How Sweet is the Spirit of the Lord

Have you ever worked with confectioner’s sugar?  We’ve always called it powdered sugar because it’s so refined that it makes a cloud as you work with it. It reminds me of my grandma’s bath powder. She kept it in a tin on her bathroom shelf and you could always tell when she used some because the room had a sweet scent after she finished.

There’s an even more interesting effect from powdered sugar.  As you work with it, opening the bag, spooning it into a measuring cup, and pouring it into the bowl you can stir up quite a cloud. And if you stir it too vigorously, you can make a real mess.  But if you happen to breathe in through your mouth while that cloud of sugar is in the air you can actually taste the sweetness.  The sugar goes everywhere and eventually settles on the surfaces nearby.  But while it’s being stirred up, you can taste it!

That is a perfect picture of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer in Christ. If you leave Him inside, sealed up tight, no one will even notice He is present. But if you open your heart to others and stir up the presence of the Holy Spirit, others around you will get a whiff of something wonderful. And as they draw closer, they’ll be able to taste the sweet presence of God’s Spirit in you.

Take time to stir up the gift inside you and you will be able to share it with those around you who are longing for a taste of life, hope, and love. They’ll come looking for the source of the sweetness they experience when they are near you. Let the Holy Spirit move in your life and others will be drawn to Him.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” – Psalm 34:8(NASB)

 

 

 

All Things to All People

There is a game we used to play on long road trips when I was young. It was an alphabet game we called, “going to the store.”  You had to list something you would buy at the store for each letter of the alphabet. The first player had “A” and the second had “B” and so on. The catch was you had to recite all the previous items before you added the next one. By the time you got to “K” the list was getting difficult to remember.

I often play a similar game with myself when I am walking somewhere alone. But instead of a list of items from the store, I list the attributes of God.  “A” is for awesome, “B” is for bountiful, “C” is for Creator, and so on.

Recently, God has prompted me to change the game a bit. Instead of focusing on who He is, it’s become about what He does for me.  Now when I begin the list looks something like this:

A – God provides armor
B – God provides beauty
C – God provides correction
D – God provides direction
E – God provides encouragement

As with any alphabet exercise, some letters are more difficult than others. And my memory isn’t what it used to be so I don’t recite all the previous items each time I add a new one. I do try to come up with different ones for the letters each time I do this though. But in the end, what I’m learning is that God is indeed, all things to all people. He is the only one who can meet every need we have. He is the only one who gives to us above and beyond everything we could ever imagine. He is the one who loves to bless us just because He can. And at the end of the game, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude that He would love me so much!

Next time you are out walking or exercising at the gym or just sitting in your house try starting your own list.  And when you finish with the list of His blessings, you can go on to the list of His attributes.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

 

 

Too Busy to Notice

When was the last time you were engrossed in an activity and someone said something to you that you missed completely? I would guess not that long ago.

Or how about suddenly realizing that it’s almost dinner time but you haven’t made food because you were busy and didn’t notice the time? Or you nearly miss an appointment because you were too busy to look at the calendar?  I’m sure we could list dozens of examples of times we have been too busy to notice what was going on around us.

Last year, when my husband Randy received a diagnosis of end-stage liver failure, our busy lives came to a screeching halt. Everything we thought was so important immediately moved to the back of the line. It forced us to reevaluate what life needed to look like in this new season. And that made us become much more aware of what goes on around us. We learned to live intentionally. We learned to be in the moment instead of thinking about things down the road. When we slowed down, we saw things we’d missed.

We’ve seen this when we take long walks together. We talk about life and the future but we also savor the moments. We stop to watch the birds and the animals. These days are all gifts. We might not have had them and don’t know how many more we will have.  We always say there is no guarantee of tomorrow but now we live with that principle staring us in the face every day.

It has influenced how we do simple things too. Like the other day when I was out doing errands and needed to stop at Walmart for one thing on my list. It was looking like rain, (welcome to summer in Florida) so I parked in an area I don’t normally park in. I was closer to the building so I might avoid getting drenched.

As I left my car, I glanced down at what looked like someone’s credit card. I picked it up and turned it over. It was a gift card. Someone had probably spent the balance and then just dropped the card.  I carried it with me intending to drop it in the trash. Then I thought, maybe it was worth checking to see if there was a balance. So I stopped at the self-check station and ask the attendant if she’d check. She found that there was money left.  It was enough to pay for what I came for plus a few groceries.  I left the store having spent 87 cents for a bag full of items.

When I got back in my van I was grinning. I said out loud, “I know that was You, Lord!”  It was just a simple thing but something that wouldn’t have happened a year ago when I wasn’t paying close attention to life around me.

None of us knows how much time we have left here. We could go to be with the Lord at any moment.  If we want to make the best of the days we have, we must learn to live intentionally. We must slow down and take notice of life around us. God wants to bless our lives every day and we get so busy we miss it.

And, He wants to use in other’s lives every day and we miss that too.  Ask God to help you slow down and see what you’ve been missing.  You will be glad you did.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

The Road Home

I was trying to work on my Bible study plan and feeling like I didn’t even know where to start. Beside me was my open notebook. Blank pages just waiting for God to speak. On the other side was my Bible also open to nothing in particular.

I knew I was distracted by things in my head. I couldn’t seem to stop the steady stream of thoughts that flowed from one to the next without end. So many responsibilities, so many concerns, so many unanswered questions.

Then I looked up at the TV where I was playing restful music on Pandora.  The title of the album was “The Road Home.” At the time, I didn’t catch the artist’s name because I was immediately drawn to the photo. It was a picture of a country gravel road disappearing over a gentle hill. In the foreground was an old worn suitcase. The Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that moment.

“Leave the heavy weight behind. Walk the road home without the burdens you have been carrying. They are heavy, unnecessary and not your concern. Sit the baggage down and move forward without it. Leave concerns over finances, health issues, relationships, feelings of rejection and inadequacy as well as concerns for your role in this new season of life. You don’t need to carry any of it. I’m more than strong enough to bear the load for you.”

How many times have I heard God ask this of me? How many times have I set that suitcase down only to go back and pick it up again?  And then cram even more stuff into it!

Maybe you can join me in this prayer.

“Lord, help me to leave it all and not look back. The road ahead, toward home, toward you, is so much to look forward to. Help me leave this beat up suitcase behind and begin to walk. Help me not look back.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

But God…

Most of us have been on the receiving end of the word “but.” What I mean is, we have all had the experience where someone says something very nice and then undoes all the good intentions by following the statement with the word “but.” Usually what follows is a criticism or a qualifying statement of some kind that makes the original statement of very little value.

“You did a great job…but…”
“I appreciate your help…but…”
“I love you…but…”

Humans tend to use the word “but” in a negative sense most of the time. Probably the most frequent use is during an argument. I think sometimes people feel it’s necessary to keep things grounded in reality. After all, we can experience good in life but the overall consensus is that life is hard and we’d better just get used to it. No use candy-coating it.

God has a different idea about the word “but.” Just looking at one chapter of scripture, Romans 6, we will find that God’s “but” is something to shout about. I would invite you to read it for yourself.

These examples are from the NASB version.

Verse 11 – “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, BUT alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Verse 13 – “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; BUT present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

Verse 21- 22 – “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. BUT now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

Verse 23 – “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Yes, I will admit that life is sometimes hard…BUT GOD! He turns things around and makes something good out of all the negatives that we can come up with. And that is cause for rejoicing!

Thank You, Thank Who?

God has had me on this theme of “thankfulness” for a while now. Nearly 4 years ago He began showing me that I had much to be thankful for.  I’ve learned a lot so far. In a post called, What Am I Thankful For? I told about how I found a challenge from Ann Voskamp’s website. She asked her readers to commit to finding 1000 things to be thankful for over the following year. I took the challenge and actually came up with many more than that. I have continued the habit of writing  in a small journal, all the things I am thankful for. I don’t always do it daily but I have accumulated thousands of entries and have had to start a new journal when the first became full.

All this to say, I have so much to  be thankful for!

But, have you noticed people around you saying things like, “I am so thankful for…?”  Or, “I am so grateful that…?” I have heard it in news interviews, I have heard it in passing conversations overheard in grocery stores.

To Whom are they thankful? They never finish it. But to be thankful, there has to be someone to thank. You don’t say thank you to your stove for cooking your food. You don’t say thank you to your car for getting you where you were going.  There has to be a person to thank.

If you are thankful then there has to be someone to thank.  Scripture makes it very clear.

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” – Ephesians 5:20 (ESV)

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” – Psalm 106:1 (ESV)

 

 

Faith or Presumption?

