Stumbling

Who is wise and discerning?  They will understand that God’s path is the right path and they will walk in it.

The book of Hosea ends with this truth – But those who rebel stumble.

How do they stumble?  They spend many hours on things with little or no ultimate value.  They spend a lot of money on things that provide little or no satisfaction.  They spend much energy looking for something that will complete them and give them a purpose when the Provider of these does not live on this earth.

Those who refuse to acknowledge God as Creator and Savior will stumble.  And they will continue to stumble until they submit to God and get on his path.

Meanwhile, God opens the eyes of the wise so they can walk with him.  There are still small stumbles but they know how to get back on the right path.

How do we walk right with God?  By loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul and loving others.  Simple….yet profound.  When we do this, we are transformed, we make a difference.

When we walk with God, he completes us and gives us a purpose.

He also gives us joy.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Wasted Time

I only have so much time here on this planet – I shouldn’t waste it.  If there is one lesson that has been engraved on my mind these last few years, it’s ‘Life is short”.

I truly never knew how extremely short life can be until my son was killed.  One moment he was here and the next he was gone.

My life flipped upside down in that one moment.

Life is short – I have no time to waste.

Just like Jonah – he had no time to waste.  So it’s a little frustrating to read about Jonah going through his big drama of disobeying God’s direction to go to Ninevah.  Jonah decided to go the other direction, got caught on a ship in a big storm, was thrown overboard by sailors and spent 3 days in a huge fish at the bottom of the ocean.  It was there that he repented and reached out to God. (bottom of the ocean, end of our rope – sound familiar?)

Jonah used a bunch of time running from God before finally deciding to obey him by going to Ninevah.   “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2.  When Jonah turned back to him, God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out on the beach so Jonah could go ahead and do what God asked him to do in the first place.

That whole first whale trip was just a big waste of time and energy!

Wait a minute – do I do this?

Do you do this?

I have to admit that I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past disobeying God.  I ignored what I knew was right.  I did what I wanted to do and gained nothing from it.  It was useless – a waste of time.

One of my life goals now is to obey God the first time.  I want to stop wasting time and energy while disobeying.

I want to avoid getting hit by the 2×4 that eventually comes our way when we ignore the lessons God is trying to teach us. God. The issue or problem doesn’t go away when we disobey – it grows.  And it continues to grow until it’s too big and bad to ignore any longer.

Have you ever been hit by God’s 2×4 as a consequence for avoiding his directions? Have you found yourself at the end of your rope? Or stuck at the bottom of the sea like Jonah?

I have.  It’s a wake up call.  An enormous red flag pops up and starts whipping through my life.  It seems like everything starts going wrong at the same time but, in reality, this issue has been gradually building steam while I prioritized other things.  Because he is a good Father, God doesn’t ignore me when I’m trying to ignore him.  He lets the consequences of my own actions grow until it’s just like getting hit by a 2×4.  By then, the issue has become too enormous and too awful – I cannot continue to look the other way.  Newsflash from God – attitudes and behaviors and priorities need to change – and they need to change NOW!

I got it, God!  I have learned my lesson and I intend to obey right away from now on.  No more 2×4’s in my life if I can help it!

I have also learned that obedience up front, the first time, brings additional blessings of peace and strength that come from being in line with God and in step with the Spirit.

Obeying right away is never a waste of time.

Thank you for teaching me this important lesson, Abba Father.

Not a Coincidence

You call them coincidences.  Situations come together and there’s an unexpected check or a conflict resolves itself without you doing anything or you get an awesome yet much needed surprise at just the right time.  How great!  Wow!  What a coincidence!

But it’s not a coincidence.  It’s a God-incidence.  It didn’t just happen – God made it happen.  Every day God goes ahead of me, working things out for my good.  When I get to tomorrow, he has already been there, taking care of the details and organizing blessings for me.

So I can relate to King Jehoshaphat’s story when the people of Judah were being attacked by a huge combined army made up of several of their enemies.  A prophet of God had just told Jehoshaphat, “This is what the Lord says to you; ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20: 15.  Jehoshaphat believed this message from God and told his people to “Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” verse 20.

Then he appointed a group of men to go in front of his army singing praises to the LORD.

This creates a vivid picture in my mind of this army of tough, armor-clad soldiers carrying their swords and shields while men lifting praises to God marched in front of them, leading the way.

While the army of Judah was marching toward battle, God set ambushes against the enemy army.  The individual armies within that enormous army started fighting amongst themselves and totally destroyed each other.

When the army of Judah got to the top of the hill that overlooked the desert where they were going to fight, all they saw were dead bodies.  The battle was over and they were victorious!

A God-incident.  He took care of it before they ever got there.

God often does this in my life.  When I have my spiritual eyes open, I see God-incidences happening all through my life.  I have learned that, when I am unsure of my next step in a situation, I need to pray to God.  I trust that he’s going ahead of me – either taking care of the situation or creating an opportunity for me to say or do what I’m thinking about.  So I pray….and watch…and wait…. until he moves.  It’s amazing!  He either works it all out for my good without me doing anything or he opens up a door for me to do or say what he’s prompting me to say.   Sometimes it takes a while for it all to come together but timing is everything.

