Stormy weather

stormy-weatherIf you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I write a lot about the storms of life. I have moments when my heart hurts and I think that surely my life has been stormier than most, but I know that it has not. Most of us keep our storms hidden… or at least we find a way to mitigate their appearance.

But however well we hide them, the storms come to us all. Some of us cry in public, others in private. Some of us rage while others medicate. But the common denominator in each of these responses is pain.

The storms of life are painful, even devastating, but every phase is covered in God’s Word. For every moment, there is a promise that He made to us that we can stand on and believe in and draw strength from.

He bore our griefs. (Isaiah 53:4) He healed our broken hearts. (Psalm 147:3) He brings new life and joy. (Psalm 30:11) He fights our battles. (2 Chronicles 20:17) He closes the mouths of the lions. (Daniel 6:22) He restores our souls. (Psalm 23:2)

Whatever we’re facing, we serve a God who is faithful in the storm if we humble ourselves and run to Him. His salvation does not come to those who stand with arms folded. His salvation comes to the heart that is flayed open before Him, the heart that says, “Oh God, please help me. I need you. I cannot do this in my own strength. Save me.” God responds to the softened heart that comes to Him in humility. He responds to the prayer of faith and expectancy. He responds to His children who run to Him, not from Him.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. Psalm 23:4 AMP

Run to Him. Drop your baggage and run to Him. He is waiting for you.

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Jailbreak

img_0710Isaiah 45:2 says, I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.

Some of us are in a cage and we need to break out. What is holding you back? What is stealing your life from you? God wants you free. God sent Jesus to the cross to accomplish this end. The devil is a liar, a thief, a tyrant, and a killer.

God brings life, peace, fulfillment, purpose, and joy. Even during the dark times.

Seek Him out; find Him. He can rescue you, cut your bars of iron, and set you free. His Word is life to those who find it and health to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:22)

Go find it.

Don’t sit and quit

dogtreatsDon’t sit and quit. Stay engaged. Stay in the game. Stay in the fight. Press on toward the mark. Philippians 3:14 says in a lofty and strangely religious way, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

It’s a mouthful. But it just means we’re trying, we’re not quitting, we’re staying engaged in the fight to make this life of faith work and serve God with our whole heart.

The Message translation says it this way: I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

As for me, I’m not turning back. I’ve come way too far to ditch it all now.

The state of your union

Hot and coldWhat’s the state of your union? I’m not talking about your relationships, I mean what’s the state of your insides? Is there peace? War? Personally, mine have recently been engaged in a skirmish. On one side there is faith… on the other, fear. Only one of them can win.

The Bible says a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25), so there has to be a winner. There will be a winner; whether I like it or not.

So, how do I tip the scale in favor of faith?

The Word of God in my mouth is the only way. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The Message translation says it this way: “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”

Every loose thought and emotion and impulse… How many of those do I have in a day?

The power lies in recognizing them when they come, and then forcing them to align with a life shaped by Christ. In other words, forcing my thoughts, emotions, and impulses to line up with the Word of God… the Word of God that is hidden in my heart so that I might not sin against Him. (Psalm 119:11)

It’s a battle, make no mistake. The very fact that I’m human and I was born on planet Earth, a sin-filled, fallen world means that there are forces working against me, against my peace, against my fulfillment and my destiny. But I know how to overcome them. God’s Word and His Holy Spirit have given me the power and the tools to calm the state of my union, and declare a winner.

 

Open your eyes

Open your eyesSo, Jaxon and I were flying to South Carolina to meet up with Lynn who had been preaching there for two weeks. We were on a regional jet, one of those smaller planes which bounce you around and vibrate you a bit, but safely convey you to your destination. I had paid the extra money to get a “preferred” seat and yet still found myself wedged between the aisle and a very devoted and heavyset religious woman who vigorously crossed herself the entire flight.

It was warm and stuffy and a bit odorous in my little area. My tailbone was numb and my knees ached. I got up to visit the lavatory and turned around to face the back of the plane for the first time since boarding. IT  WAS VIRTUALLY EMPTY.

I could have gone back there any time I wanted and had a whole row to myself! It was cooler, more spacious, more inviting and more wonderful in every way possible and I missed it! All because I thought I had scored myself a “preferred” seat near the front of the cabin, thus just knowing I must be in the most accommodating place in the airplane.

Wow, was I mistaken.

People, we perish for lack of knowledge. Had I opened my eyes, I would have had a much more enjoyable flight.

Don’t miss out on what God has for you by being sure you’ve got it all figured out. Don’t be like me. Open your eyes to all the possibilities, and never settle for what someone tells you is best. God’s plan might not be the most obvious option in front of you, and more times than not it is obscured by our over-active, problem-solving brains, but His plan is ALWAYS better. And if we get out of our own way and seek Him, He will show it to us.

