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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Get Out of God's Way! - Repost

On Sunday morning, I taught a lesson on waiting.  Yesterday, I wrote a blog article entitled, "But I'm Tired of Waiting."  And right after I wrote the article, guess what I did?  I put my own personal plan into action instead of waiting, and the worst part is that the connection didn't click until I was talking to Jason about it last night.

You see, last January, I sent one of my best books yet (in my opinion) to a publisher. According to their website, the process to determine whether or not they would decide to publish my book was supposed to take three to six months.  In early October, I sent an e-mail requesting the status of the manuscript since the deadline of six months had come and gone.  I received a response that, due to an overwhelming number of manuscripts, the process was running a little slower than usual and that they hoped to be caught up by the end of the month.  I'm still waiting to hear from them.

So, as the book crossed my mind yesterday, I decided to send another e-mail.  Yes, I realized I may be shooting myself in the foot by constantly pestering the publisher, but it's been a year, and if they're not going to publish my book, I want to get it into the hands of someone who will.  So, I sent the e-mail.  I still haven't received a response.  And at this point, I'm not sure that I will.  Why couldn't I just be patient?  Why couldn't I be content to wait for their response?  After all, if God wants them to publish my book, then it will happen.  Why did I have to "help God out" once again?

I'm just like my little beagle, Tippy, whom we've nicknamed "Crumb Hunter."  If there is food to be found, that dog will find it.  Her hearing is gone.  Her eyesight is dimming.  But that sniffer works wonderfully!  Any time we are working in the kitchen, Tippy has to be right there, underfoot.   The entire time I work in the kitchen, her nose is to the floor as she searches for crumbs.

Now, please understand that I'm not saying I'm like my beagle in that I search for crumbs on the floor.  No, it's not that (unless it's chocolate crumbs, just kidding).  It's the fact that every time I go to take a step, she's in the way.  Dinner preparation is a dance as I struggle to get from the refrigerator to the counter to the stove, all while circling around the Crumb Hunter.  I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally kicked or stepped on her because she was totally underfoot.  You'd think she'd get the point and get out of the way, but she doesn't.

And  unfortunately, I don't seem to be doing much better.  I thought I was.  I felt like I was growing.  I've been feeling more at ease and less stressed.  I've been focusing more on God's goodness rather than life's harshness.  And I thought I was working within God's timing, but my actions yesterday showed me that I still have a long way to go.

The problem with impatience is that, not only is it a sin, but it also puts us directly in God's way.  He is trying to work through us, and we decide to get underfoot and help out.  It doesn't help!  Not at all!  If anything, it makes the entire process take longer because God has to clean up our mess before He can continue the work He was doing to begin with.

Oh, dear friend, no matter what you're waiting on today, don't grow impatient.  Wait for God.  His timing is perfect.  He will accomplish what He has set out to do, and He'll have a much easier time of it if we'll stay in His will and out of His way!

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. - Psalm 130:5-6

Monday, July 25, 2016

Is God Still In Control?

I would like to share with you a very small portion of an email I received last week as a critique of my upcoming book.  From the six-page letter, it's safe to say that the book was not what the reader expected, and therefore, he didn't like or appreciate much of what I had to say.  His comments also helped me to understand that we have quite a different stand when it comes to doctrinal issues.  I could go into so many things right here, but I won't.  I want to focus on one statement that nearly blew me away.  Are you ready?

"God may have all rule and authority -- that doesn't mean He's in total control -- remember He gave that to man."

Say what?  God gave man a choice, but that is not to say that He surrendered control to mankind.  Can you imagine the horror?  It's bad enough that man has a choice and has created such havoc with that choice, but can you imagine if, because of that, things were out of God's hands?  How could we possibly obey His command, "Do not fear"?  I would fear.  I'd be afraid of the world spinning out of control. I'd fear the future, the unknown.  And I'm not sure that I wouldn't come to resent God for taking His hands off the situation and allowing chaos to reign.

I know that we live in a wicked world, and sometimes it does seem like things are spinning out of control.  There are days when it feels like God has taken His hands off the situation and said, "Okay, I've given you control.  Do the best you can with it."  But the fact is that God is always in control.  He knows what's going on and even though we don't understand it, the events of today are part of His plan.  He is not sitting up in Heaven, biting His fingernails and muttering, "Oh, my poor children.  I wish I could help them, but it's just not my place since I've given them free will."  That's ridiculous!

To me, the saddest part is that I don't know how anyone who believes this nonsense could have any peace in their lives.  How could you sleep at night?  How could you face life's trials and valleys if you felt that God doesn't have total control of what's happening?  I can't imagine such a life, and I'm glad I don't have to.  The Bible makes it clear that God is in complete control of EVERYTHING!