God-incidences are always the perfect thing at the perfect time.

Next time you think something is a coincidence, open your spiritual eyes and take another look.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Blinded

I can be so blind!

Blinded by the immediate.

Blinded by what everyone else thinks.

Blinded by my routines and habits.

Blinded by worry.

Blinded by trying to control things in my life.

Do you ever feel this way?

There are times when its a major struggle to open my spiritual eyes…

open my mind….

open my heart…

to the truth….

to a different reality – God’s reality.

Sometimes I can be just like Elisha’s servant in the Bible who was afraid of the huge enemy army which surrounded the city they were in. Elisha wasn’t afraid. He knew something the servant didn’t know. Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so he may see.” 2 Kings 6: 17.

And when the Lord opened the servant’s spiritual eyes, he looked up and saw the hills around Elisha full of horses and chariots of fire. God’s army.

Elisha was not worried – he knew the truth.  God had his back and there was no cause for alarm. Elisha understood and trusted in the power and faithfulness of his Father God.

His eyes were open.

When my eyes are open, I can see God moving around me. I can feel the strength he gives me to face each challenge that comes my way. I can rest in the knowledge that he has his army fighting my battles and he is working all things out for my good. I can see his light guiding me towards the next step of my journey.

He is my powerful and faithful Father God.

Are your eyes open?

His Whispers

If I’m not careful, I’ll miss it.

I’ve missed it before – God speaking to me.

Just like with Elijah, God doesn’t speak to me in a terrible blast of flying rocks or in an earthquake or in a fire.  “”The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was no in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was no in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  1 Kings 19:12

God often speaks to me in a whisper – a faint breeze of truth and light that flits through my mind.  I have to stop, concentrate and reach out to catch it.

If I’m not careful, it’s gone.

If I’m not purposefully opening up my spiritual eyes and mind, the spark moves on.  And I’m left wandering, ‘When God is going to answer my prayer?   When will I see him move?’

Do you ask yourself these questions?  Are you listening for his whispers?

When I am quiet,

when I am focused,

when I don’t let distractions derail my time with God, I hear him loud and clear.

God’s Word is alive – he will underline passages (you wouldn’t see it but I do), he will change the font of a sentence to bold to get my attention or he will read the words to me in my head to make sure it’s his voice I hear, not my own or anyone else’s.

There are situations where he simply opens up my eyes to how he has already answered my prayer.  He has taken care of the issue and moved on.  Keep up, Judy!

That’s when I realize how much I miss when I’m not quiet,

when I’m not ‘zoned in” enough to hear the whispers and feel his breeze of truth ruffling the pages of my Bible.

Please open my eyes, open my ears, Abba Father.

A Whirlwind

It’s hard to understand.  Dying seems like such a permanent thing here on earth.

But it’s not permanent.  My death on earth is when my body stops functioning, but my soul – the core of who I am – does not die.   Your soul doesn’t die, either.  Our souls live on – eternally in heaven if we have accepted salvation through Jesus or eternally separated from God in hell if we aren’t saved.

As I reach the fall season of my life, my body reminds me daily that it has a specific shelf life and there will be an end.  I have already started my eternal life – this first part is on earth, the second part will be my forever home with my Father.  I’m amazed at how many people call these man-made shelters we live in here on earth their ‘forever home’.  Not me – my forever home is much, much better than this one and it’s waiting for me when this part of my journey ends.

The prophet Elijah is one of two people in the Bible whose bodies didn’t die. Elijah and Elisha were walking together when, “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” 2 Kings 2:11.

I would love to go to heaven that way – now you see me, now you don’t!  But I believe my journey home is going to be a lot less dramatic.  When I breathe my last breath, Jesus will be holding my hand and he will walk my soul into heaven with him, leaving my body behind.

No chariots of fire.

No whirlwinds.

Just joy.

I will finally be in my forever home.

Thank you for preparing a place for me, Abba Father.

Under a Bush

It’s happened to me.  Has it happened to you?

I’ve gone to a great seminar or a camp or a retreat – feeling more and more motivated as the event progressed.  I’m on the mountaintop – very close to God!  Right on track!  Ready to tackle the world!  Fired up to make my dreams come true!

You get the point.

And then I come back to reality.  I have to face the real world – disappointments and distractions and disillusions.  The people and problems and various perspectives drain away my enthusiasm.  I am no longer on the mountaintop – now I’m in the valley.

If you’ve been there with me, we are all in good company.  In 1 Kings, Elijah the prophet orchestrated an epic confrontation on a mountaintop with 850 pagan prophets.  I can’t believe this story hasn’t been made into a major movie because it has tons of drama and great visuals.  God sent fire down from heaven to burn up Elijah’s sacrifice and even dry up all the water around the altar.  The pagan priests slashed themselves trying to get the attention of their gods and then they were all slaughtered.  All of this violence would fit right in with our ‘action movies’ today.

What a mountaintop experience for Elijah!

