Doing My Own Thing

Deciding for myself what is best for me.

Reacting – and sometimes over-reacting – to the situations around me.

Spending my money on me and what I want.

Determining my next step without consulting anyone.  And then quickly going down that path without stopping to evaluate whether it’s the right one for me.

Spending all my time on what I want to do or what I think is best for me.

Any of these describe your life?

I definitely find myself in these situations sometimes.

Do you know how God responds to us when we act like this?

“You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 12:6.

I want to go my own way?  He let’s me.

Don’t get me wrong – he still loves me.

He hears.

He cares.

It breaks his heart when I wander away and abandon him in any part of my life.

God lets me have this freedom of choice because he wants my whole heart.  He wants me to choose him over myself.

If I don’t choose to line my life up with his truth, he lets me.  And then I pay the consequences for those bad choices.  Sometimes very long-term consequences.

We share this broken world together so I know you’ve been there.  You might be there right now.

Saying whatever you want to say when you’re angry – how well does that work?

Spending all of your time working.  Too busy to spend any time with God.  Where has that gotten you?

Spending all your money on ‘stuff’ and  finding yourself deeply in debt.  Yeah – the consequences of not being obedient with our money are nasty.  Stressful.  Depressing.   And can last a very long time.

And God lets us.

Because he wants us to learn to choose him over everything else.

Everything else.

How are we doing?  Are we choosing God and what he wants? Where do we need to improve?  Or maybe we need to start.

There is no better time than now.

Thank you for never really abandoning us, Abba Father.

It’s Not Working

I’m an achiever. I like to get things done. I’m also a planner and organizer so I can make sure they get done.

There have been situations in my life in the past where I have struggled and worked and persevered to make something happen only to discover that it wasn’t the right thing. It didn’t work out.

So disappointing. Have you been there?

As my faith in God has grown, I have realized that I want God’s plans for my life to become reality, not my own plans. The truth is he knows everything, he has the power to do anything and his plans are perfect.

Mine aren’t.

So now I talk to God about what he wants, watch to see where he is moving and then join him in what he is doing. Does it surprise you that great things happen when I do this?

I’m not surprised.

Does it surprise you that sometimes I forget to do this?

I’m not surprised.

As I’m reading King Jeroboam’s story in 1 Kings, I am reminded of some of the disappointments I had when I was trying to do things my own way. Jeroboam was setting up his own kingdom in Israel without asking God what he wanted and Jeroboam was making a lot of bad decisions. But he persevered and made everything happen just like he wanted it.

Then, one day, the king stretched out his hand to command to his men to seize the prophet of God (another bad decision) and his hand shriveled up.

Wow! That got Jeroboam’s attention!

Jeroboam knew exactly who shriveled up his hand so he said to the prophet of God , “Intercede with the LORD our God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” 1 Kings 13: 6. This was a good decision – God instantly restored the king’s hand.

God doesn’t usually make hands shrivel up today but he is constantly trying to guide us down the right paths so we make good decisions. Since I’m a planner and organizer and doer, I have to be careful to listen to God and not just use my own skills to make stuff happen. Even when I’m sure I’m on the path where God wants me, if things just aren’t working, I’ve learned to stop and look to God – is he trying to redirect me? Did I misunderstand? – before I just push through to make it happen.

Years ago I decided that, before putting a big effort into climbing a wall, I’m going to make sure it’s the right wall.

When I am keeping my eyes on God, studying his Word and spending time with him, he shows me when I’m getting off track. I ask him to open doors or close doors – somehow show me if I’m going down the right path or not.

And he does. There are times when he opens my eyes to a different next step than I was planning. In other situations, he encourages me and I know I’m supposed to keep moving forward even when the going gets tough.

By focusing on what God wants – not what I want – God doesn’t have to try hard to get my attention. It’s a great way to avoid climbing the wrong wall and experiencing nasty consequences.

No shriveled hands here.

Thank you for your truth and guidance, Abba Father.

Meaningless

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, ” completely meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 12:8.

Do you ever feel that way?

