Two months ago, we said good bye to 2014 and as I reflected on the year, I was thinking, “This was a pretty good year. Finally, no hospitalizations, no real trauma, life is good.” I don’t think I was smug or proud; just thankful for 12 months of relative calm with only a few spins along the way to keep me focused on who is really in charge, God who controls all things. So far 2015 has not been a cookie cutter of the pivotal year 2013. Maybe your experiences have left you calling out to God too, like I have done in the past. I admit it. I’ve sometimes even yelled at God. “Do you see me here, God? I’m sure you have me mixed up with someone else. I’m not your girl that likes the roller coaster, God. I’m the one who likes merry-go-rounds.” And God reminds me, gently that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:19
As I descend the pinnacle of the ride, and things coast to a level platform, I catch my breath and look around – whew! Still here, and thankful that despite the frustrating circumstance and emotional pain, I’ve gained a slightly stronger faith muscle. During the time of trial, I have to remind myself of 1 Peter 5:8 – “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The enemy of my soul wants to destroy my faith; the enemy of your soul wants to do the same to anyone who has faith in God.
I was reading Job awhile back, because I know from Bible stories that Job went through impossible trials – he lost everything. Do I know what it means to lose everything? No, and I pray against that fear of loss every day of my life. Literally – every day. In Job, even his wife told him to curse God and die. Really? I love this – Job 2:8-10 – “Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” In all he went through, Job’s faith and his integrity was unfaltering. Job knew God could change things. He admitted in Job 42:2 – “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” But Job didn’t lose hope or faith.
So what about our lives today? God is still God. The Bible says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 3:18 God is able to do amazingly above all we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. When trials come, it’s so easy to ask, whatever happened to all things happening for our good? Does it say somewhere that good will come out of our circumstances? Even those that cause us grief? Well, yes; in fact we can go there now and read Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When we read about the good to come, do we also append the part about ‘loving God and recognizing that we are called to a purpose’? Sometimes I forget that God allows bad things to happen because it is His way of working out His purpose in me.
My job is to be faithful, and not lose hope. If you’re going through trials and your days are so dark it’s hard to find your way out, I encourage you to go toward the light. John 8:12 says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Don’t let the enemy of your soul wind the battle. Satan is a thief whose only goals are to rob you of joy, persuade you to lose faith, and give up on God. John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Are we ready for today? Let’s do this together!
I was gone last weekend – no computer, technology limited to my cell phone, and lots of snow –mounds of it, in fact. We were at our cabin in the north where life runs at a slightly slower pace. It was quiet and restful; a rare and coveted occasion, I know. Our cabin is somewhere written into the pages of my ‘thankful list’. If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve heard all about ‘the list’. When we go to what I call ‘my haven’ I think of this verse in Isaiah 40:31 “They 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.” We don’t set an alarm clock at the cabin and the sun rises before we have to. I’m an early riser, so I’m up early – stealing those quiet moments to read and reflect.
Back home, I waited until this morning to turn all my technology devices back on. A message “Windows has installed new updates.” flashed on the screen and I had to laugh. “Windows has installed new updates.” After only one day of tranquility, how closely I could identify with that message! When I’m at the cabin, I often use those times to write cards. Because there are reasons to add scripture to the message, I keep a well-marked up and highlighted Bible close by. 2 Corinthians 13:11 instructs us to “… encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Who doesn’t want the God of love and peace to be with us?
“Windows has installed new updates.” How simple that sounds! In fact if I look at the logs of what was changed in this manmade, inert object, there are sometimes many lines indicating significant changes. This is not unlike the changes God wants to make in my life – and especially the springboard for my life. God tells me not to just overwrite the thoughts and actions that are there, but to totally replace them. Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I love technology. Through it we have opportunities that couldn’t have existed 1000 years ago; or in many cases, even 10 years ago. But the basic issues of life are unaffected by technology. They are heart issues, attitude issues, and technology won’t fix those. If we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. We’ve heard over and over again “Change your attitude, change your life.” Unfortunately it takes time to effect a lasting changed. Just like we expect technology to change things in an instant, we expect to change our attitude and life in an instant, and when it doesn’t, we wonder why it didn’t happen.
Stick with it. It’s no mistake that God wrote these words in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Protect your heart and your thoughts while you’re learning to form new attitudes and moving forward with those ‘updates’ in life. A good place to start is here, like David in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Renew, update, replace, just start.
If I get the inside right, the rest will take care of itself. Right?
