There is a Place for Me

A place is prepared for me.

It has my name on it.  My ‘forever home’ is in my Father’s house.

Jesus is there right now preparing my place.  And – at the right time – he’s going to come back, take my hand and walk with me into heaven.  When it’s the right time, I will go to be with him – forever.  Maybe we’ll ride up on a cloud. 

Jesus promised me this in John 14 and he always keeps his promises.  He also says, “And you know the way to where I am going.”

Yes, I do know the way.  I have been reading and studying God’s revelation to us for many years.  The whole Bible is God’s love story.  God loved me and sent his son to pay the price for my rebellion and sin so I could be set free here on earth and then live forever with him in heaven.

Are you coming with me?

Amen.  Hallelujah!

Thank you, Father.

The Way to Peace

Where is peace?

The way to peace is illusive.  It’s hard to find.  If you find it, it’s hard to keep.  One text, one thought, one facial expression and – poof!- it’s gone.

I’ve found that it’s easier to feel peaceful in the mountains or at the beach – closer to God’s creation.  Many of us flock to those places on vacation…….looking to have a good time and, possibly, a few moments of peace and calm.

Jesus wept for Jerusalem in Luke 19 while saying, “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.  But now it is too late, the peace is hidden from your eyes.”

The Good News for us is that peace is not hidden from our eyes.  Jesus is the way.  Jesus can give us the internal peace that nothing else – including the mountains and the beach – can give.

When we look to Jesus for peace, we will find it.

Thank you, Jesus.

It Breaks Through

So much noise.

Too much information.

Bombarded by distractions……

and then God’s voice breaks through.

Clear.

Strong…..

making more sense than all the chaos around me.

One of my favorite images of God comes from the story that Jesus tells us in John about the Good Shepherd.  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them on.”  “The sheep recognize his voice.”

I recognized his voice.  How?

It’s simple but not easy.  After reading the entire Bible eight times, I know when God is speaking to me because he is speaking his words – the words I have read over and over.  I recognize his truth because I have seriously studied the Bible for over 30 years.  I’m not a pastor or a theologian.  I’m just an average person who really wants to hear God and know the truth.

I have been asked, ” how do you know it’s God and not just your own voice telling you what you want to hear?”  When what I hear lines up with what I’ve read and studied in God’s word, I have no doubt that it’s his voice.

Important point – messages from God will be consistent with more than just one verse in the Bible.  The only way to really know it is from God is that it lines up with what God says about this topic over the entire Bible.

One verse can steer me in the wrong direction.

One or two verses taken out of context can tell us lies – nothing close to what God really said.

Be very careful with the ‘life verse’ concept.  The only way that works is if you understand what God says regarding the topics in that verse through the entire Bible.  Otherwise, it can be a shortcut that takes you down a dark path – a path where you hear what you want to hear because you are not recognizing his voice.

The closer I get to God, the easier it is to hear his voice.

Thank you for speaking so clearly, Abba Father.

My Fears

What am I afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

This world can be a very scary place with evil lurking around every corner.  The worst can happen in an instant –

I’ve been there.

So it seems logical that you and I would be afraid……. until we read what Jesus says to us in Matthew 8, “Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith.”

Wow!  Jesus directly correlates the fact that I am afraid to how much faith I have.

God is telling me that my fears mean I’m not trusting him.

I know this is true for me.  When I am worried, I am not trusting God.  The amount of my fear is a clear indication of the lack of my faith because I know God is in control.  He has a plan and purpose.  There is nothing that happens to me that has not gone through his hands.

So what am I afraid of?

My worst fear – that something bad would happen to one of my children – has already come true for both of them.  My daughter got cancer and my son was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty three years ago.

What a huge waste of time and effort fear is!  It didn’t change anything that has happened to me.

God has used these experiences to teach me many things.  One of them is to lay my worries and fears at God’s feet and leave them there.  He is the only one who can do anything about them.

It’s a fact that he loves me and wants the best for me.  He is faithful to walk beside me when bad things happen, helping me to grow my faith and trust in him.

Fear comes from a lack of faith.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

What Do I Choose?

Do I choose to be healthy or unhealthy?

” Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body.  When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness.”  Jesus tells us this very important truth which affects our whole body.

My eyes determine my emotional, mental and spiritual health.

What am I looking at?

What am I focusing on?

What am I watching – letting all of it go directly into my brain?

What am I reading?

Who am I watching?

Who are the people I’m surrounding myself with who are influencing me?  What behaviors and values do I see in them?  Are those the same values and behaviors I want in my life?  I’m not judging them, I’m trying to make good choices about what my eyes regularly see – because it affects my whole body.

Do I want to live in the light?  Or in the darkness?

I choose.

You choose.

It all goes into our brain through our eyes.  Thoughts become attitudes and attitudes become actions.

Healthy or unhealthy – it’s our choice.

Please help us be very careful about what we let our eyes see, Abba Father.

Would You Like to Get Well?

Is anybody feeling sick?

Lonely?

Angry?

Confused?

Empty?

Sad?

Stuck in a dark place?

I have been in all of these situations.

When Jesus says, “Would you like to get well?” to the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, I can relate.   Several different times in my life I have needed healing. (picture is from my visit to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem) A couple of times it was physical healing but more often it was mental, emotional or spiritual healing.  So I asked and Jesus healed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have some physical issues like compressed disks in my neck.  God must have a different plan for those because, no matter how many doctors I see and how many times I have asked, God has not healed them.

