Watch and Wait

When I see something that needs to done or fixed, my first inclination is to make a plan, figure it out and get it done. Are you a ‘fixer’ like me?

God regularly stops me and tells me there is a better way. He challenges me to bring the issue that is bothering me to him and let him take care of it. He promises that the outcome will be better if I let him take control.

So I have to smile as I read Zechariah’s story in the book of Luke.  Zechariah was a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were old and childless when the angel of the LORD appeared to him.  Yes, Gabriel showed up again.

Zechariah was “gripped with fear” when he saw Gabriel.  Angels like Gabriel must be awesome creatures because the first thing they always say to us humans is, “Fear not”. Then Gabriel went on to tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son who was going to do great things for God. They were to name this son John and he was going to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Immediately, Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18. He and his wife were obviously way too old to have a baby.

Gabriel looked at him (how I see this in my head – rolled his eyes and, with a hint of frustration in his voice), said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now you will be silent and not speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will be come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18.

Zechariah could not speak again until the baby was born. He had to watch and wait.

I have learned that sometimes I need to stop asking questions, trust God and watch him work things out for my good right in front of my eyes – through his power and on his own timeline. 

I’m not very patient. How much patience do you have?

It can be very difficult for me to wait for God to move but, when he does, it’s the right thing at the right time, every time.  It’s truly amazing to watch as God opens doors, moves mountains and orchestrates blessings in my life.  

I’ll admit, this hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. I had to grow my trust in God to the point where I can give him my problems, issues and situations and leave it all in his hands. And watch. And wait until he shows me which door he is opening for me.

It’s not easy but – believe me – it’s worth it.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Pushing the Darkness Away

Wow, this is a dark time in our country, isn’t it?

Disrespect, discord, distrust, disgruntled, discrimination, discontented, discouraged. The ‘dis-es’ are one of the biggest pandemics infecting our culture today.

Do you find it hard not to get sucked into the darkness?

I do.

Until…

I look to the Light.

Love, peace, forgiveness and strength come from the Light and his name is Jesus. When I focus on Jesus, the darkness fades away.

Have you tried this when the darkness overwhelms you?

There are times that I forget darkness is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light. When I let the Light of the World fill my mind and heart, the darkness is pushed away. ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

It can be very hard to focus on Jesus in the blackest part of the night when worries and fear creep in.  For many years, when my thoughts became anxious in the middle of the night, I would talk with my Father God.  Eventually I started to find myself thinking about all of the ‘bad stuff’ instead of praying about it and the night would gradually become darker and heavier on my soul.

Recently, I have begun to fill my mind with praise songs when the worrying starts and the darkness threatens. Remember – darkness is the absence of light. When I let the words and the melodies of some of my favorite praise songs repeat over and over in my mind, my thoughts become filled with the Light. It doesn’t take very long before my fears and concerns are replaced by reminders of Jesus’ love and care for me. He brings peace and security…..

and sleep.

Go ahead and try it.

His Light shines in the darkness.

Silent

I can’t imagine it – God being silent for 400 years.

That’s the amount of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament.   So it is said that God was silent.

But was he?  Really?

It’s hard for me to imagine that my Father God who loves us and cares for us so diligently each day would be quiet for 400 years.  I think it’s very possible that he was speaking and interacting with people at that time but none of it was meant to become part of his revelation to us so it was not included in the Bible.

When I think about how much I need God each day and knowing that there were some faithful people during that time as well, it doesn’t make sense that he was actually silent for 400 years.  It doesn’t sound like something he would do.

But we know that there were 400 years between the two parts of the Bible.  For some reason, God put in a significant break before he begins the account of his greatest Gift of all time – salvation through his son, Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Mark’s account starts with, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the son of God”.

John’s account starts, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

The Light of the World was arriving – we would never be the same.

Amen.  Hallelujah!

Thank you, Abba Father.

He Makes All the Difference

I recently watched the first episode of ‘The Chosen’ for the first time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it because I usually don’t like the movie if I’ve read the book. And I’m reading this book – the Bible- for the 10th time.

So I started streaming it with critical eyes and my hand ready to turn it off if it was wrong and not representing my Father well. The first episode was about Mary who was possessed by many demons. I don’t know about you, but Satan turns my stomach. The Evil One is so real to me that it was very hard to watch Mary struggle with the demons on the screen. The characters in the show were trying to help her and I kept saying in my head with my stomach churning while watching this, “When is Jesus going to show up?”

