Do Everything…

You can learn a lot from a two year old – about being brave, about trying.

I’m not one who likes to try new things. I like the routine of life. Sure, a vacation here and there. But don’t talk to me about eating a dish I can’t pronounce or backpacking in a foreign country. But a little guy just over two feet tall learned all about jumping in the pool and swimming to the side this summer. All about swinging high even if your tummy feels funny. And often he would say: ‘I can be brave with a little help’, as he was trying his new adventures.

Hmm – a little help. We’ve actually got a whole lot of help. The Holy Spirit in us, the Bible to lead us, the Son interceding for us. And this reminder: “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.” (1Corinthians 16:13 CSB)

Life will throw a lot of curve balls – during those times it’s easy to be alert. We try to shore up our faith. We seek courage and strength from God, from family and friends. But in the easy times? We tend to think we can coast along.

Evil and our own weaknesses don’t take holidays. In fact, when we’re in coasting mode is often when we can be most susceptible. On guard and alert to: not compromising, being aware that satan would relish tripping us up, that the motivation of many is selfish. Be courageous and strong by: praying, studying the Bible, being in the company of believers, living for Jesus not for self.

The very next verse says: “Do everything in love.” (1Corinthians 6:14 CSB) Not much wiggle room there – everything. The thing is, try as we may to be on guard and be brave, things aren’t always in our control. But in all the things of life, we are to have an attitude of love.

What does that look like? Something for us to ponder as we go about the mundane everyday and as we encounter the unexpected. Be alert, stand firm, be brave, be strong – but most of all do everything…in love.

Breaking & Prayer…

How broken our world is. Tragedy is reality for so many. And for those who watch from afar, do our hearts break? 

In our own backyard do we not see how life is no longer precious – if it’s inconvenient. The unplanned pregnancy, the elderly failing body. Our world’s answer: bury them or throw them away. How have we come to this? How do we not weep? How are we not in fervent prayer – constantly?

Can we go the world over and extinguish all evil? Do we have the funds to fix every need? No, but we have a God who longs to hear our call. “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15 NIV)

Let’s cry out to God for those right in front of us and those half a world away. Let’s never say in our hearts that prayer doesn’t make a difference. To do so makes God a liar and Jesus a fraud.

For the Father calls us to prayer and there wasn’t one thing Jesus did on earth without praying. Many times the Bible says Jesus looked up, then prayed. From multiplying a few fish to feed thousands, to healing a blind man, and everything in between – Jesus prayed. So much more should we. “Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.” (John 11:41b NIV)

My heart and head are learning new things. Much is accomplished by a steadfast child of God who prays. ““Prayer is not telling God what to do. Prayer is partnering with God to see that His will is done.” (Stormie Omartian)

You and I can’t make all the wrongs right but we can pray and acknowledge we serve a God who can and will work all things out. We have been given great power – the power to pray. Jesus’ disciples noticed that when Jesus prayed, miracles happened. There was power accompanying His prayers. Yet they didn’t ask Him for that power, they asked Him to teach them how to pray.

Maybe if we will break a little over all the hurt and heartache around us and call out to God, we will see miracles. But we’ll never know until we lift up our eyes and pray. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them.” (Psalm 34:17a NIV)

 

 

Rest…

Some nights sleep is illusive. I’m not fretting about anything in particular. And weariness isn’t really in my mind or body – could it be soul rest is missing?

In this world, that wouldn’t be a hard thing to miss out on. Just when I think I’m getting prayer, Bible study, and seeking the Holy Spirit (and all the things I know are God’s best for me) figured out – there’s this uneasiness. Is it a stirring to more, is complacency setting in? Or is there something on the horizon and preparation is needed?

Do you find yourself, at times, needing just a bit more…rest? Then here’s what we need right now: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

There is a call to action in that verse. Can’t just read it and be done. Three words: Come – To – Me. If you’re like me, I look at those words and say: ‘I do, I come to You, where is this rest?’ It’s there and I know it. When I’m lost in reading His words, it’s there. When I lose myself in fervent prayer, it’s there.

