I’m not in charge and it’s not about me!

2 Comments

Haven’t you found this to be true, that the Lord can teach us via a variety of His sources, such as Scripture, books, podcasts, nature or counsel from other mature believers?  If we seek Truth and Wisdom, Jesus provides. One caveat, for other than the Scriptures themselves, we must evaluate and compare, as did the Bereans, all advice and input about spiritual matters with what the Bible says. This week, I’ve chosen a vignette from a conversation and one from Scripture.

Now, I’m praying I retain AND apply both.

The Lord is my shepherd….he leads me. Psalm 23: 1-2 ESV

I caught up with Cousin Terry today. Bible-saturated with God’s wisdom, she’s the spiritual mother of our family.  She described how she knows when God wants her to take on a ministry.  He never pushes, He invites. “Maria, God never drives His sheep!” 

We mentioned the difference between cattle herders, those men who herd their stock toward grazing fields or to the stockyards. They use dogs and men on horseback to push toward the intended destination.

Jesus is not our herder, He’s our shepherd.  Shepherds position themselves ahead of their little flocks, calling to them personally, gently guiding, encouraging and sometimes pulling them out of danger spots with the hook of their staff.

“How does it feel to you, Terry, when God is leading and guiding you to a place of service?” She paused, then mentioned, “I sense a growing interest that energizes and excites me, plus a sense of immediacy. As in ‘get on with it!’.”

Aren’t you glad our Father doesn’t push us around?

***

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;” Luke 10:41 NASB

Here’s a painful diagnostic question I read in some Sunday School material for our middle school girls: ‘What would those who know you well say is your focus?’

And just how would they know?  One way to discern would be from your conversation.  Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, but what aspect would stand out?

Like Martha I often elevate tasks and having ‘enough’ time to that number one place in my life.  When I struggled with bulimia and body obsession, I would talk a lot about food and exercise.

Recently, I asked Mike to stop asking me about my sleep.  Good rest has eluded me for years. But Holy Spirit conviction is changing my focus.  I don’t want my daily goal to be about optimizing life for Maria.

That new desire has its roots in something I read in Vaneetha Risner’s latest book, Walking Through Fire. She described a Holy-Spirit thought that caused her to pivot.  She had been churning over the future when unbidden He communicated: ‘It’s not about you!’.  Those words have continued to settle me with His peace and recalibrate my day.  Life is meant to be about God. 

I sin against our Holy God when I place myself ‘front and center’.  I want to be like Martha’s sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him.  It would have been easy to spot what she valued most. I hope others will be able to know that about me as well.

Are you weary of thinking about yourself or the world?

1 Comment

Last night I was reading Vaneetha Risner’s latest book Walking through Fire.  One comment she made stayed with me through this morning.  She sensed God say to her, “It’s not about you.”

So often I flit between three emotional sinkholes (they don’t get me anywhere):

  • evaluating what will make me content
  • wondering if what I am doing is the best use of my time
  • pondering whether someone I care about is saved since I don’t see much ‘fruit’

All three keep me locked up thinking about me or others. When all along it’s not about me, but about God.

The only solution is to focus on Him and trust His plans.

I offer these two short devotions from my daily writing.

***

For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed… he has done great things for me. Luke 1:48-49 NLT

Usually, I boast about my accomplishments in order to impress others.  But sweet little Mary, all of 14 or 15 years old, doesn’t.

I can imagine her marveling at how God noticed her, she a ‘nothing special’ among many other rural backwater Hebrews. To boot, she’s a young girl in a patriarchal society, with no status at all. The fact that God singles her out, sends a mighty angel to speak personally to her, announcing an unimaginable future must have stunned her.

She proclaims her future fame as an insignificant participant in God’s story by bursting into praise for how people will one day make a big deal over her.  Not for anything she has done. It’s all about the Almighty and the great things He has done for her.

Has done’. She knows that Gabriel’s announced future event is already recorded in God’s history book.

***

…Don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. 1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT

Sometimes I feel discouraged about the few changes I see in the lives of those for whom I care.  I’m thinking particularly of believers, in whose patterns of daily living I would like to see more Christlikeness.  They view me the same way, no doubt. 

This exhortation from Paul should relieve us greatly. The story is not over! Do you remember Polaroid cameras?  A simple click and a picture would emerge.  Someone, something caught for an instant.  That is how our evaluations are; we base them on ephemeral snapshots.  We use too little information each time we draw a conclusion.

