JOY

Luke 2:17-18
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Can you keep a secret? Sure, if it’s important. But who can keep JOY hidden?

The shepherds had seen an enormous miracle. God born of human flesh. Who’s going to go back to the sheep after that? Eventually they did, but for a moment, they had to scream it out. They had to shout to the neighbors, “Wake up! You’ll never guess what happened just down the street!”

The generosity in their communication revealed their concern for their fellow man. “If I was in their place, would I want to be told to come out in the cold to look at this miracle? Sure I would.”

The message of the shepherds was enough to make them put their shoes on and come look. Even if they stayed in their homes that night, they were touched by the news and by the reaction of those telling it. If they’ve been waiting for God to show up in their lives, don’t you know they were praising God and thanking Him for what He’s done.

The fact that they saw a child who affected them so much was cause for them to spend a lot of time that night simply thanking God.

Think of a sports reporter’s face just before he announces the team’s seventh loss in a row and compare that to his face just before he announces the team’s seventh victory in a row. Oh, yeah. If you’ve seen JESUS, people will know just by the look on your face.

Finding God

Luke 2:16
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”


Can you find your way around a strange place with ease? Some people are great at finding a museum in a city they’ve never been to. Other people get lost in their own city.

I’m sure God sent the angel choir to a group of shepherds who knew their way around Bethlehem. At that time, Bethlehem was full of people. Remember, the inn was too crowded for Joseph and Mary to get a room. But the shepherds knew where to find a manger with a newborn baby in it.

If I had been one of those shepherds, I would’ve thanked God that I could find that one manger where Jesus lay. God gave them a bright night with unusual starlight to help them see Jesus better. Could we find God any easier today if He sent us unusual starlight?

He sent us more than a star.

He expects us to acknowledge Jesus every season, but especially at Christmas time. I say that because if you look around, you’ll find pictures of Baby Jesus all over town. Nativity pictures and three-piece mantel sets are in many homes. There are the inflatable Nativity sets in some front yards or the simple painted board Nativity scene yard set. Whether inside, outside, one piece, or many, Nativity sets are everywhere and the main focus of the scene is Jesus.

This is a great time of year to give thanks to God for helping us find Jesus in this busy season.

Christmas Gifts

Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

A large angel choir sang to the shepherds in the fields. This is something that doesn’t occur every day. It got their attention. It was enough to make them leave the fields to see for themselves what they’d been told about.

The choir didn’t sing a song about how to get to the baby. It wasn’t about the woman who had just given birth to the Savior. The angels’ song was about God. The angels were giving God the praise, honor, and glory. They mentioned God’s message of peace. They sang about God’s favor resting on all humans. The angels were nudging the shepherds with this song that could be interpreted as, “God is so great! He’s doing you a favor, not only you, but all men all over the earth.”

When someone does you a huge favor, what’s your automatic reaction?

We accept the favor and thank the one who gave it.

After a song like that, the shepherds had to go check it out. They knew God was doing something He’d never done before. But they also knew that they were picked out of all men to be the ones to go and see it. How could they back down from that offer?

The shepherds ran with a thankful heart because they knew they were going to see something good. My own kids would run like that if I sang to them on Christmas morning, “Your daddy has given you something which is now out on the driveway.”

They know from the song that there’s something good out there and they’ll thank their daddy as they run to see it.

This Christmas season, I hope we all acknowledge God’s gift with a grateful heart. I hope we all remember to listen to the Christmas carols that speak of the birth of our Savior. I hope we all sing along with the angels and give glory to God.

Know Why You're Here, part four

John 17:22-23
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

One of the reasons God put you on this planet is so the world could see His presence in your life. When you submit to God’s plan, your life is filled with purpose and the power to achieve that purpose. When you submit to God’s plan, you begin to learn how powerful agreement with God is. When you submit to God’s plan, the world can see proof of God’s love as He shines through you.

I think it’s funny that some people think they have to work as a missionary in a far away land if they accept Jesus. That’s not true. Think of the thief on the cross who humbled himself before God and announced that he wanted a relationship with him. Jesus didn’t give out a list of ministry jobs he’d have to do to be accepted into Heaven.

Jesus simply accepted him.

The feeling of elation that comes with acceptance into God’s family causes worship to come from your spirit. The joy you feel is what others see – and they want it.

When you’ve been living in an intimate relationship with God, worshiping Him and getting to know Him better every day, people see that love and are attracted to it. The best evangelism is a life lived in love and truth.

Know Why You're Here, part three

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In part one of this series, I mentioned that God created each of us with unique abilities that are required for us to accomplish our purpose during our stay on Earth. I suggested that we all find out our purpose so we can know our goals, itinerary, and focus.

In part two, I mentioned that we can’t really accomplish all we were created to do unless we submit to God’s plan and rely on His power.

I want to add that God’s planning was pretty thorough. He not only designed us with special gifts and made His power available to us, but He also picked out our specific “good works” in advance.

Some people accept Jesus as their Savior and sit back, thinking they’ve finished their responsibilities. Those are the people who miss out on part of what they were made to do.

Churches enlist volunteers to work on different kinds of projects which range from neighborhood evangelism to youth ministry, to delivering meals to those in mourning. But what if your gifts don’t fit any of your church’s ministry offerings?

The only way you’ll fulfill your calling is to find out from God where and how He planned for you to participate in ministry. You can fill an open slot on the volunteer list at your church, but you won’t feel satisfied in your ministry if you’re not accomplishing what God has pre-planned for you to do.

Simply stated, your ministry success depends on your obedience to God.

But you knew that, right?

Many people know that, but they still sign up for whatever seems easy at the moment, not taking into account how their participation will affect others who were designed to do that job. Are you impairing someone else’s ministry success by not being where God wanted you?

Find those “good works” God has already picked out for you. Listen for His guidance, and you’ll be in the perfect place to succeed.

Know How To Maintain What You Started

John 14:12
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

If you’ve submitted your life to God and accepted the blood of Jesus as payment for your sins, you should know that you are only beginning your new life.

A seed is planted and the growing begins, but rain and sunshine are necessary to maintain the growth of that seed. The plant is living and active, but take it out of the soil, moisture and light and it will die.

Just like that seed, your life in Christ needs specific things to maintain growth. How do we maintain our new life?

You need to stay planted in the good soil of God’s word, which is the Bible. You need the living water of God’s presence through prayer. And you need to follow Jesus daily just as flowers turn to face the sun.

In John 14:15, Jesus says if we love him, we'll obey him. Three verses earlier, we find out that Jesus judges our faith by what we're doing. Obedience is one of the ways we stay connected to God and maintain our growth. Without obedience to God, our growth is stunted.

If you feel like a weak Christian, you must realize that our obedience keeps us strong. Find out what God wants you to do and do it.

Remember to keep feeding yourself on the rich soil of the word of God. It has all the right nutrients for our spiritual growth. The refreshing, life-giving hydration our spirit receives from His presence as we pray will keep us from becoming a dried-up, half-alive Christian. But the obedience we give God with our words and actions keeps us standing tall and straight and beautiful in His sight.

Know Your Power Source

John 5:19
Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”


John 8:28
So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”


John 12:49-50
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

John 14:10
Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.


Jesus only said what his Father said and did what his Father did. How many of us can say that?

I think our problems are based on our inability to focus on our relationship with God. We can focus on games or TV shows or work, but focusing on God seems to be a problem for many people.

My husband has a laptop computer that he uses while it’s plugged into the wall socket. He also can unplug it and use the computer while it’s running on battery power. However, the batteries run down and don’t last very long. The computer must be hooked up to an energy source for it to work.

What’s our power source?