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. - Isaiah 45:5-7

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. - Matthew 19:26

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. - Job 12:7-10

For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations. - Psalm 22:28

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. - Psalm 115:3

Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. - I Chronicles 29:11

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? - Jeremiah 32:27

I could go on and on, but for the sake of time and space, I won't.  The point is that God is still in control.  Nothing takes Him by surprise.  Nothing happens without His knowledge and allowance.  He is God! Does that mean we understand His workings?  No.  Do we always agree with His methods?  Not really.  But does that mean things are out of His control?  Nope.  Psalm 115:3 (above) made that clear--God does what He pleases.  He knows how this whole thing plays out, and no one can thwart His perfect plan, whether they have free will or not.  And with that knowledge, I can rest secure and live in peace.  God has it all under control!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Overwhelmed by Prayer Burdens

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm the kind of person that has a hard time letting go.  Letting go of my expectations.  Letting go of my worries.  Letting go of my problems.  I don't know what it is, but I constantly struggle with the aspect of letting go.  (Elsa made it seem so easy in the movie, Frozen.)  I guess that's why I can become overwhelmed with prayer requests.

Over the past week, I've received the news that my grandmother is clinging to life with a weak and weary grasp.  I found out that a dear lady who is like a mother to me is in the hospital because of a terrible reaction to her new cancer treatments.  A teacher and mentor from college just discovered that his body is filled with cancer, and the doctors say it doesn't look good.  A family whose children I taught in kindergarten broke the news that their pre-teen son was to have his leg amputated.

I wish I could tell you that the list stops there, but it doesn't.  That's only those I know personally.  That doesn't count the requests made at church or made known to me through my ministry.  Broken families.  Broken hearts.  Broken bodies and broken spirits.  It's enough to make me cry out, "What in the world are you doing, God?  Why are so many of your children hurting?"

Before I go any further, let me say this:  if you have a request or need prayer, please don't hesitate to contact me.  I consider it part of my ministry and call to help encourage God's children.  I don't want you to hold back because of what I'm saying here because I assure you that's not the point.  And for those of you who have shared your requests with me, thank you for trusting me with your pain.  I am happy to carry your burdens to the Lord.

Here's where I have a hiccup in my prayer life, and I wanted to address this topic this morning because perhaps you have the same issue.  I carry the burdens to the Lord.  One by one, I lay them in great detail at His feet.  I pray for healing, grace, intercession--whatever the need may be.  I pray that God will have His will and way in each and every situation.  So far, so good, but here's where I mess up.  Remember what I said at the beginning of this post--I can't seem to let go.  So, when I leave the throne, I carry all those burdens back with me and bear them all day, every day.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed!  We were never intended to carry such burdens.  The Bible makes that abundantly clear.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:7 

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:22

Please understand, letting go doesn't mean that we dump our problems at Jesus' feet then merrily skip away like we haven't a care in the world.  I don't know that that's even possible.  We still have to deal with reality.  We still feel the heartache and sorrow of the situations surrounding us.  The difference is that when we leave our problems at His feet, we'll also feel peace in knowing that everything is in His hands.  He's in control.  He knows all about the issues, and He is capable of doing what needs to be done.  That is a peace we cannot experience when we're trying to "deal with" the issues ourselves.  Sure, we took them to God, but then we took them back which signifies that we didn't really trust Him to take care of it.  Whether we meant to imply that or not, the fact is that it's a slap in God's face when we pull our burdens away from Him.  Not only are we insinuating that He can't handle them, but we're also acting as if God doesn't care enough to deal with it like it needs to be dealt with.  Ouch!

Brothers and sisters, we live in a dark world, and according to Scriptures, it's only going to get darker.  It's easy to become overwhelmed by the many burdens surrounding us on a daily basis, but we don't have to be weighed down by the cares of the world.  We need only take them to Jesus and allow Him to have control of each and every situation.  That doesn't mean we put it out of our minds or hearts but rather that we take it out of our grasp.  It doesn't belong there.  Give it up.  Lay it down.  Let it go!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What You Eat Determines What You Think

Several weeks ago, I started The Daniel Plan.  I was fed up!  Sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Weary of fad diets that left me feeling worse than I had before I started.  Despondent of ever finding an answer to my failing health at such a young age.  That being the case, when I first saw the Daniel Plan, I thought, Yeah, sure.  It's just another gimmick to get my money. (Told you I was fed up!)  But God kept bringing it to my attention and there was an underlying prompting to find out what it was all about.

I did, and after much prayer, study and preparation, I began the most wonderful health plan I've ever experienced.  Please understand, this is not a commercial or promotion for this plan.  I'm only telling you this to get to the point of today's devotion, but I can say this:  Since starting the plan, I've lost several pounds from my body and inches from my waist.  On top of that, my blood pressure has reduced drastically.  I've also had energy like I haven't felt in many, many years.  So, if you're looking to lose weight or simply feel better, I do urge you to look into the Daniel Plan.

Based on everything I had read about the plan, I expected to see results in my body, and I did.  I also expected to see results in my ability to focus and concentrate, and I did.  Here's what I never expected, though.  Once I had cleared the "garbage" out of my system and begun filling my body with healthy, nutrient-dense food, my thinking changed.  Not just my focus, clarity, and concentration, mind you, but what I thought about.  Negative thoughts were replaced with positive ones.  Feelings of depression and sadness were replaced with joy and hope.  Even when bad things happened, my overall response was drastically different than it had been before.  I didn't fly off the handle or feel like drowning myself in chocolate.  Instead, I calmly examined the situation, determined what I could do, and gave the rest to God.  It has been downright amazing!