Have you ever gone to bed at night with worries on your heart?  I’m sure we all have.  Have you ever worried that the sun won’t rise in the morning? Of course not. Or have you worried that spring won’t follow winter? Okay, so maybe we do wonder if spring will ever come when we’ve had a difficult winter. We joke with one another about ever seeing spring or summer again. But seriously…don’t we know that spring will indeed come? We may make silly comments about the seasons but just like the sunrise, we know for certain that the seasons change each year. We don’t stew about it, we don’t pray about it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t pray every day that God will cause the sun to rise in the morning.  I just know that He will.  I know He has it under control.  Maybe I’m just taking it for granted…but isn’t that like faith?

And what about the issues in our own lives — those concerns that are on our hearts in the quiet darkness each night?  If we get to the place where we trust God to take care of those issues just as He does the sunrise and the seasons are we now walking in faith?  Or have we begun to take God for granted? What is the difference between trusting in faith that something will happen and just taking it for granted?  I think the difference can be expressed in one word — thankfulness.

If I am thankful I am acknowledging that the Father is in control. My desire is to get to the place where I can trust Him and thank Him for all that He has done and will do. There will always be cares that threaten to steal my peace. But if I will take those cares one by one and lay them at my Father’s feet I know he will be faithful to fulfill all His promises.  If He can handle the sunrise, He is more than able to care for the things that concern me and I will be thankful.

Psalm 86:12 “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”

Learning and Doing

Imagine you have been given a brand new camera. A fancy one with all the latest technology available. It comes with a thick booklet of instructions. At this point, you have three options.

You can spend hours reading the manual, studying the terminology and how each function can be used to its greatest advantage. You can read the book until the pages are dog-eared. But if you never pick up the camera and start taking pictures how will you ever benefit from all your studying?

Another option is to pull the camera from the box and toss the instruction manual in the trash with the box and plastic wrap. You can snap dozens of pictures and maybe get a few decent shots but over all, you will never experience what your new camera is capable of because you never read the instructions.

Your last option is to open the box, remove the camera and open the manual. You read the instructions thoroughly and then practice what you’ve learned with the camera. Your pictures may not be all that great in the beginning but as you practice you improve and take some wonderful shots.

This scenario is based on two scriptural principles.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22 (NASB)

God wants us to apply what we learn as we study the scriptures. He has given us all we need to represent His kingdom but we need to be willing to act on what we learn and not just become well read.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who
does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”      2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

The King James Version of this verse says, “study to show yourself approved.” It isn’t God’s plan for us to go running ahead, confident in our own abilities, without ever taking the time to learn His ways and to follow His leading.

To have the most productive and satisfying life requires learning and doing. Study God’s Word and then practice what you learn. And you might want to have your camera ready. You could capture some great moments!

 

The Whole Past is Past

You cannot return to the past. You must stay in the present. When someone talks about “the present” what are they referring to?  Allow me a little word play.

To be present as opposed to absent. It means you are fully here. But present also means right now, in this moment.  So to be present in the present means you are fully here at this very moment. Our culture moves so fast that sometimes you may feel like you have to run to just keep up with the present. You can’t even think about the future.

So if present means right now, then past means before right now. Sometimes we can get caught up in regret over our past. We know we can’t change things from a decade ago but we still may stew about it from time to time, saying things like, “I wish I had done things differently.”  But according to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, the definition of “past” is “gone by; done; accomplished; ended.”  So if the past is truly ended, then it’s untouchable. You can’t change something that is over. And it becomes heavy baggage to carry around with you when you can’t do anything with it. Freedom comes when you can leave the past in the past.  And even if the past is full of good memories, you still can’t return to them.

So, yesterday is over. You can’t change even what you did yesterday. It’s over and done with. You CAN however, choose to do some things differently in the present. TODAY.

The future  is what comes next. It isn’t some blurry scene in the distance. Tomorrow is the future. You can’t go there yet. All you can do is make wise decisions in the present that can affect the future.

So everything before this moment is the past. You can’t go back. And everything after this moment is the future. You can’t go there either. What you have is NOW. What are you going to do with it?

“The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 (NASB)

Are You Believing God?

Are you believing God? Not believing IN God but believing Him?

Do you believe what he says about you?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV))

Do you believe His promises?

“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 41:20 (ESV))

Do you believer what He wants to do in your life?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” – Psalm 103:2-4 (ESV)