Looking back, I can see that Jesus has been in the process of healing my spiritual, mental and emotional issues ever since I put him first in my life.  One step at a time.  Perseverance in running this race of faith is the key – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Every once in awhile God throws in some of his special ‘magic’ where he opens my eyes to something big – I call those epiphanies.  I will have a sudden deeper understanding of a significant truth or God will show me how he is already working out something in my life.  That’s always an exciting experience!

Anytime I feel lonely, unhappy, angry, confused, empty or stuck, I know I need to spend some significant time with God.  He reorganizes my thoughts, straightens out my emotions and calms my soul.

Sounds like healing, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Abba Father.

Real Friends

I need real friends.

You need real friends.

Real friends are people who care about us, easily forgive us and want the best for us.  They are the people in our lives who cheer us on in the good times and listen well with extra tissues ready during the bad times.

Good friends also love us enough to speak up when we are getting off track.  They will hold us accountable for behavior that is not good for us.  They ask questions about our choices when our behavior is not going to help us reach the goals they know we want to achieve.  They love us enough to speak truth into our lives.

These friends also love us enough to share their love of God with us.  They walk beside us as we grow in our knowledge of God and celebrate with us when we experience the power and love of God in our lives.  They encourage us through the struggles of admitting we aren’t in control and they cheer us on as we figure out the only answer is to submit our Father God who is in control.

They help bring us to Jesus.

This is just like the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus in the second chapter of Mark.  Their friend couldn’t move, so his four friends carried him around on a mat.  They heard that this man, Jesus, was healing people – even paralyzed people – so they were determined to get their friend to Jesus.

You might think they would have been discouraged when they arrived and saw the huge crowd of people around the house that Jesus was in.  They didn’t care – this was their friend and this was going to happen….today…..right now.

So they carried their friend on his mat up to the top of the house and dug a hole in the roof right over Jesus’ head.  Then they lowered the mat down in front of Jesus.

Seeing the faith of his friends, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ” Stand up, pick up your mat and go home.”

“And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers.”

Jesus honored the faith of this man’s friends and healed the paralyzed man.

Do I have any friends who need to get to Jesus?

Do you?

Are we good enough friends to help them get close enough to be touched by our Savior?

Please help us be good friends, Abba Father.

Giving Light

The world that surrounds me needs light.

The culture that you and I live in needs a great light to break out over us.

There is too much darkness.

Too many shadows.

No peace.

Why are so many people missing it?

Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied before Jesus was born that ‘the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”

The Light has come and his name is Jesus!

I love the morning light.

The back patio of my house faces east onto a green space.  Every morning the sun breaks over the trees and the distance mountains, bringing light and warmth into my life.

Each day, the rising sun reminds me of God’s love and faithfulness.

Dear Father, thank you for the light you bring into my world every day.  I lift up all the people around me who are missing the light.  They are missing you.  Open their eyes, Father.  Open their hearts. 

Please make those of us who know you bold in sharing our experiences with you to the people we know around us who sit in darkness.  We want them to know you, Father.  We want your light to break out upon them and bring peace. 

In the powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Test Him

Usually it is not a good idea.

I won’t like the consequences.

I’m talking about testing God.  God wants us to have faith in him and trust him.  If I’m smart, I’m not going to test God’s patience or mercy or love.

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.

So God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…..I will pour out blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!  Try it!  Put me to the test!”

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.

But they never ask 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 and the medical assistant looked at me with surprise when she handed me back a check for $900 and told me that insurance NEVER covers this part of the procedure but they did for me.

My husband recently had a dental issue that was not covered by insurance and would cost $2500.  Since we’re retired and live close to Mexico, we decided to try going to one of the towns in Mexico that is well-known for their good dentists, lower prices and more options.  The $10 x-ray in Mexico showed that there were no longer any issue.  If I wanted to be cynical, I could say the first dentist was just trying to get some money from us but we had gone to him for several years and he had always been the opposite – trying to make sure we got the most for our money and not doing anything that didn’t need to be done.

I prefer to give God the credit for that $2500 windfall.  He decided to bless us!  How awesome!

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 our appliances quit 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, we have given two of our older cars to charity because we know God will bless us more for that than the $700 or $800 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.

The Magic of Shutting 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 2 years ago and I’m still in the ‘awed’ stage of 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 for Jack and had another baby 4 years later.  I traveled a lot and got promoted regularly gaining more and more  responsibility with a dream 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, not happy when I realized that this is how the rest of my life could be.  So when I realized that God was offering me the only way I was going to find the 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 week was still packed with work, kids, sports, work travel, and more.  There wasn’t much I could do about that.  So I revamped my weekends.  I stopped planning anything on Saturday night that would make us too tired to get up for church on Sunday.  I started doing my laundry, shopping and cleaning on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for worship and time with my spiritual family in the morning.  Sunday afternoon became a great time for Bible study small groups.  Sunday became God’s day – all day.

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 or two 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 because, somehow, I would often find myself spending two or three precious hours with him on Saturday as well.

I find it interesting to read when Nehemiah confronts the leaders in Jerusalem about ‘neglecting God’.  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.

I feel like that is what I needed 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 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 time to hang out with each other.

And I saw God multiply my time on Saturday and Sunday.   On Saturdays I could get all of errands and chores done AND play in the pool, have friends over and have fun.  On Sundays I had time for God – worship and service in church, small group Bible studies and extra time to read and study God’s word which eventually led to this blog.

Closing the gates worked.

Thank you for your truth, Abba Father.