Second Chance at Life 3

1 Kings 17:12
“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

A widow, depressed because of the drought and famine in the land and because of the emptiness of her kitchen, decided to make one last loaf of bread for herself and her son before they die. Elijah asked her to make him a small loaf first so that her supply of flour and oil would never run out until it rained again.

That makes me think of the verse in Exodus 22:22, “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.” But in 1 Kings 17:7-24, Elijah never intended to take advantage of her. He was obeying God, and he wanted to bless her and prosper her by helping her act on her faith in God.

Staring at empty shelves in the fridge makes you feel the emptiness in your belly. If you had practically nothing in your kitchen, would you do as this widow did and plan your last meal? Or would you spend time reading the Bible, listening to God, and worshiping him rather than focusing on your lack?

God is more real than the lack in your life. When God is more real to you than what you feel, it’s easier to trust and listen to his plan.

The widow had to obey God’s plan as spoken by the prophet. You can obey God when you learn to listen to him. You can listen to him better when you stop listening to the distracting noise of lack in your life.

The widow and her son who were given a second chance to live out their faith in God had to change the way they were living in order to take advantage of the lessons learned from the prophet. When we get a second chance, we have to take the “do-over” seriously. We have to change something in how we respond to the situation or we’ll waste the opportunity.

Today, you and I must take a look at lessons we learn in life and make changes in order to apply those life lessons.

Second Chance at Life 2

John 8:3-4
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.”

When I read this story, I always think it’s funny that the man wasn’t caught in adultery, just the woman. But Jesus had mercy on the woman. He forgave her. At the same time, he chose not to give a small sermon about how many men in that place had been with her or with women like her. He was allowing the men time to recognize on their own that they were pots calling the kettle black. They had no business accusing her.

Jesus was the only one without sin, and he didn’t accuse anyone.

That woman was given a second chance in life. She was told to leave her life of sin, and I imagine that’s just what she did. I wonder if her accusers did.

If her story makes you think of a sin in your life, you can receive forgiveness today. You can walk away from your sin and start a new relationship with Jesus.

His hands are open to you.

Second Chance at Life 1

John 11:32
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
December is a busy month. We want to shop for special things to give to those we love. We want to go to Christmas parties. But we also want to have time to sit with Jesus and worship him.

How do we make time for everything we want to do? Yesterday’s To Do list has become a Wish I Had list. We wish we had done more to show love and help others. We wish we had invested in people more often.

When we read about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we see a picture of his sisters telling Jesus they wish he’d been there before Lazarus died. But Jesus didn’t have a Wish I Had list.

He only did what he was supposed to do. He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead before he ever died. There was a purpose for it or it wouldn’t have happened.

God makes his plans work out so that we see him with a new perspective. He wants us to get to know him better.

God’s plans are always better than our plans, but they don’t look anything like our plans. No wonder God laughs at our plans.

Do you need a second chance at life? When Jesus raised Lazarus back to life, Lazarus had a second chance to do things he should’ve done before. He had a second chance to listen to and obey Jesus.

We don’t have to be raised from the dead to start our life over. We can submit to God today and begin a new relationship with Jesus.

Music is Celebration

Ps 33:3
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Thanksgiving Day is a day of celebration. We gather with loved ones to tell each other how much we appreciate those loving relationships. We need each other. And we need God. Many families use the Thanksgiving holiday to show appreciation to God by caring for others and serving at a large feast for those who can’t afford to create their own.

But it’s funny that the music of Thanksgiving weekend is Christmas music.

I thought about how many Thanksgiving songs I’ve heard and realized there are amazingly few. I think people quite readily associate music with Christmas, but Thanksgiving is mostly just about food.

Our Thanksgiving Day is a holiday we celebrate as Americans, but Christmas is celebrated all around the globe. If the whole world could pick one day to come together and express thanks for our individual blessings, not only would I be stunned by God once again making the impossible possible, I would also expect to hear celebration music from many different cultures.

Celebration music is lively and joyful. It makes you want to get up and dance. I would suggest that we have a Thanksgiving Dance, but no one would attend. We’re all too busy preparing for a table full of food and a shopping cart full of Christmas presents. Who has time to celebrate?

So maybe Sundays could be our time of lively, joyful singing and dancing. I think that we, as Christians, must take time to sing songs of thanksgiving to God who gave us the blessings we’re all thankful for.

Whenever you choose to celebrate, remember to find time to celebrate with God. Sing to him – in the shower, if you must. Find CDs to sing along with or just make up your own tunes. But whatever you do, sing.

Music is Communication

Ps 27:6
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

When my husband sings me a love song, I don’t hear the song as much as I hear his message. It’s a sacrifice for him since he’s not really a singer. I understand and appreciate what he’s doing to get his message across. When we sing in church, I’m pretty sure God feels the same way about us. He isn’t interested in hearing “professional performance” voices, because he wants to hear our message.