Perhaps I'm not telling you anything new today, but I had to share my discovery.  For so long I have battled with my negative thoughts and emotions.  And though I've fed myself daily with spiritual food, it seemed like I didn't make any progress in this area.  It was only when I changed my physical food that I noticed a drastic change in my way of thinking.  Each day has now become an exciting journey rather than just another day to endure.  And it all began with what I put in my mouth!

I am not a physician, and I am not trying to talk you into anything.  However, I did want to share with you the glorious transformation that has taken place in my life.  Why?  Because maybe you feel the same way I did.  Tired.  Sick.  Weak.  Frustrated.  Negative.  If so, don't you owe it to yourself and those around you to seek help?  It doesn't have to be the Daniel Plan, but there are many healthy-eating plans out there today.  I can't testify to how they work or what they require, but if it is focused around healthy, wholesome, unprocessed food, you can't go wrong.  You can change your thought process by simply changing your diet, and in the end, your entire life will feel transformed.

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. - Acts 14:17

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What About My Miracle?

And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. - Judges 6:13

When the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and reassures him that the Lord is with him, Gideon has a few questions and complaints.  And while I would love to delve into each of them in great detail, I want to focus mainly on his question:  and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?

In other words, "I've heard all about miracles, but I haven't seen one yet.  Why not?  If you could do them for my ancestors, why won't you do them for me?"

In Gideon's defense, I can relate to a degree.  But first off, I think it is important that we not overlook the miracles that occur every day in our lives.  When we think of miracles, our minds envision Red Sea crossings and feeding thousands with a meager lunch, but not all miracles are as "flashy" as that.  Nevertheless, they are miracles just the same.  Life is a miracle.  The fact that we can function all day long without having to remind ourselves to breathe or pump blood or move our limbs attests to the fact that we experience miraculous intervention every single day.  But we don't think about that as a miracle.  It's just part of life, right?

So when those around us are receiving "flashy" miracles, we feel slighted.  Like when the neighbor builds his dream house, and you are forced to watch from your home with the leaky roof, broken furnace and cracked windows.  Or when that friend gets the job you were perfect for.  Or how about when that colleague finds her stride and quickly goes from a nobody to the most sought after worker in her field?  The list could go on.  A church member receives a generous financial gift.  A family member goes on the vacation of a lifetime.  A fellow author sells over 1,000 books in a single hour (or maybe this one is just me).  Anyway, you get the point.  You sit in your average home with your average job, never able to take time off or enjoy a vacation, and meanwhile, everyone around you seems to be catching a break or receiving a miracle.  And while a part of you is happy for them, another part is grumbling, much like Gideon, "Hey, where's my miracle?"

You know what's sorrowful though?  Not the fact that we covet a miracle, but rather that when the miracle finally arrives, we can't believe it.  We're shocked!  We can't seem to process what just happened.

Unfortunately, I experienced this last Friday.  We had a critical meeting to resolve a problem that has been looming over us for years now.  I was nervous.  I was worried.  I was fearful of getting my hopes up even though we had been assured earlier in the week that there was a chance of "escape."  When the time arrived, I couldn't decide how to feel, but one thing I was certain of is that if things went well, I would feel fabulous.  I would be relieved.  I would be praising God.  I wouldn't be able to contain my smile.  Yet, when the verdict was reached and delivered, and we found out that things were going to turn out FAR better than we had even imagined possible, I sat in stunned silence.  To this day, I'm still struggling to accept that we received a huge miracle from God.  It just doesn't seem possible.  My mind is going, "Did this really happen?  Could it happen?  Is this just a trick that's going to come back to bite me later?  Is it okay to get my hopes up now?"

It's crazy.  I complain about not getting a miracle.  I pray for a miracle.  Then, when one arrives, I'm shocked into silence.  Hmm, maybe that's why I don't see too many "flashy" miracles in my own life.  Because I don't appreciate them when they come, and I'm not trusting that God will come through for me.

Two things I can learn from Gideon are these:  (1) I'm not the only one who takes miracles for granted, and (2) God can still use those who are short-sighted and forgetful.  Even though Gideon doubted God to the point that he accused Him of forsaking them, God used Gideon to accomplish great things.

May I remind you that miracles are all around us?  Big. Small.  Flashy.  Reserved.  But powerful, no matter what else they may be.  Let's not take that for granted.  Instead, let us be grateful for all the miracles that happen in our lives and the lives of others.  And for Pete's sake (whoever Pete is), if we ask God for something, let us not be surprised when He gives it to us!

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've come to a conclusion:  it is much easier to witness to the lost man on the street than the religious man who thinks he's saved.  How do I know the religious man isn't saved?  I don't.  No one can know except that person and God, but on two separate occasions over the past couple of weeks, I've heard salvation testimonies that made me wonder what, exactly, these people believed in for salvation.

The first story was from a Catholic man who was explaining to me about his conversion to Christianity, but to be honest, I didn't have a clue what he was talking about.  He spoke of meeting God through meditation and later meeting Jesus even though he had always known about and believed in Him.  Huh?  No one has always known and accepted Jesus.  It is a choice, and after talking with this gentleman, I'm not sure he understood that.