God is our life, our breath, our source. An intimate relationship with God fills us with Him, His presence, His power. Our intimacy with God is where we begin finding answers.

If we unplug from Him, we will drain our battery and stop working. Nothing runs smoothly with an energy drain.

Our successes will come when we plug into God to see what He’s doing and saying.

Know Why You're Here, part two

Matthew 16:21
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

God may have given you a fun job like teaching children how to grow a garden or teaching children how to swim. If you like what God has called you to do, great. Enjoy it.

However, God sometimes gives us jobs that aren’t all that fun. But we still have to obey.

It’s easy to love the lovely ones, but we’re supposed to love the unlovely too. We’re supposed to forgive our siblings when they eat our ice cream, but we’re supposed to forgive the drunk driver who killed someone too.

Sometimes love is hard work.

Jesus didn’t enjoy his sufferings, but he did it willingly because we needed him to. When we needed someone to take our sins to the cross for us, he did it because he was the only who could.

Someone in your life needs love from you, or forgiveness, or courage, or something that only you can provide for them. But the only way you’ll be able to accomplish all you were put on the earth to perform is through the strength of God.

There are tasks that are assigned to only you. But you won’t be able to succeed in accomplishing them unless you allow God to do it through you.

How did the disciples perform miracles? Only through the power of God.

How are you going to perform miracles for the people in your life? If you are acting according to God’s plan, listening to Him, obeying Him, trusting in His strength, you will be amazed at how God can work His power through you.

If you enjoy the intimacy of a relationship with God and you discipline yourself to obey Him, He will use you.

Know Why You're Here, part one

Luke 4:42-43
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.

There are things that can only be done by you. There are words which, when spoken by you, can bring healing to someone. There are people who will only understand when YOU explain things to them.

Did you know your uniqueness is of great importance to God?

Jesus wasn’t the only one with a purpose. We all have significant contributions to make in this world.

Just like Jesus knew why God had sent him to a geographical location, we should know what we’re doing here. We should know why our feet are on this particular square of sod.

How do you find out your unique purpose?

Jesus knew his goals, his itinerary, and his focus for the day because he knew His Father. Because of that relationship, he was able to avoid time-wasting relationships. Not everyone who spoke to him was interested in what he had to say. Some just wanted to kill him.

If your relationship with God is close, then you can avoid wasting time with activities you weren’t supposed to do. If you know God, then you know He is love and He leads by His love.

Sometimes people will ask you to stay with them, but because of your good relationship with God, you know He is leading you somewhere else. If you know your goals, your itinerary, and your focus because you’ve been with God, then you can leave those people with love in your voice.

So once you find out you’re a child of God, get to know Him. Develop that relationship. From that close relationship, you'll learn why you were put on this earth.

Got God?

Luke 2:46-49
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”


Jesus has said often in scriptures that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. If we read the Bible, we should know where to go to find Him.

But many people today wander around with blindfolds not tied but held up to their heads by their own hands. They say they can’t see God, and they’re right. They haven’t tried.

How many owners of electronic devices find a problem with their device and yell at the device, “Stop messing up! Why don’t you work?”? After unsuccessfully trying to fix the problem themselves, they call a customer service number to get the help they need. But people who need God’s help don’t always ask for it. After unsuccessfully trying to fix the problem themselves, they stop trying.

Those who called the customer service number can know that they took the obvious steps to get help. However, those who didn’t call on God have no excuse.

If you’re having a hard time finding God, ask yourself, “How bad do I want to find Him?”

Do you really want to find God?

Then seek Him from the bottom of your heart. Seek Him with the people who know Him. Seek Him wherever He wants to be.

And then ask Him to stay with you.

From that point on, you’ll always know where He is. You’ll always be able to speak to Him. You’ll always have access to His love.

Are you seeking God with me today?

Sleep in Peace

Psalm 4:8
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

With the hurricane behind us and clean up and repair work still going on, many are reviewing their decision to stay or evacuate. Many are sharing the lessons they learned.

My husband and I spoke to a woman recently who said she had about as much damage to her property as we had. She was grateful she didn’t have to repair more than she did. My husband told her we were glad we stayed to protect our house from rain damage. We changed out the wet towels at the front door that absorbed the water being blown in by the sideways rain.

God warns and protects his people. But sometimes He asks people to help others without giving them a warning. I have an out-of-town friend whose parents live in the Houston area. He came to Houston before the storm arrived so he could help his parents if they needed it. During the storm, they got a call from the neighbor across the street, also an older couple. My friend crossed the street, fighting the wind and rain the whole way. When he arrived he found a man in a wheelchair trapped between the sliding glass door at the back of the house and a tree that had crashed through their roof into the living room. The storm had blown a tree into the middle of the house and rain streamed in through the roof, flooding one side of the house. He was able to get the man and his wife to the back bedroom where they were safe and dry for the remainder of the storm.

Sometimes we see that we are where God wants us to be, even if we don’t recognize until later through hindsight the real reason God wanted us there. Another friend’s brother has a home on Galveston Island. They grabbed a few things and evacuated. Before the hurricane came too close, they felt the Lord urging them to go back to get a few more treasured items from their home. When they arrived, they saw their neighbor outside. She was without transportation and worrying about her ability to evacuate since she’d waited so late. They brought the woman back off the island with them and thanked God for the opportunity to help their neighbor. When the man went back to his home after the storm, the home was still standing.

We can thank God for protecting us before, during, and after the storm. But storm or no storm, we can live in the safety of God’s presence. And sleep in peace.

Saved By God

Psalm 78:38-43
Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power – the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, the day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan.


Those who trust in the Lord do their best to obey Him and expect Him to pick up mountains and move them if necessary.

However, those who do not trust in God are many times still saved by God.

During Hurricane Ike, a man rode out the storm in his home, and although there was damage to his property, he survived the storm. He told reporters he hadn’t prayed for help.

I imagine his friends were praying for his safety as were thousands of viewers when the story of him not leaving his home was first broadcast just before the storm hit.

If you don’t pray for God’s help, don’t bet that no one’s praying. God listens to our prayers, even those prayed by sinners. He knows we’ve all sinned. No one would ever get God’s help if we had to be perfect to pray.

I think God is looking at us all very closely to see who is about to start speaking and acting like they believe God is who He says He is. I know He waits and watches so He can help us take our first steps in His direction.

It must be like a mama bird waiting for her eggs to hatch. They don’t all hatch at once. They hatch when they’re ready. And even though they don’t all hatch sometimes, she treats them all as though they will.

Almighty God sent Jesus to make sure we had a chance to hatch. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to hover over us with the heat of His presence until the moment we come out of our shells.

God gives us many second chances we don’t recognize. Isn’t it time we at least recognized His mercy?

POD People

Psalm 78:19, 21-24
They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert?”

When the Lord heard them, he was very angry; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven.

Hurricane Ike came to visit the Houston area and ended up doing damage to many more homes than a lot of people expected. I didn’t think our neighborhood would suffer because we’re not that close to Galveston. But seeing how big the storm was in the Gulf, we prepared for the possibility of being out of electricity for two weeks. We could’ve made it through two weeks just fine, but – thank you, God – we didn’t have to.

Since our power came back on, I’ve been watching the news stations broadcast the updates about the Houston recovery process. Many FEMA trucks have come to POD (point of distribution) locations all over the Houston area to deliver ice, water, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

At these POD locations, many people have stood in line waiting for their food, water, and ice while reporters look for someone to interview. It seems that there are reporters who find people to interview who have a positive mindset and are grateful for how much they still have. Then there are those reporters who somehow find grumpies to interview.

I realize that being in a difficult situation may bring out the grumpiness in anyone, but I also really appreciate those who went through the same disaster as the grumpies and still keep a grateful tone.