I just finished reading the Old Testament in the Chronological Bible for the 10th time. It ended at a time that the Israelites had turned back to God and recommitted to following him. But the last 9 months of reading have been full of stories of people turning their back on God, disobeying him, and worshipping weird, worthless idols. The Old Testament ends with the faithful people saying, “When is the Messiah going to show up?”

Then I look up from my Bible and see the world around me. What a mess! Evil is revered and rampant. Important values are disappearing daily. Ignoring God and his truth is at an all time high – even in our churches. It would be easy to say, “When is Jesus going to show up?”

The good news for us is that Jesus has already ‘showed up’. Over 2 thousand years ago he came to earth and sacrificed his life so we can have a personal relationship with God that starts here and continues on into eternity in heaven. After Jesus died for us and raised himself back to life before going back to heaven, he send his Spirit here to live inside all those who put their faith in him.

Jesus is here. His Spirit is alive here.

As I write that, I feel such a relief! Because when Jesus showed up for Mary in the “The Chosen”, he sent all the demons away and she transformed in a beautiful, happy woman who committed her life to serving Jesus. Jesus made all the difference.

Knowing Jesus is here gives me relief as I finish reading the Old Testament which is filled with stories of the Israelite’s lack of faith and hundreds of years of wavering commitment. When we choose to put our faith in him, his Spirit can help us remain faithful and committed. Jesus makes all the difference.

I even feel relieved when I look around at all the issues in our current culture. Jesus is here. He is in control. He gives me peace and love and fills my empty spaces in a world that is a ‘train wreck’.

Jesus makes all the difference today and every day.

Thank you for being here, Jesus.

Getting To The Good Stuff

When we want something to happen,

when it’s going to be good,

when today isn’t that great.

But we have to wait.  It’s hard.

The Old Testament of the Bible ended on a high point of the Israelites turning back to God, listening to him and trying to obey.  Then came a 400-year break in God’s Word to us.

We know the Israelites continued on with their lives during that time. They were waiting….

expecting the Messiah to show up. How long were they going to have to wait?

I’m reading and blogging through the Chronological Bible which is re-organized so it follows the actual timeline that things happened.  I started reading Genesis on January 1 and now it’s October.  So 3/4 of the Bible is the Old Testament.  If three-quarters of what God wants to reveal to us is in the Old Testament, then I’m very glad I’ve been reading and studying the Old Testament every year for the last 10 years.  After spending 3/4 of the year reading the Old Testament, I have a better understanding of how badly the world at that time needed Jesus.  My anticipation of the coming Messiah rises as I read over and over again of the Israelites turning away from God, getting lost in idol worship, paying the consequences and repenting.  Then they get their spiritual act together – but just for a short time until they start wandering again.

Oh, how serious was their need for a Savior!

It was hard to wait.

You and I live under the New Covenant with God.  The Messiah has come.  There is no more waiting.  Jesus was sent to earth to offer free salvation to everyone who would put their faith in him.  And it’s really clear right now that our culture needs saving just as badly as the Israelites did.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is choose-light.jpg

The last 1/4 of the Bible is so much easier to read than the Old Testament because Jesus’ love, grace, truth and light shines out of the New Testament.  Jesus is our role-model for how God wants us to live our lives here on earth.

A smile spreads across my face as I begin to read the New Testament – the rest of the story – for the 10th time.

No more waiting.   The Messiah has come.  This is the really good stuff.

Thank you, Jesus.

Shut The Gates

Time –

it’s the big equalizer among all of us.  You have 24 hours in a day and I have 24 hours in a day.

So the ‘I don’t have time for God’ excuse just doesn’t fly.  We all have 24 hours and some of us find regular time with God.

Yes, I know all of our situations are different – work schedules, kid’s schedules, and all kinds of commitments fill our calendars.  That’s where the challenge comes – how we choose to fill our calendars.  Because it’s a choice.

I am now in a very blessed time of my life in relation to time because I am retired.  I retired 4 years ago and I love my new schedule.  This cannot possibly be my life now!  My calendar is 99% filled with things I want to do.  I have a lot of time for God.

But this was not true of my life before retirement.  I worked for 34 1/2 years straight for Corporate Jack in the Box.  I was married with a 9 month-old child when I started working for Jack and had another baby 4 years later.  I traveled a lot and got promoted regularly gaining more and more responsibility working on a goal of becoming a VP.