The second was a story of religious ritual, and from the time of the ritual, supposedly, this woman was indwelt with the Spirit of God.  That was it!  That was the entire salvation testimony I received from her, so my question again is, what, exactly, is the woman trusting in to save her?  The ritual?  The religion?  Those who performed the ritual?

Please understand, I cannot judge the heart, and it may very well be that these two individuals are saved and on their way to heaven.  All I can say is that their testimonies certainly didn't convince me of that.  This has bothered me for days now, and I wondered how many other people out there are walking around with the belief that they're saved when they don't understand what it means to be saved.  So, the Lord burdened my heart to write this post today, and I urge you, even if you know the Lord as your personal Savior, to please read it so that you can be sure you're trusting in the right thing to save you.

We are all sinners and therefore are not worthy to enter into Heaven.  Heaven is a holy place, and sin is not allowed.  But God loved us so much and wanted us to be with Him for eternity, so He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins.  He paid the price and, with His blood, purchased our ticket to Heaven.  However, we must accept that payment, admitting that we can't get to Heaven on our own and that we need Jesus as our Savior.  Salvation is just that.  It is believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose again the third day so that we could be with Him forever in Heaven.  In that belief, we accept His payment for our sins and invite Him to be the Lord of our lives.  In other words, we surrender our lives to Him since He bought and paid for them with His blood.  That's it!  There is no ritual or religious mumbo jumbo.  Salvation is a conscious decision to accept Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.  And once this is done, it's done.  It cannot be undone.  You're saved forever!

I have written several other posts on salvation, and if you are not confident that you're believing in Jesus for your salvation, I plead with you to read through the following posts.  If you still have questions, please contact me.  I would be happy to help you understand.  The main thing to keep in mind is that salvation is not about religion; it's about a relationship with Christ.

1 - Glimpsing Grace;  2 - Focusing on Faith;  3 - Not of Works;  4 - What About Baptism?
5 - Who Can Be Saved?;  6 - Will I Still Sin After I'm Saved?;  7 - Can I Lose My Salvation?;
8 - Now What?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Friday, July 15, 2016

Right on Schedule

My brain hurts!  A few weeks ago I enrolled in a writing class that I'm praying will help take my books to a new level as far as quality, quantity, and also audience reach.  It's been an interesting class, and I've learned a good bit so far (of course, I do love to learn), but overall, most of what we've covered so far I already knew, at least to a degree.

Last week, however, we arrived in new territory, and suddenly, I found myself completely overwhelmed with new information.  I watched the videos, read the reports, and tried to implement the steps one at a time, but soon I realized I had a problem.  I needed to set up a timeline for my next book launch (which is happening on August 9th), which meant I needed to know ahead of time what I was expected to do and when I was expected to do it.  So I printed off my calendars and started making notes.  "This has to be done two weeks before the launch."  "That needs to go there, the day before the launch."  "Oops, this was supposed to be done already.  I guess I'd better get on that."  See what I mean?  Craziness!

I like schedules.  I love routine.  Ya'll know this by now.  What I don't like is trying to create a schedule or routine when I don't have a clue what I'm doing!  Still, I keep telling myself that it will be worth it.  With my schedule in place, the days leading up to my launch should be less stressful and hectic.  With a plan in mind (and on paper), things should run more smoothly.  And the best part is that the next time I'm planning a launch, I'll at least have a clue what I'm doing, and the process won't seem so foreign.  Each time, it should become easier to do.  (Notice I used the word "should" a lot in that paragraph.  Yes, that was on purpose.)

Schedules and timetables can be a great asset.  Take it from the Lord, He knows.  You may be saying, "What?  When does the Bible talk about the Lord having a schedule?"  All the time, actually.  Think about how many times Jesus said, "It is not yet time" or "the time has come."  From before the world began, God had a plan, and He had every step figured in and figured out.  He knew when man would sin.  He pinpointed the time He would need to send the great flood to wipe our most of humanity and start over.  He understood that the children of Israel would wander in the wilderness for forty years because of unbelief.  None of these things took Him by surprise.

And I imagine His cosmic calendar bore a foreboding dark "X" on the day that He would send His only begotten Son to be born of a woman and an equally foreboding "X" on the day that He would turn His back on His Son as He hung on that old, rugged cross.  Can you imagine having to create that schedule or having to stare at those black "X's," knowing that the time was rapidly approaching? Amazing!

The best news is that God still has some things on His schedule, one of which is the Lord's return to take His children home.  I'm ready for that day.  How about you?

Now, if you'll excuse, my schedule for the day is full, and I need to get started!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Tried and True God

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. - Isaiah 28:16

I can't tell you how many times I've read and heard that verse.  To say that it's been at least one hundred would not be an exaggeration.  But each time, I missed a vital part of the verse.  I focused on the foundation and corner stone, and let me tell you, it's a blessing to know that my "house of faith" is built on a solid foundation--one that weathers the storms of life and hold secure no matter what.  But in that focus, I overlooked another principle that is equally as wonderful--"a tried stone."