The warnings went out to everyone well in advance of the storm. Everyone had an opportunity to buy canned food and a hand-powered can opener before the storm. Everyone had an opportunity to wash empty 2-liter bottles to store clean water in before the storm. So why are there so many unprepared people?

It bothers me that there are so many who rely on the government to feed them, when they had resources available in advance. The grumpies generally are not the ones whose homes are now a pile of rubble. I’m talking about the ones who didn’t prepare and now complain that the government is making the process of getting food so inconvenient for them.

God’s eyes search for the ones who look to Him as their protector and provider. He protects many more than those who depend on Him. He feeds many more than those who call on His name.

Don’t you think He’d like a little gratitude for the protection He obviously gave millions of people? Don’t you think He’s listening for a Thank You from the mouths filled with food they didn’t buy?

How can we not acknowledge God’s protection when the number of lives that were saved on Galveston Island during the storm was unexpectedly high? How can we not acknowledge God’s protection this time when Ike only destroyed about ten oil production platforms in the Gulf, but Katrina and Rita destroyed over 100.

I think it’s time for a category 5 surge of gratefulness to God for His protection, provision, mercy, and kindness.

Seeking God's Face For Guidance

Psalm 33:11
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.

America will choose a new President this year. Hurricanes make people drop their plans and prepare for the possibility of evacuation. Gas prices go up, and then they go down, and they go up again.

When all around us changes, isn’t it good to know there is one thing that will always remain the same? God doesn’t change his mind on a whim. In Hebrews 13:8 we read that the Lord is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”.

He makes plans. His plans have remained steady through all the generations. When we lose our faith in the world systems, when we lose sight of our goals, we can trust that the Lord’s ways are steady and sure. His feet do not falter. His steps are firm.

Are you tired of finding dead ends in your life? If you’re tired of your plans failing to get your where you want to go, find out what God’s plans for you are. Get in on his goals for you. Check out God’s face. See where his focus is. It’s never a waste of time to study the Bible with the intent of becoming more in tune with his mind.

Don’t worry. He’ll guide you. He likes it when we seek his face.

Some changes are inevitable. Kids lose their chubby-cheeked baby faces. Soon, trees will show off their brilliant colors in the autumn air.

God likes changes that conform to his unfailing plans.

Six Ways To Attack A Problem

Psalm 38:12
Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.

Sometimes when we have a problem with a person who seems to enjoy showing hatred for us in one way or another, we feel like they’re probably spending many hours plotting to destroy our pleasant days.

How does one attack that problem?

1. Above all, do not attack the person.

2. Go to God who knows them better than you do. Ask for His thoughts on the matter. His guidance will help you look at the situation differently.

3. Read Bible verses to fortify your will to show love to them instead of giving back to them what they’ve been giving you.

4. Set aside time to pray for them. They probably don’t have a prayer team on stand-by. God could’ve chosen you to be the beginning of their change of heart. And don’t forget to listen to His guidance.

5. Be forgiving and kind. Even if that doesn’t freak them out enough to repent of their sins, it’s still good medicine for your wounds. Your unforgiveness will hurt you more than them.

6. Take a good look at yourself to see if there is something you’re doing that you could change for the better. After all, a problem isn’t always caused by just one person. For example, if you annoy a bitter person with your happy humming down the grocery store aisle, you can stop humming. Even if it’s not as simple as that, there’s always something you can do to help the situation.

That person who seems to be looking for ways to ruin your day might not be plotting to destroy your life, they might actually be asking for help.

Conviction

Psalm 36:1-4
An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.


I asked my kids what they were doing in their Sunday school classroom when I picked them up after church was over. I knew they had been praying because the lights were dimmed when I got to the room. Were they praying for missionaries in other countries? No. Were they praying for orphans and widows? No. Were they praying for God to strengthen His grip on America? No.

They were repenting.

Apparently, it had been discussed that if you’re constantly getting into trouble at home, you can talk to God about it and let Him help you make some good changes.

Now, I don’t know all of the kids in the classroom, but I’m guessing most of them are pretty good kids. Not the wicked people mentioned in the psalm. But if those “good kids” were allowed to continue on in their arrogance, possibly blaming someone else for something they did, those kids would eventually become bolder sinners to the point of losing their fear of God.

I’ve done an eight-part series on the fear of God. (You can read those posts by clicking “fear” in the sidebar labels list.) So if you’ve read that series, you know I’m not saying we should be afraid of God. We should respect God enough to respond to the conviction we feel when we sin.

If we lie to make ourselves feel better, we risk making a habit of ignoring the conviction. When you don’t feel the conviction anymore, you’ve entered the danger zone.

God still forgives and loves every sinner. But that conviction that makes you want to repent is a big neon sign announcing that you’re headed the wrong way. If you close your eyes to the signs, that doesn’t mean your way is suddenly right. You’re still going the wrong way.

So if you feel bad when you do something wrong, that’s good. Respond to that feeling by repenting. A simple prayer will do. That prayer will help you keep your feet headed toward God. It will help you reject what is wrong.

Then you will feel good.

The Patience of God

Psalm 86:5
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.

My Heavenly Father has taught me about my relationship with Him through my experience as a parent. He shows me how He feels about me after I have "a moment" with my kids. When I get frustrated with them because they’ve been disobedient, God lets me know that I should be more obedient to Him.

Yes, I’m still growing. (And I was the “good child” among my siblings.) But my mistakes and bull-headed ways cause that inner feeling of conviction to rise up in me. God’s always with me, always watching. I sometimes think He never lets me get away with anything, but then I wonder how often He’s just being super-patient.

When God corrects me with a loving word, I remember how it made me feel and try to follow that example with my kids. I don’t always sound as loving as God, but that’s to be expected. He’s God.

As the psalmist said, God is abounding in love. I know this from experience because I constantly call to Him. He doesn’t correct my every mistake. I make too many. But I do swallow some of the correction that comes to mind when I’m with my kids. I want to be an encouraging and patient parent. I challenge them to grow in their obedience, and they provide occasional opportunities for me to improve my patience.

My kids appreciate the fact that I try to be a good and loving mom. …Well, maybe not yet. But they will.

Trying to be as good or as patient as God isn’t a reachable goal, but it does help us treat each other better along our journey.

Giving to God

Mt. 25:37-40 (NIV)
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Amazing questions come to mind when we apply this story to our own lives. We remember seeing someone we could’ve helped, but didn’t. We remember people we did help. Were they all humans or were some of them angels sent by God to test our devotion to Him?

Generosity is a gift God gives us so we can joyfully comfort, aid, or bless someone in need.

It's a gift that shouldn’t be hidden away for one annual donation, but used all year to glorify God. It isn’t just giving money to the poor, but a gift that can be developed if it is used and practiced. Generosity is one of the ways we act like God, or at least with God. He wants to satisfy the hungry and heal the sick, but He wants to participate in that activity with us.

Whatever we've done to comfort, aid, or bless His children, it has comforted, aided, and blessed Him. And God gets all the glory.

Waiting Expectantly

Lamentations 3:25-26
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

When God sees us in trouble, He is not surprised.

He gave us power to get into as much trouble as we want. He gave us free will, the ability to make our own decisions. We can choose to do things our own way or choose to do things His way.

When we choose to do things the way God wants us to, we’re surprised by how well things turn out.

Why are we surprised?

We have plenty of opportunities to see God’s goodness in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But we rarely seek Him.

Our prayers sometimes start off with an emotional rant about our troubles. Don’t you think it would be better to wait quietly for Him to speak?

I know He can help us in our troubles, but He can also share in our joys. He can help us with minor questions and major problems.