I think the same thing applies with other kinds of songs and messages. The Happy Birthday Song is usually only sung at someone’s birthday, but it’s more than a birthday song. The message is more like “We love you.” You can change things about a song to change its message. For instance, “If You’re Happy And You Know It” sung in a minor key sounds sarcastic or sad, regardless of the words you’re singing.

Movies are good at making the most of the film’s emotional punch by using “mood music”. The scary music lets the audience know the villain is somewhere nearby. Scene changes involve music to let the audience know what to expect of the new scene.

When I read the verse from Psalms featured above, I picture someone feeling confident about God’s power, giving thanks, and singing about God to God. Our faith in God can become such a rich issue that we can’t help but burst forth in song. Such a powerful joy at the provision of God in difficult circumstances makes people so full of thanksgiving that they feel like dancing and singing.

What kind of music should be playing when you’re with God in prayer?

Music Makes Things Memorable

Deuteronomy 31:19
Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against then.

I have found it interesting that you can find a lot of songs in the Bible. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea on dry ground, they sang a song. People sang about David’s bravery with, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” And in the book of Revelation (Rev 5:9) a song was sung to Jesus, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

People, no matter which race or religion or education level, often cannot keep themselves from singing at major celebrations. Think about weddings, graduations, and even sports events. Many people seem to burst out with song when their emotions take flight. Joy leads their mouths in glorious music.

What do you do to celebrate a major event in your life? Most people around me sing “Happy Birthday To You” a few times each year for their family and friends. I look forward to Christmastime because there are many opportunities to hear Handel’s “Messiah”, which is some of my favorite music.

What do you sing about? Because of today’s technology, many people don’t wait for a major event to take place. We sing what we hear on TV commercials. Jingles are memorable.

We can make up our own jingles to help us remember things. My kids learned to sing educational songs in their early years. That made learning anything fun and easy to remember. I think God wants us to use music to learn his promises from the Bible. That’s one of the things I like about Christian music. When I hear God’s words repeated in a memorable song on the radio, that makes it easier to remember scriptures.

If college kids can prepare for tests by singing, certainly we can teach our children God’s promises by singing.

Give it a try.

Music has Passion

1 Chronicles 6:31
These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there.
Whom did God put in charge of music? People with great skill. People who could perform with a lot of heart. David was a composer and singer. He knew songs. He knew how to choose men to be leaders of choirs.

Have you ever heard someone sing with so much passion it made you want to sing along with that much passion or cry from the emotion of the performance? I have. I’ve listened to performances that left me speechless. Powerful performances make you feel and think.

When we worship God, are we giving everything we have to the performance before God? Do we sing in church like we were face-to-face with God and reaching out to minister to him with our hearts?

I imagine there are a lot of people who get distracted in church because of the padding or lack of it in the chairs, the temperature of the air, the people sitting nearby, or (these days) a buzz letting you know you’ve just received a text. I wonder what would happen to our relationship with God if we came to church to worship, really worship from the heart, with other believers. If we turned our phone completely off or (gasp) left it at home, would we have the courage to look God in the face and sing to him?

Would we be able to focus on pleasing God with our songs if we set aside our likes/dislikes and didn’t get disappointed that our favorite song hasn’t been sung in church for weeks? What about God? I don’t think he has a favorite song, but I think he has a favorite activity. He loves to listen to his children singing.

I’m a mom who used to hear my small children singing while playing with whatever toys they had in their hands at the time. Of course they weren’t worshiping me, but I loved listening to them. I’m sure God sometimes hears our worship songs and wonders why we even showed up for church. When we come prepared to make a joyful noise or a sound of thanksgiving in the company of our brothers and sisters, God leans in to hear it.

I know God wants more of our hearts. This month, I will make Music the topic for our consideration. Music is one of the ways God sees how we feel about him. When he hears our hearts, he can see that we’re throwing off complacency and selfishness in order to find special time with him.

Don’t let the month go by without growing in your musical gifts. Let’s seek God together in music.

An Orderly Account

Luke 1:3
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

How do you spread the good news of Jesus Christ?

Not everyone tells their testimony the same way. Preachers preach from the pulpit, but not everyone has a pulpit. I know novelists who tell about Jesus in subtle ways through the characters they write. There are parents who see their own children as their ministry.

If we can change the world by using our gifts, then those gifts are treasures and should be polished and used.

When Luke wrote his account to Theophilus, he had no idea I would be reading his words. How many people will be reading what you write? Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In? Then you’re a part of an ocean of people who read the testimonies of strangers all the time.

Luke said he would write an orderly account. Are we sharing our scores on games we’ve played or giving people words of hope and encouragement? People notice if you put compassion in your epistles. They can tell if you’ve been with God or with your Ipad.

If you have a Theophilus to share a testimony with, share an accurate account of what God is doing in your life and see how God will use that to bless others.

You never know who’s going to read your words.

Write The Words

Jeremiah 30:2
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.”

Has God spoken to you?