Not only is this way of thinking not based on God’s reality, it is sin. I defame someone when I make a negative judgment formed from one of those earlier captured moments.

Today’s scripture both rebukes me AND encourages me.  I can leave the judging to God who sees all, and keep on praying in faith.

Let’s love well and enjoy safety

2 Comments

Since today is Valentine’s Day here in America, let’s focus on God’s command to love one another.  I’ve always known that being well loved is a gift, but this week I saw how practicing love toward others is also a gift. I’m beginning to think that loving others well, something that often includes ‘bearing’ or helping to carry another’s burden, is a kind of protection against one’s own fear and churn.  It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. So, to fight fear we need to focus on love.  God’s love for us and ours for others.

My second offering to you today is a slim example of why ‘not worrying’ when we can trust Jesus is such a relief.

May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow….. may He make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy….1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

February is ‘Heart Health Month’. We all know that proper nutrition and lots of cardio benefit our hearts.  But God also has a sure remedy to strengthen our hearts.  That is to practice loving one another each day.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it!  Just how can loving others improve my heart condition?  Because it means copying Jesus’ interactions.

Practicing this love thing can be painful at times.  Especially since the logical place to ‘train’ my heart is with my family.

I don’t have to tell you how challenging that is.  To treat someone the way Jesus would involves humility, patience, gentleness and keeping my mouth shut when tempted to blurt out a barb.

I don’t work in an office anymore, but if my family doesn’t provide enough ‘exercise’, there’s always my church family. 

God’s ‘School of Love’ provides one long continuing education program meant to condition the heart.

February 10

….do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11 ESV

We don’t have to be ‘preppers’. Mike and I used to live in Western North Carolina. We occasionally heard tales of locals stockpiling food and supplies in case of future invasion or calamity.

Jesus is an anti-prepper. He teaches that when believers are dragged in front of government officials hostile to the gospel, we don’t have to plan what to say.  The Holy Spirit will speak give us the appropriate words.

Then in verse 23 when describing the end times, Jesus again does not counsel packing food or clothes, but simply commands: But be on guard.  The Greek verb ‘blepo’ means ‘to pay attention, to understand the times’.

What a relief to know we don’t have to worry, to be anxious, to make contingency plans!  How would we prepare anyway? Too many eventualities to think about. Jesus presence is enough.

Tools to fight Covid weariness

Leave a comment

Covid IS wearying.  Now more than ever I come thirsty to my Bible.  Each morning I pray before I read, acknowledging my hunger and the fact that both God and His Word are alive and full of power.  I want to SEE Jesus.  I want to BE corrected.  I want to BE filled.  I want to BE awed.

This week I chose two of my daily mediations that have to do with gratitude and life that energizes. Both helped me combat the fatigue of this ongoing pandemic.

Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, “Now I will praise the LORD!” Genesis 29:35 NLT

The summer I turned 20, while employed in a little hotel-restaurant in Switzerland, I envisioned my future. Joyfully speaking French all day long, I dreamed of marrying a Swiss, working locally and raising our children to be tri-lingual.

God in His goodness directed me differently, all the while nurturing the desires He originated. I married Mike, lived only 4 more years overseas, but started teaching French and German in Virginia after son # 2 arrived.

Because God kept me on His path, I became a Christian. But like Leah, I revisit my dream from time to time. Not the Swiss husband, but the living overseas.

But in His mercy, the Father has shown me how He has been satisfying my desires.  I DO live immersed in languages, although stateside.

May I keep on seeing and praising the One who knows how best to satisfy His children!

****

The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1:17 NIV

This morning, I lingered and indulged one of my passions.  The phone app Blue Letter Bible provides many Greek and Hebrew meanings and nuances for our English translations.  Boy, was I enriched and strengthened! Here’s what I found.

The ‘righteous’ are those who “are approved or accepted by God”. If you are a believer, you know that Jesus’ life-work and sin payment on the cross imputed to us is the only way a holy God can welcome us.

‘Live’ encompasses much more than biological forces.  “Enjoys real life and vigor, feels fresh and is active.”

Finally, let’s look at the key word – faith. ‘Pistis’ includes depending on the “faithful character of God”.

