“Look at the Dolphins!”

IMG_4853I set out for a brisk walk along the beach this morning with lots of missions to complete – get some much needed exercise, feel the sand between my toes, enjoy the sound of the waves, watch for sea life, find some sea glass, people watch, and on and on. I didn’t get too far before I forgot most else and became captivated with sea glass. I slowly inched my way through the sand and seaweed, scanning the beautiful pebbles and shells, picking out lusterless fragments of white, green, brown and brilliant blue.

My concentration was broken when I sensed someone nearby. As we made eye contact, the man planted in a beach chair watching the swells shouted, “Look at the dolphins!” I turned to see pods of dolphins and seals breaching just in front of where I stood.

I watched for a few minutes, probably longer than I really cared to, out of respect for the stranger’s expectation. Before resuming my “brisk walk,” I noted how close I still was to where I began. I hadn’t accomplished much exercise. That’s when I made the conscious decision to abandon my original agenda in favor of my quest for sea glass.

As I inched along, appreciating the beauty of tiny pebbles washed up in patches along the sand, I began humming How Great Thou Art, wishing I could remember all the words. Having made the choice to be single in purpose, I relaxed.

My sea glass harvest was bountiful! When my pocket was full, I began my short walk back, content. I considered the full list I of objectives I’d set out with and chuckled at myself. It’s hard to break long established habits. While they were all things I enjoy, having an agenda of any sort this trip really defeats the purpose. I came to take a break from itineraries, multi-tasking and schedules. My goal is quiet time with Jesus, a personal retreat with my Savior.

I love the beach. It is a place that is easy for me to sense God’s presence. The constant pounding of the surf muffles any competing sounds. The sight of the waves thrashing the shore and the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the sea demonstrate His majesty and the wonder of His creation.

I spend most days of my life planning, multi-tasking and working through the list of responsibilities required of me. They are necessary and mostly rewarding, but they are not my purpose. My purpose is to love God. I do that by becoming more like the Son he sent to die for my sins and by loving the people he places in my life. Unfortunately, I fail frequently. But because of God’s measureless love and mercy, I get to start afresh with a clean slate each time I confess and turn from my sin.

Like my walk on the beach this morning, I have to be intentional about my purpose. Distractions fill my days. Unless I intentionally set aside time to learn God’s plan for me by reading my Bible and reflecting on His Word, stepping out of the whirlwind of life, jealously protecting quiet time designated with Him to discern his desires for me, it just won’t happen. Someone or something will always pull me back to life’s wonders or whirlwinds, shouting “Look at the dolphins!”

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

– Carl Boberg

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Simple Joy

At night I often journal what I’m thankful for.  It’s so easy to overlook how God has blessed me, so I try to be intentional about it.

Tonight I walked a couple laps around the block after dark tonight. I was feeling thankful, happy and blessed for no particular reason. As I walked, a memory from earlier today returned. I thought of a young woman I watched ordering lunch at the sandwich shop earlier. She had a very young boy in a stroller, a girl about 4 at her side, and was toting a full backpack. It reminded me of such days when my kids were young. We shared a car with my husband and, long after he’d gone to work, often set off on foot for the day. We’d trek to the park or store, run an errand or walk to the beach. We didn’t have much, financially we were just scraping by. But it warmed my heart remembering how we enjoyed those simple days together.

I also remembered a time visiting our family in San Diego. It was a special anniversary celebration and we were all staying at the same hotel. My sisters and our husbands had walked a short distance to a restaurant and were on our way back when we spotted a long, black limo waiting in the parking lot of a restaurant along the bay. I thought it would be crazy fun to see if the driver would take us the remaining 1/8 mile to the hotel, hoping someone would see us arrive by limo. Our husbands would have nothing to do with the idea, but my sisters and I made a bee line for the limo. Sure enough, after hearing our request, the limo driver loaded us up. As he pulled onto the street we rolled down a window to wave and say hi to our deeply embarrassed husbands who’d married such ridiculous women. Unfortunately, their stern faces pretending they’d never seen us before made us laugh even harder and no words would come. All we could do was cackle at them.