If you’ve heard from God, have you written down what he said? I think keeping a prayer journal is a good plan. Many people write down some of their prayers so they can keep a record of the direction in which God has been leading them.

If you decide to keep a prayer journal, keep a record of what you say to God and what he says to you. I think you’ll be amazed when you look back at what you’ve written after using the journal for a few months. You might find that God has been directing you to pray for a particular person or a particular ministry, maybe people you’d like to help out. Once you see how God is leading you, you can ask God for more understanding and wisdom when dealing with that person or ministry.

We’re not always going to get the answers we want. Our prayer journals might be an avenue to work through the frustration of our flesh not getting what it wants. Our human ideas of what should happen are often frustrated. God sometimes asks us to hold his hand and walk humbly with him. We have to learn to walk by faith.

At the moment we understand God isn’t giving us the answers we want, we can go back to the prayer journal and re-read the words God has spoken to us. That might re-direct our focus and turn us back to where God has been leading.

Make It Plain

Habakkuk 2:2
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”

I intend to listen when God speaks. We should all focus on his words when we hear God speaking to a specific situation in our lives. We can write it down to remember what he said.

When God speaks to a nation, it should be made plain so the common man can understand. When God moves in a nation, it will be obvious. It will be prophesied about so that when it happens, we can all say we remember what God said about that.

God sends messengers ahead of his acts so he can make us understand why everything is happening the way it is. He sent Joseph (Genesis 41) ahead of the famine so that the people could prepare for it and not starve to death. Joseph spoke plainly and powerfully so that it was obvious to Pharaoh that Joseph was speaking wisdom from the Spirit of God.

The phrase “make it plain” stands out to me in the verse above. If God tells you to write something for others to read, you know it will be something that will benefit others either by a warning or a blessing. The “herald” who will run with it has to be able to understand in order to pass it on to others.

Are you hearing from God? How are you making your revelations from God plain so that others will be blessed?

Correction Is Not For Fools

Proverbs 1:1-7
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Correction is not for fools. Correction brings understanding and wisdom, but fools despise wisdom, so correction is wasted on them.

I’m so happy that you and I are not fools. We want to receive understanding and wisdom. If that were not true, you would not be reading this. And I would not be writing it.

God gives us the ability to study and decide what is right and what is wrong. We have a conscience and a brain, which are awesome gifts from God. So we should use our gifts and abilities to grow into the people God designed us to be.

What do you do?

That’s always been a hard question for me to answer. I’m busy at several things, but no one wants to hear everything I’m doing. Should I answer that question with something that sounds a little vague? “I’m growing into perfection because of God’s persistent love and guidance.” Or maybe this: “I’m continually receiving correction from God.” Is that a little too honest?

But isn’t that what we should be doing with our lives? Receiving correction from God?

The fact that we’re trying to walk the path of faith assumes we’re moving. As we move forward, we must correct our aim if we go too far left or right. Remember that the path is narrow and straight. We spend half our walk on the left foot and half on our right. The meanderings of our walk has nothing to do with our feet, but with our eyes.

Where is your aim? Are you seeking God with me?

Receiving Correction

2 Cor 13:7
Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.

That would be nice. I would love to go to bed at night knowing that I did nothing wrong. However, I haven’t felt that way since I was a blissfully ignorant child.

Since perfection is something that only God is able to achieve, I would like to give us all a little hope. There is something we can do right. We can get in and stay in a relationship with God.

At times, our legs walk the path of faith like a newborn horse walks. We’re a little awkward at first, but we learn to step with grace the more we practice our new walk.

We are humans, and humans fail. We make mistakes every day. Even when we do our best, it seems our best just isn’t good enough. As toddlers, we learned to walk, and fall, and get back up. So it is with our faith walk. We will promise God something like “I’ll read the Bible in a year.” When we get busy and forget our commitment, we seem to have failed.

But God is merciful. He holds out His hand to us and helps us get back on our feet. He reminds us of our commitment and whispers hope, “The year isn’t over.”

God is a God of healing, restoration, and forgiveness. He’s not watching us, waiting for us to fail so He can say, “I told you so.” He expects us to do what is right. He’s given us every tool we need and His holy presence to guide us along the way. He expects us to receive His correction and get back on the path.

Here’s more of that 2 Corinthians message:

2 Corinthians 13:5-7
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.
When you are being taught by more experienced people and you see them do something wrong, does that give you permission to ignore the rest of their teaching? Why did you start listening to them? If it was worth your time to follow their advice in the beginning, their mistakes should cause you to try harder to do nothing wrong, not give up. In all things, no matter what people are doing around us, we are to do what is right.

2 Corinthians 8:21
For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

Being Teachable

Psalm 143:10
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
I can learn to speak and write well, but if I have nothing to say, my expert skill means nothing. In 1 Corinthians 13:1, we read about a gong, clanging cymbal, or otherwise annoying sound being the same as anyone trying to be heard, but not trying to be loving in the midst of it. But don’t worry. God wants to teach us.

