Whatever Works for You

Sounds good – let’s all do whatever works for us.   Then we’ll all be happy.

Or not.

“In those days Israel had no king: everyone did as they saw fit”. Judges 21:25. This is how the book of Judges ends.  It may sound good until we scan back a couple of chapters and realize what they thought was ‘fit’ to do. 

Family members were stealing from each other.  They obviously thought this was an ok thing to do.

Family members were kidnapping each other.  They thought this was ok as well.

Family members were killing each other to the point that they virtually annihilated one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  I wonder how they could possibly think this was ok but they did.  They could rationalize anything. Their moral judgement was quickly spirally into total chaos and confusion.

Because they had no compass.

Sounds familiar? Our current culture obviously has many of these same issues.

Why?

When I base what is right and wrong on what I think, I’m in trouble.  Then I’m just like these Israelites – doing what I see fit and letting my standards waiver in whatever direction the wind is blowing. When I do what I think is right, it can hurt you as well. My bad decisions have a lot of consequences.

God has been very clear to you and me on moral boundaries. His Word to us is full of direction and guidance. I might not like all of it. You may not agree with all of it. But that doesn’t change his Word to us.

The image of standing under an umbrella of God’s Blessing is stuck my head and reminds me that one of my main goals in life is to stay in line with God. When I obey God and follow the compass he has given me, I am placing my life under his umbrella of blessing. When I don’t obey God and just do what I want to do, I am stepping out from under his umbrella. I can’t expect God to bless my decisions and life when I’m not obeying him.

One example is tithing. If we have put our faith in God, we also want to put our money in his hands. This means being faithful with tithing. We can’t expect God to bless our finances if we don’t.

It’s my choice and I choose to obey so I stay under the umbrella – every hour of every day.

What do you choose?

Dear Father, I desire to walk in your path of truth.  Please guide me because your moral standards are what ‘fits’ me best.

My Story

It’s a story of redemption.  It’s my story because I needed a Redeemer, someone to fill up the hole that was deep within my soul.  I needed the Only One who could save me from eternal separation from God.

It’s clear to me that the story of Ruth in the Bible is the story of everyone who has put their faith in Jesus.  I can see God orchestrating his love and grace in every step of the story.  Without Jesus in our lives,  you and I would all exist in a famine, without hope – stuck in our past.

But in Jesus we have found our kinsmen Redeemer!  Hallelujah!

Jesus paid the price of our sins for us so we could make him Lord of our lives and become part of his forever family.  When we admit that we need a Savior and turn away from our rebellion and sin while turning toward Jesus, we become filled with the power of the Holy Spirit under God’s umbrella of grace and blessing.

Have you made this decision?  It not, today is a great day to fill the emptiness inside your soul with the light of Jesus.

“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsmen redeemer.” Ruth 4:14.

Thank you, Abba Father.

When It’s Big…

and bad…

and scary,

even people who don’t love God will turn to him, pray to him, cry to him.  This is because our souls know who he is even if our minds won’t acknowledge it.  He created us and the heart he molded inside of us cries out to its maker when we’re in significant trouble.

In Judges 10, the Israelites are on one of their downward spirals of sin.  They have stopped serving God and have started serving Baal…..again.  So God let the pagan kingdoms who also served Baal crush them and oppress them.

It was bad.

So the Israelites cried out to God and he replied, “Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen.  Let them save you when you are in trouble.” Judges 10:14.

Sometimes, as a Good Father who wants to teach us life lessons, God says this same thing to us today.  If we have placed things other than God as our top priority, they are our gods.  Let them save us.

If we put money ahead of God in importance in our lives, there will be situations where God lets us learn the hard way that money is not our security.  It disappears, it turns into a nightmare when we use credit, and the stuff we buy with it only makes us happy for a little while.  Have you and I learned this yet?

Relationships – people are flawed.  Unconditional love only comes from God.  My husband, my wife, my friends, my children cannot be my first priority.  God didn’t create our lives to work that way.  When we put him first, he helps us with everything else and its much better than we could do on our own.  Have you and I learned this yet?

Careers – money, recognition, power, prestige often distract us from God.  Sadly, tragically, we can find that we were struggling so hard for so many years to climb up what looks like the ladder to success only to find that the ladder we are so desperately climbing is up against the wrong wall.  At the end, there’s a huge, disappointing fall.  Have you and I learned this yet?