Sometimes He just wants to be with us.

If we’ll work on our relationship with God in good times and bad, we’ll place our hope in Him. We’ll seek Him out not just for help, but for companionship and joy-sharing.

When we develop a relationship with God, we develop our ability to trust Him. And when we trust Him, it’s so much easier to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Where's Your Summer Storehouse?

Proverbs 6:6-8
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

I live along the Texas Gulf Coast, so when summer hits, I know it’s hurricane season. Long-time residents have been told year after year how to prepare if a hurricane is on its way. We put lawn furniture in the garage and clean the back yard of any loose items that might turn into missiles during high winds. We board up our windows if we’re in the hurricane’s path, and we leave the area.

Many times, my family has prepared for a hurricane to hit, and we come back home to find that, aside from a few limbs on the ground, nothing major happened.

Whether the trouble actually comes to us or not, we should take our preparations seriously. God wants us to prepare for a long, healthy life by feeding our physical bodies well and exercising often. But how do we prepare for healthy spiritual lives?

When we think about preparing ourselves spiritually, it’s almost like hurricane preparation. There are certain things we do to make sure we’re safe, and then we wait for the possibility of damage. When we feel that the trouble has passed, we take a look around and wonder why we were so tense.

You may have heard stories about people in serious trouble who recited The Lord’s Prayer or other Bible verses. Some people simply beg God for forgiveness of past sins and plead with God to take the trouble away.

Wouldn’t it be better to learn what God wants us to do to avoid the trouble? Sometimes we get into trouble that we could’ve missed if we’d followed God’s will and walked in His ways. But even in those times of trouble, our merciful God sticks with us and helps us get to a safe place.

We can store up knowledge of God’s laws and learn of His ways while in times of peace. Then when trouble comes, we’re fully stocked with Bible verses that God can pull from to show us how He plans to protect us. He might send us on a journey. He might protect us in the midst of trouble so we can pull someone else out of trouble.

God’s ways are higher than ours. I can’t predict how God will handle any situation. There are always so many factors involved that I’m not aware of. All I can do is prepare for the situation by getting close to Him in prayer and study the Bible so He can show me things that apply to the situation.

While you’re enjoying your summer, don’t forget to fill your storehouse with God and His words.

Opportunities to Seek God

Mt. 25:41-45 (NIV)
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave m nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

How does God feel about His children? He cares about them. How does He show that He cares about them? He uses our human arms to hold and hug. He uses generous people to supply food for the hungry. He uses compassionate people to bring conversation to the lonely. He uses you and me.

When we see those who need food, clothes or a visit, we are seeing God and an opportunity to bless God. But when the wounded, hungry and lonely see us coming to help them, they see God and God’s help on the way. The giver and receiver both can see God in the other.

Seek God where He is. He's with the fatherless, the widow, and the needy. He's with those who need Him. And He's waiting on you.

Hearing God's Whisper

1 Kings 19:11-12 (verses from The Message)
Then he was told, "Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by." A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

I like to read in the Bible about how different people have heard from God. The many times God has spoken to people in the Bible show me that He’ll often tell someone to do something, and then after their obedience, God gives them some very valuable instruction or insight.

Elijah had run away to Horeb because he thought he was the only one of his kind left. God told him to stand on the mountain. Elijah obeyed. When God passed by Elijah on that mountain, there was a lot of noise. But God waited until it was quiet before He spoke in a quiet whisper.

I sometimes see God as a teacher in a classroom. He stands ready to instruct and guide us, but there is too much noise to hear what He wants to say. He waits in front of the class and when all is quiet, He speaks.

When we stop focusing on our own distractions, we’ll notice that God isn’t in the noise around us. If I’ve done all that I can to obey God, I must then make sure I’m still and quiet enough to hear God’s whisper.

Sin Revisited

1 Kings 12:28-30 (verses from: The Message)
So the king came up with a plan: He made two golden calves. Then he announced, "It's too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship. Look at these—the gods who brought you out of Egypt!" He put one calf in Bethel; the other he placed in Dan. This was blatant sin. Think of it—people traveling all the way to Dan to worship a calf!
Most people know that when Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, he went up to a mountain and carried down the Ten Commandments. When he came down to the people, he saw that they had constructed a golden calf to worship. You might think their descendants would tell that story enough times that no one would dare construct another golden calf to worship.

However, many years later, the people had forgotten much of the story about Moses and what happened when the people worshipped the golden calf. At least, they had forgotten the part about it being sin.

When I read chapter twelve of 1 Kings, I was reminded of the 1979 Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” A king can reject God’s wisdom, but he’s still going to serve someone. A king can rule over multitudes, but he’s still going to serve someone. A king who doesn’t serve Almighty God will find out sooner or later that he should have.

Obedience and Respect

Psalm 28:3, 5
Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.

Since they show no regard for the works of the Lord and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again.

When people disobey God, He sees their laziness and wonders at their fearless disrespect for Him.

Why would anyone who knows God disrespect Him on purpose? Have we forgotten who He is?

Like any good father, God has been patient with us and has tried to train us to be respectful. He’s given us rules, like the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:3 The first commandment is to put God in first place in your life – or “You shall have no other gods before me.” It’s about respecting God.

Exodus 20:4 The second commandment is to refrain from making an idol for you to worship. It’s about respecting God.

Exodus 20:7 The third commandment is to not misuse the name of the Lord. It’s about respecting God.

Exodus 20:8 The fourth commandment is to keep the Sabbath day holy. It’s about respecting God.

Exodus 20: 12 The fifth commandment is to honor your father and your mother. This commandment is about respecting God. That’s right. Honoring your mother and father is something you do out of respect for God.

When God asks us to do something, we have options. Free will. We can choose to obey or disobey. When we obey, we show respect for the one who gave the command.

Why would God – who created the universe and set in motion the laws of nature – tell us to do something that wasn’t important. Everything God tells us to do is important. It might seem like a small thing to you, but you must stop and consider where the command came from.

We obey the people we respect, and we ignore the commands of those we don’t respect. So why are we so determined to do what we want instead of obeying God?

Thank You, God, for Your patience while we turn our hearts back to you and back to obedience while we seek You together.

Testing The Lord

Exodus 17:7
And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"
Do you ever press your hand on a chair before you sit to test and see if it will hold you? You probably don’t do that with a chair you use every day. But if the chair was new to you and you weren’t used to it, you might test it.

The people of God were freed from slavery in Egypt by miraculous signs and wonders. They were well aware of the plagues that made the Egyptians welcome their departure. They watched how God parted the Red Sea so they could cross, and they saw the army following them die as the walls of water closed on them. Time after time, God showed his strength in their protection, his care for them in his provision, and his patience when they grumbled.

When the people came to Massah in the desert, they grumbled that God wasn’t taking care of them, but had led them into the desert to die of thirst. The complained against God saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

It’s as if they took a chair that had been used a lot recently and pressed their hand onto it to see if it was still strong enough for them. It was silly of them to question God after all they’d been through. They had tested his patience once more, but not for the last time.

Do we have any right to question God? We can see his wonders in the Bible. We can look with awe all around us in the Earth and see what he’s created. We can read about the millions of people who have experienced God’s miracles in recent years.

We have less of a right to question God than the Hebrew people in the book of Exodus.

But we still test God and he’s still patient with us.

He would love to see us go to that chair and just sit, knowing that if it has been strong for all of the people who have come before us, it’ll hold us as well. He’s waiting to see who will have faith in him instead of wondering if he’s still strong enough.

He’s strong enough for you to rely on. He always will be.

