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One Way?

Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but often the same street has two different names. Several do in my section of town. You can be driving down the same street and suddenly you realize you aren’t on the same one as before. But, aren’t you? One block can make a difference.

I sat at the traffic light, waiting it to turn green, and pondered a moment. There are other streets that stop, then start up again. You have to zig or zag a bit to find them again. We have a few of these in my neighborhhod as well.

Isn’t that the way it often is on this road we call life? It is so easy to think we are heading in the right direction, on God’s path. Then something subtle changes. We look up and see signs telling us we are headed a new way, even if we did not realize anything had changed. How did we get here and how do we get on the right path again? Or, are we still on it and yet God has changed it in some way?

I have been concentrating on the car in front of me for several miles in traffic, sort of half-dazed, and missed my turn off, haven’t you? Or been deeply distracted by a song on the radio or my passenger’s conversation. Yes, easy then to see I’ve messed up and figure out how to turn around.

But life can be more subtle than that.

How can we know we are on the correct path, even if it seems to have changed names?
By letting someone else drive…

Jesus, take the wheel.

Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Pexels.com

I’m A Fan

I sat on my sofa and stared at my room fan. It softly whirred as it oscillated back and forth. The steady white noise lulled me into a peaceful state. It didn’t complain. It kept doing it’s thing. Backadn forth, back and forth, spreading welcomed coolness.

My apartment faces west and in Texas summers the bank of off-cenered bay windows in my living room can make things a tad toasty. Thus the fan. I could train it to blow directly on me. But by letting it shift the airflow around the room in a steady pattern it ends up cooling four times as much space. Just takes a bit longer.

What type of fan am I? How about you? Do we focus on one thing and blast at it? Do a agreat job but perhaps could do better if we fanned out our efforts?

Or are we an oscillating fan which spreads our talents evenly over several areas, providing relief and service to many others?

Do we stay super focused on one point in our lives, or do we easily shift from one to another?

As I look at the life of Jesus on earth, His mission was focused on one thing, but the acting out of His mission spanned many lives from outcasts to Pharisees, from tax collectors to zealots, from women to men and small children. Each one He touched. Each one he blew the breath of love upon evenly. Each one He shed His blood for. No exceptions.

What about our evangelsitic efforts? Do we concentrate on the people we are more comfortable speaking with? Aim our efforts at someone who dresses and smells like us? Or do we span out, equally treating all with the same grace, love, and respect? Tough question.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul told his followers he tried to be everything to everyone so he would not be a stumbling block to anyone. (See 1Corinthians 9:19-23. He wasn’t being fake. Just the opposite. He was being real. He saw what the other peson needed and offered it in a way they could relate to. He found common ground. How?

One One Way – The Way- through the love of God in Christ Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What a difference we could make if we fanned out and, by living our lives day in and day out, emilating the fruit of the Spirit, we blew peace and love on all we see? We were more kind, gentle, patient, fore-bearing, loving…

A worthy goal. Sure, we will mess up if we try. Humans do. But the more we oscillate instead of standing still, the wider our reach will become. The more we use God’s eyes to see others, the better we can spread His goodness.

It’s a hot, hellacious world out there. Let’s be a fan, quietly influencing others wherever God turns us and cooling their anxiousness with His refreshing grace so freqently bestowed upon us.

Failed?

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1

Years ago, I accepted a challenge to become a devotional editor for an international missionary society. Trouble was, I had to raise my own salary, as most missionaries do. But the fact I worked remotely at home meant my mission field was only as wide as my keyboard, though in truth it spanned worldwide. People couldn’t grasp the concept that I was not headed to Africa or Cambodia even though amore read our devotionals daily tahn most missonary with boots on the ground would come in contact with in a lifetime.

I tried every way I knew to glean financial support. I never became fully funded and couldn’t make even a decent poverty-level living. It tied my guts in knots. I’d cry in my sleep. I whimpered on my knees. I so wanted to serve in this way. My heart ached to keep doing this.