Anything we put before the One True God in our lives becomes a false god as we serve it and love it and focus on it.   These false gods will be no help when the bottom falls out of our lives.  When tragedy blows our lives apart.  Then our hearts will cry out to our Creator God just like the Israelite’s hearts did.

The Israelites had been taught well and they knew exactly what to do to get back in line with God.  They repented and got rid of their false gods.  And God responded by helping to deliver them from their enemies.  They still had to fight and struggle (consequences for their bad decisions) but God gave them victory.

God has told us he is a jealous God and he will not tolerate his people serving other gods.  When its big and bad – and there are always times in our lives when its big and bad –  none of these false gods are going to be of any use to us.

Have you and I learned this yet?

You are the only God in my life, Abba Father.

He Always Responds

The next step I’m suppose to take is often not clear.  There are a lot of blind curves on this road I’m on – I can’t see what lies ahead.  I’m usually pretty sure about the final goal but the specific actions God wants me to take to get there are covered in a fog of options, questions, and unknowns.

When I’m in one of these ‘unclear’ spots on my road, I ask for a confirmation from God that I’m on the right path – or not.  And he always either gives me a confirmation or opens up my eyes to a change in direction.

So I know how Gideon is feeling in Judges when he is trying to figure out if he is doing the right thing – for the second time.  “Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me.  Let me make just one more request.  Allow me just one more test with the fleece.”   Judges 6:39.

You and I like to know we are on the right path.  Is this what God wants me to do?  Is this where he wants you to go?

For me, I have decided not to ask God to do a specific ‘sign’ for me.  It feels too much like telling God he has to jump through hoops before I will do something he is wants me to do. Too much like testing God.

I’ve developed my own process of asking God to give me clear guidance sometime today and I will be watching.  When I do this, I try to stay extra aware of anything that could be encouragement from God telling me to “keep going’ or something that opens up my eyes, helping me understand a different direction I should be taking.

This just happened yesterday – I was making a decision about the timing and cost of a trip next year and I asked God to guide my steps.  When I made a reservation, everything looked good until I was notified after it was all done that there was a glitch in the program and that location was no available.  It was no coincidence that happened right after my request to God.  So I’m going to wait and watch and see what door he opens up for me.  I’m sure I’m going to see him move on this in the next couple of weeks.  If I don’t see it by the time I need to make a decision, I’ll ask him to open up my eyes today to what he thinks is best for me and I’ll watch carefully.

I believe my process works because it acknowledges that I know God is always trying to guide me and show me the way.  Asking for a response today also helps me maintain a special awareness of God guiding me in the next 24 hours.

And he always responds.

And then I smile.   Of course he does.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

With Me

Every day…

Every situation…

Every trial…

The Spirit of the LORD is with me.

In the Old Testament, there were times when God would give his Spirit to someone when he had a tough assignment for them.  We read in Judges that Caleb’s little brother, Othniel, became a judge for the Israelites.  God raised him up to deliver the Israelites from slavery to the King of Aram Naharaim.

“The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war.” Judges 3:10. God’s Spirit made Othniel strong and courageous.

As believers today, we live under the New Covenant with God.  Everything changed when God sent Jesus into the world to save us from eternal separation from God. Now, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of each of us when we accept the salvation Jesus freely offers to each of us and make him Lord of our lives.

Jesus is Lord of my life.  God’s Spirit is with me every minute of every day.  His Spirit wants to make me strong and courageous, too.

And loving,

joyful,

peaceful,

patient,

kind,

faithful,

gentle and self-controlled.

All of this is inside me – I just need to let God’s spirit have his way in my life.

If you are a believer, all of these great things are inside of you, too.  It’s time to nurture them and let the Spirit show.

Thank you for the awesome gift of your Spirit,  Abba Father.

I’m a Caleb Fan

Every time Caleb shows up in the Old Testament, he is being faithful, obedient and courageous.

When I get to heaven, I want to meet him.

He’s not a central character in the Bible – he doesn’t have a main story line.   He’s never the star but he does an awesome job in his supporting role.

Caleb shows up as Joshua’s sidekick a couple of times and every time he’s right on target.  He  is always choosing to believe what God has promised.  He is willing to take God’s word and act on it.  He’s brave.  He doesn’t forget what God has already done in his life.  He’s consistent.

“I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.”  Joshua 14:8.  This is how Caleb described himself when comparing his actions with those of the other spies who brought back a negative report about the Promised Land.

Wholeheartedly.  What a good word!

Even though he was surrounded by other Israelites who lacked trust in God and were weak in their faith, Caleb never waivered.  He stood strong.  His faith in God defined his life.

I am encouraged and challenged by Caleb.  I’m encouraged because he was always faithful through many years in good times and bad.  I’m challenged by Caleb because I would like that same thing to be said my life.

When I leave this earth, I want this to be true of my life – that I walked closely with God for a very long time.

Just like Caleb.

Total Control

Do you ever have doubts about God’s love for you? Or how much power he actually has? Does he hear us when we talk to him? Does he really control the universe?

God’s total control of everything in clearly shown in Joshua 10:13. Joshua had asked God for more time to win their battle over the Amorites. “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.”

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky for almost an entire day because Joshua asked.

The sun stopped.

So the earth had to stop revolving.

And the universe stopped its regular course.

When the Creator of the Universe heard Joshua’s request, he said “stop” and everything stopped.

I love these instances in the Bible where God exercises his total control over all things.  It is such a clear reminder of who he is.  How omnipotent he is. And how much he loves us and listens to us.

Later in the Bible, we will read about how Jesus calmed the storm because the disciples were afraid.  The wind and the waves stopped when he gave the command.  Because Jesus was in control. And he cared.

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We will also read in the New Testament about Jesus walking on the water out to his disciple’s boat.  Jesus created the water and he could make it do whatever he wanted.

Eight years ago at this time, I was in Israel on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee when the wind started picking up.  It whipped through the open boat bringing a shimmer  of excitement.  How easy it was to imagine the King of the Universe calming the wind or walking out on the water to our boat!

Thank you, Abba Father.

Our Father God is in total control of my day today.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Our Father God is in total control of your day today.

Thank you, Abba Father.

The earth continues to revolve because that is his desire.

Thank you, Abba Father.

The bright sun rose in the sky this morning because of God’s love and faithfulness to you and to me.

Thank you, Abba Father.

I will take my next breath because my Father God is making that possible.  He provides the air.  He provides life to this body.

Thank you, Abba Father.

I’m Sold Out!

What would you sell your life for?

It’s a great question because sometimes we dedicate our lives to things that just aren’t worth it.  We can sell our lives to making money and spending it.  But everything we buy gets old, breaks and requires more money to fix it up or replace it. They come out with a new model and now the one we have just doesn’t look that great anymore.

Our ‘stuff’ will always disappoint us.

We can sell our lives to work and accomplishments.  We may love it but, someday, that all goes away.  We get fired, laid off or we just get old.  I retired 5 years ago which meant giving up a really nice paycheck and a lot of rewards and recognition.  But retiring also meant getting my life back.  I loved working and now I love being retired.  I’m glad I worked long and hard for over 34 years at something I loved to do.  Now I’m very happy to reclaim all of those hours in my week and I totally enjoy doing what I want to do.

We can sell our lives to relationships with our spouse, our children, our family and friends.  They are very important but they will also disappoint us at times.  It’s a fact.  These relationships can roller coaster up and down, depending on emotions and circumstances – not something I can always count on.

Achan’s story in God’s Word is a warning to all of us. “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them” Joshua 7:21.  Achan sold his life for a robe and some gold and silver.  It looked too good to pass up.  So he took it and hid it, probably believing he would never get caught.  Not smart. He couldn’t hide from God.  After getting caught, he admitted his disobedience but that didn’t change the consequences. He lost his life for that ‘stuff’ – his entire family and all he owned literally ended up under a pile of rocks.

I hear you, God.  I’m getting it.  I don’t want to end up like that.

So I choose the path of obedience and faithfulness to God.  I know that there is no other path on earth that is going to give me the joy and peace and love that God gives me.

I choose to be ‘sold out’ to God.  And I’m 100% confident that it’s the right choice.

What is your choice?  Are you confident that it’s the right one?

I love you, Abba Father.

A Second Chance

I’ve been there more than once – have you?