Genuine Leather

Joshua 24:15
“choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”

Will you test the fabric of your sofa to see if it’s naugahyde or leather? Are your belts, shoes, and purses made of genuine leather or a synthetic material? Fakes are easy to find, but the genuine leather products will have a label on them to prove the value of the product.

In a world where the authentic has to be labeled, it’s so important to choose wisely to whom you will give your heart. Do you attend a church that makes it easy to be a Christian? It seems that the popular churches are the feel-good churches. But there are churches that make you confront sin and make you wiggle uncomfortably in your pew.

Joshua told the people that no matter what they did, he and his household would serve the Lord. In fact, he told them they couldn’t serve the Lord because if they turned away to serve foreign gods, the Lord would bring disaster on them. But the people didn’t back down. They told Joshua they would serve the Lord.

What would happen in your church if the Pastor turned into a Joshua and declared to all the pew-warmers that they couldn’t serve the Lord because He is Holy and deserves worship from the bottom of your heart, not off the top of your head? Would the people stand up and choose for themselves to serve the Lord in a heart-felt commitment?

Someone who prays to God out of a relationship of love sounds different than one who prays because he’s supposed to. If the fabric of your life was tested, would the test results prove you to be a genuine Christian? Or merely a really good fake?

God knows the difference.

Confidence in God

Psalm 17:6
“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.”

Seeking God with the right attitude builds success in your relationship with him. One thing I’ve learned about God is He’d like us to apply what we know about human relationships to our relationship with Him.

For instance, if we go up to someone we’d like to be friends with and bow down in front of them in clownish, fake honor, and then immediately start asking for things, they may not take us seriously. Also if all we do when we see that person is ask them for things, that relationship might not be the close friendship we want.

God is sometimes a close friend, sometimes a parent, and sometimes a boss. Because I’m a mom, I often learn about God as a parent.

I remember the times my family spent a few hours cleaning on Saturday morning so we could go out Saturday night. My mom would direct each of us to jobs appropriate for our age. Any time we finished a job, she’d have another one for us. When all the jobs were completed, we could have an evening out.

God is like that, in a way. He knows what needs to be done. If I tried to do my mom’s job instead of my own, we would’ve never gone out. Letting God do His job and setting myself to do only what he’s directed me to do shows my confidence in His ability to do His job.

I trust God to know what He’s doing. I can’t run things better than Him. I can only do what my limited abilities allow. This is why it’s so important that we listen to God. I listen to Him, knowing He’s already been listening to me. And when we don’t listen, we’re telling Him that we know more than He does.

So I go to God and do what He says. When I’m through with one task, I’ll go back and listen for more instruction.

Keeping a good attitude and letting your life show who’s really in charge will build your confidence in God.

Be Patient And Work The Plan

Psalm 57:2
"I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me."

When I feel overwhelmed with all that I have to do, I can sit in God’s presence and relax in His comfort because I know He has a plan.

God had a plan for me before I was born. He designed me with specific gifts and personality traits so that I would be able to grow into the person that could carry out His plan.

My plans fail. But when I give up on my plans and focus on His plan, I find success comes more easily. He knows what He’s doing – even when I don’t.

When I read the verse above, I’m reminded that God never put any pressure on me to fulfill my purpose. I know God is in charge of fulfilling the purpose He created me for. I can stop fighting against what He’s trying to do. I can relax in His hands and let him train me to do what I was designed to do.

It takes patience and effort, but I want to be where He puts me and do what He designed me to do. If I’ll get out of His way and simply obey Him, my life will be what it’s supposed to be.

Worship The Only God

Psalm 86:8
“Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.”

Since Moses came down the mountain to give us the Ten Commandments, we have been breaking them almost every day. Especially the first one, which is, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

The first commandment reminds us of the plagues of Egypt. Every time Moses proclaimed a plague upon Egypt, God was dealing with the Egyptian gods. Pharaoh heard, “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” His love was extended through difficult circumstances to show how much more powerful He was than the gods that were being worshiped.

Today, we still wonder if God is able to rescue us from the slavery we get ourselves into. We worship money and allow it to enslave us. We worship the sun and let it take away our health and beauty. God sees our wrongfully-placed worship and reminds us with miracles of healing and financial relief that He is still God.

But like the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness, we forget about God’s love, provision, and protection. We whine and complain to God just as they did thousands of years ago. And He still loves us.

When we stop long enough to realize how much He loves us, we worship again with our whole heart.

Daily, He waits for our conversation. He waits for us to remember Him. He waits for us to remember that He is like no other.

He alone is God.

Listen and Believe

Proverbs 1:33
“Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

How can anyone live in today’s society without fear? Only two kinds of people can live without fear: those who know of the dangers, but trust in God’s protection, and those who are unaware of the dangers.

If you focus on the dangers of this life, you can scare yourself right out of your skin. You can worry about the many angry people who do harm to other people. Or you can worry about earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

Maybe your fear is centered around a new experience. I remember the first day I tried to get my daughter to walk onto an escalator. I got her to the second floor fairly easily, but going down was . . . memorable.

The escalator wasn’t scary to me or to any of the other shoppers who walked around us while I tried to talk her into walking with me. But my daughter was unreasonably terrified by the moving parts. My hands were full of shopping bags and my baby boy. Eventually, an older woman offered to hold my daughter’s hand on the escalator so we could leave the store. I thanked her repeatedly.

The fear of escalators didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough to prove the proverb right. As long as my daughter refused to listen to me, she was afraid. When she believed my words about her safety, she was more at ease.

When we believe what God says about his arm of protection, we can live in peace, without fear – even if we’re surrounded by the enemy on all sides.

God’s word is truth. When we seek him, we have to believe and obey him.

In Foolish Abandon

Proverbs 1:5
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

One of the reasons people read the book of Proverbs in the Bible is so they can receive guidance from God. While fools go their own way in their own “wisdom”, the wise seek out wisdom from God. They keep an ear to God while they use the wisdom they already have.

Getting wisdom from God is like drinking water. You needed the water you drank yesterday, but you need more for today. You can drink more one day than you drink on a different day, but you still need more water tomorrow. No matter how much you store up inside, you’ll always need to get more.

If you don’t drink the water your body needs, your body shuts down. People have died from lack of water. Lack of wisdom is similar in that you can make foolish mistakes and not realize you’re killing yourself. A fool disregards all wisdom and finds death a surprise.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been a fool. There are others – many others – who have lost all restraint and turned their backs on wisdom.

God lets us see that we’ve been fools, but he doesn’t leave us in that place of foolish abandon. When God opens our eyes to our foolishness and we agree to accept his guidance, we can begin to walk in his wisdom.

He’s given us a lot of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. If you study and put into practice an average of just ten verses each week, by the end of the summer, you’ll see how far you’ve come.

Using the wisdom you have to gain more and walk in it will not only affect your life, but the lives of those around you.

Face To Face

Exodus 33: 11
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.

When does God speak to you face to face?

Are we too busy hiding from God to notice His face? Are we more interested in our day than His way? Do you have the kind of relationship with God that allows you to speak with Him face to face? Do you want to?

Moses chose to set apart time to receive wisdom from God concerning his decisions. He was humble, but still bold enough to approach the God who did miracles of deliverance in Egypt and miracles of provision in the wilderness.

I understand the importance of good decision-making skills. I understand that better now than I did as a teen because of my experiences as a parent. Moses wasn’t in charge of a few kids, but rather millions who followed him out of Egypt. And because he knew his decisions affected the life and death of the millions of people in the camp, he knew he’d better hear from God.

Moses was not without sin, yet he was put in charge of God’s people. I’m not completely perfect either, but God put me in charge of a couple of kids. The responsibility of making decisions that affect the lives of others would be unbearably heavy if I tried to achieve success on my own.