But what about in the middle of the night? Or the unanswered prayer? Or the fear that creeps in now and then? “Take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 CSB)

Another call to action: take up My yoke. Have I, have you? How do we? It goes back to the first step – come to Me. The yoke of accepting salvation, of taking off our old ways and habits and putting on His ways. Daily putting on His Word, covering ourselves with prayer, and, with every step, seeking the Holy Spirit to show us the way.

Jesus says about all this: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 CSB) And it is. So much lighter than fretting about all the world’s troubles and politics and unfairness and money and relationships and all that s-t-u-f-f. So much lighter is the load of t-r-u-s-t.

I want to trust, but I’m learning it’s a lifelong process. When we accept Jesus, there are some things that change immediately – and it’s different for each of us. And there are some things we will wrestle through ever so gradually. Why? Because the plan He has for each of us is perfected through a life that looks back and sees Him each step of the way. A soul that says ‘I trust You, Lord – help me do so more each day.’

So tonight whether we sleep soundly or not, we can still rest easy knowing He never leaves us.

Heart Filler…

When I first became a Christian everything about this new life was new to me. I didn’t know much, really anything, about the Bible. I didn’t know Christian songs. I knew little about praying. I certainly didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit – what was it? I soon learned the question is ‘Who is He?’ Still, the answer was long in coming.

It wouldn’t be until many years later that I finally understood. And knowing Who He is makes a huge difference.

“But I tell you I am going to do what is best for you. This is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.” (John 16:7 CEV)

If you don’t know Jesus yet, then this whole thing about the Holy Spirit will seem even more foreign. So hard for finite flesh and blood to grasp God and His Son Jesus. But never just tack on the Holy Spirit. For all of God is all three. The great favor of God for all who believe since the death of Jesus, is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.

Looking back over the years, I know He’s been right there in me. How much I missed by not acknowledging His presence, yet I see His fingerprints spread throughout my days. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5 NLT)

Some years ago I noticed running through my back thoughts almost constantly is a song about God. A few words of a praise song or an old hymn, a melody about Jesus. My brain isn’t wired to be that focused on anything, so I know this is the Holy Spirit’s way of keeping me on track. Reminding me of God’s constant love, Jesus’ all time sacrifice, and the ever present help of the Counselor. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26 CSB)

Now more than ever, we need the presence of someone who won’t lead us astray. Someone who is there in the tough times and who rejoices in the good times. And, if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s this: no human can fulfill those needs all the time.

Call on the One who dwells in your heart. In the midst of trouble – He is Peace. When lost – He is the Way. When needing assurance – He is the Comforter.

 

Never Lost – Have GHS…

Easy access to GPS has truly changed how we get from here to there. Used to be we would listen carefully to someone’s directions, or for a longer trip we made sure we had maps. I am so impressed with the pioneers of old. They didn’t have maps, but once they returned, they could lead others back with them.

I for one love the freedom GPS provides, but have often pondered: what if the satellite system that powers them went down? A lot of people would be lost.

Not long before Jesus left earth He told His followers: “You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2 NIV) Paraphrasing the response here: ‘hold on, we don’t know where you’re headed, how can we know the way?’

None of His followers wanted Him to leave them. They had grown to love Him, respect Him, trust Him, believe He was Messiah. Leave? Why would He leave? And what would they do without Him? Ah, there’s the really cool part. He had to leave to fulfill the prophecy of the Bible. He was visibly leaving earth – but He never said He was leaving them. In fact, He told them: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

But how can He be gone and be with us? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1Corinthians 6:19a NIV)

The Holy Spirit, a gift from God, put in us to show us the way. The way to live. The way to pray. The way to understand the Bible. The way to share Jesus. The way to navigate through life’s ups and downs. The way to where Jesus is and we shall someday be.

I need that. A constant companion, who – if I will only listen – will make sure I don’t lose my way. He travels with us – to work, at the dinner table, around the corner or across the sea. He never leaves us. He is a very present help in trouble and peace in the storms. He is joy in the midst of sorrow and He is strength when ours has vanished.