It took us a couple minutes to get to our destination. We pooled all the money we had to thank the driver richly. He insisted on the royal treatment when we arrived at the front of the hotel. He walked around and opened the door just in time for our step brother to watch him offer his hand and help each of us out of the limo. My brother’s face with his jaw hanging low is still etched on my mind… priceless.

I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up. Such simple memories bless me over and over each time they come to mind. Tonight they left me with a smile on my heart.

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Get Back on the Horse!

I started my day with Lisa Harper’s Believing God, a study from the Books of Luke and Acts.  I just read Luke 22:24-34, 54-62 and 24:12, 34.   These verses follow Simon (also called Peter), who was one of the 12 Apostles, and his actions when Jesus was arrested, crucified and resurrected.

Just before Jesus’ arrest, during the Last Super, Jesus told Simon that Satan would test him. Jesus said, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

That made me think of a friend who was questioned whether she had the right to turn back to Jesus now that she needed Him, after drifting away. In case you ever have any lingering doubts, the story of Simon and his relationship with Jesus answer that question loud and clear!

Jesus knows when we will be weak and distant, caught up in the world and life circumstance. He also knows if and when we will turn back to Him! He is there waiting… “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” was His command to Peter, which is exactly his command to us!

Simon responded with, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.

When Jesus was arrested later that day, Simon followed at a distance, settling by a fire in the courtyard.  When others around the fire accused Simon of being with Jesus, three times he denied even knowing him.  With the third denial Jesus, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Simon. Then Simon remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you wild disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

It is hard to imagine the anguish of that day for Simon.  From the fellowship of the Last Super where he was among the 12 Apostles disputing which of them was considered to be the greatest, to pledging to go with Jesus to prison and to death, then locking eyes with Jesus as he heard Simon denying that he even knew him.

There are times when I fail to be or do all I’ve intended in response to my faith in Jesus Christ. The disappointment in myself, the regret and conviction that follow, can leave me broken with a sorrowful soul… and ineffective in my walk of faith. Looking at this passage gives me great hope and encouragement. Jesus knows that I will flounder. His own disciple, so dear to him, denied him three times – and Jesus knew he would. He expected it and told him the proper response when it happened, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

That is AWESOME encouragement for us imperfect, sinful followers of Christ who never seem to be able to live up to our convictions!

Can you imagine how Simon/Peter’s mind was swirling when word came three days after the crucifixion that the tomb was empty? Luke 24:12 describes Peter’s response. While the others did not believe, “Peter, however, go up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

And look at the love Jesus has for Simon, who denied him when he appeared to need him most. Luke 24:34 says, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” That is all that is recorded about their reunion. Can you picture the love shared, the confession and restoration between Simon and Jesus? Jesus sought Simon and blessed him with forgiveness and renewed, confident faith. Simon responded as commanded before the denial, spending the rest of his life strengthening his brothers – just like we are to strengthen each other through our fellowship as his living church!

What a beautiful truth to share for Christmas!

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The Presence of God

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

 I love the way A.W. Tozer expounds on God’s Presence in The Pursuit of God. “God is here. Wherever we are, God is here. There is no place, there can be no place, where He is not. No point is nearer to God than any other point. No one is in mere distance any further from or any nearer to God than any other person.”

That is profound. It doesn’t matter whether I sense God’s presence, or how I feel, He is with me always!

We were created for relationship with God. He didn’t need us, he already had community in the “us” of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as Genesis 1:26 reveals:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So why were we created? What is our purpose? Jesus answered that question when asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” in Luke 10:27. “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

 I love God by spending time with Him, getting to know him through his Word and others, and spending time with Him in prayer and meditation. He also called me to love others. Just before Judas betrayed him, Jesus prayed for his followers, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

Jesus called the disciples to be united in purpose and love for one another, and, if we believe in him, he also included us in his prayer to be one through the message carried by his first disciples and through the generations. He has given us the very glory that he received from God, that we would be one with Him and his Father. United in oneness.