The word "tried" is defined as something that has proven effective or reliable before; tested and proved good, dependable, or trustworthy.  Oh, yes!  That's my God!  He has proven Himself effective and reliable.  His faithfulness and power have been tested countless times, and He has always shown Himself to be dependable and trustworthy.  Just ask Daniel in the lion's den or the three Hebrew children in the flames.  Ask Noah as the ark tossed about on the sea or Moses as he strolled through a different sea.  Ask Jonah, who came out of the whale's belly or Lazarus, who came out of the grave.  Pick a character within the pages of God's Word, and you're likely to hear a testimony of how God came through.  That's just how He works in the lives of His children!

How I could have overlooked something so wonderful, I don't know, but I'm certainly glad God allowed me to catch it now. What a treasure to cling to when life has us down.  God has been tested, tried and found faithful.  He is tried and true, dependable to the end.  And we can trust, without a doubt, that if He came through for His children back then (and we know He did), then He'll come through for us too.  After all, God is not a respecter of persons.  He doesn't play favorites.  Furthermore, the Bible tells us that He never changes.  So, if He was faithful yesterday, He'll be faithful today.  And in that knowledge, we can rest easy and wait for God to prove Himself reliable once again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

So Much Work, So Little Time - Repost

I recently heard it said, "If Satan can't make you bad, he'll make you busy."  Wow!  That hit home.  Overall, I consider myself a good girl, though I certainly haven't arrived.  Still, I try to live my life in a way that's pleasing to the Lord, and I strive to honor Him in all that I do.  But Satan doesn't like that, so instead of attacking me with his obvious weapons intended to turn me away from God, he takes a much more subtle approach.  He attacks me with busyness.

I have a friend that often tells me I'm the busiest person she knows.  I'm inclined to agree with her.  It just seems like there's always more to do.  There's writing to be done, manuscripts to edit, documents to format, books to read, lessons to prepare, exercises to perform, laundry to wash, dishes to clean, meals to prepare, errands to be run, dogs to walk, dates with my husband to squeeze in, and the list goes on and on.  Half the time I wonder if I'm coming or going.

Just this morning in my prayer time, I poured my heart out to the Lord concerning my busyness.  "I'm tired," I said, "and yet I still feel like I'm not getting anything accomplished.  You've called me to write, but I feel like I'm letting you down because all my other obligations steal time from my true calling.  I have absolutely no social life because I feel like I don't have the time to stop and call my friends or have lunch with a family member.  At times, I even skimp through my time with you, Lord.  I need balance, but I have no idea how to find it.  Please help me, Lord.  I'm driving myself crazy!"

Unfortunately, I wasn't exaggerating.  In fact, I typically feel that way each morning as I peruse my "to do" list which tends to read like War and Peace.  One thing I was right about, however, is that it all comes down to balance.  God wants us to be productive.  He wants us to work hard and to use our time wisely.  What He doesn't want, however, is for us to become so focused on productivity that we become completely self-focused.  We no longer take the time to build and maintain relationships, whether marital or friend and family.  Our prayer lives become focused on our feelings, our wants, and our needs.  Our complete happiness becomes dependent on how many things we can cross off our "to do" list, and if we can't cross much off, beware!

Leave it to Satan to take something good and turn it into something bad.  It's time for us, as Christians, to find some balance.  Yes, let's keep fighting the good fight.  Yes, let's be productive and hard-working.  But let's not allow our productivity goals to rob us of the other important things in this life.  We must be careful not to become so busy that we neglect our families, our friends, our health and most importantly, our relationship with Christ.  I know it won't be easy, but I'm willing to give it a try.  How about you?

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dealing With My Big "But"

I have a big "but" problem.  Before you get offended, notice the spelling.  I'm not talking about my rear end, though Heaven knows there are some issues there that need to be addressed.  But more importantly is my problem with excuses.

I'd exercise more, but it's just too hot.
I'd read my Bible more, but I'm really into this good fiction novel right now.
I'd spend more time in prayer, but then I feel rushed to get everything else done.
I'd be more compassionate, but I fear people would take advantage of me.

Do you see it?  "I would, but. . ."  Nasty little critter, isn't it?  Not only does it qualify our excuses, but it also justifies them in our minds.  It's as if, by adding that little conjunction, we "excuse" ourselves from the tasks that need to be done.  Well, it is hot.  Or, yeah, I sure would like to finish that book.  In a sense, we use that "but" to convince ourselves that it's okay to shirk our responsibilities.  And the worst part is that we fall for this ploy over and over again.  Isn't that frustrating?

Jesus dealt with his fair share of "buts."  One parable, in particular, comes to mind.  Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. (Luke 14:16-20)

Just to prove to you how ridiculous our excuses can be, let's take a look at the ones offered here.  The first guy said that he had bought a piece of land and needed to see it.  Okay, forgive me for being blunt right now, but what kind of idiot buys a piece of property without seeing it first?  Really, dude?  That's the best you can come up with?

Unfortunately, guest #2 is no better.  His excuse was that he bought five yoke of oxen and needed to go test them out.  May I return to my original question?  What kind of moron would buy oxen without trying them first?  In our day, that would be like buying a used car without test driving it.  Duh!