Obviously this emotion is spreading rapidly through our culture today as we see the suicide rates drastically rising and mass shootings multiply.  To many people, tomorrow seems to be meaningless and not worth sticking around for.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”  Eccl. 2:11

King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.  He was uber rich and  the wisest man who ever lived and yet, this is what he wrote at the end of his life.

Pretty depressing, isn’t it?

The futility of pleasure – fleeting and never gives us lasting  contentment.

The meaninglessness of work –  we put so much effort into work to achieve recognition and so we can own things we want – then we leave it all behind when we die.

The injustices of life – evil is very real.

The futility of wealth – those who love money will never have enough.

The limits of human wisdom – “wisdom is difficult to find.”

Death comes to all – “the same destiny (of death) awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad.”

At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon finally gets to the good news.  Solomon’s final conclusions tell us what will bring true meaning to our lives.

He says to enjoy life while obeying God – real freedom and happiness come exclusively from God.  Evil and injustice will always in a part of life on earth.  We should live in faith knowing God wins in the end and will judge all things.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, tells us that meaning and purpose will only be found by being faithful to God.

That alone is not meaningless.

Thank you for giving my life meaning and purpose, Abba Father.

Too Easy

It’s just too easy to wander away from God.

I know because I wandered away for several years when I was a young adult.    I moved away from home and gradually filled my calendar with activities I knew were not the best for me.  The people I met while doing these activities weren’t interested in a relationship with God so we never talked about him.  My whole lifestyle changed to ‘looking for love (and fun) in all the wrong places.”

It was easy.

Several years later, I woke up (with a lot of nudging from the Holy Spirit) and realized I was not where I wanted to be.  Don’t get me wrong – I had worked hard and gotten everything I thought I wanted – everything I thought would make me happy.

But I wasn’t happy.  I was empty.  I had a huge hole in my life.  I needed a meaningful purpose for getting up every morning beyond feeding the kids, paying the bills and getting my ‘to-do’ lists done.

It took me awhile to figure out that the aching hole in my life was where God was supposed to be.  I’m sure the Holy Spirit had to work very hard on me to get me to see that.  My relationship with God at this point had melted into nonexistence.

I realized I missed God.  I missed my spiritual family.

I’m extremely grateful that the Holy Spirit helped me identify my real need and desire so I could get back on track.  My relationship with God has given me all the purpose and joy and success that I was looking for.

I’ve seen many Christians wander away –

  • their Bible starts gathering dust on a shelf.
  • social activities on Saturday nights make sleeping in on Sunday mornings more important than worshiping God with their spiritual families.
  • their week becomes too busy with other things so they drop out of small group Bible studies, leaving their Christian friends behind.
  • Christians stopped going to church during our pandemic and have never gone back.  It is just so easy to wander away from being a part of a church family like God directs us to be, so easy to watch church in our pajamas on Sunday and check it off the list, ignoring God’s words in Hebrews 10: 24 – 25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I am reminded that this can happen to anyone when I read about the end of King Solomon’s life.  “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”  1 Kings 11:4.  He was the wisest man who ever lived and he lost it.   Unbelievable!

God had even told Solomon when he was younger not to marry foreign wives because this would happen.

Solomon was warned and he still wandered.

I feel like God is warning me – and you – today through his Word.   I must be diligent about keeping my priorities straight.  When attitudes and activities start to draw me away from God, I need to adjust my focus.

I wandered away once.  I’m determined not to do it again.

Please keep me close to your side, Abba Father.

Where Can I Find It?

Am I ever satisfied?

Are you?

We live in a culture where it’s very difficult to be content because there is always ‘bigger and better’.  There is always more.

How do I find this illusive thing called peace when I am surrounded by all of this?

God tells me through King Solomon in Proverbs 3 how to find peace, satisfaction and prosperity in my life.