“Windows has installed new updates.” With God on our side, we have a fresh spirit installed in us every time we call on Him. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
A few years ago – well probably more than a few years ago, there was a movie that made a statement “1 thing” . Does anyone remember it? Billy Crystal was questioning his life, maybe because he was overworked and unfulfilled, living on the outer edge of mid- life, headed for old age. He was searching for something to fill him up and solve the dilemma of what had become of his life. He dragged his family to a dude ranch, where he was certain living the spartan life of a pioneer would forever answer his unrelenting question, “What happened to my life? What is my purpose.” I think the man on the white horse who answered him was Jack Palance, and the answer was “one thing”. Remembering how he rode up with his leather gloved hand held high, then raised his index finger, squinted his eyes tight and groused “1 thing.” With that one statement, he was saying, “You’re searching for one thing, your unique path, the calling designed for you alone and you are the only person it fits.” Through the years I’ve thought a lot about that statement. I’ve forgotten almost every detail about the storyline but not the admonishment to search for the 1 thing that will bring fulfillment.
It isn’t one thing, a solitary skill, an isolated occupation, or one avenue of experience. I think the 1 Thing is recognizing that we live full lives with a cafeteria of choices, and we have to accept where we are, realize we can’t change what’s past, but have the power to adjust our course when we don’t like the scenery up ahead. Today is the middle of the week; closing in on the end of a month. There is no magic in a new month or even a new year, but there is a new day that picks up where yesterday left off and continues the course we are on. At each decision point of any day is where we can begin to adjust our course in pursuit of that 1 thing, the life we were meant to live. We don’t need a new week to get back on track with our dreams. Vowing to give up a bad habit or destructive practice should never wait for another future time; we can decide right now commit to making tomorrow a little better than today while seeking the life God meant for us to have.
Decide now, not the tomorrow that never comes; the course adjustment will take time to germinate and graft itself day by day into your life until it’s part of your 1 thing, your vision. Prayerfully consider what your 1 Thing is and ask God to keep you on course.
Then be patient and stay the course.
Psalm 25:10 The ways of The Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant.
Psalm 4:3 Know that The Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him.
Psalm 39:7 Now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.
John 12:26 “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the ones who serve me,” – Jesus
Jeremiah 29:11 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Have you ever thought about the role friends play in your life? I’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands of opportunities to reflect on the blessing of friends in my own life, many just yesterday. In fact I was doing that last night as I reviewed my day and realized how many interactions with friends occurred in just one 12 hour period. If you haven’t done it recently, thank God for your friends, then contact some today – just to let them know you are thinking of them and love them.
A few days ago, I was reading about Job and was heartbroken for how his friendships deteriorated as has life crumbled. I wondered why his friends let him down when his need for them was greatest. That trek through Job sent me in search of guidelines for creating a firm foundation for friendships. Imagine my disappointment when I read more accounts of dysfunctional friendships than compassionate. What can we learn from that? The same things we can learn from any experience; if we don’t want ‘that’ result, we need to change the behavior. Proverbs 18:15 says “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” My goal is to learn to be a good friend so I can practice it always.
I remember hearing someone say “True friendship divides our grief and doubles our joy.” I think that means that when our burdens are so heavy we can’t stand up under them, we seek out a true friend who listens with their heart and it makes our burden lighter. And in all the times that bring us joy – it’s reciprocal and exponential. If you’re a guy reading this, you might think – “Aw that’s so female.” But I’ve got to tell you – it is not at all female. Job was a guy. David was a guy. Moses was a guy. Need I convince you further?
The book of Ecclesiastes, if you recall, is famous for reminding us how mundane life can be sometimes. When I think of it, all I remember are the words threading through it “vanity, vanity, all is vanity’. Right? But look what Ecclesiastes 4:10 has to say about the benefit of friends “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” I know people who isolate themselves, prefer to get along without friends, and don’t need anyone to pick them up. I love my friends, whether casual or deep – they are priceless. In fact Proverbs 31:10 offers a pretty close assessment. “Who can find a virtuous woman of noble character? for her price is far above rubies.” Virtuous, noble character, friend. A friend like that would practice the words in Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – “
Do you have friends? Are they great friends? How is their character? Do they encourage you? When you consider your friends do you appreciate them just for being authentically them? If you do, then be thankful – as it says here in 1 Chronicles 23:30 “They were to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and then do the same in the evening.” If you are reading this – thank you. I consider you a friend and I thank God for you.
Remember this: Be authentically you because nobody else is qualified.
When was the last time you went to bed at night excited and motivated about the next day? I hope you said just last night or that’s how I feel most of the time. When you got up this morning did you greet the day with “Good morning, Lord!” or did you say “Good Lord, it’s morning.”? I hope you were the one who, with a light heart and bright smile said “Good morning, Lord! What can we do together today?”