But then Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he crawled under a bush, praying that God would take his life.

Have you ever felt like crawling under a bush?  I have.  I have ‘crawled under a bush’ and wanted to stay there….. forever.

Instead of taking Elijah’s life, God sent an angel to feed him and care for him.  God still sends angels to us today when we’re in a valley – often human angels – to love us and care of us.

Then God told Elijah to go back up on the mountaintop so he could get close to God.  Because God does not often talk to us through the powerful wind or the earthquake or the fire.  God usually whispers.

When you and I come down off the mountain into a valley of disappointment and confusion, God says the same thing to us – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew11:28.

As I seek God when I’m in a valley and draw near to him, he wraps his arms around me and whispers his truth and love into my mind.  This is where I find peace.

I love you, Abba Father.

He Is Not Like Us

God is never tired, he is never impatient, he is never distracted, he is never busy.

We are made in God’s image – little glimpses of him show up in each of us.

But he is not like us.

This fact brings me a lot of peace and confidence. I desire to be more like Jesus. I am eternally grateful that he is not like me.  He has none of my weaknesses or failings.

Sometimes God tell us about his emotions in the Bible – anger, sadness, and joy.  All of his emotions are perfect – for the right reason.  They are not like our emotions which are self-centered and can often cause us to say and do wrong things.

When Elijah mocked the priests of Baal in 1 Kings, he was trying to point out the godlessness of their gods.   When Baal didn’t respond to their requests,  Elijah said, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18: 27. This kicked the Baal prophets into a frenzy of shouting louder and slashing themselves with swords and spears.  They often did this trying to get a response from Baal.

I grimace when I imagine this scene of four hundred and fifty bleeding prophets of Baal – crying out to a manmade statue.  Looking for answers. Looking for hope.

How futile!

How wrong!

How lost.

When I take a look at the world which surrounds me today with overwhelming violence and lies and confusion, I can say the same thing –

How futile!

How wrong!

How lost.

Jesus came to bring his light of truth, grace and salvation to everyone who would believe. He is the only answer.

He lives within each believer and he has commissioned each of us to be his light in our part of this dark and broken world.

Dear Father, Please help us shine your light brightly right where we live, work and play.

How Much More

How big is my God?  How much does he want to bless me?

God stopped me this week as I read the story in the Bible of the widow whose son was going be taken as a slave because her husband had debts he didn’t pay before he died.  She asked Elisha for help saying she had nothing left except a small jar of olive oil.

Elisha said, ” Go around and ask your neighbors for empty jars.  Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” 2 Kings 4: 3 – 4.   She did exactly what Elisha said and she just kept filling the jars until they were all full. The oil stopped flowing when her last jar was full.  Then she sold the oil to pay her debts and had enough money left over to live on.

Now that I know the end of the story, my automatic response is – too bad she didn’t get more jars! Then she could have blessed others as well through this miracle that happened to her.

Did you go there? It was great that she had enough money to live on but how much more did God have for her if she had had a bigger view of her God?

And then I wonder how many times God was willing to bless me abundantly but I didn’t bring enough jars?  I didn’t bring enough faith?  Enough trust?

How often do I short-cut God’s attempts to lavish love and care on my life because I don’t ask?

The message I’ve been consistently receiving lately from God is that there are some mountains he will move if I will boldly ask.  He’s stirring up a wind of his Spirit that he is inviting me to take part in if I will ‘bring enough jars’.

Have I shared with you that God has asked me to write a book and share my experiences of surviving the death of my son who was a Phoenix Police Officer killed in the line of duty 6 years ago? Writing a book is a new mountain for me to climb. In obedience, I have started it and I’m counting on God to guide me to the end.

Nothing is impossible for my Father God so I am boldly asking him to write this book through me – telling the story that he has been writing in my life these last 6 years – and I’m expecting to watch God-sized things happen.

I’ve got a lot of jars lined up, Abba Father.

Slaves

We all have things we are committed to – things we spend a lot of time and energy on along with a big chunk of our money.  Things like careers, houses, cars, sports, shopping, the latest gadgets and video games fill our hours, leaving little or no room for a relationship with God.

If we lived back in Biblical times, it would be said that we are a slave to these things.  We choose who we serve and when we put anything above God in our priorities, there are negative results.

King Rehoboam, the king of Judah, led his people in turning away from the One True God to serve idols – all kinds of idols.  Since the people were unfaithful to God, God let King Shishak of Egypt capture Judah.  The people then realized their sin and God saw.  As a good father, he let them pay the consequence of their sin which meant the King of Egypt became their king but God promised to give them deliverance soon.

In 2 Chronicles 12:8, God said, “They will, however, become subject to him (the King of Egypt), so they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”

When we choose something other than God to be slaves to, we also pay consequences, such as – large debt, broken relationships and lack of purpose and meaning in our lives.  When we turn back to  God, he promises to deliver us from this misguided slavery.  It may take a while. We will pay some consequences.  It will probably take some real effort and work and commitment on our part.

But God, our good Father, is faithful.  He will deliver us.

Thank you, Abba Father.