With a husband who worked, 2 kids, a house, a dog and a 60-hour workweek, you can imagine my life. And right in the middle of all of that, God challenged me to put him first. I had been running on empty for quite awhile at that time and I was not happy when I realized that this is how the rest of my life could be. So when I heard God offer me the only way I was going to find joy and purpose in the middle of this craziness, I accepted the challenge.

And I began to reorganize my priorities.  I changed my focus from my career onto my relationship with God.  I started using my time differently –  I stopped working 60 hours a week.  I cut down to 40 or 45 hours a week, always used all of my vacation days to spend with my family and asked God to take care of the next raise or promotion.  Interesting – I performed better when I worked less and I ended up with a career that blessed my family instead of taking away from my family.

My husband was also trying to put God first so we worked together to unpack our schedules. We decided our kids could be in one sport OR one lesson at a time. We totally revamped our weekends. We stopped planning anything on Saturday night that would make us too tired to get up for church on Sunday. Our family started doing all our chores on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for worship and time with our personal and spiritual families. Sunday afternoon became a great family time in the pool or playing games as well as Bible study small groups. Sunday became our God and family day – all day. My two top priorities. How great is that?

I admit, it was hard for me to find my personal time with God during the week.  I have never been a ‘get up at 4 am to read my Bible type of person’.  It just doesn’t work for me – I’m a ‘get up at 4 am and go right to work’ person.  I’m also not a ‘read a devotional every day’ type person.  I don’t get much from that, I want to dig deeper.

So in the middle of the busiest time of my life, I would try to find an hour here or there during the week with God, knowing that I was going to dedicate Sunday to him. I believe God honored my desire to spend time with him and helped make all the things I had to accomplish on Saturday go quickly because, somehow, I would often find an extra hour or two I could spend with God on Saturday as well. I hardly ever watched TV until the kids left home for college – it’s amazing how much time you have when you shut that thing off. Spending so much one on one time with God helped me hear him much better and eventually led to this blog.

I find it interesting to read when Nehemiah confronts the leaders in Jerusalem , “Why is the house of God neglected?” Nehemiah 13: 11.  They had stopped supporting the Levites so the Levites had to go get jobs and were unable to serve in the temple.  Everyone had started working on the Sabbath – selling all sorts of produce and merchandise inside the walls of Jerusalem.

This could not go on so Nehemiah shut the gates to Jerusalem when Sabbath started and they stayed closed until the Sabbath ended.  He put guards on the gates and told everyone to start bringing their tithes to the temple again and start supporting the Levites so they could go back to their temple duties.

He shut the gates.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is shut-the-gates.jpg

I feel like that is exactly what I had to do to find significant time to spend with God. I had to shut the gates on all the other things that me and my family could do on Sundays. I had to shut the gates to the things my family could do that would keep us out late or up late on Saturday. I had to reorganize Saturdays to make significant room for God in my weekends. Looking back, I feel like this re-prioritizing was a blessing for my entire family because it slowed down our Sundays and we had more quality time with each other.

Shutting the gates worked.

Thank you for your help, Abba Father.

I’ve Got Your Back

When we want to accomplish something big, it takes a team.  One person can only do what one person can get done.

I have discovered when a group of people join energy and brainpower to tackle a goal together, their efforts are multiplied and good things happen. I’ve seen big successes roll in when a team of people are engaged, committed to working together and helping each other achieve a goal.

And when God is involved I have seen a supernatural factor come into play that is truly astounding to witness.  Projects turn out much better than planned.  Blessings pile up.  We see our faith growing as, together, we experience the power of God in our lives.

Has this happened to you? I’ve experienced this many times and its exciting every time it happens.

So I love reading the historical account of Nehemiah leading the Israelites in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  The Jews were being attacked regularly by their enemies who didn’t want them to complete the wall.  They were very discouraged.

Nehemiah refused to stop building.  He knew that he had been sent back to Jerusalem to lead this project so he couldn’t stop.  He organized the men into teams, “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bow and armor. Nehemiah 4:16. They protected their brothers with everything they had.

Working together,

protecting each other,

they accomplished the goal of rebuilding the wall.

They could not have done it without each other.

Our Spiritual family is like this.  We need each other.  Each one of us needs to use our spiritual gifts in order to build each other up and fulfill our purpose of reaching others for Christ. We watch each other’s backs – loving and forgiving each other in supernatural ways.

And we love those who don’t know Jesus yet

while our Spiritual family supports us and cheers us on.

