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Posts Tagged ‘Where did you find God today’

I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The register rang up $19.98. I handed the cashier a $20 bill. She asked, “Do you want change?”

I smiled. “Not really, but nothing stays the same does it?”

We both laughed.

Oh, how we hate change…

Isn’t it strange that we so greatly resist, even dislike, change when life on earth is always changing?

Babies grow into toddlers, then to kids, then to teens, and hopefully into competent adults. Even then, our bodies continue to change. Our metabolism slows, our skin wrinkles, our bellies widen. Our joints ache, and our stamina lessens.

The seasons change, right? Temperatures dip, leaves turn colors, and rains pound, then maybe snow falls. Temps rise and the squiggly miraging heat on the pavement make us wilt and dream of cool streams and sandy beaches.

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and rivers slowly carve out a new course. Flowers bloom, then wilt. Seeds push through the gorund and grow into plants. Catepillars turn into butterflies.

Political opinions change. Social standards change. Fashions change. So do relationships, friendships, and the desire to keep vows.

And still we resist…

If change bothers you, look to the One who never changes. Only things that are eternal remain the same:

God’s love

God’s grace

God’s mercy

Christ’s death that eradicates confessed sins.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance.

CAUTION: when you seek the things eternal and set your mind on the things that are above instead of earthly things, as Paul states in Colossians 3:2 , you are going to change. Sorry, but it’s true. And that’s okay.

You will be less stressed. Less anxious. Less swayed by emotional ups and downs. Calmer, more at peace, and joyful. Things will have a positive reflection instead of a negative influence. Your posture will be more upright and your step lighter. Your burden will seem less heavy. People may even react to you differently.

Do you want change?

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 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6 NKJV

Many of us grew up saying a set prayer. For example, the Lord’s Prayer, which is also found in Matthew 6. When asked how to pray, Jesus answered his disciples:

 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
[d]For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (vs. 8-12 NKJV- some texts eliminate 13).

And, so we have…for centuries. We teach it to our children. We say it together in church. Some of us are taught to say it daily.  It has become rote, something that rolls off our tongue the same as the alphabet song or the times table. 1×1 is 2, 2×2 is 4,etc.

A guest preacher a few weeks ago asked if we we truly believed what we prayed in the Lord’s Prayer. He spoke of the daily bread given to the Hebrews in the wilderness- the manna in Exodus 16. But his words pierced my soul.

As we turned to Matthew 6,  verse seven jumped off the page at me… And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words (emphasis mine). Is that what the Lord’s Prayer had become in my life? 

equilibrist-1831016_640Leaving my stressful job to become a freelance writer and editor, I knew in my heart that God would provide because I felt certain this was in His will for me. It was a matter of getting my brain on board. So I prayed. “God, I truly claim that you will give me my daily bread.” And that meant somehow, some way He would provide the exact amount I needed each month to get by, i.e. pay rent, have food, pay my utilties, and tithe. The basics. 

Last month, He did so in various ways – right up to the penny. This month, the amount came as a gift in the mail from someone who has been touched by my writing. She explained she sent it in obedience to what God lay on her heart. Again, the exact amount. She needed to give it as much as I needed to receive it.  Double blessing. God works that way.

What in the Lord’s Prayer do you need to claim as affirmation.  Is it daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance, or that God is in control forever? That His will will be done, that it will be on earth?

Whatever it is, pray that in the Lord’s Prayer. Really pray it, down to your toenails. Then claim it and see how God responds. Pray it in private, then see what He does in the open as a testimony to not only you but others.

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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.

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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.

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Do you know why they put erasers on pencils? Because humans use them.

In other words, none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. In fact, we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. Why? Because we have already corrected errors and moved on when we succeed. The lesson has been learned.

A friend gave me the ultimate “human pencil”. It has two erasers. I hope she wasn’t trying to tell me something.

But after I laughed, I saw great meaning in it. This is the type of eraser Christ uses in our lives when we confess our wrongdoings. One that will never run out. No matter how many times our sins are confessed, His three hours on the cross has already eradicated them.

Not to say there are no consequences for our actions. After all, we must learn from our mistakes, and sometimes that lesson is harsh. It may even seem unfair when we see others “getting away with it”. But it is part of the process to erase sin from our lives. Over and over.

A devotional writer once wrote about her father’s comment that there are two types of people in this world – saved sinners and unsaved sinners. We all need erasers in this life.

But here is the good news. There is no need for erasers in Heaven. We will be perfected and purified in Christ to stand before the throne of God. And as it says in Revelation 3:5,  I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels.

Hallelujah.

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“Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”  Luke 11:36

 

The morning sun peeked through the slats in my window blinds and landed on one of my potted plants. The leaves became almost transparent. I could see the veins as if they were being x-rayed. Each vein not only provides nourishment and strength to the leaf but helps to define its shape.

Are we not the same when Christ, the Light of the World, lives inside us? His mercy and goodness shape us. His Word flows through us to strengthen us and nourish us. When Jesus’ light shines through our words, thoughts, and deeds, people see him. We almost become transparent. Or so it should be.

One thing else I’ve noticed. If I let any dust settle on the plant leaves, the sunlight does not filter through as well. That hurts the plant and can prevent its leaves from growing strong and green. It may droop, or wither.

If we let the dust and dirt of the world settle on us, it can dim Christ’s influence. We can droop under the weight and not receive the light we daily need. It can accumulate on us over time to where very little of Christ is shining through us.