We were designed for community and fellowship – with God and with each other. In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Adam already had fellowship with God, but God said it was “not good”. Adam needed the fellowship of a common community at his level, created in the image of God.

Is there anything better than a friend to lift your spirits? To come along side you to encourage you when you’re down? To point you to the truth when you are being led astray?

“The Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – live as one God in three persons, without clamoring for attention and without competing for glory. God desires us to function in the same way. We are created in his image and are called to reflect the same kind of community that exists in the Trinity.” Dr. Bill Donahue, Ph.D.

The tradition of Thanksgiving brings us together with family and friends to celebrate our blessings, including our relationships. It’s also an excellent time to reflect on the ultimate blessing of relationship with God, our creator. Tozer relates God’s Presence in His creation to a painting. “As the primary colors are found in and necessary to the finished painting, such a truth is the divine immanence.” He goes on to explain, “God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence. On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son. If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of his face.”

I experience the blessing of being part of a community of believers committed to unity as we offer each other loving encouragement, exercising our unique talents and gifts, strengthening each other and the church. I practice being aware of God’s Presence, knowing he is here whether I sense it or not.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:20

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My husband just won the 2015 World Handball Championship in his division – men aged 65 and older. He was not favored to win, ranked somewhere in the middle of 22 Ed worlds editedparticipants from Canada, Ireland, Japan and the United States, but he walked away with the medal. And yes, that was the extent of his visible prize, a handball medal on a ribbon… But what struck me and generated such emotion over his victory is what it says about him.

Handball is much like Racquetball, without the racquet. It isn’t a mainstream sport, many have never heard of it and most have never seen it played. I understand the snickers when he heads off to compete from people wondering why he bothers – it’s only handball after all. I’ve rolled my eyes a few times… There are so many other things you should be doing. Why travel all the way to wherever to complete for a little medal at your age? What’s wrong with Hawaii?? But what it took to get there is the thing champions are made of.

Ed hasn’t always been a champion player. It wasn’t too difficult to find superior opponents, challenging and growing his skills when they met. There have been more defeats than I’m sure he ever wants to remember. He’s had humiliating trouncings at the hands of gloating victors, one painful episode of neck cramping that forced him off the court, and countless early eliminations. But he never quit. Ed has mental determination that overcomes his detractors. When he sets his mind to something, he may listen to detractors and mockers without taking offense, but he doesn’t them to dissuade him from his goal.

I assume that champion athletes are thoroughly disciplined with unwavering regiments and practice routines. Maybe so, but that’s not always Ed. His intentions are good, but he gets sidetracked with projects at home, and by work and family. He’s also a wee bit of a procrastinator, and in my expert opinion, unorganized. Nonetheless, though he may wander from his training regimen, eventually he always gets back on track, heading off to the gym after a literal meal of vitamins and minerals he believes necessary to compete at the level he strives to reach.

This world tournament was the most challenging of all tournaments I’ve witnessed. The matches were not well spaced, leaving him to play two singles matches and one doubles, all in the same day. To say the game’s workout is aerobic is an understatement. It’s played in an enclosed court that captures body heat. Sweat is unavoidable. There are often time-outs to change shirts, gloves or sweat bands, or to wipe the sweat from the floor or walls that’s causing the players to slip or the ball to slide. Three matches in one day is brutal. As Ed said when he say the schedule, “Do they know how old we are? I think they’re trying to kill us!” After making it through the three matches, he earned the privilege of playing the final match the following day.

Exhausted and drained, hope of reaching the goal provided fuel during the first game. He gained an early lead and wrestled to a 21-15 victory. The second game did not go as well. Perhaps his opponent got a second wind, unwilling to surrender his objective, or maybe Ed put too much into the first game. At any rate, he was defeated 6-21. The last thing either of them were looking for was another game of handball, but the split games forced a tie breaker.