But I don't have to do anything on my own. By the blood of Jesus, God has given me a way to have a relationship with Him.

Like Moses, I can go to God for wisdom.

And like Moses, I have the opportunity to speak to God face to face. And so do you.

Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

John 13:23-25
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"

One of the things that speaks the most about your relationship with God is how you speak to him. Your posture when you're in conversation with someone you respect but don't feel close to is different than when you're with your best friend.

John's relationship with Jesus was very close. He was comfortable with him. He could ask him anything. The others were with him every day, but couldn't bring themselves to ask boldly whatever was on their hearts.

Can you imagine yourself face-to-face with God? What does his face look like to you? Would you be bold enough to lean against him? Or would you be unable to look into his eyes?

What is your posture like when you seek God?

Compassion and Guidance

Hosea 11:8-11
My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria, I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.
As a mother, I understand compassion for rebellious children. They’re going to mess up. They’re kids, and kids need a parent’s guidance.

Hosea chapter eleven begins, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.”

It takes time for kids to mature and make good decisions. God has given me a way to see my children through His eyes. When my kids mess up, God reminds me of His patience for me. Has there been a year when I haven’t needed to repent of something? Probably not.

God holds out His compassion for me while I struggle to mature in spiritual things. He’s the cheerleader in my life, making sure I don’t ever give up. I like noticing the areas where I’ve grown and achieved victory. When I look back over those areas, I can see that those victories would never have come without God’s compassion and guidance.

I want to grow up in God’s ways, seek Him with maturity, live like He wants me to. I want to please God, but I can’t if I’m focused on getting my way.

What is my plan? My plan is to seek God’s plan.

When I recognize that going my own way is rebellion, it’s easier to settle into God’s comforting hand of guidance. He is where I belong.

What Is Help?

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

What does help look like?

Help comes in many forms. It is a strong hand picking us up so we can walk again. It is a wagon carrying us forward. It is instruction so we can figure out the problem. It is medication, a ride to work, or a comforting phone call. It is a prom dress. It is a miracle. Help is God using people to correct or encourage each other. Help is God’s compassion leaning down to us.

A friend called to ask for prayer. Her mom had a terrible fall and fractured a vertebra in her neck. Of course, I prayed. But while I prayed for that family, God led me to pray for something that, on the surface, wasn’t related to hospitals or doctors. It wasn’t what I expected to pray, but I could see how God could use it to help the family.

You don’t really know in advance how God is going to lead your prayers, but if you allow Him to participate in the process, He will far exceed your expectations.

God knows our physical needs very well. He also knows about every other kind of need that we have. Generally, we miss out when we tell God what we want Him to do. If we’ll listen to Him tell us what to pray for, surprising blessings will come to pass.

So let us approach His throne and seek God’s face with an attitude of expectation because He’s listening to us with mercy and grace already in His outstretched hand.

Simple Gifts

Proverbs 21:13
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.


March was Missions Month at my kids’ school. I went to their assembly that was the culmination of the month’s ideas. There, the total missions experience was boiled down to three displays and a few words from three teachers. A reminder that God is busy everywhere doing acts of love through the hands of people.

I’ve been involved in missions and can show my kids the pictures of my work in different places. They can see my face and the smiles on the children around me as proof that God was at work.

Genuine love expressed to God-seekers of all ages has impacted many communities through the actions of missions workers. I’ve seen changed lives. I’ve seen people whose hearts flip-flopped over the awesome presence of God. When people want God to show up and He does eternal things, joy abounds.

I want my kids to know that you can spread God’s love where we live. We don’t have to get on a plane to find people in need.

The kids’ school assembly reminded me that I once drove a church van full of the high school youth group to their Christmas party, but stopped along the way at a homeless shelter. We sang Christmas carols with the homeless children and played with them for a while before driving on to our destination. The youth group experienced an opportunity to share God’s love with those who needed a little attention. They put others before themselves and enjoyed giving their gift.

Anyone can do that. Anyone can spend time loving someone else with the pure love of Christ.

You don’t have to be wealthy to give. You don’t have to spend a lot of travel time. You don’t need a certification, license or degree. There’s no for excuse for not participating in a local ministry when a high school group can agree to stop by a homeless shelter on the way to their Christmas party.

That day, I looked at my youth group and saw how their gift affected them. I think it affected me too.

Aren’t you curious about how giving your simple gifts could affect you?

The Past

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”


In the section before that scripture, God promised rest to His people. He let them know He was bringing them out of captivity and into a time of restoration. Jeremiah reminded them of what God had told them already.

If you’re seeking God, then you’re expecting Him to answer when you call. You’re listening for his voice, and you’re watching for His direction.

When God gives you encouragement, don’t think it’s just for that day. Keep it in a journal or tape it to your bathroom mirror, but have it handy so you can remind yourself that God has spoken.

Remind yourself that “the Lord has appeared to us in the past” whenever you lose your focus. He will help you correct your aim.

We used to play a kids’ game in the pool. One would shout “Marco,” and the other would swim by him shouting “Polo.” The one shouting “Marco” had his eyes closed and tried to tag the other. You knew the other one was there. You could hear him shout and feel him swim by. But you were limited. He had more freedom and could see things you couldn’t see. You knew what he was like, and yet you didn’t know exactly where he was or what he was doing.

We know what God is like and can feel Him when He’s near. We call to Him, but we don’t know what He’s doing. Sometimes we reach out for Him and miss Him completely.

I think God wants us to keep calling out for Him so He can keep reminding us that He’s there with us. He wants us to remember what He’s said to us in the past. He wants us to remember that He’s already told us He loves us.

How are you going to remind yourself of His love for you this week?

The Refining Fire

Zechariah 13:9

This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”

When I worked as an adult leader in my church’s youth group, I had confidence in myself as a Christian teacher. But that was before I had kids of my own. Now, as a mother, I know that there was a lot I didn’t know about raising kids. I didn't know that God would teach me through my kids.

God gives children to couples as a blessing. Before you smile and give a happy sigh, let me first explain “blessing”.

My kids are both obedient and challenging. They’re affectionate and frustrating. No matter how adorable they are in the morning, by bedtime they will have had ample opportunity to make me pull out my hair.

Many mothers will agree that having kids changes your life. What nobody told us when we were pregnant was that God will use these children to test your mettle.

God loves to bring us closer to Him, and closer to who He intended us to be. If we look in the mirror and see ourselves as a shiny gold rock, but we were intended to be a beautiful solid gold sculpture which was crafted with intricate details as delicate as a butterfly’s wing, then God’s got some work to do in us.

He has to throw us into the fire and refine us.

We were already valuable to him when we were cut from the mountain, but we’re even more valuable when we allow ourselves to be refined in His fire and sculpted by His hands.

God gives some people children to bless them with a refining process. He doesn’t tell us this is what motherhood is about, but if we’re smart, we’ll allow Him to use our children to help us grow up.

When you can look back on your life and see the changes God has made in you through your difficult mothering moments, you can give the glory to God and honor Him. His fingerprints are on you.

For example, if your child wouldn’t go to bed when you directed him to, you could resort to reading, storytelling, or less fun ways to get the child to stay in bed. When I’m faced with a “kid challenge”, I often see God’s finger pointing at me. I can see reminders of times when I’ve not been where I should’ve been. He shows me that He dealt with me gently, but firmly.

God doesn’t give in to us when we throw a fit, and parents shouldn’t lower their standards because a child wants them to. But we should see the lesson He wants to show us in our struggle. We should take notice that we’re being purified and tested and sculpted into something beautiful.

When God’s refining is more complete in me than it is right now, I want others to see that God claims me as His own. I want them to see that I claim the Lord as my God. His refining fire will make His presence in me more obvious.