But, I must admit, #3 is my favorite.  "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come."  Okay, guys, I know we wives may give you a hard time now and then, but you can't blame everything on us.  Seriously?  Why not take your wife with you to the supper?  Don't you think she might enjoy a night out on the town instead of slaving away in the kitchen herself?  Open mouth; insert foot!

This passage is comical yet sad.  These men missed out on the chance of a lifetime because they convinced themselves that they had a reason to say, "no."  How often do we do the same?  Be careful with your "buts."  They can get us into a lot of trouble.  Instead, try using the word "therefore."  It works like this:

I'd like to exercise more; therefore, I will get up earlier so that I can beat the heat.
I'd like to spend more time in the Bible; therefore, I will limit my other reading to one hour a day.
I'd like to spend more time in prayer; therefore, I will make every effort to organize my day so that I don't feel rushed and hectic.
I'd like to be more compassionate; therefore, I will find small ways to help those around me.

Do you see the difference?  Instead of excusing ourselves from our tasks, we're empowering ourselves to do them.  We're no longer making excuses; we're making a plan.  Which do you think honors God more?

Friday, July 8, 2016

You'd Have To See It To Believe It

I saw the strangest thing on my way to the chiropractor the other day.  Amidst the morning rush hour, I noticed that the three lanes of upcoming traffic were at a standstill.  There was no traffic light or stop sign.  No accident that I could see.  Unsure what was happening, I slowed as I neared the halted traffic, and as I drove past, I couldn't believe what I saw.  There was a long line of geese (at least a dozen), walking single-file across the street.  The first goose in the line had reached the edge of the median and was evidently waiting for traffic to clear before continuing his stroll.  The others merely waited in line behind him, stretched all the way across the three lanes of traffic.  It was one of the craziest things I've ever seen, but I guess you'd have to have been there to believe it.

The Bible is full of the impossible.  The parting of the Red Sea.  The crashing of the walls of Jericho. Rescue from a fiery furnace. A man turned beast.  Jesus walking on the water.  A multitude being fed with one boy's lunch.  A Father sacrificing His own Son for the likes of us.  I mean, seriously, if you think about it, the Bible ought to blow our minds!

I don't ever recall reading the phrase, "But you'd have to see it to believe it," but I do remember several instances where a believer said to an unbeliever, "Come and see."  Same meaning, I think.  In each of the passages that come to mind, the listener didn't believe what the communicator was saying, so the communicator's response was basically, "Don't believe me?  Come and see for yourself."  And they did go, and they did believe.

Unfortunately, none of us was witness to the miracles of the Bible.  We didn't have the opportunity to "go and see."  But we have something just as good.  We have the record of all those events.  We have eye-witness accounts of hundreds of the wondrous works of God.  This journal is at our fingertips.  We can read it whenever we want (unless you are reading this from across the globe where your spiritual freedom is limited).  We have the opportunity each and every day to see what God has done, what He's capable of doing, and how He works in the lives of His children.  And because of that, we can believe.

Did you believe my story about the geese?  I hope so because it was true.  You probably knew that because you know me.  I have a tendency to be brutally honest.  Even though you didn't see the mind-boggling scene, you believe it because you trust the source.  That's how it is with the Bible.  That's what makes it different than any other book in our libraries.  It's not just a book of stories.  It's a living, breathing book that details the character and faithfulness of a loving and just God.  And because it is inspired by God Himself, we believe the accounts contained within because we trust the Source.

Would I like to have seen these things with my own eyes?  Sure, and I hope that one day I will.  I pray that part of our time in eternity will be spent on a tour of all the miraculous Biblical accounts (and those that aren't listed).  I want to sit on the hillside and enjoy the bread and fish.  I'd love to stroll through the midst of the Red Sea or walk on the water with Jesus.  But for now, I'll be content to lose myself in the beauty and splendor of God's Word.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. - I Timothy 3:16

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Are You Wishy-Washy in Your Faith?

King Nebuchadnezzar was quite a wishy-washy fellow.  You would think that someone as powerful and commanding as he would have been steadfast in his beliefs and opinions, but Scripture shows us that he was anything but.  In fact, he seemed to be blown about by every breeze, no matter which direction it was blowing.

In Daniel 1, we catch our first glimpse of Nebuchadnezzar as he takes Jerusalem captive.  Attack.  Conquer.  Sounds about right so far.  But then, in chapter 2, he has a terrible nightmare that scares him silly, but by the time he calls for his magicians and counselors, he can't remember what the dream was about.  Of course, none of them could tell him either, but when Daniel found out what was going on, he stepped forward and said that he could do it.  God gave Daniel both the dream and the interpretation of it.  I'll let you read all about that on your own because I want to get to Nebuchadnezzar's reaction to this.  Look carefully: The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. (vs. 47)  It sounds like Nebuchadnezzar caught on, but, chapter three shows us that he didn't.

We're all familiar with the next chapter.  The king, proud of himself and his accomplishments, sets up an image of himself for all the land to worship.  It wasn't an option or a suggestion.  It was a command.  What happened to worshiping the God of all gods?  And it gets worse.  When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down, Nebuchadnezzar threatens to throw them into the fiery furnace, and look what he says to them:  Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? (vs. 15)  Who is that God?  Um, duh, it's the same God you were worshiping and praising in the last chapter--the One you said was the God of gods and King of kings.