Drained, fatigued and weary, I just don’t know what enables you to play another game at that point. That’s when your mind provides reasons to quit… excuses. “It’s only a game,” “I’m going to hurt myself…or die” Ed told me afterwards that he considered quitting about 30 times, but each time he thought of the reward and how close he was to it.

Both players exhausted the time-outs allowed competitors per game. Following each rally, they stalled, leaning against the wall, lungs heaving for oxygen, before slowly wandering back to their positions. At one point their deliberate regrouping took so long that the scorekeeper jokingly called the gap in play a “referee’s time out”. In the end the tie breaker deciding the game, match and tournament ended with just 4 points between Ed and his Irish opponent.   It left me pretty emotional, willing myself not to cry over a handball tournament! Welling with pride over his accomplishment, understanding what his victory meant to him, and overflowing with admiration for his internal fortitude, I was also so relieved it was over!

As I bask in the memory of that moment, I can’t help but relate it to spiritual matters. I visualize God cheering me on, pulling for me to make the right choices, to get back in there when I stumble, staying focused on the goal. I see him at the finish line, waiting to see my face as I realize my goal and receive my reward.

I want to develop spiritual strength and maturity. What will it take? Like Ed, I cannot be deterred by the opinions of others. I must do what my heart and soul tell me is pleasing to God. Being a Christian isn’t always popular, it’s seen as a crutch, or has a bad rap because of the unholy actions of high-profile, but misguided people who call themselves Christians. Some are so opposed to my faith that they will behead me given a chance.

I must keep a dedicated focus on the goal of a righteous relationship with God when I experience setbacks, whether they be my own failure to live up to His expectations, or disappointment by imperfect Christians who stumble. Ephesians 4:12-13 says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” I need to choose my teachers wisely, praying for discernment and always remembering that Jesus is my ultimate teacher and authority.

Ed was a gracious champion with huge respect for each competitor. I must grow in humility, gentleness, and kindness while putting off the pride and selfishness that is part of my human nature.

I need to be purposeful about my development. That means prioritizing my time and talents to align with God’s purposes and plans for me. Like Ed and his handball community, I need to be in community with others who share my goals, contribute to my growth and challenge me to mature spiritually. I also need special people in my life who encourage me on my journey. Without my encouragement and support, Ed would find it very difficult to dedicate the time and resources required to train for and win a World Handball tournament. I must cultivate that same community as I seek to develop spiritually.

I’m proud of Ed and inspired to win the race to which God has called me!

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Read the Instructions

A couple of days ago I woke up a little anxious, as if there was a decision or problem looming. I laid there a few minutes, allowing my brain to wake up and scan my memory. No problems came to mind. I got up, started the coffee and spent my usual time in prayer and study. I prayed about the way I was feeling and asked God to draw near. I can’t imagine living with that unsettled feeling day in and day out.IMG_4285

I’ve just begun reading J.P. Moreland’s book The God Question (2009). In the first chapters he explores the reason for the rise in anxiety and depression among baby boomers. He shares what psychologist Edmund Bourne, in a book on anxiety and depression coauthored by Lorna Garano, identifies “three causes for the epidemic: (1) the pace of modern life, (2) the loss of a sense of community and deep connectedness with others beyond the superficial, and (3) the emergence of moral relativism.”

Can we say Facebook, emails, fast food, Twitter, rush hour, cell phones, and Instagram???

I paused writing this blog to go to work. As I was driving I was pondering some of J.P. Moreland’s comments and what I’d written so far in response. I decided to listen to an encouraging daily devotion sent out by my church, which I’d received earlier by text (http://bit.ly/1V4YhGd). In it, Curt Harlow, our teaching pastor, spoke of the multitasking myth. He noted that scientists at Carnegie Mellon University ‘s Center of Cognitive Learning knew as early as 2001 that, “the area of your brain that decides where and when you focus gets overwhelmed and actually shrinks by half” when multitasking. A shrunken brain, I thought – that surely contributed to my vague anxiety earlier this week!