Do you recall John Bunyan locked up in Doubting Castle? Only when he found the Key of Promise and believed the promises in the Bible, could he insert the key and walk out.  That is a beautiful example of exercising the privilege of being accepted by the Father and relying on all His promises.

Worried about the country? How should Christians respond?

2 Comments

Many of my friends tell me they alternate between grief, anger and fear regarding America.  Four years ago, a different group of friends experienced the very same emotions and confided in me.  So, just how are Christians to respond like Jesus when their country’s rulers seem to act contrary to their values? 

Backing up, what should shape our values?  The Bible, of course.  But what do we do when the Bible is silent on current issues? Did I say ‘current’ as though today’s matters are new?   Really? What did King Solomon write but that when it comes to people, there is nothing new!

This week’s reflections dovetail to address what I am seeing and hearing. By the way, I am enjoying the gift I gave myself in November: the challenge of writing daily, while keeping to a 175-word budget!

January 22

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all. 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT

I have friends and family members on both sides of the political spectrum.  Yesterday, listening to a family member ‘demonize’ former President Trump bothered me. I’m neither a Trump supporter nor a Biden fan. But to hate someone and not be able to see anything good in a person is unfair. Just look at that word – ‘demonize’.  What is it but acting like the Chief of Demons, Satan himself?

Are we to ‘hate’ anyone? Peter teaches that we are to… Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17 NIV

Consider Paul.  He doesn’t mention a single evil leader governing during his time.  He focuses only on his sin.

Two facts remain: First, I have plenty of sin to confess daily to Jesus. Two, I don’t have all the facts about what is ‘best’ for God’s glory and the spread of His Kingdom.

**

January 26

Do everything without complaining or arguing… shining like bright lights….as you hold forth the word of life…Philippians 2:14-16 BSB

Each Tuesday morning, I head off to the local pregnancy resource center.  My morning study and prayers shape my heart and mind as I search for one Truth to take with me.

Paul’s words highlight what might cause the world to notice Christians. If people pause to notice us, they might listen to what we have to say.

What will catch their attention? Our lack of complaining and arguing.

Not many days have passed since the 2021 presidential inauguration.  Many Americans are complaining loudly.  Most are arguing in an ugly manner.

The Father has given us words of LIFE and called us to offer them to everyone we meet. Many around us live captive to words of death and despair.

But they won’t listen to us unless something startles them.

What can be simpler than a restful, gentle smile that comes from trusting the King of Kings?

We Christians should not complain or argue!

What do you expect? And are you content?

1 Comment

This week I write about one sanctification issue that God patiently brings up time and time again: contentment. The other topic has to do with expectations.

 Friends, we do NOT serve a boring Master! I’m finding that Jesus likes to change things up for me, keeping me ‘on the hot griddle’ as my mom used to say. She employed that as dating advice when I was a teen.  She was trying to teach me that men did not like the predictable. I don’t know if that is true about men, but it turned out to be absolutely the case when I taught middle-schoolers and older teens.  The brain craves novelty!

As it turns out, Jesus is the most novel teacher I have ever had!

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 ESV

This morning I saw a way into contentment by asking: ‘What do ‘I have’ already?’  Well, I have Christ!  And He will never abandon me.  So, maybe a way to ‘do’ contentment is to desire what I already have, namely the living, indwelling Spirit of Jesus.

Don’t you and I desire what we don’t have? Billions of advertising dollars work to create and fuel longing for something better, newer, different.  Companies invest in creating DIS-content.

But I don’t think I can FEEL content, unless I stoke my gladness over what I have. It’s like appreciating one’s spouse and recounting to him all the precious memories of joy and tender moments you have shared.

Maybe at least on Sundays, we can offer to Jesus our version of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem: ‘How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…’ And stoke our contentment.

**

I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Matthew 20:14 ESV

Jesus used this scenario to illustrate the ‘last are first’ principle in the Kingdom of God. I wrote in my journal this morning: ‘The early hires got what they expected, but didn’t like it.  The late hires got what they didn’t expect and loved it.

Today is Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden. Four years ago, I watched Donald Trump’s inauguration while eating lunch in my French classroom in North Carolina. Just as the vineyard owner shocked his last-to-be-hired workers, so too God surprised me. Never would I have imagined on that day, January 20, 2017, that four years later I would be retired and watching Joe Biden’s inauguration from here in Alabama.