Finally, after five years of stressful existence and waning joy, I caved. I accepted a job offer from a Christian boss who appreciates my efforts and now I am able to support myself comfortably enough to help support other missionaries and my church. My faith-based novels are taking off as well, and I am under contract for 6 more of them.

But I felt as if I had let God down. I had failed…

But did I?

“No,” God whispered into my soul. While readership didn’t skyrocket, it increased and remained steady. I mentored over 35 writers, many who went on to write books. Even more have graciously volunteered their works each month for years, God bless them. And though I lived in low income housing, I never starved.

He used me where He needed me at the time. He is still using me, just differently.

I felt my Lord smiling and saying as He did to Isaiah, “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called her. I will bring her, and she will succeed in her mission” (Isaiah 48:17- gender changed.) I learned a great lesson. Never compare myself to others using human standards of measurement. Success to God is simply obedience and persistance.

Wherever you are in life, God can use you. Stay obedient, even if that is picking up trash in your elderly neighbor’s yard or singing in the choir and never being asked to solo. Be it speaking to thousands at a religious rally or changing the diapers on two babies in the church nursery every week.

We all have a mission field but we need to let God define it and then rejoice that we are doing His will His way.

The saying, Carpe Diem, or seize the day, became popular again a few decades ago in the movie Goodwill Hunting. Originally found in Horace’s writing in the century before Christ, it suggests that we should make the most of the present and not worry so much about the future or fret over the past.

Jesus seemed to echo this sentiment in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34 when He told His listeners not to worry about tomorrow or be anxious about today because, like the lillies and the birds, God will care for us.

But today, carpe diem epitomizes the “me society” attitude that what I do when I feel like doing it is all right and you have no right to judge me or stop me. Live for the moment. Do it what it takes to satisfy my own needs.

I doubt this is what Our Lord meant. Underlying His advice was the unerstanding that God is sovereign and in control, not us. He alone can see into the future so He shapes destiny. We obey.

So I propose we all get T-shirts or bumper stickers wth a new saying – Karpos Diem. The Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is karpos — “that which originates or comes from something.” And the karpe of the Spirit originates from obedience to God’s will: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we strive to live each day following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and produce the fruit that stems from these qualities, wouldn’t we then not worry so much? Our lives would be less stressful than chasing after fleeting dreams of fulfillment, worth, and happiness. When we know it all comes from God, who has our best interests at heart, then life makes sense. It has purpose, and a future.

I think it purposeful that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride led to the fall after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to live life their way. Carpe diem.

But through Christ’s sacrifce and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, we can now digest the attributes that restores us into the right relationship with our Heavenly Father, and then produce its fruit in our lives!

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily practice on digesting the fruit of the Spirit into our attitudes will help us to not only grow into the potential God created us to have, but spur others to seek this peace that a passes all understanding as well.

So, Karpos Diem my friends. Be frutiful and multiply!

My Special Words

As I have unpacked and hung pictures on the wall of my new apartment, I smile. Many are sayings that booster my faith, even when I just glance at them. I find God’s love adnpeace in them.

So, I thought I’d share some with you. Perhaps they’ll make you smile as well. We all need something to smile about.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

The Bible is the only book whose author is always present when one reads it.

We cannot change the wind but we can direct our sails.

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.

From ghouiles and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us. (From an ancient Scottish Litany.)

And the Scriptural ones – perhaps you have these as well:

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. James 1:17

The Lord will watch over your going out and your coming in forever more. Psalm 121:8

The Lord is our refuge and our strength, our very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray….I will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And above all else may we never forget that….

One Letter

One letter can make a huge difference. Mean versus moan. Bad vs bed. Dog vs. dig.

Take the words son and sin. The letters that are different are the letter I and the letter O. But there is so much more to that observation. Hidden in it is a great truth.

 

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10:24

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

 

When “i” is in the middle of our thoughts, we are self-centered.   S.I.N. = See, I need.

Replace that with “o” and you have changed your focus to others’ needs.  S.O.N = See, others need.