Situations where I wish I had a second chance – a redo.  When my heart is aching with regret and my head is rolling with things I shouldn’t have said or things I should have done but didn’t do, I wish I could go back.

If I had the chance to do it over, I would do it so differently!  Can I get a second chance?

What about you?  What’s on your list of should haves, could haves, would haves?

With people, there is never a 100% redo.  The deeds are done, the words have been said.  Forgiveness is possible but wiping out the memory is not.  The regrets can pile up.  Baggage from the past weighs us down as we drag it into our future.

One of my favorite things about God is that he can redeem these situations.   He can and he does make something good come out of them.  He teaches me to grow through these times – helping me mature as he molds my character and thinking.  When I ask for wisdom, he always gives it to me which helps me avoid situations where I need redo’s.

As I read about Rahab in Joshua 2, I can visualize this huge headline on it –

God’s Power of Redemption.

Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho when she met the two spies Joshua had sent into the city to check it out before the Israelites attacked.  Rahab made the courageous decision to put her life on the line for the spies when she hid them from the men the King sent to kill them.  She lied to the king’s men telling them the spies had gone out of the city so the kings men quickly went in pursuit just as the city gates closed for the night.

Meanwhile, the spies were safely hidden on the roof of Rahab’s house.  Rahab knew the Israelites were going to attack – everyone knew it and were very afraid.   When she begged the spies to save her family, they agreed because she had risked her life to save them.  Then Rahab helped the spies escape out of the city and sent them on a different direction from the men who were looking for them.

Later, we will read that Rahab and her family were the only survivors of the attack on Jericho.

It’s obvious that God saved Rahab for a purpose.  He had bigger plans for her.  After God gave her a second chance, she totally changed her direction – she married, had children and became part of the lineage of Christ.  A reformed prostitute was the great, great, too many greats to count,  grandmother of Jesus, God’s son, who came to save the entire world.

God is extremely serious about his redemption business.  He can redeem anyone.

Rahab’s story was obviously shared down through the generations as a popular redemption story because she shows up in the New Testament, “was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction.”  James 2:25.

A prostitute – used as an example of a righteous woman, related to Jesus.  Only God has that kind of love and power.

God is still redeeming your life and my life today.  I don’t have to be stuck in my failures and rebellion of yesterday.  By putting my faith in what Jesus did for me on  the cross, all of that has been forgiven.  I don’t have to be weighed down by the mistakes I’m making today – those have also been forgiven.  I don’t have to be worried or afraid about the things I might mess up in the future because all of it has already been forgiven.

Today I live in grace provided by Jesus, unconditionally loved by my heavenly Father.   I am free.

I am redeemed.

Thank you, Abba.

I’m Stepping In

Stepping up.

Making the first move.

I often ask God to direct my steps.  My prayers regularly include requests for him to show me an opportunity to do what he wants me to do.

Because I’ll do it – I just want to know that its his direction and his timing.

And God responds.  Right before my eyes, he will give me an opportunity to do something he wants done or say something he wants said.

Every time one of these opportunities presents itself, I have to take the first step of faith forward, not knowing what the next step is and never knowing how this is all going to work out.

I just have to take that first step and obey.

I learned this from the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land.  God told the priests carrying the Ark of the LORD to go first.  God told them he would make a way for them but, first, they had to step into the Jordan.  “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during the harvest.  Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.”  Joshua 3: 15-16.

The overflowing water of the Jordan river was roaring down its path…..

and they had to step in.

An act of faith.  An act of obedience.

As soon as the priest’s feet touched the water’s edge, the water stopped flowing.  They had to commit and then they saw God respond.  In the middle of a rushing river, God opened up a path for them to the Promised Land.

It’s important for you and I to understand how this process works.  Too often we want to see God move in our lives but we haven’t stepped out in faith.  We want God to invite us to do great things but we haven’t stepped up to the plate on the things we already know God wants us to do.

For example, Jesus told us clearly, “Love God and love others.”  These are the two main things I need to be about – I already know that.  No question about it.  I find that when I’m focused on doing these things that God has already told me to do, I see God part the waters for me.  He blesses my last step and reveals my next step.

But the first step of obedience is mine.  The first step is your’s.

Where is God asking you to take that first step of obedience?  Go ahead – step into the water and watch it part in front of you.  It will be worth it.

I believe, Abba Father, so I’m stepping in.