As you know, the three Hebrew children still refused, and Nebuchadnezzar made good on his threat, only things didn't turn out the way he had planned.  Again, I'll let you read that story, but I want to jump ahead to the king's words once the three Hebrew children were set free from the furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. (vs. 28-29)  Finally, he gets it, right?  He finally understands that there is no one higher or more holy than the one true God, or so it would seem, but as we continue to chapter four, we see that the king still hasn't learned his lesson.

In chapter four, Nebuchadnezzar's pride gets the best of him again, and he declares, The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? (vs. 30)  Immediately, God struck him down and transformed him into some sort of beast that was forced to eat grass and linger in the woods and fields with the rest of the wild animals.  Lovely, huh?  When God finally releases him from this captivity, Nebuchadnezzar appears to be a changed man. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (vs. 37)

Did Nebuchadnezzar finally have his act together?  I'm not sure, but the next chapter tells us that his grandson, Belshazzar, was as wicked as they come.  Hopefully, he didn't learn that behavior from dear, old grandpa.

The sad part is that we can often be just as wishy-washy in our faith as Nebuchadnezzar was.  One minute we trust God with all that we have, the next minute, we're wringing our hands in worry and fear.  In the morning, we praise and worship God for being Lord of our lives; then we spend the rest of the day serving ourselves instead of Him.  We claim to want His will above all else, but when it comes time to make a decision, we do what we want instead of what He wants.

It's easy to read through the story of Nebuchadnezzar and think, Shame on you!  Won't you ever learn your lesson?  But the hard truth is that we have no room to talk.  We're just as guilty as he is.  So, if we're going to examine someone's faults, how about we start with our own so that we can learn to stand firm on our faith and stop being blown about by every breeze that comes our way.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

An Important Message From the Soapbox

We all have things that aggravate us, right?  For some, it's traffic.  For others, it's waiting in the line at the "express" checkout.  For me, it's the shopping cart return at the store.  It drives me insane!  Why?  Because it seems like people need an instruction manual on how to use them.  If necessary, I'd be willing to write it myself.  It wouldn't take long, and it would read something like this:  "Please return your cart to the store or the nearest cart return.  When placing your cart in the return, please fold up the basket and push your cart forward in the return until it comes to a complete stop, thus providing room for more carts in the future.  Thank you!"

See?  How difficult was that?  But people don't do that.  The majority of people don't do that.  I know.  I've watched them.  (No, I'm not a stalker!)  Seriously, though, there are three main ways that people deal with the cart return.

1) They don't.  They leave their cart beside or in front of their vehicle.  This inevitably leads to the cart rolling off and banging into someone else's vehicle.  (I witnessed this just yesterday!)

2) They walk a few steps toward the nearest cart return and give the cart a good shove in the general direction of the cart return.  Then they turn and walk back to the car, paying no attention to whether or not the cart actually made it to the return.

3) They take the cart all the way to the return and place it (basket down) at the end of the long line of other carts that have been shoved in a haphazard manner.

Yesterday, after watching a cart bang into a very nice SUV, I decided to prove my point.  Unfortunately, Jason was the only one around to witness my tirade.  As we passed the cart return, I grabbed the last cart and pushed until it met the next cart and the next and the next and finally stopped.  Where the return had been full, there was now room for at least ten more carts.  Ten!  "That took two seconds!" I declared.  "What is the problem?"  Jason only laughed.

I don't get road rage, but this cart behavior drives me nuts, and I think I figured it out why.  In fact, it's the same reason why others have road rage.  People are selfish and self-absorbed, and they don't take a moment to think about anyone but themselves.  Leaving the cart beside the car means they don't have the walk the extra fifteen steps it would take to return it to its proper place.  (How lazy can you be?)  Shoving it toward the return and placing it at the end of the line are better but still not taking the next person into consideration because if the next person wants to do the right thing, they'll have to clean up the mess that's already there first.  See what I mean?  It's all about selfishness and being inconsiderate.  On the whole, we do what's best for us and rarely take the time to think about what would be best for those who come behind us and have to clean up our mess.

One of my new favorite songs is entitled "One Mile World," and it talks about how it's easier just to pretend we don't see the world around us.  The second verse says, "I've got enough to do to keep me busy for a week without somebody else's problems piling in on me."  Boy, that sounds about right, doesn't it?  We have our own problems.  We have our own issues.  Who has time to think about others?  We should!  The next line of the song says, "Convenience and compassion never travel hand in hand."  That's the truth!  It's not easy to go out of our way and think about someone else for a change, but it's the right thing to do.  God wants us to think about others and do for others.  He wants us to go the second mile and put the needs of others before our own.  And it starts with the little things like driving with respect and placing our cart in the return in the proper way.  When we do these things, we are honoring God and imitating His character.

Please, think about what I've said and pray that God will make you more willing to go the second mile.  There seem to be plenty of others living in the One-Mile World.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. - Luke 6:31

Monday, July 4, 2016

The One Thing

Per the suggestion of a writing mentor, I am reading through a book called The One Thing.  It is a book that teaches readers to stop multitasking and instead focus their entire attention on one thing, specifically the one thing that they've been called to do.  I haven't gotten very far in the book yet, but I already realize that I have a problem--I'm a multitasking freak!