We can do this, because God first loved us…

and He has our backs.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Try It

I would normally tell you from experience that it’s not a good idea to test God. You won’t like consequences. God wants us to have faith in him and trust him, not test him.

With one exception.

There is one place in the Bible where God says, “Test me”.

He knows all the issues we have with money – it quickly becomes our god, we always want more and we’re willing to sacrifice our families to get it, we have trouble giving generously, we get in such deep debt that we think we can’t give.  Just to name a few.

God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10.

I have attended a couple of different churches who sponsor a 90 day challenge for giving to God.  People tithe for 90 days – no cheating because nothing is hidden from God – and they watch God move in their finances.  If they don’t see God move, they get their money back.

Nobody has ever asked for their money back because God always moves.  I love it!  Test him!

And you will find out what those of us that have committed to tithing have found out – the refunds, checks for overpayment and unexpected credit to our accounts start rolling in.   Regular stories like this –

I had a dental claim paid by my insurance a couple of years ago and the medical assistant looked at me with surprise when she handed me back a check for $900. She told that insurance NEVER covers this part of the procedure but they did for me. Thank you, God!

The air conditioner in our home recently started making a very loud and worrying noise. Our house is 15 years old and the air conditioner is original to the house so you know what we thought – time for a new air conditioner. Nope! It was fixed for the cost of a service call. I always give God the credit for anything like this that happens to us because I know he’s watching over us.

You would hear these kinds of stories from anyone who has committed to tithe.  God is faithful and we can count on him to respond when we are generous givers. I also believe God moves in how often our cars break down and how quickly appliances stop working. If we are stingy with God, don’t be surprised with high car repair bills and appliances that keep having problems.

Through the years, my husband and I have given two of our older cars to charity because we know God will bless us more for that than what we could sell them for.  We recently donated a 2 year-old refrigerator to a church mission for the same reason.  God knows.

When you and I faithfully tithe, we are putting our finances under the umbrella of God’s blessing.  When we do that, he not only blesses our finances, he pours other blessings into our lives as well.  These are things that money can’t buy – like joy, love and purpose.  And more.

So much more pours out that it fills us up and starts to spill over to the people around us.  The windows of heaven open up for us when we get our money in line with God.  The more we give, the more we have.  That’s God’s math.  We cannot outgive God.

If you don’t have any of these stories, go ahead and test God!  I know what will happen.

Thank you for your faithfulness with our finances, Abba Father.

Why?

Why is this happening?

Why am I struggling through this?

Why?

I have discovered that many of the ‘why?’ questions I ask God are not answered immediately.  His answer comes later.  In some cases, many years later.

I have learned to recognize God’s movement in many of my why’s.  God is a huge planner.  He is the master orchestrator of the past, present and future for all of his children.

Why am I going through a tough time today?  Often I realize much later that the first tough experience trained me for an even tougher trial that was coming my way.  I learned lessons in the first struggle which helped me be more successful in navigating the next difficult situation in my life.

God prepared me.

As I read God’s Word, I see God’s preparation as a consistent thread in his epic love story.  In the book of Esther, Queen Esther was faced with a life-threatening situation when her people, the Jews, are being seriously threatened and Mordecai gave her this challenge, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a times as this.” Esther 4:14. Wisely, Esther responded to the challenge by asking Mordecai to gather together all the Jews of Susa to fast with her for 3 days as she prepared for her audience with the king.  She was going to reveal the fact that she was a Jew and ask the king to save her people.  At that time in history, you were putting your life in danger by going to the king when he had not invited you.  If the king didn’t want to see her, he could have her killed.

As the story unfolds, we see that over those 3 days of fasting God helped Esther develop a strategy for delivering her message.  She set the stage first so that the king was ready to grant her plea for mercy for her and her people.

Preparation.

I know it’s a big part of why God let’s difficult things happen in my life – and your’s.  Each step of the way, God guides us and teaches us what we will need to know for the next trial in our lives, training us so we are ready to complete the purpose he has for us here.

Thank you for preparing us and walking beside us, Abba Father

Why Do I Read the Bible?

I read the Bible because, as Zachariah says,

“This message is from the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the world, and who forms the human spirit within a person…” Zechariah 12:1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                   The God who did all of this and formed my spirit wants to talk to me, he wants to teach me and he wants to guide me. He wants me to know the truth. He wants me to know him.

And I want to listen.

Thank you for your Word, Abba Father.