Better than GPS is GHS – God’s Holy Spirit. With Him we are never lost.

Inside…

Remember the old saying: ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’. I thought that meant how good of a person I was or should strive to be. My efforts.

Then came a time when I read this: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6a NLT) All of them, all those ‘good’ things I’ve done and do – all? Because of sin. Without Jesus dwelling in our hearts, more often than not, the good things we do are selfishly motivated. Sure, occasionally, we might act in the best interest of others, but then we’re still patting ourselves on the back for ‘our’ goodness.

A short reading in Mark 10:17-31 proves the point. Here was a young man who seemingly had it all.  He could even claim that he had kept God’s commandments since he was a boy. He wanted to know what he must ‘do’ to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to give up all his riches – in other words, all he held dear – and to follow Jesus. “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22 NIV)

Dearer to him was earthly wealth. Dearer than eternal life, dearer than surrendering to Christ. So it is with many. Possessions, popularity, power – more highly esteemed than anything else. Even after giving my life to Jesus, I confess, I have held tightly to things that aren’t mine to begin with. Namely my children. It’s been oh so hard for me to let them go and trust that God loves them more than I do. What do you hold tightly to?

Once the Holy Spirit abides in us then we start to give God the credit for any good in us. Any good deed, righteous act, selflessness – truly is motivated by a good God working through us. To give credit anywhere else is self-deceiving.

I can hardly wait for the day to ask my grandchildren: ‘does Jesus live in your heart’? Because when they come to an age of being able to answer affirmatively, then we can talk about what’s on the inside. Jesus on the inside is what counts. And the added bonus of Jesus on the inside is the peace it gives in life’s trials, for He tells us: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 NIV)

Whose inside you?

(Learn more about the Holy Spirit in Anne Graham Lotz’ latest book: https://www.annegrahamlotz.org/jesus-in-me/)

 

 

Such a Difference…

As I ponder words – a storm is brewing. Strong – full of wind, rain, lightening – a force for destruction. Will we be in it’s path? What will it reap? Questions swirl like a hurricane’s eye.

But time and again over the last few days God has reminded me He is bigger than the storm. More powerful than it’s force. In charge of it in fact. As He is all of life. Sure He could zap all the bad things: illness, storms, financial ruin, broken hearts. But His children are stubborn and need much instruction – and sometimes we only listen in the unexpected, the uncontrollable.

“His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” (Nahum 1:3 HCSB)

Yet, what is the first response of most, Christian or not, when the hard things happen: ‘Why God?’ The bad things are always blamed on God, when we should search the very hearts and souls that have wrought all that has gone wrong since the perfection of Eden. 

The sweetness of trusting God makes such a difference. Yes, we still hurt and often still fret, but our gaze is turned toward the One who has our earthly days numbered and our forever secure. We look up – raising eyes and hearts to the Father. He whispers to our souls – ‘peace child, My peace is yours, just trust.’

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

 

Like me you may have to ask for that peace daily, but knowing it’s ours for the asking is good enough for me. The deposit of the Holy Spirit in us is the peace that passes any understanding. Always with us. 

So as this storm strengthens or weakens, turns straight towards my home or veers away, I am safe. And so are you. He is merciful to us and our safety – though it may not look the way we want it to – is assured. Through hurricanes and all life’s raging He is our protection. 

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to you for safety. In the shadow of your wings I find protection until the raging storms are over.” (Psalm 57:1 GNT)

What’s it worth?

Worth. That’s a heavy word. So many contexts. The value of an item for purchase versus our budget. The time required for an outcome versus our schedule. Encounters that cause us to pause and ask: is it worth it?

Consciously or unconsciously we weigh decisions and actions daily. It’s worth it to me to sit on the floor with nine month old Theo even though I know my hip will hurt that evening. It’s worth it to me to spend an hour or two on the phone with a dear friend even though I know I have much to do. It’s also become worth it to me to make sure each day starts with prayer and God’s Word.