Let me give you a brief rundown of what my typical week involves:  writing, reading, studying, taking a writing class, podcasting, blogging, marketing my books, keeping up with five different websites, teaching Sunday School, picking out and practicing songs for church, going to church, running errands, housekeeping, cooking meals, caring for my husband and dog, and so on.  You get the point, right?  In my mind, there are simply too many things on that list to accomplish the items one at a time.  Multitasking seems like the logical plan.

Unfortunately, research has shown that multitasking doesn't make us more productive.  In fact, it does the exact opposite.  It causes more stress, allows us to make more mistakes, and eats up more time than doing one thing at a time.  Who knew?

God did, for He told us the same thing in His Word on more than one occasion.  The first part of Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.  Whatever we're doing, we should give it our all, and we can't do that if we're multitasking.  It is impossible to give all our focus, attention and energy to one thing when we're trying to do four things at once.  Instead, we should focus on one thing until it is completed and then move on to the next thing.  One thing at a time!

Still not convinced?  Check out what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10: And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (vs. 41-42)  I believe with all my heart that Martha was trying to serve God the only way she knew how--multitasking.  She was careful and troubled about many things.  Was there going to be enough soup for everyone?  Did the napkins match the tablecloths?  Were the servants going to wash the feet of her guests, or was she going to have to do that too?  The rolls!  The cake!  And where is Mary?

You know the story, the frustrated hostess marches out to Jesus and commands Him to tell Mary to help her.  She meant well, bless her heart, but she really could have used to take a moment to work on her delivery.  Jesus, undeterred by her harshness, pointed out the problem wasn't with Mary but with Martha.  First off, Martha was trying to do too much, and it was working her into a tizzy (sound familiar?).  Second, notice the wording that Jesus used next:  "One thing is needful."  One thing!  Specifically, the one thing that Mary was doing at the moment--worshiping God.  Notice the difference in the temperaments of the two siblings.  Martha is frazzled, angry and bitter.  Mary is peaceful, calm and full of love for her Master.  Still think multitasking is a good thing?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  Everything has its own time.  When it's time to work, let us focus on the ONE project at hand and finish it before moving on to another rather than having fifteen irons in the fire at once.  When it's time to worship, let us put everything else aside and focus on our Lord and Savior.  When it's time for family, turn off the phone, shut down the computer and give one another your undivided attention.  Right now, at this moment, one thing is needful.  Discover that one thing and do it, then continue the process throughout the day, and see if you don't feel more productive and less stressed.

*Disclaimer:  I am placing a purchase link to the book, The One Thing, below.  Please note that I have not finished reading the book and therefore cannot vouch that everything in it is Christ-honoring.  It is not a Christian book, but I felt some of you might be interested in it nonetheless.


Friday, July 1, 2016

God's Definition of "Problem"

Webster describes a problem as "a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation." Sounds about right, doesn't it? Not to God. God doesn't send problems to us to perplex, distress, or vex us. He has other reasons.

1. Problems often provide us with greater opportunities.
Think about the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus became sick and died. This was a problem for the sisters. Not only were they discouraged by the loss of their brother, but they were also disheartened that Jesus didn't arrive to heal him. What they didn't know was that God had something better in store for them. They didn't get to witness a miraculous healing, but they did get to witness a miraculous resurrection.

2. Problems can promote our spiritual maturity.
How about Jonah? Not the most mature of Christians, was he? God gave him a command to go to Ninevah, and Jonah hopped on the next boat headed in the opposite direction. But, after a bumpy boat ride and a slobbery encounter with a whale, Jonah grew up. He followed God's command, and Ninevah repented of their sins.

3. Problems prove our integrity.
Several examples would work well here, but the first one that came to my mind was Daniel. Daniel was faithful, but it's easy to be faithful when things are going well and you're highly esteemed. God used some problems (in the form of colossal kitty cats) in Daniel's life to prove his integrity not only to others but also to himself.

4. Problems produce a sense of dependence.
In Psalm 38:4, David said, For mine iniquities are over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. Sometimes God uses problems to knock us off our self-appointed pedestals. When things are going well, we tend to lose sight of God and the fact that we need Him. We rely on our jobs, money, and possessions to satisfy us. Sometimes, God has to strip us of those things to get our focus and dependence back on Him where they belong.

5. Problems prepare our hearts for ministry.
If you go through the book of Psalms (my favorite book), you'll discover a trend in many chapters. The beginning of the chapter starts out as a sob story. This happened, and that happened. I'm tired of crying. I'm sick of running. I'm in such great despair. Lord, where are you, and why are you allowing this to happen to me? But, by the end of the chapter, you'll hear praise and thanksgiving. There's nothing like a good problem to remind us of how good God is and how worthy He is of our praise.

So, the next time you go through a problem, don't think of it the way Webster does. Think of it the way God does. Allow Him to use the situation to help you grow as a Christian. That's all He wants. The problems are sent to help us not to harm us.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good. - Genesis 50:20a

***Excerpt from Mindful Musings of a Moody Motivator***
Now available in Paperback and Kindle formats!