Here’s why.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth not for Himself but for others. He died for us so we could have a bridge of reconciliation back to the Father in Heaven who loves us. We, in our sinful nature with our “me first” attitudes, separate ourselves from that love. Christ shows us a better way.

Christ calls us to act the way He lived on earth — to be other-focused. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “– the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12. Time again He rebuked His listeners for not caring for others first and foremost. John, Paul, and Peter reiterated this many times in their letters to the faithful. They understood what a servitude attitude was all about. They lived it.

By humbling ourselves and putting others as our priority, God sees our motive as an act of love for Him and what He created. Serving others, praying for others, and loving others takes our minds, actions, and hearts off ourselves. Then, we begin to realize we have something in common – we all need love. We need each other. We need God.

We are not an island floating in a vast sea alone. We are part of creation as a whole, dependent upon the Creator.

Yes, of course, we should love ourselves…as creations of God. But when that love of self becomes the main focus, then sin sets in and pushes out the Son from our hearts, minds, and soul.

Prayer can reverse the order. It can replace the “i” with the “o”. Ask God to help you be more other-centered. He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you away from self into selflessness. Peace and happiness will flow from you as a result.

 

Shut the Door


She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 2 Kings 4:22

She was rich, the Bible says. She would give the prophet Elisha a meal whenever he was in town because she knew he was a holy man of God. It was her way to honor him and the Lord. In fact, she made up a small room for Elisha to stay in so he could rest from his travels. But when her son fell ill and died, she didn’t lay the boy on his bed or even her own as was the custom for mourning visitations before burial. She laid him on Elisha’s guest bed and shut the door.

That, to me is an important difference. It shows faith. She didn’t mourn at all. She knew if anyone could revive her son, it was the man who acted for God, and hopefully, by the power of God, he’d heal the boy.

You see, she had been barren and Elisha prophesized God would give her a son in thanksgiving for her hospitality. So when that happened, she knew it as a gift from God. When her son collapsed in her arms and breathed his last, she sought out Elisha. She went to the source. She wanted the prophet, and only the prophet, to come since it was he who had prophesized she’d have the boy. Elisha saw her tenacious faith, went with her, and revived her son while she waited outside of the door.

The story tells me that when something awful happens to me, I need to respond in faith. Set it down, shut the door, and seek Jesus instead of wallowing in my sorrow or fear or hurt. Not try by my own knowledge or strength to handle it, and not to get angry with God. If I respond in faith, Jesus will respond to me.

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God may not do exactly as I ask, as Elsiha did for the tenacious woman, but He will do what is best in my situation. My response is to trust and pray. Shut the door on my problem and seek His face before anything else. He will know how to handle it as I wait patiently.

Animal Wisdom

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. Micah 6:8

When my guinea pig wants my attention, he stands on his hind legs and peers over the rim of his cage so I will notice him. But when I get to the cage, he lowers himself and lays flat. It isn’t a “deer in the headlights” freeze of fear. When animals freeze, they are on their feet ready to dash. They’re wary of their surroundings as their hearts pound and the adrenaline builds.

No, this is different. It is his “Momma, come to me, I trust you” pose. It is easier for me to pick him up and lift him to cuddle on my shoulder when he is still.

Does your pet do that? My cats used to do that as well. And that is one reason animals are smart. They crouch in trust. They purposely stay still, waiting for the big old powerful human to pick them up and hold them close. No fight or flight mode. They know a bit of safe, secure loving is coming.

Why can’t we be more like that with God? Humble ourselves so we can be lifted to His shoulder. I don’t care how old you are, everyone needs a hug. Everyone needs to feel loved, secure, and safe. Is there any place you’d rather be than in the arms of your Savior? I don’t know of one.

If God has ever brought you to your knees perhaps it was to teach you to react like a small animal. To be humbled, contrite, and totally dependent. Perhaps that is why kneeling to pray feels so special. It aligns our hearts to His will. It is a position of vulnerability and trust. And also one of confidence and hope.

In fact, it may be the best position we can take no matter the situation. When we are frightened, and when we are a tad bit overconfident. When we are hurt, or when we feel on top of the world and invincible. When we are angry as all get out or so joyful we lose perspective.

Pray for God to draw near and He will. Go ahead. Crouch down and pray. Snuggle in and feel His merciful, wound-scarred hand wrap around you as He draws you to His chest. Lay your head like a sleeping child, peaceful and secure on Daddy’s shoulders. It’s the best place to be.

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart...Isaiah 40:11

Pesky Weeds

A friend in my Bible study group said, “I keep having these negative thoughts crop up in my mind, and I have to yank them out. It’s like God is bringing them to the surface so I know they are there.”

It made me think about the “grow your own lavender” gift my son gave me. In it was a packet of seeds, which I planted in the provided soil and set out on my patio in a semi-sunny location. But evidently, some weedy seeds got mixed into the soil, probably from the bird feeder. Until they pushed to the surface and began to grow, I wouldn’t have known they had been buried there. Just like my friend’s thoughts.

Jesus told his dsiciples about weeds in a parable in Matthew 13:

2Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

Now in the parable, the man tells the workers to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest and at that time they could “weed things out”. Jesus was referring to Judgement Day. There will be good and evil side by side until then.

But the concept is the same. We are sponges. Our brains absorb images and actions in our surroundings, many subconsciously. Try as we may, it is hard to filter all the “bad” out. Through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, we can be guided to know what is good (of God) and what is bad (not of God). As these weeds, which are not of God, grow into our consciousness, we can plunk them out and refuse to let them take deep root. Bitterness, anger, envy, an unforgiving spirit…these are all things that, if left to grow, can choke out the fruit of the Spirit.

So the next time a negative thought floats to my attention like an answer in a Magic Eight Ball, instead of chastising myself, I will do as my friend suggests. Yank it out, give it to God and let Him deal with it. Gone. Then fill the “hole” with Scripture and let that grow instead.

How about you?

The Three P’s

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

When in comes to the Christan walk, there are three p’s:

Prayer

Power

Purpose

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have for fulfilling God’s purpose. When a car has a wobbly tire, it is hard to steer it straight. It keeps wanting to veer off. Prayer brings our mind, heart, and spirit in alignment with God the way a mechanic aligns the tires. It keeps us going in the right direction. Prayer is a privileged conversation with the Almighty, which requires listening as well as talking. It reminds us of God’s power when we humble ourselves and trust. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

Power is an elusive thing, except when it comes to God. He has power over everything, yet He grants us the free will to accept it or not. Many people find this to be a stumbling block because they wish to retain power. But once a person experiences the power of God, they soon fall to their knees in awe, and their response is prayer. They discover a new purpose–letting go and letting God. They learn freedom is bliss inside boundaries. They are no longer tethered to the lie that they have to be in total control. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. (Lord’s Prayer)

diego rosa- unsplash

Purpose – most of us at one time or another ask ourselves what our purpose is in life, or if life itself has a purpose. The answer is found in our relationship with God. Job knew this even after he went through more calamities than a person should ever have to experience. He said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). The Christian has two purposes, which Jesus stated all else rests upon–Love God, love neighbor. (Matthew 27:37-40). Neither is easily accomplished without the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, giving it purpose.

The initial Scriptural quote from Exodus is concerning Pharoah and his hardened heart. I chose it as an encouragement. God has a purpose for everything and everyone. He used Pharoah to show His power not out of some ego stunt but to show His people, the Hebrews, that He was with them and would not forsake them. It was also to show Pharoah that he was not a god. His power was limited.

Today there is pesecution in ways we have never experienced, and some say it will only get worse. Society will conintue to crumble into chaos, morals will keep declining, and life will be further devaluated.

Fear not. God has the power and a purpose. We can seek that and receive it through prayer, bringing power and purpose to our lives and those of others.

For more information, consider getting P.R.A.Y.I.N.G: Bringing more Power and Purpose to Your Prayers

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