Trouble, trouble, trouble

TroubleI knew you were trouble when you walked in. What a great line. This girl is on to something. And yes; I am going to turn a pop song into a devotional. I’m weird like that.

Take a look at John 14:26-27 where Jesus is giving instructions and encouragement to His disciples before He goes to the cross.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The disciples are naturally freaking out at what He’s telling them, but Jesus says, Let not your hearts be troubled. If you ask me, they had every reason for their hearts to be troubled. They had laid down their lives to follow Him and now He was leaving. I would have been ticked!

Why did Jesus tell them that, and what does it mean for us? Jesus knew our hearts would face trouble. He knew what was coming for Himself, for His disciples, and for all of us, both in those days as well as the future. He was preparing us for what He knew we would encounter in this life.

He’s saying, don’t let your heart be troubled, even though you’re going to want to. You’re going to feel trouble in your heart, but don’t let it camp out there. Don’t allow it to take root and fester. Don’t let fear build a home where it doesn’t belong.

The Amplified translation makes it even plainer: Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled. (John 14:27 AMP)

I want you to read that last line again.

Do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.

That’s quite an admonishment.

Don’t let it happen. Don’t let fear and trouble stay and make a comfortable nest in your life. It will knock at the door, you can count on that; but send it packing. Stand up in the power of the Holy Spirit on the inside of you, rebuke fear in the name of Jesus, and move on. God’s got your back. And through Him, you can be fearless, unflinching, courageous, and immovable.

Selflessness and coffee

Coffee talkRecently, I experienced the Starbucks pay it forward phenomenon. It was cool, yes, but when you pay for the coffee of the people behind you, are you really paying anything forward? I mean, you are paying for theirs basically because someone paid for yours. There is nothing inherently selfless about that. You can get a hundred cars who will do that. The only selfless person, the only real giver in that scenario is the person who started it. They are the one who will reap the eternal reward.

You see, the Starbucks drive-thru line paying it forward phenomenon is warm and fuzzy and makes internet creepers happy, but it’s really just an example of the world’s way of giving. It is giving after receiving. It is not selfless. It is not unconditional.

Jesus went to the cross for us because of His great love for humanity, and there isn’t a one of us who is qualified to pay Him back. All that God does for us is unmerited, undeserved. All His wondrous promises are laid before sinners like a banquet for which we did not buy a ticket. That’s His very nature. He loves and He gives.

John 3:16 says, for God so loved the world that He gave.

Oh, that we would do the same.

Love… for the win

Love for the winI love the movie Little Women. In one scene after Great Aunt March passes away, Marmee exclaims about the old, drafty house she left behind, “Her blessings became a burden because she couldn’t share them.” That may be the only thing to come out of that particular actress’s mouth that I have ever and will ever agree with.

…Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything… (From 1 Peter 4 The Message)

What do you have to offer? Offer it. What do you have to share? Share it. And love like your life depends on it. Do it so God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He’ll get all the credit. I can’t say it any better.

Be the miracle in someone’s life. Be the conduit through which God helps someone back to their feet. That’s real love. And yes, I know it can be risky. We’ve all felt the sting of giving love that isn’t returned or is mocked. But that’s the very definition of love. We give it even when it isn’t deserved. Jesus certainly loves us whether or not we deserve it. And if you think about it, do any of us really deserve His love? I know I don’t.

So if I’m supposed to be like Him, then I have to love like Him. Love sent Him to the cross. And through His perfect love for me, I am saved.

Love won on Calvary. Love still wins today.

Tweak me, oh Lord

Tweak me oh LordRecently, I was reminded of a Bible story about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee was very pleased with himself saying, “Thank You that I am not like these other people. I’ve got my life together.” The tax collector buried his face in his hands and said, “I’m not even worthy to look in Your face, but I repent of my sin and I want to make things right with You.”

The story concludes like this: I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14 AMP)

Which one are we?

No matter what a giant in the faith we may be, at times we all need a course correction. The only One that didn’t was Jesus. But He was tender enough before The Lord to be open to tweaking. Remember when He said, “If there is any other way, please let this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, thy will be done”?

Many cups will pass before us all. We get to decide how we’re going to handle them. I’m open to God’s tweaking. Are you?

Tough love

Love is the principal thingNo one wants to read the love chapter. It’s not fun. It’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s really hard. And if you read it closely, line by line, it’s even harder. So here’s your opportunity to read it… with me… and let’s feel how difficult this is, together.

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

It does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

That’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT). And it’s not even the whole chapter… just six lines. Talk about tough love… geez.

Love, forgive, move on. I’m working on it.