If it takes raising kids for me to be blessed with that purifying fire, then I say, “Thanks, God, for the privilege of being in Your hands as I work through these mothering challenges.”

Perspective

Acts 17: 26-27
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

If you stand on the earth and look at the moon, the moon looks small and the earth looks really big. But if you stand on the moon and look at the earth, the earth looks pretty small.

I like looking at problems from a different perspective. It helps me see the problem as it really is. Sometimes we forget that the problem might not be what it originally seems. I can take a walk around a cardboard enemy and see how impotent it is, even though it’s horrendously scary on its face.

You can pray about any problem you have. It might be a problem so big that it weighs you down with stress and worry. You might think you have to handle it all on your own. But it’s too big for you to fix. You might think it can’t be fixed.

What you really need is a change of perspective.

The problem isn’t really so big in God’s hands. If we look at it from God’s view, we’ll see that He can handle it. He’s not sweating.

However, if we see ourselves, our problems, and our God through a worldly (ungodly) perspective, God doesn’t seem big enough to handle what He says He’ll handle. It’s hard to relax and trust God when we see Him as being far away.

According to Acts 17, God is not far from us. Sure, there are problems to face, but I challenge you to sit at the feet of God and notice that the world isn’t such a problem when it’s in His hands.

Get Up

Genesis 3:8-11
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?”


Haven’t we all taken the wrong advice, made the wrong choice, or listened to the wrong voices? If you’ve heard from God and you didn’t obey, understand this: God gives second chances.

Adam and Eve heard from God regularly. They had a regular appointment with Him in the garden. When He came for his expected appointment, Adam hid. That simple act let God know that something was wrong.

Instead of hiding when we mess up, we can communicate our failures to God. He understands and forgives.

Seeking God and finding Him isn’t hard. The fact that we’re so imperfect is what is hard to deal with. A lot of people try to do what is right. They figure out how to obey God, and then that sneaky snake whispers something to entice them away from what God has told them to do. They stumble. They feel so bad about stumbling that they stay down too long.

God says, “Get up.”

God will provide for you everything that you need. Everything. But you have to get up and walk with Him. He will lead you through doorways and lead you out of danger, but you have to do the walking.

You were created to do something that nobody else can do. Your life has purpose. God designed you with specific gifts and abilities so you can accomplish that purpose. Communicate with God and find out what that is. You have a job to do, but you can’t do it lying down. Give God your guilt, shame, bad memories, and pain. Let Him help you back up.

In your journey to a better relationship with God, you’re probably going to stumble. The key to the journey is to get back up and keep walking.

How To Hear God, part six

1 Samuel 3:6-10


Again the LORD called, "Samuel!"
And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' "
So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

God speaks in an audible voice to some, in a silent spiritual urging to others, and still others hear Him when they read the Bible.

We want to hear God, but sometimes our own expectations get in the way. We want God to speak in a certain way, and when He doesn’t live up to our expectations, we think He’s not speaking to us.

But He is speaking. We have to learn to look for the message in the mess of our daily lives.

In the sidebar, there is a sign-up box for my ezine and weekly tips. The purpose of the weekly tips, is to get people to see God in the ordinary things we see every day. He doesn’t hide his message from us. We don’t have to climb to Mount Guru to find God. He’s here with us in our world every day.

If we read the Bible in the morning, but don’t hear from God, we need to change the way we’re reading it. God lays out His message in the Bible, in the newspaper, across the internet, and sometimes in the note from your child’s teacher. Be curious enough to find God’s message in your every day routine.

Can we stop telling God that He has to send us a sign? Can we be real with Him? Maybe start treating God like we love Him?

We can be content in our relationship with God. We can be together with God and participate in a conversation without asking Him to do something for us. He doesn’t make us do anything to earn His love, so why should we expect Him to do what we want in order to earn our love?

Practice listening. If you set a time for a conversation with God, would you let Him do most of the talking?

Do we let our friends talk when we’re with them? Of course we do. When we’re not with our friends, we’re still content in our relationship even though we phone them, email them, or text them during the day. Have you ever scheduled your friends to be with you one hour each week, hog the conversation, not let them get a word in, and then complain that they never speak to you?

When we hear a message from God in our neighbor’s words, our job is to pay attention. We can be content just being with God, but curious enough to find out what He wants to say. God can speak to us any way He wants, but when He does, we should stop and focus on Him.

Contentment in a relationship with God is a basic part of having a friendship with God. We can build up to contentment in our relationship with God if we feel like we’re spiritually as young as Samuel when he first heard God. Even Samuel had to start somewhere.

Step six of hearing from God is being content in your relationship with God while curious enough to look for His message in many formats.

How To Hear God, part five

Isaiah 8:17 KJV

And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.

Waiting on someone is a “give and take” experience.

A waiter in a restaurant is willing to do what the customer asks or, in other words, has a desire to hear and obey. He introduces himself, gets to know the customer and makes her feel welcome. He listens before serving. He comes back to ask if the food is suitable, refill the drink, or supply more condiments. These are steps one through four of this series on how to hear God.

A waiter is also patient. If the customer is slow in giving the order, the waiter gives her more time and comes back later to see if she’s ready.

Never does the waiter stand in front of the customer and plead, “Oh, great customer, I say to you in the name of my employer, what would you have me serve you? Tell me now while I wait here on bended knee. Please, make me wait no longer. I’ll do anything. Just let me serve you today.”

That would be ridiculous.

But isn’t that the attitude of some church people who don’t listen to what they’re saying to God in prayer?

In some ways, God is like that customer who keeps coming in to see what we’re willing to serve. If He feels welcomed every time He’s with you, He’ll want to hang out with you permanently. If He feels loved because you’re paying attention to Him, you’ll hear from Him.

If you want to hear from God, wait upon the Lord like you’re the waiter in the restaurant. Wait with patience.

When your constant effort in getting to know God is balanced with patience, the journey to hearing God better and knowing Him intimately will last a long time. That’s good. It takes forever to know God because there’s so much to know. You are seeking the God who is limitless and multi-faceted.

Don’t get frustrated after working at the relationship for three weeks. Only three weeks, and now you’re giving up?

Wait upon the Lord.

Step five of hearing from God is staying patient.

How To Hear God, part four

Hebrews 6:10-12

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience
inherit what has been promised.

Someone once asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The answer has always been, “Practice, practice, practice.” I’ve also heard that anything worth having is worth working for. Since the effort we put into getting better at something raises the value of what we’re doing, shouldn’t we put a lot of effort into any relationship we value?

If a couple of people don’t put much effort into getting to know each other, they’re really just acquaintances. There are a lot of church people who are merely acquaintances of God. But that relationship can grow with a little effort. God is willing to spend more time with us if we’re willing.

And then there’s the issue of maintaining a relationship. Some women are called “high-maintenance girlfriends” because it takes a lot of effort to maintain that relationship. If you see your relationship with God as “low maintenance”, it can be really easy to be neglectful. I think all humans get lazy in their relationships occasionally. The people we love the most are hurt when we forget about them, ignore them, or neglect them in other ways.

How can we ensure that our relationship with God will get stronger? Practice, practice, practice. Be diligent to maintain a friendship with God. We can practice our friendship skills in our relationship with God.

We must work daily on maintaining a love relationship with our spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, so why not work daily on a relationship with God?

If you aren’t hearing from God and you want to, then put some effort into the relationship. Church time shouldn’t be the only time we work on maintaining a close bond with God. Church time is when we should be taking a look at what we’ve done during the week to see if we’re giving that valuable relationship enough of our time.