Maybe God has surprised you, too!  I think the lesson for us is this: Let go of expectations and trust our good, generous and creative Father who doesn’t do things the ‘human’ way.

How to face false reality

2 Comments

What do we do when Satan projects false, fearful future scenes that we can’t eliminate from our racing minds?  The only antidote is right thinking about who God is and His promised supplies for whatever confronts us.  Here are two of my recent ‘daily devotional bites’ as I call them.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV

J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness writes how God protects us, “often allowing one evil to touch our lives in order thereby to shield us from greater evils.”

So, what do we do when we FEAR ‘lesser evils’ with their potential pain?

Two of my friends struggle with fear of something bad happening to family members. Familiar with that favorite weapon of Satan, I turned to Paul’s example for help.  Transparently, he models how to face potential dangers and evils.

He learned to think correctly about God. Hardships taught him that God’s ‘dynamis’ (power, abundance, influence, resources) and His grace are always more than ENOUGH to enable one to bear pain, not asking for its removal.  He describes how this divine power and grace take possession of and live within believers.  For God has given a perpetual supply of supernatural help to all His children.

Let’s turn our backs on fear.

**

for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 2 Cor 12:10 Berean Study Bible

Yesterday, I talked about how to handle fears of potential evil and suffering.  That each time Satan predicts false future realities, we need to remind ourselves that God’s power and grace are enough.

For decades Paul practiced this kind of thinking until he had ‘LEARNED to be content’, to delight in hardships (Philippians 4:11)

Content or to delight in are the same Greek verb, ‘eudokeo’. Other meanings are: to be ready, favorably inclined, of good courage, and willing. When God announces that He is ‘well-pleased’ with His Son, Jesus, He uses the same verb.

For Paul, what was the happy outcome?  What did he learn? He grew skilled in transforming a dread or fear picture (nurtured by Satan) into a cause for rejoicing. He knew that strength was coupled with any future hardship.  Thus, he rested easy in his mind.

Brothers and sisters, let’s practice this way of thinking as well!

Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

1 Comment

Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

How freeing it is to know that Jesus’ door is always open. He has unlimited time to listen to me.  Theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote something to the effect that: ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us’.

So, if we wrongly believe that we have to edit our communication with Jesus or even keep back sharing of shameful feelings, we damage His reputation and deprive ourselves of much needed correction and comfort.

Here are two meditations from this week’s writing and thinking project.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. Matthew 2:6 NIV

‘But I’m only a _____!’  Have you ever said that to yourself?

Consider those shepherds described by Luke, busy doing their shepherd-thing the night Mary was birthing our ‘Shepherd-Ruler’.

This morning in my reading, I noticed that Jesus’ rule is likened foremost to a protector and caretaker of sheep. In Jesus’ day, people despised and minimized this lowly profession. But God, the ‘re-orderer’ of status, calls shepherds fundamental.

Maybe angels first appeared to these rough-hewn men to correct THEIR identity. I can imagine God’s message: You shepherds serve in the same profession as the Messiah, the Divine Shepherd, who will govern my people. Don’t listen to what the world says about you.  Continue to be good shepherds, for this is a noble calling, worthy of honor.

Whose voice are you listening to when you repeat: ‘I’m just a ____’?

**

Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lamentations 2:19 NIV

Buying Christmas gifts for adult kids is challenging.  I thought I had found something creative and different when I read about a local Alabama man who crafts custom bowties.  Neither of my sons has a bowtie. Why not choose a fun accessory, to be worn on a special occasion?  I picked a themed pattern, and through in some novel socks.

Elder son didn’t mention our gift.  When I asked him, he said: “Not something I will ever use; I haven’t even worn a regular tie in nine years, but thanks anyway.” I felt hurt.

Michael comfortingly empathized with me.  Resolving just to let the hurt go, I mentioned to Jesus what I felt and invited His input.  Unsurprisingly, He agreed I should forgive. What He then brought up gave me pause.  ‘What about all the times you have ignored my gifts, failing to thank Me? How do you think I have felt?’

It helps to release and receive from Jesus!

A fresh year to adventure with Jesus

Leave a comment

Welcome 2021! Another clean and fresh chapter, adventuring with Jesus.

Ever since I heard Christian peace advocate Jamie Winship talk about his years working among warring radical tribal Muslims, my time reading the Bible and praying to Jesus have changed significantly. 