  • Never forget what God has taught me.
  • Be loyal and loving.
  • Trust in God – be dependent on his power and strength and understanding, not my own.
  • Make fulfilling God’s will for my life my goal. “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6.
  • Keep on the path God directs me to take.
  • Turn away from evil.  Respect God and give him the credit for all the good things in my life. Never get too impressed with myself.
  • Honor God with my time and treasures.
  • Accept my Father’s discipline.  He loves me and wants the best for me.
  • Ask God for wisdom – it is precious and nothing else will bring me satisfaction.
  • Hang on to my common sense and discernment – they will help keep me unafraid and I’ll be able to sleep at night.
  • Love and encourage others.
  • Don’t envy violent or wicked people.  At first, I would say that I would never envy violent or wicked people.  But then, I think about some people I know who have ‘gotten away’ with things that were not right but it brought them pleasure or financial gain.  Did I ever wish that was me? “The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the house of the righteous.” Proverbs 3:33.

That’s a great list!  It’s interesting to me that things like ‘get an education so you can get a good job and make a lot of money’ aren’t on here. There’s nothing on this list that tells me that buying stuff and owning that boat or that cabin or that new car is going to bring me satisfaction.

How are you doing on this list? Have you found contentment? Peace?

This list is all about God working with us to grow our faith, grow our character and grow our wisdom.

Amen.  Let it be so, Abba Father.

Foolish

What was this person thinking?

I can’t believe this person wrote that!

There are times when I feel surrounded by crowds of people who are not thinking, not using logic, and not caring about the facts. These people seem to be reacting purely out of emotion – to everything.

And sometimes its hard not to respond back in the same way. It would feel good – for a minute – to blurt out my own emotional response….but then I would regret that I was acting just like they were. Without thinking. That’s not good.

God generously gives you and I some wisdom in this situation in Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly; or you yourself will be just like him.”

Yep, when I answer a foolish statement with my own emotional, foolish statement, I am on the wrong track. The right track is to look to God for wisdom and discernment. And to keep my mouth closed until he gives me the right answer.

God tells me in Proverbs 9: 7-9 to forget about correcting a fool. Their response will be to insult me, abuse me and hate me. But a wise person learns from correction and grows wiser.

That’s the kind of person I want to be – a wise person who is learning and being transformed by the truth of God.

Proverbs is full of God’s wisdom regarding all kinds of situations we find ourselves in.

Thank you for your precious Word to us, Abba Father.

Soaking it In

Solomon gave us an enormous amount of wisdom in Proverbs but it’s in such small, short statements that I find it hard to make sure I’m absorbing it – not just reading it and moving on.  I want God’s Word to soak into my life – changing and transforming me.

One of the many things I like about the Chronological Daily Bible I read through every year is the proverbs are grouped by subject matter.  This helps me slow down and consider the overall message God is giving me about each topic.

For example, God talks to us often in Proverbs about the actions of fools versus the actions of the wise.  This list highlights the temperament of each.  As I read them and think about them, I see these comparisons:

The fool – 

*gets annoyed quickly.

*shows their insecurities through their quick temper.

*jumps in on mean and evil schemes.

*stirs up conflict and commits many sins.

*wants to control other people.

*hasn’t learned their lesson so don’t rescue them.  You’ll just have to rescue them again.

The wise –

*respects and honors God, avoiding thoughts and actions that aren’t consistent with God’s Word.

*does not encourage conflict, calms a quarrel.

*has self control.

*does not make friends with hot-tempered people.

*does not associate with those who are easily angered.

God is pointing out us that the wise are involved in the world around them while maintaining a focus on living out the word of God.  They are not quick-tempered because they have self control.  They don’t ignore quarrels, they calm them.  And they don’t regularly hangout with hotheads.

Wise.

Take an honest look – which list do you see yourself on?

Please help me be wise, Abba Father.

Proverbs 2 – Our Prayer

Dear Father,

We thank you for the understanding you give us as we read your word – your direction feeds our souls. We open our ears to hear your wisdom, we seek understanding.

We call out to you – please give us insight!  We cry aloud for more understanding!

We search for wisdom – it is more precious to us than silver.  It is the hidden treasure of understanding and knowledge of you, dear God.

You are the key to all wisdom, Father.  You give success to us as we seek you.  You shield us as we walk closely with you.  You guard us when we act with integrity and you protect our way when we are faithful.

We desire to know what is right for us – the good path which you have planned out for each one of us.

We ask for wisdom to fill our hearts.  May our souls be complete with the knowledge of you. Please teach us to use discretion as protection and to use our understanding to guard our hearts.

Thank you, dear Father.

Living Right

I’ve reading through Proverbs right now on my journey through the Bible this year.  There is such a wealth of knowledge and great direction in this book, it is impossible to actually take it all in.   So I ask God to open my eyes and heart to what he is trying to teach me.

God regularly points out to me the Proverbs concerning righteousness.

Righteousness is an old-fashioned term that doesn’t seem to relate to my world today… until I remember it means ‘living right’.  Doing the right things.  Making the right decisions.  Saying the right things.

How do I know what is right?  God’s Word is right.  It’s the truth.  God himself speaks to me through the Bible, explaining it and helping me apply it to my life.  The Holy Spirit convicts me when my thinking gets off and my actions don’t reflect what I believe.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit uses other people to help us see where our thinking is going wrong.  I used to get very confused and disillusioned by people who said they were Christians but were not acting like what I thought a Christian should act like.  I was regularly disappointed with what people said and did – especially in the church.  I was in leadership positions in my church for many years and those of you who have been there know what that means.  Unfortunately, too many people in churches use their leaders as punching bags and complaint boxes.

I will never forget one day when I was talking to my husband about my frustration concerning someone we knew who was saying that God had healed them but they obviously were not healed.  “Why is she saying that when it’s not true?” I asked him.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Judy, you have to stop looking at people.  Focus your eyes on Jesus.”

That did it.  I stopped looking around the world for a role-model on how to ‘live right’ and put my eyes on Jesus.   This has helped me move past major issues with people in the church.  I realize that Christians are just people and we’re all struggling with our sin and weaknesses.  As believers, God has redeemed our lives but he is still in the process of helping each of us become more like Jesus.

When I focused on Jesus, my issues with imperfect Christians disappeared.

While he was on earth, Jesus gave imperfect Christians grace and love and spoke truth at the right time into their lives.  I’m so glad he still treats us this way, because I am imperfect and will not become perfect until after I leave this earth.

Speaking to other people with grace and love and truth.  Jesus did it – it’s the right thing to do.

Thank you, Abba Father.

My Greatest Treasure

My greatest treasure is not money,

or fame,

or any of my ‘stuff’.

My  greatest treasure is wisdom.  Wisdom – so I can navigate successfully through all of the valleys and hills  and blind curves of my life.  I’ve been memorizing wisdom scripture for many years.  I have a bad memory so it is really God who is etching his Word on my heart – I just faithfully get out my memory cards every day.  I found out why God commands me to memorize his truth 6 years ago when tragedy blew my life apart.  God used the words he carved into my brain to keep my soul from crumbling into a million painful pieces when my son was killed in the line of duty.

James tells us in his first chapter that God gives us generous amounts of wisdom when we ask for it.  I’ve been asking, I need it and I’m not going stop.

We read in 1 King 10 that the historically famous Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon.  She had heard about King Solomon’s extreme wealth but she was not interested in that — she was crazy rich herself.  She was not interested in his palaces or any of his numerous possessions.

The Queen of Sheba came to test Solomon’s wisdom.  That’s what motivated her to take a very dangerous 1200 mile trip on camels through a desert filled with thieves and criminals.

When the Queen of Sheba asked Solomon all of her many questions, he had an answer for everything.  She was surprised.  She didn’t think any man could have that kind of wisdom.

Before she left, she talked about how happy Solomon’s people must have been to be in his presence and hear his wisdom every day.

I can’t help thinking – is anyone who hangs out with you and me happy about all the wisdom they hear from us every day?

All wisdom comes from God and he generously gives it to us when we ask.  It is our greatest treasure.

Thank you,  Abba Father.