It is important that we are regularly cleansed of our sins so we can shine brightly and attract others to his love. Then, what he is doing inside of us will not be in vain, but his veins of mercy, grace, and love will be easily seen by others.

 

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A friend of mine is an avid urban gardener. She and her family plant beautiful flowers and raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the flowering vines and tomato vines. The cages also protect them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.

It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)

Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65-speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that tempting brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know?

Then there are those little white lies…

However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like tomatoes or flowering vines. Otherwise, we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.

My friend also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These creepy-crawlies as much as the so-called destructive ones so, the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.

This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that. For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.

Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats!  Plus, my apartment complex underwent new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.

Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection, and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!

cropped-storm-clouds-2-134981298598261vgu1.jpgOftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control and has a use for us right up until the end.  Even in the midst of sorrow, there can be joy, like a single sun ray bursting through the storm clouds.

This blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wondrous ways. His lessons are all around us.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

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You have probably seen them. Little sprigs of green eking through a concrete crack. Seeds were blown in the breeze, landed there, and somehow, despite the odds, grew into plants.

I saw these while stopped at a traffic light before entering the highway. Pretty blossoms decorating a Texas urban domain during the scorching summer heat. Amazing.

I am reminded of the lesson from Jesus’ story of the seeds. Some land on rocky ground, others in fertile soil. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:5-6).

However, these bunches of foliage are thriving and spreading and blooming. Perhaps the roots are short and so they exist all right in shallow soil. Maybe this flora used to the Texas sun. I think they are a wild variety of verbena.

Anyway, these plants were a “God whisper” to me that we should never predetermine the potential of the seeds we believers spread by our actions and words. Those we think may never take root may end up blossoming because at that time, the conditions we could not see where just right. The crack in their wall of doubt just wide enough. The questioning in their heart just deep enough.

Our job is to sow…kindness, love, justice, forbearance, mercy, and grace. The seeds of the fruit of the Spirit that have begun to ripen in us. Especially now when so much of people’s worlds are upturned and confused. Let the seeds fall where they may. The rest is up to the Creator, Savior, and Guide – our Triune Lord.

There is a saying on my fridge. “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.” Remember that the next time you encounter a frustrated stressed person who has had a bit too much of the negative news absorbed into their brains.

Let us cast our seeds of God’s love far and wide. We might just see our land blossom in beauty and majesty again.

 

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I love the nuances of the English language, especially homonyms, which are words that sound similar but are spelled differently.

Today I notices REIN and REIGN.

Reins are used to train a horse. With the bits in its mouth, the rains tug on him, telling him which way his master wants him to turn, stop or run. It is control by force.  When someone is out of control, we say they must be reined in.  I have heard that a g horse that is forcefully reined in too much develops a callus on the corners of its mouth to protect itself from the bit. After a while, it’s body puts up a natural defense against the reins.

A reign is a ruling over someone. In human history, there have been good reigns and bad reigns. The bad ones acted more like reins, trying to force their agenda on the people with harsh consequences for disobedience.

What did the good reigns have? They emphasized the “g”- good, which comes from God. They reigned out of love, not pride. When authorities honor God and emphasize the “g” in reign, the people prosper, humanity is dignified, and justice rules.

There’s only one person who truly reigns – God.  One day, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11), but until then, we must each choose to be reined in by the agenda of the world, or let Christ reign in our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but I want the “g” in my life. It makes all the difference in this world.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”  1Chronicles 16:31

 

 

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“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

We read this passage in Luke today in church. The last phrase became clear to me in a new way. If not, it will return to you. 

In other words, be at peace no matter what happens. You cannot control other’s reactions, only your own. Don’t let their negativity infect you.

Christ teaches us to pray for our enemies, even love them. We are to forgive others because Christ has forgiven us. We are to be the peacemakers, peace distributors, and peace dwellers.

There is a skit on Christian radio. A policeman pulls over a lady and is surprised to discover she is the owner of the car because it has a Christian symbol on the bumper. “The way you have been driving and acting, I thought it was stolen,” he says.

Recent events in the United States have produced hideous violence that is spreading like wildfire. I saw this happening in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement and in the 1970s protesting the war in Vietnam. What started as peaceful demonstrations voicing opinions turned into angry, destructive mobs. Those proclaiming that lives mattered and love was the answer soon forgot that was their message and became just the opposite in behavior. History repeats. It is sad to see.

I also am seeing a great deal of hate and slander being spread on social media. Much by so-called Christ-followers. This is not the way Christ wants us to act. He was not a rabble-rouser. Christians, let us be the ones who spread peace, not violence. Those who spread love, not hate, and forgiveness, not blame.

We have all sinned. None of us are righteous, except in Christ and through Christ alone. The writer to the Hebrews reiterated this: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Everyone, even those with whom we disagree.

Please join me. Be a pebble that begins the ripple of peace in your community. Stop the hate. Stop the slander on social media and in conversations of those with whom you disagree politically.

Yes, we have a right to express our opinion and preserve our freedoms. Many are in danger of dissolving. That is what the ballot box is for. But honestly, if I am set in my ways and you are set in yours, there is very little we can do to change each others’ minds.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that. Let’s not block Him from flowing in, though, and from us into the world. Anger rarely resolves anything. Instead of badmouthing them, pray for them.

Spead love and peace and let it return to you. Pray for those who need Jesus in their lives. Yield to those in authority because God has placed them there for a reason (Romans 13:1-7). As Paul warned, You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10).

We all will answer to One person in the end. What we give, we will receive once again. The boomerang effect. Whatever we send will be returned to the sender.

 

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