My emotions are fickle. Are yours? Many nights I go to sleep looking forward to the next day, maybe not with Disney dream anticipation, but ready to get sleep over with so I can get tomorrow started. Then there are times when my formidable emotions are like a steam roller and flatten the expectancy out of me. Do you ever feel that way? I was complaining to the Lord about this, and the next morning one of the first things I read was Psalm 5:3 “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” If David can say it, I can say it too. My requests won’t be the same as his, but we have the same God. My request was, “Lord, what am I doing wrong that is robbing me of joy and expectancy for the tomorrows you have planned for me?” I didn’t get my answer like a blinding light from heaven like Saul (aka Apostle Paul) in the book of Acts, but I have been receiving answers.
Yesterday I posted a prelude but here’s the rest of the story.
It should be so obvious but – Have you ever tried to walk forward while looking back? Right! It doesn’t work. I’ve gotten a few bumps and bruises to prove it. Nor do we get the results we want if we obsess about the past and keep looking back when trying to move forward in anticipation of a goal or even the next day. Enthusiasm is quickly extinguished when it’s covered over and smothered by our past. Sometimes we have to step back just for a moment in order to move ahead. In a way it’s examining what I knew in light of what is new …
What I knew: My most prominent spiritual gift is to encourage others. Most of the time, it takes no effort, but on occasion I have to carve out a few hours to exercise my gift because it honors God. Isn’t that why we have gifts? 1 Corinthians 12:7 says “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” A part of my spiritual gift is to help others. Consequently I say yes a lot.
What is new: My capacity over the past year has brought new insight into how many times I can say yes and still go to sleep at night anticipating and looking forward to the next day with joy and enthusiasm. In Lamentations 3, I think the people in that time were feeling pretty distraught and burdened. In verse 20 it actually says I will never forget this awful time – what they knew is that this was a time they never wanted to repeat. But then in the next verse it talks about how they dare to hope because of what is new every morning. Lamentations 3:21-25 “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.”
God is teaching me some important thing about anticipation. There is nothing that can be done about yesterday. I have slowly been releasing myself of the need to say yes to things that are worthy activities, but they are not right for me. It’s like being one of the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle marathon that fell off the table. In the menagerie of opportunity I now need to find which of those puzzles I belong to. The future ahead of me bears little resemblance to the life of my past. I can’t bring glory to God and honor him if I’m stuck back there when God is leading me onto new paths.
I wasn’t sure I would share this verse with you, but why not? It really spoke to me as I was struggling through this quandary of lost enthusiasm. Jeremiah 13:16 says, “Give glory to the Lord your God before it is too late. Acknowledge him before he brings darkness upon you, causing you to stumble and fall on the darkening mountains. For then, when you look for light, you will find only terrible darkness and gloom.” See what I mean? I don’t like to talk about darkness and gloom. But there you have it.
God created us spirit, mind, and body. When one part is reneging on its part, or is just too weary to act, we can’t bring our best selves into the game of life. Proverbs 14:22 tells us, “If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.”
Don’t you want to go to bed every night anticipating tomorrow? Isn’t it what everyone wants – to be enthusiastic about the future? Wouldn’t you rather have unfailing love and faithfulness? Me too. Philippians 3:13-14 says “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Learn from the past. Don’t live in it. Learn from the past so your future doesn’t turn out the same as it did back there.
Just as I was posting this, my prayer partner texted me this verse and it fits perfectly. “As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.” Micah 7:7
A friend posted this image 10 Things God wants you to remember. There are so many other verses written for us, but these are a few I came up with. I was thinking about Fridays. We love the entrance to the weekend, don’t we, especially if we are of the Monday – Friday workforce. The anticipation of a couple days off to do – well whatever doesn’t require a specific commitment. I’m glad God doesn’t look forward to the weekend anticipating time off because He’s been good all week. God is good all the time and he’s on his eternal clock all the time and his promises are solid all the time.
God doesn’t eagerly anticipate the weekend. He is on the job all day, every day, just like he says.
I will give you rest: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
I will strengthen you: Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! I strengthen you— yes, I help you— yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand! Isaiah 41:10
I will answer you: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3
I believe in you: The Lord grants success to the one whose behavior he finds commendable. Psalm 37:23
I will bless you: “The Lord bless you and protect you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
I am for you. If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
I will not fail you: I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. Psalm 89:28
I will provide for you: God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
I will be with you: But I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. Psalm 73:23
I love you: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.’ Jeremiah 31:3