God gives His children many opportunities to receive His guidance. He gives us the gift of His Spirit. He is with us to teach us. If we can step out of our arrogant ways and learn to listen to Him, we’ll find our message to others will become more meaningful and better understood.

Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.”

Receiving correction from God is a necessary step for our success. He can give us worthy words for our messages to others. We must have the attitude that when we’re obedient to God, we can change the world. Looking to the world for ways to change is not the pathway to success. We must not turn to them for instruction because God’s instruction is righteous, holy, and full of goodness. God’s words are wisdom to us.

No matter how smart we think we are, being teachable is the first step down the pathway that will change the world.

Obedient and Loving

John 14:15
If you love me, keep my commands.

As a mother, I’ve given commands. I love it when my children do what I tell them to do. And I’ve learned to be patient when they groan. I know they don’t want to do chores. Who does? But I’m teaching them successful ways of doing important things. They’ll need to have these skills when they are out on their own.

When they realize that I’m giving them these chores because I love them, they obey with less groaning. It’s my job to make sure they see my loving attitude. I take them for treats or play their games with them. I laugh with them, sharing their joys and their triumphs. And they come to me for comfort when they’re hurt or scared.

I know that God gave me children to raise because he wanted me to see His love for me. I can see myself in my children. I can see how they trust me to help them and advise them. They do things they way I do things because they’ve been watching me.

If we can set our eyes on God and watch Him, we can begin doing things His way. We can see how Jesus treated those in need, and then we can be generous and caring just like Him. Our determination to seek God and develop a relationship with Him will help us keep His commands with less groaning.

We can see our faith rise up as we continue to obey God. We can see our love for God getting more intense as we set aside our ways and begin following His ways. God is always by us, helping us. He wants to encourage our steps and strengthen us when we fall.

Keeping God’s commands is something we have to train ourselves to do. Loving God is easy if we allow ourselves time to get to know Him.

So keep seeking God with me.

Obedient and Submitted

John 14:14
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

This is taken out of context most of the time. People want God to be their errand boy. We pray for God to bring us paychecks while we sit on the couch and watch soap operas. Then we blame God for our poverty because we prayed and he didn’t come through for us.

We do stupid things and then ask God to get us out of trouble. Often we use the phrase, “And I’ll even start going to church from now on if you do this for me.” Bargaining with God is not what Jesus had in mind when he said we could ask him for anything.

He was speaking to his disciples when he said they could ask him for anything. He knew they were imperfect. He knew they’d made plenty of mistakes and were sure to make more. But he also knew where their hearts were. They had been following him, learning from him, obeying him. They were sacrificing their way of doing things for his way of doing things. These men had a relationship with Jesus. That was the basis of his claim that they could ask him for anything.

So, can we, like his disciples, ask him for anything?

Sure. As long as we have a relationship with Jesus, learn from Jesus, obey his commands, and sacrifice our ways of doing things for his ways of doing things. Then certainly, ask away.

Obedient and Faith-filled

John 14:12
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

This is very hard to understand from an earthly viewpoint. If you believe Jesus lived on Earth as the Son of God and did miracles given him to do by the Father in Heaven, it is hard to imagine regular people like you and me doing what Jesus did. Then Jesus said we’ll do greater things. We can’t even digest the concept of doing miracles. What “greater things”?

Just for a moment, let’s imagine Jesus wore today’s man-sandals and walked in the dust of Earth with us. We’re not really that different than his disciples from thousands of years ago. We have as many flaws and as much faith.

A big difference is that we don’t have Jesus in our faces telling us to follow him. We’re supposed to be hearing that from God as we read the Bible or while in church or with our kids at a picnic or …whatever. So let’s say that we had Jesus in our faces telling us to do things in today’s world.

If he told you to put the boat out in the water and start fishing, would you? If he told you to take a basket of tunafish sandwiches and feed thousands, would you? If he told you to pray for the healing of a woman who has been lame for years, would you?

Some of us would, but others still can’t imagine themselves obeying God in those kinds of commands. It isn’t such a big deal to obey the command to love the children God gave you. That’s pretty easy for most parents. But God isn’t a pick-and-choose God. He accepted us, and we should accept him. All of him.

When you accept God, you really should consider what you’re doing.

Some women can see God as the Prince Charming to our Cinderella. He finds us in our rags and loves us anyway. He chooses us even with our messy hair in our sooty faces because we’re his. All we have to do is allow him to give us new royal clothes and follow him in his royal ways.

But if God says to go to your step-mother and invite her to live in the suite next door at the castle because he wants to do a miracle in her heart, many of us would want to voice an opinion about that. How many times has God heard us say, “But God, you don’t understand. That’s just crazy. Her?”

And we wonder why we’re not doing miracles like Jesus did.

If we want to prove ourselves worthy of the words in John 14:12, we’ll have to obey God in the small things, in the big things, and in the crazy gotta-have-faith kinds of things. The key is our obedience.

And yes, God does miracles through his people every day. You can be one of them.

Obedient and Humble

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 I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

Jesus was never arrogant. However, we often fall into the arrogance trap. It’s easy. As children, when a parent helps us do something we could never have done on our own, we say, “I did it!” If a child pulls a piece of fruit from a tall tree limb because he was sitting on the shoulders of his dad, everyone knows that child didn’t do it on his own, but we congratulate the child on his accomplishment.

Jesus didn’t brag about his position with his Father, but he didn’t ignore his position either. A good phrase for us to learn is “with God’s help.” If we’re wise, we’ll realize that acknowledging God works to our benefit. It keeps us more humble, less arrogant.

Jesus acknowledged his Father often. If God told us to go pray for healing for someone, our obedience is God’s plan for that person’s healing. Our obedience to God’s command makes us participants in a miracle. But we can’t claim to be a Miracle Worker. Our job is only obedience to God. His job is to perform the miracle.

The closer we let God in, the farther away arrogance will be pushed.

Love Each Other

John 15:17
This is my command: Love each other.
Summer is hot! Since the heat sometimes makes us a little cranky, it’s so easy to become selfish during the summer months. I wanna go to the beach. I want ice cream. I’m gonna watch TV all day.

We should take a moment and remember what is important. The reason we’re in our families is so we can bring our gifts into the mix. We can share with others the things we do well and enjoy blessing those around us.

As a parent, I try to raise my kids to love each other. I want to know that they’ll grow up enjoying each other, not trying to get each other back for something one has done to the other. Unforgiveness can be overcome with love. Crankiness can be overcome with love.

When I read John 15:17, I picture Jesus telling his guys that these three words are too important to overlook. It’s not chit-chat. It’s a command. Love each other. I can even picture his face. I’m sure his words carried power that vibrated in each of their bodies. I’m sure his face was gentle, but so serious that no one would dare take his words for granted.

God’s love is a powerful weapon against darkness. If you’re on the side of hate and fighting against someone whose weapon is God’s love, your surrender turns a loser into a winner. When you give in to love, you’ve won more than you could realize. That moment of loss opens the eyes of the loser and helps him see the real power of love.

With practice, anyone can become proficient with this weapon. But it takes discipline.

Love each other. It’s a command that heals wounds and makes friends out of enemies.

Friends

John 15:14
You are my friends if you do what I command.
My husband and I celebrated a milestone anniversary this year. He and I have a lot of years invested in our relationship. We met when I was in seventh grade. We became friends in our church youth group and did a lot together in our large group.

I like reading books and seeing movies where friends turn to each other and fall in love. I have a long list of favorite movies, but two on the list are Gigi and Sabrina (with Harrison Ford). In these two movies, the hero has been around the heroine long enough to know her really well. Over time, their relationship changes, and he realizes that she’s the only one who could make him happy.

Since I’ve experienced a relationship like that, I want to encourage all couples to be friends first. I know how stabilizing that kind of a relationship is. A friendship is even important to God.

Jesus, knowing what he was about to do for his friends, gave them a command to love each other as he has loved them. That apparently wasn’t strong enough for them to really understand what he meant. The next verse was stronger. He told them, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Few people would willingly lay down their lives for strangers or even neighbors they’d barely met. I think a man would more likely sacrifice his life for his friends. If I had only gone on one date with my husband instead of marrying him, he wouldn’t give up his life for me. The deepening of our relationship over time has created such a closeness between us that I would believe my husband’s words if he ever told me that he’d lay down his life for me.

Once the disciples heard this life-threatening commitment of love, they understood what he meant when he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Will you accept that kind of friendship with God? Tell him.

Prepare for Love

Isaiah 40:3-5
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This month, I’ve mentioned becoming spiritually aware and allowing God to shine his light through you so you can do the good works he designed you to do. But none of that makes any sense if you don’t have a relationship with God.

Nobody welcomes a door-to-door salesman into their home and throws an impromptu party for him. Mostly because they don’t know the salesman.

If someone is suspicious and distrustful of God, that’s usually because they don’t know him. Getting to know God takes time, but God makes it pretty easy for us. There are a lot of descriptions of God in the Bible. Each one of them agrees that God is love. He is a special kind of peaceful love. A love that is very powerful. A protecting love. A passionate love.

He is the kind of God you want to make room for in your life. If you heard someone down the street yelling that God was coming to your house, you’d want to prepare for him, but you wouldn’t have a lot of time.

You couldn’t go out and buy new furniture or order a catered dinner. All you have time to do is straighten the rug. If you’re tempted to hide behind the door and not answer because of what he may see, don’t worry. He already knows what’s in there. He knows who you are and what you have, and he’s interested in you.

With him about to knock on your door, all you can do is prepare to welcome him. Your mountain of laundry cannot get in the way. Your rough schedule will have to be cleared. In order to welcome him, you must take a moment and quiet your heart.

Prepare to receive encouragement from him, expect instruction from him. But know that whatever he reveals to you will change your heart. If you prepare to receive God’s presence, he will feel welcomed. If he feels welcomed, he will reveal something of himself to you, and you won’t be the only one who sees what God reveals.

It might not be like when Moses came down the mountain after being in the presence of God. Everyone could see the light of God still shining on his face. With you, it might be that people will be able to tell that you’ve been with God because of the love showing up in your attitudes and actions.

Prepare a place in your heart for God and see what happens.

Good Works

Ephesians 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today I dropped my daughter off at the church bus headed to summer camp. She was packed and ready for new adventures this morning. But after weeks of high heat outside and no rain, this morning it rained. We were in slow traffic because of large road puddles. At times like these, everyone has to use an extra measure of patience. We were in a hurry to get to the bus because we didn’t want to be the ones holding everyone else up, delaying their trip. We eventually arrived – and we weren’t the last ones there either. Before I left her, I reminded her to support her friends as they all three tried to quench any teen “attitude” in their group. I think they’ll be fine.

Saying goodbye this morning was exciting. We both knew she’d have lots of fun stories to tell when she got home. So now I sit at home and wait to hear how she served others and how she learned more about herself in the process.

She’s doing good works.

She knows she was created for good works. God gave her a generous heart, a calm personality, and a stable willingness to obey instructions. Often, she brings good things to an emotional experience.

We all have our God-ordained good works to do. As we see the needs of others around us, we can see that some of those needs are issues we can help with and some we can’t help with. We have to listen to God speaking to our hearts. Is God telling you to help your friend or neighbor or does he want you free to do something else? Seeking God is a daily thing.

You were created to do good works. You were not saved by works, but for them. You were created to be unique and different so that you can do the good works which were designed specifically for a person with your talents.

Listening to God on a regular basis gets us in a habit of obedience and success. You can’t do everything. Not by yourself. But you can do what you were created to do.

Do you have a moment for God? Seek Him now.

Shine the Light

Isaiah 60:1-3
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

When you are being noticed for doing good, recognize that you are a flashlight shining in a dark room. Without the batteries, or the power of God in your life, you can’t shine your light.

Many people think that if they are talented enough, nations will come to their light. If they could just sing really well or dance or play an instrument well enough, everyone would notice them and life would be good.

But they are mistaken. When God’s light shines through us, that brightness makes everything else pale and dim. God’s light helps us see what is true and what is false. The light of God shining through us is big enough to heal bodies, bright enough to mend relationships, and strong enough to put out the fires of hell.

So if you use your gifts to help others, you are able to allow God’s light into the situation. Don’t ever think you can’t shine your light. No matter what your talent is, your light is bright when you let God shine through you.

You were created to shine, so shine.

What is your prayer? Share it with Him now.

Need a Revelation?

Ephesians 1:18
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.

Look around and be aware. But use your heart. How, you ask?

Spiritual awareness is something we can develop. It’s something we should develop. But we are seeing technology taking over our lives like never before. Keeping up with technology advances is hard on our wallets and our calendars. We have to spend money getting the latest gadgets and the latest software, and then we have to spend time learning how to use it. If we cut back on our tech-playtime and spent more time developing our spiritual sensitivity, we’d be better equipped to handle our hectic lives.

We pray things like “God, help me get through this difficult time,” but then we don’t listen to Him.

God hears your prayers. And He wants to help you. But He needs your participation. You have to listen to Him.

God may show you some unusually insightful concepts so that your heart understands things like never before. When you suddenly understand a spiritual truth and say, “I see!”, know that God gave you that revelation so that you would know where you stand with Him. He wants us all to know how precious we are to Him. He wants us to know our place. We’re supposed to be standing with Jesus Christ far above all powers and dominions, but under His rule. With Him in the power of His mighty strength, but under Him who was appointed to be head over everything for the church.

What is your prayer? Share it with Him now.

To Be Blessed

Deuteronomy 28:2-3
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

We must recognize that not every opportunity that comes our way is from God. If we choose to accept opportunities according to what God wants us to have or do, we’ll see those opportunities turn into blessings.

Blessings of all kinds come from God. Children are blessings. A promotion at work and a special card from a friend are blessings too. God knows how to bless you in every situation. Our job is to do what He says so that our hands will be ready to accept His blessings. But what do we do with blessings when we get them?

Some blessings may seem more like challenges, like parenting for instance. It isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes a parent must discipline the child, enforce consequences, or put up freedom-inhibiting barriers. Just saying no to a child is sometimes a challenge. But if you stay with God and obey Him, you’ll see how God can help you through those challenges. The blessing of being a parent is a gift from God. And it’s an opportunity to give to others.

Blessings from God are eternal. He doesn’t give us blessings so we can toss them on the ground and ignore them. We’re supposed to enjoy what God gives us. Using His blessings to help others is our gift to God.

Making Changes

Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then you Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

This weekend on Blogging Domino, I’m reviewing a classic film which shows the trouble that goes with adding a computer to a non-computerized business. It’s a comedy which is funnier today than it was when it was first released. Technology helps us communicate more effectively today than ever before. But I think this film shows that technology isn’t all you need. We need relationships.

Our relationship with God will be the protective influence when we deal with today’s technology. God gives us guidance, wisdom, and help making decisions if we will seek Him. He isn’t against all technology, but expects us to use the wisdom He makes available.

Sometimes our goal should be to cut back on all computers, phones, and other tools so that we can communicate more effectively without distractions. The verse above from Matthew mentions praying in a room, in secret. The Old Testament shows a picture of a prayer room when we read about Daniel (chapter six) in an upstairs room where he prayed. However, he didn’t pray in secret. The windows were open. Probably no air conditioning.

Today, you and I can go into a bedroom, closet, bathroom, or other enclosed space and pray without distractions. My husband took an upstairs room of our house and turned it into his prayer room. When he needed uninterrupted time with God, he let me know to keep the kids occupied elsewhere so he could pray and listen for God’s answers.

Having a room or park bench or some specific place where you can go to pray by yourself will help you focus on what God wants to say to you. Take your Bible with you and maybe a pad of notepaper and a pen to write what God is guiding you to do. Some people have a prayer journal where they record their prayer requests, answers, and ideas they get from God.

Many people see texting as a relationship-enhancing tool, but with God, there isn’t a need for texting. You can get his attention anywhere you go. He’s never too busy, and his battery never needs to be charged.

Close Your Mouth

Romans 7:15-18
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Doesn’t that verse sum up our feelings about trying to do what is right. This world we live in has so many temptations to sin. So many. We have to be on our guard all the time to train ourselves to say no to doing the wrong thing. We have to develop a stubbornness about doing the right thing. But even when we want to do the right thing, we end up doing the wrong thing because we are weak.

Super Bowl Sunday is a day known for parties. People gather around the TV and snack on fattening foods for a few hours. Many of those people have departed from their January resolution to lose weight. They don’t want to overeat, but they do it anyway. Discipline needs a little help sometimes. I tried to limit my food intake that day, but after the game was over, I found a weakness for the carrot cake my husband offered me. I didn’t need it, but I ate it. It was delicious.

One thing I can always count on is the mercy and forgiveness of God. His love is stronger than my ability to be tempted. It always has been and always will be. All I have to do is stay connected to Him. He is willing to strengthen me, if I am willing to run to Him. The bond I develop with Him helps me destroy the power of temptation. But if I stop seeking God, it’s so much easier for temptation to get the better of me.

My plan is to continue to seek God and continue to develop my relationship with Him. Won’t you join me?

A Couple In Love

Ruth 3:18
Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

Ruth and Boaz are often mentioned in the Bible as a couple who showed love for each other. However, weddings which incorporate the verse from Ruth 1:16 are mistaken if they make it sound like the verse showed Ruth’s devotion to Boaz. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” is something Ruth said to her mother-in-law after she joined her in widowhood.

The two women returned to Naomi’s homeland where Ruth saw Boaz as she worked in his fields. Boaz had noticed her among all the workers and spoke kindly to her. I imagine the way he looked at her might have made her blush. He determined later as he woke up and found her at his feet on the threshing floor that he would do all he could to protect her, even marry her.

Chapter four of the book of Ruth gives us the result of Ruth’s and Boaz’s faithfulness. Verse eleven tells us that the witnesses of the engagement of Ruth and Boaz blessed them with, “May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.” Verse eleven also mentions Bethlehem, the city of David. “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.” It seems the witnesses knew what they were talking about because Ruth gave birth to King David’s grandfather.

Happy Month of Love!

Mentoring

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy and called him “my true son in the faith”. Paul was a mentor and father-figure to Timothy. He gave advice and told Timothy to command certain things and explained with “The goal of this command is love”.

Timothy was instructed by Paul to urge others to “be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” This is a command people from all walks of life can receive. This can be obeyed by young and old alike. Pre-school children can learn this.

It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you’re from. If you’re interested in doing God’s will, this is a good place to start.

As a parent, I’m trying to teach my kids to be considerate and have a generous attitude. When they become adults, I’d love for them to be able to recognize opportunities to give to others. My job is to “command and teach these things” to my children so that when they’re adults, they can teach from their own experience.

Making Them Pay

Exodus 14:27-28
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

Pharaoh took six hundred of his best chariots as well as other chariots, horsemen, and troops, and he caught up with the Israelites as they camped by the Red Sea. The people looked to Moses for answers when they noticed the armies of Egypt coming at them. Moses told them to trust God and walk across the sea to the other side. Then God dried a path for them at the bottom of the Red Sea, and millions of people and livestock made it all the way across before Pharaoh and his men caught up. The Israelites had no trouble with their animals and wagons, but the Egyptians were thrown into confusion. The chariot wheels jammed and slowed the Egyptians' movement across the sea. When the Israelites were safe, God released the water back into its place so that Pharaoh’s army was drowned.

I can imagine that more than one of the Israelites thought the Egyptians had gotten what they deserved. They were paying for their crimes against the innocent. The Israelites probably remembered the harsh treatment they had endured as slaves as they listened to the water rushing back into place.

When we are wronged we sometimes want to see our enemies pay for what they did to us. Some of us remember part of the verse in Romans 12, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” We might remember those words and pray for God to make an example of them like he did with the Egyptians who rode into the Red Sea after Moses.

But there is another story that we should also remember. In the book of Luke, there was a man who took his beatings and didn’t pray for God to make his enemies pay. He endured the pain and humiliation, knowing he hadn’t done anything to deserve it, but didn’t hate those who hated him. This innocent victim wasn’t really a victim, but a savior, Jesus. He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

Sometimes trouble comes on the troublemakers because of their own foolishness, carelessness, and stupidity. We don’t have to make people pay for what they do to us. Many criminals wake up and realize they’re living in a hell they created for themselves.

When I look at God, I see someone who wants to show mercy. He is just, but he also loves the people he created. Every one of us makes mistakes, but God still holds out his hand to us. How can we elbow our way past God so we can make our enemies pay, but expect God to see us as innocent?

The Israelites didn’t take out their own revenge. They saw God’s vengeance. We also can follow God and watch him deal with our enemies for us. But it might not look like a drowning in the Red Sea. When God confronts criminals, he can change enemies into brothers.

God Bless the Old Folks

2 Kings 2: 23
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!”
Many families teach their children to respect their elders. However, too many kids fall through the cracks and miss that teaching. I’ve seen rude children in public places where the parent in charge doesn’t have control over the children.

Respect should be taught in homes, churches, and schools. It isn’t about religion or culture. It’s about one human showing regard for another.

But again, there are those who missed that teaching.

In the story of Elisha the prophet, a mob of boys came from town and met him along the road. Common sense would suggest they’d either greet him or say nothing and be about their business. I don’t know what those boys were doing or where they were going, but about forty-two of those boys wished they’d practiced using their manners that day. The boys showed their disrespect and bad judgment when they called out to Elisha, saying “Baldy!”

When two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them, I don’t think those boys ever considered what they did to be a crime worth that kind of punishment. Did the others learn their lesson? Oh, I hope so.

If we practice respect and obedience, we’ll get better at it. God can help us learn without getting mauled by bears. But we have to listen to Him. We have to seek Him.

Accusing the Innocent

Genesis 44:8
We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house?

Joseph and his brothers were at odds with each other when Joseph was young. When he was an adult, Joseph had an opportunity to bring his family together and spare their lives in a time of famine. But he gathered his family in an unusual way.

The brothers, though innocent, were accused of stealing from Pharaoh.

Why would Joseph accuse his brothers of a crime they didn’t commit? Didn’t he already know what it felt like to be taken advantage of? Didn’t he know two wrongs don’t make a right? Why would a God-fearing man use his power and authority to put an innocent man in jail?

Joseph worked out a complex scheme to make them bring their youngest brother and their father to him, knowing they’d forgive him once they heard all the facts. Because he knew his brothers and his father, he knew he couldn’t just say hello and ask them to relocate to be near him. Their history together had made it plain that in order to fix their relationships, some complicated maneuvering had to be done. Nothing had been simple in that family.

Joseph had to gain their respect, prove his authority, and show his love. Funny how God works to show us that we are forgiven – even through unusual circumstances.

Read more about this in the book of Genesis as you seek God with me.

Stopping the Villain

Esther 2:22
But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.

Mordecai was a hero. He not only stopped a plot to assassinate the king, but also helped save an entire race of people. According to Esther 10:3, Mordecai, who was a Jew and not of the same nationality as the king, became second in rank to the king because he spoke up for the good of others.

He sounds similar to Joseph who also was promoted to second highest rank in the nation he served. Mordecai and Joseph, though they were both of a different nationality than their bosses, saved their families from certain death. Joseph’s family would’ve starved, but Mordecai’s would’ve died by the hand of their enemies because of the evil Haman who had tricked the king into approving the destruction of the Jews.

Mordecai’s wisdom guided Queen Esther’s steps as both of them played their part in the successful campaign against Haman.

Queen Esther’s story is much more than a Cinderella story because of Mordecai’s influence in her life. Her life before she became queen prepared her for the role she would play in saving her people. She made sure Mordecai was given credit for his righteous acts. When the king was reminded of Mordecai’s heroism, it wasn’t long before the villain was defeated.

Mordecai was a hero, not because of his glimmering smile and well-muscled body, but because of his integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and reverence for the king. I don’t know what Mordecai looked like, but I do know what he acted like. Mordecai was a man of honor.

You can read this riveting story in the book of Esther as you seek God with me.