Become worth it – it hasn’t always been so. Long ago I didn’t even know time with God was important. Then when I did, I had many ‘reasons’ I couldn’t. But life has a way of working on us and in us. And soon we find there are some things that are like breath…necessary.

Jesus found us worth it. What was the cost? Separation from God. Having never been touched by evil and then covered in it. Stretching out His arms willingly to spikes that purchased our eternity.

The worth of us versus eternity without us – Jesus didn’t hesitate. “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7 NIV) The worth of peace versus continued uncertainty – a sacrifice of time to search out God is so worth it.

We form lots of ideas in our heads about how things should be. When things go awry we question and blame and fret. We let our minds go through many ‘what ifs’ – as though God can’t possibly be in the ‘wrong’ outcome. Maybe it’s time to change what if to even if.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV)

Even if our deepest concern, hardest day, darkest night is polar opposite of what we thought it should be – we can hold fast to God who knows and wants our best. Even if prayer seems to go no further than the ceiling above us. Even if hope seems to result in only sadness. Even if I give all my time, all my effort, all my money, all of me – and still struggle. Yes, our Father, our Savior, and our Spirit of Truth is worth it. Worth all. Because this is not all there is.

The Formula…

Things change quickly – we go from young to old in the blink of an eye. From raising kids to holding grandbabies. From playing to working. From carefree to burdened.

I’m not so good at change. A certain two year old in my life loves his routine when he comes over – I get it. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. But we can’t stay two and with all the technology of the last few decades, change is constant. Still our hearts long for things to stay the same. 

When we think we can’t count on anyone, can’t count on anything, it’s time to remember: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

Just as we go from childhood to maturity, we can also go from wandering to found in Christ. We do not stay the same. And that’s an okay thing. We are made to undergo transformation. If we stayed the same, we would be lost in our sin – lost for eternity. But the very One who never changes can work miraculous change in us.

Where fear once dominated – comes power, love, sound mind. When doubt pervades our next breath – the Holy Spirit can replace it with belief. ( 2 Timothy 1:7 and James 1:6) Those kind of changes I welcome.

We can even come to know God’s will: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Hmm, that would make change easier. There are several places in the Bible that tell us God’s will – one of my favorites: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

And there it is – God’s formula to navigate the rapid changes that often leave us fearful or fretful. Joyful always – not happy, because that depends on the moment, but joy in knowing God has this all figured out. Pray continually – not just at meals, or a set time, but in all the moments lift our thoughts and hearts to Him. Give thanks in all – no matter if the circumstance is a wondrous or worrisome – thank Him because He tell us He works out all things for those who love Him.

How to Live…

Heard this recently but not sure who to credit for saying it: “If He thought we worth dying for, isn’t He worth living for?”

This is what Christians and non-Christians alike miss daily: living for HIM. Self is such an imposer. Our focus trends toward crossing off lists, getting our needs met, feeling good about self – all else becomes secondary. And our culture reinforces it. How do we break free from our cycle of appeasing self?

“Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36 NIV)

Selfish gain – the root of all this world’s issues. Faithfully living for God is the answer to the same. But we are fickle, sometimes moment to moment.

Yet our heavenly Father is fully faithful. Our role model. Our helper-upper when we fall. Our truth when we’re lost in the lies. Our plan when we’re lost in our purpose. Our best when all we have to give is ‘less than’ in every way. “If we are not faithful, He will still be faithful. Christ cannot deny who He is.” (2Timothy 2:13 CEV)

The very best news is that though we will struggle day in and day out to put others first, to put God in His rightful place (far above all we know or can think or can hope) – He puts us first every second of every day. It’s like being in a peaceful field of wildflowers with a gentle breeze – nothing else as far as the eye can see. We are surrounded by a field of grace – grace that envelops us.

Here’s how He calls us to live: “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2Timothy 1:8a, 9 NIV)  Grace-full living: accepting His grace in our lives and extending it to others – this helps us dispel self and put Jesus on the throne of our hearts.

 

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