t always so easy to do.

One place in scripture that really speaks to me is in Proverbs 2:1-5. It lays out a list of actions that we are encouraged to take and then it tells us what will result from those actions.

Proverbs 2:1-5

“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding: For if you cry for discernment, lift up your voice for understanding: If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures: Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.”

When I read those verses, I see several actions that the Lord encourages us to take. When we see words or phrases like: receive, treasure, attend, incline, cry out and speak out, seek and search, we must make a choice. We can choose to do those things or we can ignore them. But what might we be giving up if we chose to ignore God’s directions? Verse 5 says what we gain is the ability to discern the fear of the Lord and to discover the knowledge of God. Really? God really says we gain discernment and that we can discover His knowledge if we are willing to follow his instructions? Yes!

We must take Him seriously and when we do He has treasures for us that are not found anywhere else. Only God has all knowledge and He promises to share it with us when we do the things He’s told us to in the beginning verses of Proverbs 2. What an amazing offer! What are we waiting for?

Yes I Can, But I Won’t

How many times in the last week have you seen something in the news or heard someone talking about something that is legal but you know is not pleasing to the Lord? Probably more than you can count.

We could list many things that are indeed legal in our country, or elsewhere in the world that we know are against God’s directives. The ones we think of first are things we probably all agree on. But there are other things that we might not agree on. We might have different ideas about what is “okay” behavior and what isn’t.

Those areas are what I believe Paul was addressing in First Corinthians 6:12 where he says “”I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NIV).

The discussion was actually about meat since there had been arguments about what was okay to eat and what was not. Paul’s point was the sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s allowed or isn’t allowed. You are called to a higher standard. You are called to holiness and sometimes that means choosing NOT to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it means choosing to do something so that you don’t have a negative influence on those around you whose faith might be weak.

One example that might help make this clearer is that of a parent and child. There are topics and in some homes even language that could be considered less than appropriate for children to hear. Some parents who don’t even consider God’s ways will choose to change their behavior for the good of their children. There may be no law against it but they know that it is in the best interest of their child.

As children of God, we can all do with less worldly influence. But that means we need to join together and choose to live above the standards that we see around us. We need to be willing to look at our options and consider how our actions influence those around us. We need to be willing to say “yes I can, but I won’t.”

Instead of following the crowd, we would do better to consider what we are told in Romans 14:19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

The Reason You Only Have One Shoe

Do you struggle with worry? Do you become stressed about the future and what may happen down the road?  God tells us in His Word that we are not to worry and not to be afraid.  He wants us to believe that He has everything under control even though what we see may try to convince us otherwise.

If you find yourself worrying often, you probably are walking though life with a limp. You see, if you are constantly fretting about the future you may be guilty of living by a very old saying. “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” When we worry about what’s ahead of us, we can find ourselves  in a position of increasing dread as we expect the worst.

So if you are “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” you may be walking around with one shoe! Have you ever walked wearing only one shoe? You may get a back ache, a sore foot or experience other symptoms caused by limping along without the proper foot gear.

Ephesians 6:14-15 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” 

God doesn’t want you to limp through life. He wants you to be assured that you are ready for whatever life sends your way. You can’t stand firm and ready if you are only wearing one shoe.

God wants us to look ahead with anticipation not dread. He wants us to trust that He has a plan for us and believe that it is a good plan.

Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

We cannot wait expectantly if we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. We cannot trust and worry and the same time.

 

 

In the Face of Fear

Many years ago we took our boys to a large amusement park. The youngest at that time was four years old and quite excited about all the new experiences he would have. When we approached one particular ride, he begged to be allowed to ride it. He met the height requirement and assured me that if I went with him he would have a great time.

We got in line for the ride which was a large pirate ship that swung back and forth like a pendulum. We were seated and the ride began. With each swing the boat went higher and higher in the air. After just a few seconds, the look of terror on my son’s face caused me to think fast. I knew if we were to get through this experience with minimal trauma I had to get his mind off the movement. I quickly turned his face toward mine and said, “It will be okay, I am here with you. Look at my eyes, don’t look away.”

I kept holding his face gently in my hands, talking to him and encouraging him to keep his eyes focused on my face and nothing else for the duration of the ride. We finally came to a stop and he threw his arms around me and buried his head in my shoulder. We had survived the giant ship ride and would live to tell about it.

That picture can help us understand how our Heavenly Father longs to comfort us when we’re afraid. He tells us to look to Him and not at the things that frighten us. If we will call to Him and focus on His face He will deliver us. If we will trust Him, He will never fail us.

Look into His eyes and rest in His comforting arms.

 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!” – Psalm 27:7-9 (NASB)

Storm Clouds

I was sitting in my front yard on a beautiful sunny day. The breeze was warm and the sky was blue. I was enjoying the perfect weather, reading a book and sipping some lemonade. Gradually, I became aware that the gentle breeze was beginning to take on a greater intensity. I casually looked over my shoulder and was surprised to see huge black clouds towering at the horizon. A storm was coming. The wind was picking up and the clouds would soon blot out the sunshine.

What did I do? I gathered my belongings and headed inside. I sought shelter from the storm. If you live in an area where tornados or hurricanes are common, you know the importance of having a shelter when the storm hits.

God tells us that storms will come. Sometimes they come with no warning but other times we see them gaining strength, growing as they approach. When that happens, God has told us what we need to do. He has told us where to find shelter from the storms of life. He promises to protect us from the storm.

Joel 3:16  says, “The LORD’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.”(NLT)

Sometimes God allows the storms to come into our lives on purpose and promises that he is a refuge for us when everything else is shaking around us.

Psalm 27:5 says, “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” (ESV)

Psalm 91:1-2  tells us,“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” (ESV)

God has provided a safe place for us in times of trouble. He will protect us from every storm we can possible experience in life. Though the storm rages around us, we will be safe in the shelter of our God.

Puzzle Pieces

I love jigsaw puzzles. However, I’m quite particular about which ones I enjoy the most. My favorites are made from  the Americana paintings of Charles Wysocki. Clear-cut lines, lots of colors, not too much sky.  I don’t care for puzzles with muted colors that run together, it’s too hard to see any progress.

Have you ever thought about how you do a jigsaw puzzle? You don’t start at the top left-hand corner and work your way across, row by row. Personally, I usually start by finding all the edge pieces and when I have the outside frame all or mostly completed, I begin looking for pieces that obviously go together.

The puzzle goes together little by little. You watch each area grow one piece at a time. Sometimes there’s a hole that you just can’t seem to fill. Other times there’s one piece that you keep trying everywhere for so long you wonder if it really belongs to a different puzzle and was put in the wrong box.

When you finally put in the last piece and look at the completed picture you feel a certain satisfaction and joy seeing the finished product.  When my boys were younger they used to beg to be allowed to put in the last piece. Are you kidding? After I’ve worked for days on this puzzle, they want to put in the last piece?

I know we’ve all  heard the analogy that  life is like a great tapestry. The picture  is beautiful but the underside is messy and gives very little help in discovering the picture on top.

I would like to suggest that life is also like a jigsaw puzzle. God designed the picture and know exactly where each piece goes. He also knows exactly in which order the pieces need to be added.

We sometimes feel like we’re holding a piece in our hand and though we look and look at the unfinished picture, we just can’t see where our piece fits. At this  point, what the Lord asks us to do is to wait. He will show us where our piece fits when the time is  right. And when the piece is in and the picture final finished, we will be able to share in His joy over  it’s completion.

And the last piece?  Jesus gets to place that one!

“I wait  for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” – Psalm 130:5 (NASB)

“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)

Rough Waters? Change Your Perspective

Last week we had a visit from friends from the north. We spent quite a few days near the water. We were at the beach, with the waves crashing against the shore. It was delightful even though the water was cold. We picked up shells and watched the water birds and were always on the lookout for dolphins.

One day we went to the park by the bay and walked along the water. It was chilly and the water was choppy. The wind was brisk and we pulled our sweaters around us. We didn’t stay there long.

Instead, we went around to the other side of the bay and walked out on a long pier over the water. It was warm in the sun and the water looked smooth and calm.  How could this be the same body of water?  What changed?

The only thing that changed was our perspective. We moved to a new location and looked at the same water from a different view. The wind was now behind us and the water looked completely different.

My friend was first to comment on the change. She said, “Isn’t this just like life? Sometimes when we are facing some rough waters, all we need to do is choose to look at things from a different perspective.”

The problems haven’t really changed, we have just opted for a better view.  Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective to give us the courage to keep hoping.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Here and Now

Sometimes I look at times gone by and wonder what it would have been like to live in a different era. I especially love the Victorian age. I love the slower pace of life and the way people paid attention to details. Things weren’t so hurried and people took time to enjoy the simple things of life. I love the stories of quilting bees and church picnics; of sitting on the porch on a summer evening. I could get really wistful about it.  

But it wasn’t up to me to choose when I would be born or where. God did the choosing. He decided exactly when I would be the most useful to His kingdom. He decided where I would be most effective for His purposes.  

It’s like God had a huge map and timeline, stretched it out before Him and planned in great detail the way it would be. Of course He didn’t do it that way. He didn’t labor over it like we would. It wasn’t like us trying to arrange the furniture in a room “if this goes here then that could go over there.” His plan was perfect from the beginning. 

Psalm 139:16 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 knew where my life was headed before I was even born. 

1 Corinthians 12:18 says “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” He knew exactly where I fit. 

God has designed each of us to be right here, right now. He looked over the entire timeline of humanity and the giant globe he created and he pinned an exact spot and time for you! This is the appointed time. Now is the time to look around you and see where you can make a difference. You were meant to be right where you are. There are things you can do that bring Glory to God and advance His kingdom. 

 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. “     – Hebrews 3:13

Perhaps today there is someone whose encounter with you was ordained from the beginning of time. Maybe today is a day that you, by your obedience to live your life to the fullest for Christ, will help change a life for eternity.  This is when we can say, “seize the day!” 

Stopping the Leak

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Picture with me a large wooden rain barrel. In the old cartoons when a farmer was trying to protect his chickens from a fox he would take his shot gun and send the buckshot flying.  Predictably, the barrel would take a hit and would be riddled with holes from which the contents would leak in every direction. 

Does that sometimes describe your own life? Does it seem like your peace and joy are leaking out in all directions and you can’t seem to get filled up and stay that way? You can’t possibly manage to plug all those leaks. There is no way to keep the contents inside with all those holes! 

But God has a solution. He tells us to be thankful. 

 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”  Psalm 100:4(NASB)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  – Colossians 3:15(NASB)

 “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” – Psalm 106:1(NASB)

Each time you offer thanksgiving to the Lord, it’s like putting a cork in one of those leaky holes. Grab a bucketful and start plugging those holes. Soon you will experience the Lord’s peace and joy beyond measure! 

 

 

Lift Up Your Hands

The scriptures contain many places where it says “lift holy hands” or “lift up your hands.” Why does God encourage us to do this? 

We all know that body language is an important part of communication. Without it, it’s easy to misunderstand a person’s meaning sometimes.   We rely heavily on the signals people send with their bodies while they are speaking. If you do a study in body language you will find  the consensus is that lifting our hands, raising them palm side up, has several possible meanings.   

One thing that can be communicated by raising upturned palms is surrender. The police will tell a suspect to raise their hands so that they can see them and know they aren’t going to do anything that will catch the officer off guard. But it also puts that person in a position of surrender, of submission. It changes the dynamics of the moment immediately.  

Another thing that can be communicated with this gesture is that the person is asking to receive something. If someone is about to hand you something, you instinctively reach out, palms up to receive what they give you.  At the same time, the person giving something often reaches out in the same manner. So both giving and receiving involve this hand gesture. 

Finally, consider a young child. A baby who is sitting for the first time may throw her hands in the air in great joy over her accomplishment.  And when she learns to toddle, she will approach her daddy with arms stretched high, wanting him to pick her up and comfort her.  

Now back to the original question. Why does God encourage us to lift our hands? I believe all the reasons just stated are also God’s motivation.  Lift your hands to surrender, to give yourself to Him, to receive all He has for you, to express joy and to be comforted.  The Lord designed us to include our bodies in our communication.  It isn’t a mandate that we must raise our hands in church during worship or prayer or else we are doing it wrong.  It’s simply a means God designed for us to draw closer to Him whether it is in a corporate worship setting or in the privacy of our own prayer closet.  

God is our Father and we are his children. He loves nothing more than to have his children reach out their hands to Him.

 “Lift up your hands in the holy place and praise the LORD!”
– Psalm 134:2