Step four of hearing from God is being diligent and paying attention to your relationship with God.

How To Hear God, part three

Proverbs 8:32-34


Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Having a desire to hear from God and actually listening are two different things. Let’s look at listening to God as an act of obedience. Like anything else God tells us to do, if we do it we are blessed, but if we disobey, we forfeit the blessing.

Some people find it easy to forgive others because they were taught at a young age to forgive their siblings. If we know we should forgive our neighbor – and we want to obey that scripture that says we should forgive – but we hang onto our grudge, we miss out on the blessing God wants for us. We’ll take our relationship with God to the next level when we follow through with that act of obedience.

However, many of us were not raised to practice the simple act of listening to God.

Listening is an act that happens on purpose. Someone who listens waits with expectation. Who would walk up to someone, ask a question, and then immediately walk off? But we pray like that all the time.

God answers us. He’s been answering us for thousands of years. Psalm 3:4 is an example. “To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” This tells of someone who waited with the expectation of an answer.

Intentional listening is putting our love for God into action. We can’t stop with just a desire to hear. We have to press through that phase and put some muscle into that desire. The effort we spend on listening to God is never wasted.

Step three of hearing from God is listening for His message.

How To Hear God, part two

If you have a relationship with someone, that usually means you’ve spoken with them long enough to get to know them. When I call close friends and family members on the phone, I don’t always have to say who I am. They can recognize my voice because they know me. They know how I act. They know what to expect from me.

Someone who seeks God by reading the Bible will get to know God and the way He does things. If you learn enough about God to know what to expect from Him, you’ll recognize His voice when He speaks.

A close relationship is one that has moved beyond small talk. You’re ready to discuss things that really matter. You can communicate and entire messages in one small sentence.

When a husband and wife accept a dinner invitation in the afternoon, the wife gets off the cell phone and says to her husband, “The kids.” He responds, “I’ve already called the neighbors. They’re getting them out of the pool right now. We can get them cleaned up in time for dinner.” She said only two words, but their relationship was close enough that he knew what she was thinking.

In Hosea 2:16, we read, “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’.”

One of the main differences between a spouse and a servant is the degree of intimacy. The relationship that allows intimacy is a safe place to share the deep secrets of the heart. Intimacy in your relationship lets you share things that you don’t share with a stranger.

Getting to know God gives you opportunities to hear from Him as a master, or as a friend, or as an intimate lover. God lets you get as close to Him as you want to be. If you only seek God as a servant seeks his Master, then expect the messages you hear to be directed to a faithful servant. If you seek God as a child seeks his father, you’re only looking for messages that would be directed to a son or daughter. If you want to get deeper with God, then share the deep things of your heart with Him and pay attention when He speaks.

Step two of hearing from God is knowing Him well enough to recognize Him when He speaks.

How To Hear God, part one

James 1:22-25


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who
looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.


Some people don’t want to hear God and obey. They are happy being their own boss. Well, not happy, but satisfied that they get to do what they want. Unless they choose to do something that will get them in trouble.

Some want to hear, but don’t want to obey. They’re like people who hear the about a forecasted thunderstorm, but wish so hard for it to be a sunny day that they refuse to carry an umbrella. They’re going to get soaked.

But the man who humbles himself before God, listening for his guidance and acting on what he knows God wants him to do, is the man who will receive a true treasure. His reward for obedience to the scripture is a better relationship with God and a clearer line of communication. Those who seek God diligently in his word and act on what they read are the ones who will find that God is closer than they realized. And with the comfort of his peaceful presence comes love, joy, and helpful warnings to keep us out of trouble.

If you are seeking God with your whole heart and want to hear his guidance, receive his words in the scriptures. Believe that his words of love are for you. Act on what you know God wants you to do. Live in the freedom of the scriptures.

The first step toward hearing from God is having the desire to hear and obey.

Discipline

Proverbs 10:17
He who heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Are you among the thousands of people who are trying to lose weight this month? How much weight? Twenty pounds? Thirty? Forty?

A goal like that cannot be reached in a day. Some people attack a long term goal like that with a short term frame of mind. They get frustrated with their slow progress and quit before they’ve accomplished what they set out to do.

A long term goal requires discipline. Seeking God requires discipline.

Discipline means correction, training, and restraint (among other things). This is how we affect change. Going on a diet means you're going to show some restraint at meal time, train yourself to be wise between meals, and correct bad habits by replacing them with good habits.

If you “heed discipline” then you’ll pay attention to the correction and let the new good habits stick with you.

There are those who ignore the scriptures by saying that they’re spiritual and they’re meant for church. But God gave us wisdom in the Bible to use in every area of our lives. The same scriptures that help us seek God also help us correct physical problems and social problems.

In this age of indulgence and immediate gratification, discipline is a rare tool. It’s the key to many things. It helps a piano student prepare for a performance. It helps a marathon runner finish the race. And it helps us maintain our relationship with God.

As with any tool, if discipline is used regularly, you get better at it.

Plan For Success

Proverbs 11:25
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

January is a time of planning, making resolutions, and setting goals. Many are thinking of how they can prosper in their finances this year.

God’s recipe for success is: Give.

We tend to spend all we have unless we have a plan to save it or invest it. Everyone can save money. Some can save more than others, but everyone can save. If you have a plan to save, you can have a plan to donate. Even if you have to save your pennies to pay your bills, you can still find something to donate. But do it cheerfully, or it doesn’t count.

Generosity is a heart attitude that affects your environment. The recipient’s blessing is the gift, but the giver’s blessing is the joy that overflows in his heart and encourages more giving.

A generous man will prosper in his heart before he prospers anywhere else. But if he’s generously sowing good seed into the lives of others, the sower’s bag of seed won’t usually run out. Why? Because God sees you acting on his command to love and help those around you.

Remember that generosity doesn’t mean giving money. A man who is generous with complaints will himself be complained to. And a man who is generous with the wisdom he’s received will receive more wisdom. People sometimes copy the good things they see others doing. It’s true that what goes around, comes around.

During this month of planning out how you will spend this new year, plan to give in abundance those things you’d like to receive: love, friendship, respect, and unexpected blessings.

Start Right Where You Are

Proverbs 14:30
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

This is the time of year when we all look around to see what part of our lives we want to improve next. Many women are looking in the mirror at the body they want to improve. Some men are looking at their accumulation of toys to see whether they want to buy sports equipment or computer games next.

I hope there are those who are taking inventory and realize their need to improve spiritually.

Early in my marriage, I would buy a few books on how to grow up spiritually in one way or another. My husband and I went to Bible studies and prayed together to improve our life together and our life with God. Around the time we started raising kids, I stopped buying the spiritually themed self-improvement books.

It’s not that I don’t think I need to improve anymore. The growth in those early years taught me to focus not on books, but on God himself.

The books were an important part of my growth, and I’m thankful for them. But spending time with books cannot be a substitute for time with God.

And time with God is what we all need to be spending, instead of money.

My husband and I still buy those books occasionally, but we get our peaceful heart from being with God.

Every January, people walk around with the build up of December’s stress added to the guilt of having spent too much and eaten too much. January isn’t usually a peaceful month for most people. They wish they’d gotten that one game or toy that they’d asked for, but they don’t feel right about buying it for themselves. So they just sit and envy those who got what they wanted.

Do we ever envy someone’s spiritual life?

Why be envious of someone else’s walk with the Lord? Develop your own relationship with God and forsake the ways of the envious.

Start right where you are. Don’t compare your spirituality with anyone else’s. Be ready to receive what God has for you right where you are.

When you look in the mirror and see that you need to improve your body, remember that a heart at peace is how we give life to our body. And a heart at peace comes from time spent with God.