Thanks to a new way of listening to Jesus, I received a nudge, encouraging me to start writing daily.  The game of this new habit, 6 weeks in, is to put into 175 words or fewer an insight God reveals from that day’s readings and meditations. I love this ‘pleasant boundary line’.  Each week, therefore, I select two of my dailies and offer them here, to you.

My goal is to encourage you, too, to read, digest, talk truthfully to Jesus and listen for what He thinks about any problem or situation or worry and then do what He says.  An adventure is bound to follow, making life 1.0 (until His return) exciting and energizing.

Blessed adventuring to you, dear reader, this 2021.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, Revelation 4:11 NIV

For years, I announced: “I’m not creative!” I believed I couldn’t generate novel ways of teaching. Pressure to use my imagination stressed me.

But toward the end of my classroom teaching years, I began to come up with new ways of presenting learning experiences to my French students. Innovation turned into a friend. Different ideas energized me, stimulating me to take risks. ‘Same ole, same ole’ bores us all.

What happened is that I relaxed into my calling, how God wired me (and you).  We know that God is Creator. If we bear His image, it follows that we create, naturally.

Now look at the text – being creative is worthy of honor.

When we originate something, try a new approach or employ different materials, we have embraced our calling, reflecting God.

Who do you suppose works to keep us tired and blasé? Who stands to gain if we believe life and God are boring?

**

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14

My Bible notes remarked that angels are NEVER referred to as ‘called, chosen, faithful followers’.  Only believers!!!

This news stuns me. Implied is this, that if we die before ‘The Last Battle’, we will fight alongside Jesus in his final military defeat of Satan and his vile, wicked guerrillas.

No wonder this life is challenging, hard, often painful for believers, aka warriors in training. Life on earth is Divine Bootcamp! Field exercises and live fire familiarization prep us for real skirmishes with the enemy and the occasional drawn-out battle.

But remember, we have only one enemy – Satan.  People are not our enemy.

My take-away from today’s Bible reading? Suffering is both real and necessary.  God has carefully planned every detail of our training with this future Day in mind. Those who die in the Lord will experience the most exciting, epic Victory in all creation. R&R awaits all soldiers on the other side, our Rest and Re-creation.

The Spirit’s recent drumbeat – Truth & Trust

Leave a comment

Mike and I have almost reached the end of this year’s journey through the Bible.  Recently it feels as though the Spirit has been exhorting me to embrace ‘Trust and Truth’ toward the close of this year, 2020. Here are two of my daily ‘devotional bites’ that I’ve recently written.

I’m having fun with this self-assigned challenge to put clearly into creative, yet succinct words what Lord is teaching me through His word and daily experiences. We CAN hear from the Living Son, Jesus, through His spirit.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

…. he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion … Phil 1:6 ESV

Speaking Spanish the other day felt like ‘pulling teeth’.  Tere listened distractedly. Was my straining for words wearing on her? It can be painful when someone is communicating haltingly in another language.

Listening that night, Mike strongly countered my conclusion. Surprised, but grateful, I realized I hadn’t shared this discouragement with Jesus.

The next morning unloading ALL my feelings on paper, I asked Him: ‘What do you think about this? What should I do?’

Silence.

So, I moved on to the day’s Bible reading, knowing He would respond in some way. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit brought the Psalmist’s above exhortation to mind, reminding me that all good desires are God-given. I didn’t seek out Spanish.  God planted that seed in me and birthed a new passion.

And Phil 1:6 seems a logical and reassuring conclusion, don’t you think?

***

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. Psalm 16:5 ESV

If you study people, you can spot what they treasure. Our unrehearsed, spontaneous words provide evidence. How we spend time and money also signal the truth.

The Bible teaches that God has deliberately picked out each of our permanent riches, that is our inheritances. Down to the last detail, such as its purse or container (cup), our Father keeps all safe until the right time.

Observing me, what would you conclude is MY treasure, what I value most? I spend a lot of time taking care of my temporary body: food prep, exercise, medical care, sleep, hair and nail appointments, clothing.  Not to mention time spent on maintaining our interim house!

My prayers tend more to the temporary as well. I am learning, though, to plead more spiritual transformation that short-term needs indicate.

But hearts don’t lie.

Jesus, help me to remember and apply your teaching:  Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 CEV

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: