Fight the Battle Well

2021 is almost over.  It felt like a really long year to me. How about you?

We moved out of state in 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. God had told us to move but it still felt like a crazy and difficult thing to do – until we got settled in and realized we are right where we needed to be when our littlest grandson came into the world. Then situations kept happening throughout this year that confirmed we were in the right place.

It been harder getting to know people in our new community because of the germ issues and exposure issues and divisive issues that abound in our culture today. This was all so much easier the last time we moved when germs and vaccines weren’t such a concern.

Now God is speaking to me about 2022. He has plans.  Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them my ‘words’ for 2022, it’s obvious that God is using these last weeks of 2021 to tell me what he wants me to focus on next year.

So God highlighted Paul’s words for me as Paul talked to Timothy in his first letter to him – “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience..”  1 Timothy 1: 18 & 19.

Message received, God.

How do I fight the battle well 2022?  When I’m connected to God through his Word and through his people, he fights my battles with me – guiding me, encouraging me and giving me victory.

How do I hold onto the faith in 2022?  I have a hunger that growls in my soul with the desire to grow in my love for and knowledge of God.  I am confident that turning off the TV and putting down my phone so I have more time to read and study God’s Word is the right thing for me to do.  I’m adding another small group Bible study to my calendar this year.  My favorite thing about retirement – other than not having to set an alarm – is having all the time I want to spend with God.

How do I hold on to a good conscience in 2022?  When I’m in line with God, I know down to the depths of my heart and mind that I’m in the right place.  I feel God’s approval and blessing when I focus on him and what he is calling me to do.

So bring on 2022 with all its challenges and opportunities.   God is by my side.  I’m ready.

Are you ready?

Thank you, Abba Father.

Paul’s Prayer … and Mine

Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3 and I respond –

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name.” vs 14.

You are awesome, Father.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he will strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,.. ” vs 16.

Please give us your strength, Father.

“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” vs 17.

Make your home in our hearts, Jesus, and teach us how to trust you more.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with the Lord’s holy people to grasp how wide, and long and deep is the love of Christ…” vs 18.

Grow our roots deep in your awesome love, Jesus.

“and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” vs 19

Please help us feel and understand the perfect love you pour out on us each day.  Only you can make us complete, Abba.  The power to live a full life comes from you.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,…” vs 20.

We believe, Father, that you can do anything – things beyond what we can imagine –  and that you want to accomplish your plans through us.  We are your hands and feet here on earth.

“to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” vs 20.

Amen.  Love you, Father.

Reconciliation

Conflict.  Emptiness.

Despair.

Our world is full of people who are without hope of things ever getting better.  Its a tragedy that so many people are choosing suicide as a way out of the muck and mire that defines their lives.

I believe that the underlying cause of a lot of this pain is the lack of a relationship with God.  We were all created with a God-sized hole in our soul.  We can try to fill it with all kinds of things – new possessions, people, drugs, and a lot more – but we will still be empty.

I have experienced this.  As a young adult, I wandered from a relationship with God to try out all the ‘fun’ things the world had to offer.  After several years, I was very empty and tired of all those things that looked like fun but were dead ends.  So I started working hard on different goals and got everything on the list in the next 10 years – a great husband, two awesome kids, a good start on a career, a nice house with two cars.  I had everything I wanted but I was still empty…. and very tired.  It took a lot of work all day every day to keep everything going.  If this was all there is to life, if this is what I was going to have to do for the next 60 years, I didn’t want it.

I was going to church at that time, singing in praise band and teaching Sunday School.  But I was not investing time and effort into a personal relationship with God.  So I was still empty.

Then God opened my eyes to the fact that what I really wanted and needed was more of him.  As soon as I committed to putting God first in my life, I could feel his love and grace filling up the hole inside of me.  His light began to overflow into all parts of my life, giving me joy and a purpose.

God reconciled me to him.  I had accepted Jesus as my Savior as a child so I was redeemed and I was going to heaven.  But it took me many years to take the next step in reconciling with God.  I didn’t have strong spiritual habits or feel that God and I had a good relationship until my mid-thirties.

God is on a mission of reconciling with everyone who will put their faith in Jesus.  Accepting salvation through Jesus Christ is the first step.  Putting God first in our lives is next.  It lets us feel his grace and his love and his power moving in our hearts and minds here on earth.

Paul tells you and I today, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Col. 1:22 & 23

Did you hear that last part?  That’s what I was missing as a young adult.  That’s why I was so empty.  I was not continuing in my faith.  I was not building my life on the Truth.  I was not letting God transform me through the hope of the gospel.

After I let God finish the reconciliation, he was able to take over my heart, giving me peace and a plan for the rest of my life.

All of the emptiness is gone.

Thank you, Abba Father.

A Work in Progress

Changing me.

Growing me.

This is what God is doing.

Paul tells us in Romans 12, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ” vs 2.

God is in the process of gradually transforming me from the inside out by changing the way I think.  As I continue to read, study and memorize God’s word, his truth takes over more and more of my brain.  His Word is becoming the basis of where my thoughts come from.

I’ve had people ask me how I can be so bold in talking and writing about my faith all the time.  It doesn’t seem bold to me – it’s how I think.

Paul also says to us, ” Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” the rest of Romans 12:2.

Love this!

It’s like tuning in an old radio – as I dial into the signal, God’s voice becomes clearer and more distinct.  God is aligning my thoughts more closely to his.  One of my regular prayers is asking God to help me love the things he loves and hate the things he hates.

When my thinking lines up with God’s, I am able to hear him and understand as he reveals his plans and purposes – his perfect will.

I’m still a work in progress – the transformation is ongoing.  But the mystery of how to clearly hear God’s voice is solved –

get close to him.

Love you, Abba Father.

Abba, Father

I am adopted.

God is my father.

I have known this all of my life because my earthly parents raised me in a Christian home.  But this means more to me now than it ever has because both of my biological parents have gone home to heaven.  My earthly father went to heaven when I was only 21 years old and my mother went home 16 years ago.

I remember flying home from my mother’s funeral feeling like I was a 47 year-old orphan.  I was very close to my mother and it felt like my anchor had been let loose.  I was drifting.  Alone.

Until I remembered that my Father God had not left me behind.  He had been my heavenly Father my whole life and then he also became my earthly Father when I was 21 and now he became my only parent on earth.  He is and always will be my anchor.

That’s how I feel about him.  He is here, guiding me and loving me.  My perfect parent.

Paul says to us in Romans 8, ” For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  and by him we cry, “Abba, Father”.  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  vs 14-16.

Amen!  I hear God telling me I am his child and I feel his arms wrapping around me in confirmation.  His Spirit joins with mine in the depths of my soul, confirming that I am his daughter for eternity.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Don’t Make this Trade

If I watch enough of today’s news….

and read enough Facebook posts….

and hear enough ‘discussion’ on talk radio or podcasts……

I will be very confused on what is true.  I won’t know what’s really going on.  I will hear some opinions that I agree with (so they are right :)) and other’s I don’t agree with (so they are obviously wrong).

If I listen to all of these voices, my own perspective will lean one way…..

and then the other.   Oh, that sounds good – I’ll climb on that bandwagon!

Look around!  This is happening every day.  If I had to pick one word that I think describes our current culture the best, I would have to pick ‘confused’.

Paul nails it in Romans 1, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised.  Amen.”  verse 25.

There are way too many loud voices in our world spouting all kinds of lies.  Since we are so digitally ‘connected’ these lies continue to spread and start to look like something people generally believe.

It’s scary.  Because it’s still lies, no matter how many people believe them.

I am reminded of what is true whenever I sit down with my Bible in my lap.  My quiet time gives me the chance turn off all of the voices around me and listen to God speak truth into my head and heart, feeding my soul.  God’s words cut through the cacophony and confusion, providing a solid foundation that does not change as the winds of the world shift and swirl around me.

God is my compass and he is the solid ground I stand on.  His Word is my map which he is using to point out to me – one step at a time – the path that is taking me home…

where I will praise my Creator forever.

Amen.  Let it be so, Abba Father.

Struck Down

It’s nothing new –

the troubles I have,

the trials you are experiencing.

The Apostle Paul talks to us about how to respond to these storms in our lives –

“We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 9.

How can I not be crushed and destroyed by the trials and tragedies in my life?

I can persevere because the Spirit of God lives in me, giving me strength, peace and hope.  The Spirit reminds me that this earth is not my home – my forever home is with my loving Father.

This is how the Spirit translates these words in my head as I read them –
I  may have troubles coming at me from all directions but, when I stay close to God, he will not let me be crushed by them.  I don’t always understand why struggles and problems happen to me but I know God is in control and he is a Good Father who is working all things out for my good so I can stand firm on these truths.  Even when Satan hunts me down, God never leaves my side.  I’ve been knocked down by a horrible tragedy but God has given me the strength to get back up.

I say this knowing there are more storms are coming my way.  It’s not a question of ‘if’ they are coming, the question is ‘when’.

Thank you, Father, for teaching me how to respond to trials in my life.

He Uses It For Good

When I make a bad decision, I often experience negative consequences.

When you make a bad decision, in most situations, you will also experience negative consequences.

I don’t think any of us enjoy dealing with the consequences of our bad decisions.  Sometimes the consequences have long-term affects on our lives.  It’s hard.

But what’s even harder is when I make a bad decision, sometimes you experience negative consequences from that, too.  We live together in this broken world.  A couple of examples of this are deadly car accidents and forest fires started by a person throwing a cigarette out of their car window.  There can be huge consequences to many people when one person in these situations makes a bad choice.

People often ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  This is why.  We all experience the pain and results of other people’s wrong decisions.  My world blew up when a young man decided to kill my son who was a Phoenix Police Officer.  The hurtful consequences of that choice have been huge, wide-spread and never-ending.

I have learned that my best response to this tragedy has been to turn to God.  I’ve been getting as close to God has I possibly can.  He is my comforter and my anchor in the midst of this dark storm of loss.  And I have watched him pick up the pieces of my broken heart and use them for good.  God has given me the opportunity to share my journey on this extremely tough road of grief in this blog as well as a different blog – Myfamilybleedsblue.com.   Many people have told me it has helped them put words to their own experience and not feel so alone.  It has encouraged them to turn to God who comforts us and can help guide us into a positive tomorrow.

Paul knew that this was one of ways that God can bring good out of bad things that happen to us.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God”. 2 Cor. 1:3.

It was a huge blessing to me when God gave my pain a purpose.  I can’t change what happened, but I can share the comfort I have received from God in the middle of my heartbreak with others.  I can let God use my ‘bad thing’ and do something good with it.

Only God can do that.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Don’t Waste Your Time

How many hours a week do you watch TV?

How much time do I spend on social media and other aps on my phone?

Do we organize our lives so we can catch every game – baseball, football, basketball or whatever game is on?

How much time do you spend playing games on your various devices?

None of these things are bad….unless we do them a lot.

So much wasted time.

I have gained a new understanding these last 5 years since my son was killed of how very short our time here on earth really is.our-life-so-easily-snuffed-out

We are a flame that can be snuffed out in an instant.

We are a flower that blooms and then quickly fades.

We are but a whisper in the winds of time.

Let’s not waste it.

Paul encourages us to ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”   1 Corinthians 15:58.

This is one my favorite verses in God’s word.  I love the fact that nothing I do for God and with God is a waste of time.  All of it has eternal value.  That’s extremely encouraging to me.

When I think of all the time and effort and concern I’ve spent on things that were temporary and fleeting….

wasted time.

None of us have time to waste.

Please help us keep focused on you, Abba Father.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

It’s an awesome mental picture!

A cloud of witnesses is standing at the gates of heaven cheering us on as we run this race of faith with perseverance here on earth.

My parents are in that cloud and so are my grandparents.  They are there with many more of my family who all lived by faith here on earth, passing their love of God on from generation to generation.

That’s what my cloud looks like!  What a blessing!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Hebrews 12: 1 & 2a.

As I read this passage, I can hear the faint cheers from heaven…

encouraging me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Encouraging me to throw off everything that hinders me from running this marathon of faith strong and sure here on earth.

Encouraging me to avoid the sin that so easily entangles.  Entangles is such a great description of what sin does in our lives, isn’t it?

God has marked out a race for each one of us.  One step at a time.  Sometimes its baby steps.  And other times we slow down to a crawl.  But it’s very important to keep moving forward.

To persevere.

To keep focused on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit transform us.

Our cloud of witnesses is ready to cheer us on as we take our next steps toward a deeper love relationship with God.

I know one of my next steps in 2020 is to continue to memorize scripture.  I have been extremely blessed by how God has used the scripture etched on my heart and mind to guide me, comfort me and love me.  I will also be blogging through the Chronological Bible again in 2021.  This has become such an important part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it.

What is your next step?  If you want to hear God more clearly, memorizing scripture has changed my life.  God speaks clearly through his Word, whether it is written on a page or engraved on my heart.  Are you going to read through the Chronological Bible with me in 2021?  I know several of you did this year and I know you were blessed.  There is no better way of developing a deeper relationship with God than to read and listen and respond to his Word.

So let’s each make a plan of how we’re going grow closer to God in 2021.  We have a great cloud of witnesses watching.  Do you hear the cheers?

Please help us take our next steps closer to you in 2021, Abba Father.