In The God Question, Moreland refers to Bourne and Garono’s findings regarding another contributor to the rise in anxiety and depression – “moral relativism”. They explain it this way:

There is no shared, consistent, socially-agreed-upon set of values and standards for people to live by…In the vacuum left, most of us attempt to fend for ourselves, and the resultant uncertainty about how to conduct our lives leaves ample room for anxiety. Faced with a barrage of inconsistent worldviews and standards presented by the media, we are left with the responsibility of having to create our own meaning and moral order. When we are unable to find that meaning, many of us are prone to fill the gap that’s left with various forms of escapism and addiction. We tend to live out of tune with ourselves and thus find ourselves anxious.

He goes on to talk about the new, politically correct type of tolerance that compounds the lack of a “socially-agreed-upon set of values and standards for people to live by.” Moreland reminds us that the classic principle of tolerance (which is no longer socially acceptable), is that if “we take another group’s views to be wrong and harmful, we will treat the (alleged) errant people with respect, will defend their right to promote their views, and will engage in respective, civil debate in attempting to persuade them and others to reject their viewpoint.” By comparison, under today’s contemporary tolerance, “we are not to say others’ views or behavior is wrong.” He goes on to point out that this is immoral because “it allows for genuine evil” because we are to be tolerant. Bourne and Garano call it cold and heartless: “If you think another is engaged in a lifestyle that is deeply immoral and flawed, the most loving thing to do is to help that person face and get out of that lifestyle. Even if you are wrong in your assessment, at least you cared enough to try to help. By contrast, contemporary tolerance creates indifferent people who don’t have the moral vision or courage to intervene in the lives of others and try to help.”

The book points to the growing neurosis in our times, which by definition is, “a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degrees and patters, dominate the personality” (Dictionary.com).

Moreland explains that in absence of living daily for something bigger than us, such as God, we begin living for our own happiness.

Their findings make such sense when I consider the joy of knowing that all is well when I am living a purposeful life with a focus on eternity. How empty it must feel without a relationship with Jesus. After meeting with a friend for lunch and spending quality time celebrating our Lord, the earlier feelings had dissolved. We talked about God, how he is working in our lives, and how he is using cancer to ignite her faith and lead others to deeper faith. We shared lessons that he is teaching us through each other (and I’m looking forward to sharing a couple more with her). We discussed my earlier vague feeling of being out of sync and how such feelings are only feelings, not truth, because “he will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). I left our lunch refreshed and renewed, reminded of who and what I am living for.

In the devotion I received by text, Pastor Curt advises “it’s always better to focus.” He challenged us to “apply this knowledge to our relationship with God.” I am resolved to live for God, though I surely stumble at times. Prayer, quiet time reflecting, Bible study and similar activities help me focus on what is important, giving my life purpose and meaning. They also help me create boundaries to avoid an unhealthy pace. My family, friends and my church provide community and allow me to connect deeply with others. As a result of all this, I am a baby boomer who is avoiding neurosis and living instead with inner peace and joy.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

I can see how joy could be elusive without hope that there is a bigger purpose we are living for. Moreland notes that “the classic definition of happiness – a life well lived, a life of wisdom and virtue – has dropped out of the dictionary. People are obsessively concerned with feeling happy and, while pleasurable satisfaction is a good thing, it is not important enough to be the goal of life.”

I love The God Question’s Monopoly example. Suppose we’re playing with no rules – you can do whatever you want – so you load up your properties with hotels and houses. My turn comes along and I dump the board upside down. Another turn or two with my shenanigans and you’d realize “it didn’t really matter what you did with your turn, and here’s why. There is no goal, no purpose to the game we are playing. Our successive turns form a series of one meaningless event after another. Why? Because if the game as a whole has no purpose, the individual moves within the game are pointless… the very act of taking a turn become pointless.” On the other hand, “if the game was invented by someone who established its goal or purpose, players must know what the purpose is. Misinformation about the purpose could easily harm players if their efforts are directed at an end inconsistent with the game’s actual goal. Sincerity is not enough.”

Can you see how his illustration translated into a life without faith could spell hopelessness, and depression? You could be left with a pursuit of contemporary happiness. Moreland quotes Psychologist Phillip Cushman, who describes the empty self resulting from the abandonment of classic happiness (living for a greater purpose): “The empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists…[The empty self] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning…a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.”

God, creator of us and the entire universe, has a goal for us. Our “Monopoly” moves through life are either with purpose, moving us toward his goal, or not. He’s planted his purpose in our heart, waiting for us to respond. My conscience testifies to it. He’s created a rule book too – the Bible, an owner’s manual.

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

Oh boy, there’s a lot to think about! If you find yourself relating in any way, just know you’re not alone. God loves you right where you are, but you don’t have to stay there – you can start living with purpose this very moment!

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

But for now I am just amazed at how God reveals himself, how he answers prayer. I awoke unsettled and prayed that he would draw near. He led me to J.P. Moreland’s book, which helped me understand how easy it is to feel anxious when I lose focus. He further encouraged me through fellowship with a sister in Christ. Then he customized a daily devotion for me, which complimented the subject he inspired me to write about. As if that IMG_4294wasn’t enough, after listening to the devotion, I was driving along and thought, “I want to stop now and add my thoughts to the blog I started this morning, too bad there isn’t a library nearby.” You simply will not believe what the next street sign said!  The library wasn’t yet open yet, but just like God’s superior answers often exceed the petitions generated by our limited imaginations, he provided a beautiful view (pictured above) from a shady parking spot to apply the daily devotion’s challenge and finish this blog!

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Know Your Enemy – Better Yet, Your Almighty Ally!

Do you, like me, ever struggle with insecurities?  Does that little voice in your head whisper negative thoughts and tell you what an imposter you are?  Do you crucify yourself over little blunders, letting them beat you down? Well congratulations, you have gained the attention of the enemy!  He sets his sights on God’s beloved, trying to render us ineffective, wasting our lives convinced we are worthless.  His goals is to make our lives meaningless.

I often encourage someone who spends a lot of time living in the past, focused on what she coulda, woulda, shoulda done. She so misses what she used to be able to do, and is so frustrated with what she can no longer do, that she misses the abundance of opportunities surrounding her today. The ministry opportunities God uniquely equipped her with are wasting away as she wallows in negative self-absorption! The Devil just loves when he can distract us that way!

Do you, like me, ever struggle with insecurities?  Does that little voice in your head whisper negative thoughts and tell you what an imposter you are?  Do you crucify yourself over little blunders, letting them beat you down? Well congratulations, you too have gained the attention of the enemy!  He delights in occupying the minds of God’s beloved, trying to render us ineffective, causing us to waste our lives convinced we are worthless failures.  His goal is to make sure our lives don’t matter.

And when we err, Satan tries to make us too ashamed to pray, too full of guilt and regret. He hopes we’ll flounder, isolated in self-loathing, concealing rather than confessing our sin. He tries to make us feel hopeless, constrained and suppressed. But the truth is, in Christ we have God’s complete and unconditional grace.  All we need to is ask for it.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

At times of greatest despair, we need to do the exact opposite of what we feel like doing. We need to turn our hearts and minds to our God, confess our sin, receive his forgiveness and grace, allowing him to replace it with his righteousness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

We fight daily a spiritual battle which Christ has already won. His is the victory! Through his death on the cross and resurrection, he conquered the forces of evil. He has provided us with the weapons with which to join him as victors – truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer, and alertness:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-18

Satan loves to tempt us in hopes of leading us away from righteousness and into the sin that draws us away from God. In conflict with God’s will for our lives, the enemy then has us where he wants us.  Separation from our Almighty ally leaves us vulnerable. It weakens us and distracts us from God’s purposes and plans to use and prosper us. Be alert; recognize his schemes and don’t fall for them. When you find yourself off track, confess, repent, and move on.  Do not look back!  Know who it is that is accusing and condemning, then apply the weapons God has placed at your disposal and be the confident victor!

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