You Are God – Alone

Hello God – Are You Out There?

Is God losing control of things?  We are living in times that can make you go “hmmm…”.  Times that can leave you guessing where the parents are in some communities, countries, and nations.  Times where boundaries are continually tested and in some cases even torn down.  Now, in some cases, this is not a bad thing.  As one whose parents grew up during the civil rights era, I know there are times when the rules at hand need to be revised and the only way to do it is to question the applicability and rationale in place when they were created.  Using the litmus test of the Bible on how we should love and live together that was a no-brainer but some days I look around me and wonder – what is going on?!

I was recently involved in a discussion with friends and we began to talk about ‘wars and rumors of wars’ similar to the scripture Matthew 24:6.  What I found interesting was the somewhat casual talk about ‘if we are involved in a nuclear war this is what I would do’.  Huh?  Thankfully, I have not been involved with this in my lifetime but my thoughts drifted to wondering who would even be around to tell their survival story if it did happen?  The discussion was almost as casual as running out of milk and needing to go to the store to replace it after the impending hurricane has passed – get my point?  These topics can make you anxious and scare you.  My pre-teen daughter even stated to me after a recent newscast “I want to live to be an adult so I hope we don’t have a nuclear war”.  Believe me, this led to a long discussion about faith and tomorrow not being promised but ugh…not a great topic to have with my beloved child.

The Sovereignty of God

This brings me to what has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible,  2 Chronicles 20:6 –

…“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

It reminds me that God is fully aware and in control of all things that happen around us.  God ‘rules over kingdoms [physical and spiritual] and nations’.  This scripture lets us all know that even the most unpleasant things in this world can lay the groundwork for His glorious plan.  Yes, evil exists – and because of the free will God has given us, not everyone is going to do righteous things – but God is still in control and has not abdicated His authority.  God is sovereign.  Some things may be difficult to watch or experience and some things are unto death – this is sad but true.  God is still God and He implores those of us that are still standing to love our way through and to seek His love and guidance.  That is what I told my daughter. Yes, it can be a bit scary but if you know Jesus, there is nothing to be anxious about (Philippians 4:6).  Since we have the Bible (and the New Testament) we know how this story ultimately ends.

So when those scary thoughts creep in or the events around us make no sense at all – Live your life and love!

Thank you, Lord, that You Are God – Alone!

Warning – Single Lane Ahead!

Single Lane Ahead – Now?!

Change and discipline never seem to come at the right times in life.  I feel the same when I am riding along, headed to work or home and suddenly approach a “Single Lane Ahead” sign that indicates I’m getting ready to have my commute impacted.  This sign is meant to be both a warning and guide. It lets us know what is coming ahead while at the same time giving us guidance so we don’t drive off the road because we’ve suddenly found ourselves on the shoulder. It is an especially important warning if there is no shoulder to drive on or, far worse, to keep us from driving in a lane with oncoming traffic! It is not meant to harm but to help  and give us information to protect our safety.

This sign reminds me of many of the principles of the Bible but in a positive way. The Bible is sometimes seen as a book of ”don’ts” and many believe the Christian life is one of restriction and blandness. On the contrary, it is meant to guide us, so we can live with a sense of awareness of what could be ahead.  Biblical awareness actually gives us freedom – because we know what the boundaries are.  When we know the boundaries, we don’t have to worry about the consequences of going out of bounds – like driving on that shoulder or down an embankment. We can focus on living life. When we live without boundaries, though it may be fun for a moment, we risk running out of roadway and having an accident. I think about those construction zones where we are warned of the upcoming lanes narrowing to one – if we kept driving in the affected lanes we could drive right into a catastrophe which could harm us or even worse, take our lives. Living life is no different.

Abundant Living is Free Living

In John 10:10, Jesus reminds us that He came to not only give us life but one that is abundant. It is abundant – with boundaries. It is abundant with seasons of great highways (I live in the Washington, DC area so I envision the Capital beltway) but there are times God has to put single lanes ahead of us so we can focus.  ‘Single Lanes’ also provide discipline as He prepares us for blessing and purpose.  They can also protect us if life begins to get unruly and needs repairs (like that construction zone).  You determine which way God is guiding you by praying, listening to the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible.

The next time you see one of those ‘Single Lane Ahead’ signs, heed the warning and ask God if He is trying to tell you something.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

 

 

God Uses You Right Where You Are

God Can Use You

Here, I sit in my favorite coffee shop, journaling about my day and life and my current focus on God’s movement in the desires of my heart.  As I write, I speak to God about using me and opening doors and getting me ready for my next season. I jot down all the things I want to do and, out of habit, I start outlining the steps to get them done. I get a bit anxious when I get to the steps that may require more resources than I currently have but keep writing and put an asterisk next to those bullet points trusting God will provide whatever I need. Suddenly, I hit a wall where I could not focus. As I try to write my thoughts down I become increasingly distracted. What was this about? I like the white noise of this space and can usually focus (I pretty much wrote my first book in this same coffee shop) so why is my mind wandering all over the place?

God, Was That You?

Then I have a BAM! moment – I feel this deep conviction in my spirit telling me ‘I want to use you right where you are’. Is that you speaking to me God? I stopped, looked around and then focused on my coffee cup. At that point, I understood what I was being told.

See, all of my ‘planning’ was so forward thinking it was as if I couldn’t do anything until some other event occurred. For example, I ‘will’ set up my sewing machine to make hats for sick kids once I get some additional resources (e.g. money) to get the fabric and ultimately the time to do it. As I contemplate the topic for my next book, God was telling me “I’ve already given it to you, so get started on the outline”. This was true but for some reason, I was waiting for some event – like the words being carved in stone from a lightning bolt before I actually sat down to start writing. In other words, I already had what I needed to get started so I shouldn’t plan as if I needed to acquire something else before I could move. I already have a ton of fabric in my basement to get started on the hats so what was I waiting for?

Watch For the ‘Pot Holes’

Procrastination, disguised as planning, can be a tool the enemy uses to keep you from your goals, dreams and, more importantly, God’s purpose in your life. We sometimes ‘wait’ out of fear when we really need to be moving because of faith. Now, I am not saying you should just move without any forethought on the plans of your life after all the Bible says ‘the people perished due to lack of vision’ (Proverbs 29:18) but there is a point where you have to trust God for the provision for your dreams and direction. In business, there is a term called ‘planning paralysis’ where you can plan so long you end up doing nothing. In life, sadly, this can have an end result of you never experiencing what a great God can do if you just let Him move.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So today, as you look ahead in your life, prayerfully seek those areas you have been holding onto or even ‘holding out’ on and trust God to provide. You already have what you need to prosper and that is your faith. God is our dream giver and provides for whatever you need – right where you are.
#LivingTheRedeemedLife

You Are Bad But I Love You

You Are Bad but I Love You

What Is That In Your Mouth?

As I yell, “Drop it!”,  I once again find myself looking into the woeful eyes of my 7-month-old puppy.  She has chewed up her latest random sock stolen from a laundry basket, full of clothes waiting to be washed.  I look at her, feeling of both love and frustration.  As I pick her up, ready to berate her for continuing to chew on things when she has so many ‘chew toys’ to chew on, the only thing I could come up with is “You are bad but I love you.”

Stop That!

Really? That is the best I could do?  No wonder she is the perpetual ‘sock monster’.  But, there was something about the innocence in her eyes that said I’m sorry that served as a reminder to me that she recognizes the error but just couldn’t help herself as she walked past the temptation of another sock dangling from the basket – she is, after all, a puppy.  I remembered my older dog having the same ‘temptation’ when she was a puppy and knew that eventually this phase would pass (hopefully) and socks around the world (or my house at least) will be free to live good long lives.

This incident also reminds me of God’s love when we mess up.  He probably looks at me many times and says “You are bad but I love you”.  Actually, the Bible tells us that God sees the best in us – always.  He knew (and knows) we are going to fall, mess up and be tempted by the very things we know we shouldn’t do and reminds that 1) we really do have the strength to resist and 2) even when we fall, He is like a caring Father with big, loving hands extended to help us up.  He dusts us off, checks to make sure we are okay, and sends us on our way.

I Love You

Daniel 9:9 says –

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

The wonderful thing about God’s love in this verse is He doesn’t focus on the mistakes we make.  God says to us, “You were bad, I may need to discipline you but remember it is only because I love you and need you to learn the path to righteousness.  That is what is best for you”

In some respects, I guess that is what I want for my puppy – I don’t want to her to choke on the lint balls from the socks or get sick from possible dirt on them, so I discipline her to keep her safe.

Isn’t love grand?  Even better, isn’t God’s love for us grander?  So much so, He sent His only begotten Son in Jesus to die for us to have life (John 3:16)!

God Never Gives Up On You

God never gives up on you.  As we journey through Holy Week to Calvary’s Cross, I am reminded of the tremendous love of Jesus Christ and how He willingly died for us so we could have Life.

As the Bible says in John 15:13:
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

God’s Power Resurrects ‘Dead’ Things

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that resurrects the ‘dead’ areas of our lives. Bad habits, bad relationships, bad attitude, low faith – the power of Jesus renews, rejuvenates and transforms. When you are down, the enemy will tell you that this is the best it is going to get and you are useless BUT GOD says it is not over until He says it is and there is a purpose in your life.

Just living in this world can take the energy and enthusiasm out of our outlook on life. In my book, What Just Happened? Living the Redeemed Life (When All Hell Breaks Loose), I tell my own story where I felt my ‘shelf-life’ was expired as my life (and identity) changed all around me. I was so discouraged I considered taking my life – BUT GOD – had another plan. And the same power that raised Jesus from the grave raised my hope and outlook as I looked to the one that created me. God redirected my life during my darkest hour. And now I realize, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Ephesians 1:19-20 (NIV) says:

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, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”

Same God. Same Power.

Stay Encouraged. You’ve got the Power – just keep seeking the face of God. He resurrects the dead things in our lives. And the great thing is, He does it because He loves us – even the dead parts.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

My Arms Are Too Short To Do God’s Work

My arms are too short to do God’s work.

As a matter of fact, I don’t have enough arms (or hands, or legs, or eyes etc.) to do God’s work.  There is no need to struggle when God has the power.  Wait though, you might be asking, ‘isn’t our ministry and service doing God’s work’?  Yes, but a different kind of doing.  I can be used for God’s work but, I am not God so I cannot DO His work.

What Should I Do?

When struggles happen in our lives, I believe our tendency is to try to figure out the best ways to solve them.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with that because God did give us a brain to work with – so thinking logically and strategically are blessings for our usage.  It is when we try to step in and do things independent of the Lord or without consulting Him – on our own strength – it is then that trouble starts to stalk us waiting for the right moment to do what it does best and that is to start trouble.

God Is Bigger

I think we risk missing out on blessings bigger than our expectations if we limit God’s movement in our lives.  Because of our humanity, we don’t have a perspective that can see over the horizon.  But, God can.  We can’t see what the ultimate outcome will be – but God can.  The concept of ‘Living The Redeemed Life’ is based on having a faith so trusting and a life so aligned with the Spirit that God is glorified as a result of ANYTHING that comes our way – whether it is good or bad.  It is letting God do the miraculous when there is no visible path in sight.

Zechariah 4:6-7 (NIV, emphasis added by me) says-

6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

So today, stop resisting and fighting alone.  Just look at your mountain, tell it to move, and then open your life to God’s blessings (and power) with your praise!  God Bless It! God Bless It!

Sometimes, You Need A Crew For Life’s Challenges

Sometimes you need a crew to help you get through life’s challenges.

Doing life alone can leave you feeling helpless.  Comparing it to the process it takes to get my house cleaned up, it reminds me of how God works in our lives to get us aligned with His will.  Sometimes, it only takes a little spritz of cleaner here (e.g. more prayer) and a vacuum there (devotions).  But, when the hard stuff settles in – like the walls need painting and the shingles are falling off – it’s going to take a crew to get things in shape.  Be open to others that God uses to help you reach your purpose.  Remember though – you must be in a relationship with Him to discern who they are or what you need to do.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

Tell God What You Want, With Thankgiving

Pray with Thanksgiving, Always

Philippians 4:6 says-

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

This verse is a reminder for us as believers to shelve our anxieties in life and to be in the posture of prayer always. Because we tend to focus on our own needs, we sometimes gloss over the last part about presenting our requests to God ‘with thanksgiving’. I’m sure God listens intently to our needs when we pray – maybe to the extent that sometimes He would like to tell us to stop talking for a minute so He can answer – but let’s not lose sight of the context our requests should be made in. Adding ‘thanksgiving’ to our perspective when we run down our list of wants/needs reframes the request.

For example, when asking God to help you financially – if you add ‘thanksgiving’ to the context you are almost forced to think about the things He is already doing in your life. As you ask God to fix a person you are in a relationship with – adding ‘thanksgiving’ forces you to look at the areas of your life that he has changed or is transforming so you can better minister to them. Being thankful forces us to be content while God is working things out in our lives.

Next time you pray – tell God what you want but tell Him with Thanksgiving! 🌻

#ThankYouGod

The Before and After

The following passage paints a simple picture of our lives when we choose to trust in the Lord.

From Jeremiah 17:5-8 –

The Before:

This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

The After:

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

What a great picture of our lives walking in step with God.  And what a Promise!

You Come From Good Stock

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn; – Isaiah 51:1

I love this verse because it reminds me of a saying my mother used to always say to my brother and me when we were growing up, which was “hold your head high because you come from good stock”. It wasn’t because we were different or had anything more than others. No, contrary to that, my family on both sides grew up poor and had to work for every opportunity that came their way – many times through doors that were slammed in their faces. It was her reminder that we should be proud because our identity was rooted deep in our family’s identity, morals, and ethics. We were a family that worked hard, believed in the Lord and were created for a purpose.

Isaiah 51:1 is a reminder to all in the family of Jesus Christ that you are intimately tied to The Rock, Jesus Christ. The quarry you come from is not a dumping ground, trash pit or junkyard – No, it is a mighty and powerful kingdom, filled with love and possibility. The Bible says you are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and because of that some people are going to hate but keep on walking – head high.

But don’t forget this one important point – remind your haters they are wonderfully made too. They have a purpose. Maybe if they knew this then they wouldn’t hate so much.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife