Where Is It?

Where can I find satisfaction?

Is contentment even a possibility for you?

God speaks to you and me in Haggai about the negative consequences that happen when we have our priorities wrong –

We work hard but have little to show for it…except for a lot of bills.

We eat but there is still a hunger in our souls.

We drink but we are still thirsty….for something.

We put on clothes but then we need to buy more because the last thing we bought didn’t satisfy us.

Our money disappears like we’re putting it in pockets filled with holes.

Can you relate to any of those?

I can.  I have experienced all of those at different times of my life when my eyes were focused on something other than God.

I love how God uses the pictures of a pocket full of holes.  Before I put God first in my finances, it felt like all of my pockets had holes in them.  And was I satisfied?  No!

I learned that if my life is about money and stuff, I will never have enough.  And that is what God is telling you and I today in Haggai.  God was talking to the Israelites because they were busy building their own houses while ignoring the rebuilding of God’s house, the Temple.

What is keeping you and I too busy to put God first in our lives?

God is telling us to get our priorities straight and THEN we will find satisfaction.

Thank you for your truth, Abba Father.

My Special Possession

Do you have a special possession?

If someone asked me that, I would have to think awhile because I’m not very attached to “things”.   I’d probably say the ring that my mother left to me when she went home to heaven is special to me. It became invaluable to me after she was gone.

My own wedding ring is also important to me.  It symbolizes almost 40 years of love and commitment between my husband and I.  Every five years we changed or added to my ring so when I look at it, I see the history of us building a marriage that has lasted through many storms.  After our son who was a Phoenix Police Officer was killed in the line of duty, I added some blue sapphires onto my wedding ring in honor and remembrance of a great son and the awesome man he grew up to be.  Precious.

My eyes were opened to my real answer to that question this morning as I was reading in Ezekiel that God says he is the special possession of the priests.  The priests were not allowed to own any property or land.  God was all they needed.  God took care of them and he didn’t want them to be distracted by other possessions.

Wow!  This applies to me!  God takes care of me and provides for me.  He doesn’t want me to be distracted by possessions.

My relationship with God is my very special possession.  I can’t imagine life without him.  There is nothing I own –  my mother’s ring and my ring included – that gives me the love, joy and strength that God gives me.  Nothing gives me the forgiveness and freedom that only comes from God.

Yes, God is my special possession.  My relationship with him is so much more precious and perfect than anything I could every buy or own.

I live my life in gratitude for all you are, Abba Father, and for all you have done for me.

 

 

Life-giving

He doesn’t make us give up good things.

He doesn’t make our lives boring and rigid.

In Ezekiel God calls his laws ‘life-giving” and that’s exactly what I have experienced.

I have to explain first – I have a strong rebellious streak (which is no news to God) so I think of the words ‘God’s laws’ more like ‘rules’ that a good Father makes because he loves his children so much and wants the best for them.  God’s laws come from love, not from control, ignorance or anger.

My Father’s rules give me a life of freedom from the guilt and shame caused by my sins.    I am free to live each day in his grace and strength and love.

Living in line with God takes away any loneliness I might feel because he is always with me – loving and guiding me.

It’s life-giving.

Knowing God relieves me from worry and anxiety.  He is in control – now and into eternity.  I’m so glad I don’t need to try to control my world anymore.  The truth is I was never in control anyway – no matter how much I fretted about it and worked at it.

God’s got this – all this.  It’s life-giving.

Watching God move in my life and in the lives of others is constantly exciting because nothing,

nothing!

is impossible for God.

It’s life-giving.

Listening to God’s directions gives my life purpose and meaning.  This is extremely important to me.  He gives me motivation to get up in the morning.  God’s faithfulness is amazing as he teaches me how to keep growing my faith and obedience.

It’s life-giving.

I don’t have to give up anything I don’t want to give up.  In reality, there have been a lot of things I chose to give up because God showed me they were not good for me.  They weren’t helping me grow closer to him and they were sabotaging my efforts towards some things I really wanted – like a great marriage, awesome kids, a fulfilling career and making a positive difference in my world.  I gave up those things because I chose to give them up.  I traded them for God’s best in my life.

My Father’s life-giving rules are his very best for me.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

His Breath

Tired.

Dried out.

Lifeless.

Ever feel that way?

Do you feel that way now?

Good news!  God tells us through Ezekiel that he can bring us back to life.  He is able to breathe life back into our souls so that we can become alive in him again.

I know this is true because I’ve experienced it.

In my late 20’s I was what I call a ‘cultural Christian’.  I had loved God and believed in Jesus my whole life but my personal relationship with God was pretty non-existent at that time.  My family went to church and I sang in the choir.  I sat in the congregation on Sunday and commented on what a great sermon it was but I rarely remembered it past the parking lot.   I prayed – but I never listened.  I never watched for God’s answer.

I was too busy with all the other things I thought I wanted.  I had a great husband, two awesome kids, a good start on career, nice cars and our first house.  Everything was great, right?

Then why did I feel so anxious and lost and stressed all the time?  I had everything I thought I needed but my life still felt very empty.  If this is all there was, I didn’t want it.  It was all wayyyyyyy too much work.

My husband was going through a similar angst and he began to be discipled by a very Godly man.  As I watched, I was amazed to see my husband gradually find the joy and fulfillment that I was looking for.

Wow!  I never even considered that a relationship with God could be the answer to my emptiness.

So I opened up my heart and mind to God.  One of the pivotal steps I took was to become a member of a small group who was studying the Bible and getting serious about their relationships with God.

Through studying God’s word and experiencing the power of small group Bible studies, I started to hear God.  I began to know his voice.  And he challenged me to seriously put him first in my life.

No Way!  That was a crazy idea!  I already had a husband, kids, career, family, friends and church on my plate.  I was struggling every day not lose ‘me’ in all of that.

But I knew I had to try something.  I realized that my lack of purpose and joy wasn’t going to work long term.  The cracks that were starting to show up in my life were going to break wide open if I kept running on empty.

So I gradually started to put God first.

As I read and listened and opened up my heart to God, I began to feel the hole in my life start to fill up.  He breathed a fresh wind of his love and grace and strength into my soul.

I discovered that God wanted me to put him first in my life so he could help me with all the rest.  He has made me a better wife, a better mother, a better boss, a better sister and a better friend.  That’s what he does when we put him first.

God’s love has filled my life to the point that it overflows onto the people around me.  The two greatest commandments – loving God and loving others – are accomplished in our lives by doing the first one.   When we really love God with all our hearts, we experience so much of his love that it naturally runs over into the lives of the people around us.

All orchestrated by God as he breathes life deep into our souls.

There are no dry bones here.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Under Attack

I’ve been there.

Have you?

I have often felt the attacks of the Evil one.  So I can relate to the Israelites when I read in Jeremiah that the siege ramps were being built against the walls of Jerusalem.  The attack is coming!  I can feel it.

I’ve been there.

When I read that the city will be conquered through war, famine and disease, it all sounds familiar.  Attacked on all sides – I’ve been there.

How does Satan attack me?  It’s not unusual for my computer to start not working well when I sit down to enter these blogs.  If my computer is behaving, then the internet or WordPress will start being uncooperative.  Satan doesn’t like these blogs and he doesn’t try to hide it.

Satan also tries to distract me from the Truth with his whispers in my head at night trying to make me question the fact that God is good.  I normally start reciting scripture and the whispers stop.  My questions also stop because I am reminded of the truth.

Satan often tries to get me to focus on the negative things in my life.  He’ll pile on the junk trying to get me to think about all of that instead of God.  He attempts to make bitterness, frustration and unforgiveness look like the natural response to situations in my life.  Regular reading and study of God’s word keeps me grounded in the Truth.

None of these attacks are working, Satan.

Meanwhile, I know God’s Army of Angels surround me and they are fighting my battles in the spiritual realm.  We already know the end of this story – God and his armies are the winners.

Satan with his siege ramps has no power unless I give it to him.

And he isn’t getting a toehold here.

Thank you for your Truth and your Army of Angels, Abba Father.

A Bad Idea

We all have probably done it.  And most of us have done it more than once.

I know for a fact that I have.

I have found myself in a difficult situation making a deal with God.  “If you take care of this, I will ________ (fill in the blank).

Too often, God takes care of his side of the bargain and I forget all about my promise.

Yes, my promise.  That’s how God looks at it.

When I don’t do what I told him I would do, I am breaking my promise to  God.

Bad idea.

The Israelites often had this very bad idea.  Jeremiah tells us that God worked through King Hezekiah who decreed that the Israelites were supposed to free all of the Hebrew slaves.  God had already commanded that the Hebrew slaves be freed after serving 6 years but the people had been ignoring this for a long time.

We are told that the people initially obeyed God’s command but then later “they changed their minds”.  They took all the slaves back.  I get it – going back to doing all the work themselves was not fun but breaking your promise to God is going to be a whole lot less fun.  Trust me.

Since the Israelites had “shrugged off” their oath and did not free the slaves, God told them he was going to set them ‘free’ from his protection.  They were now ‘free’ to be destroyed by war, disease and famine.

Wow!  That’s not the freedom I want.

There are consequences when we ‘shrug off’ our promises to God.  Our lack of obedience does not go unnoticed.  Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus are under God’s new covenant of grace so he will not set us free from his love and care.  But, as a Good Father, he lets us pay the consequences for our bad decisions.  He walks beside us – guiding and encouraging us.  But we pay – because then we learn….

eventually….

Some of us are slower learners than others.

One of the many things I have learned is to take my promises to God extremely seriously.  I don’t make them unless I totally plan on keeping them.  I’m going to avoid “changing my mind” and “shrugging it off” when it gets too difficult.  That way I can also avoid the negative consequences that can happen.

It’s a very good idea.

Please help me keep my promises, Abba Father.

Branded by the Truth

It’s very different.

We are the created ones.  And God’s old relationship with us was broken by our rebellion and sin.  That’s one of the reasons why the Old Testament is filled with violence and gore.  That’s why there was continual conflict and strife between God and humans in the Old Testament.

Sin was in the middle of everything – messing it up.

But God already had a plan to fix this.  He was sending Jesus, his Son, to pay the price of all our sins for all time.  Because of what Jesus did through his death and resurrection, those of us who accept salvation through him can have a personal relationship with God which begins here on earth and extends into eternity.

In Jeremiah, God describes the New Testament relationship that is coming,  ” I will put my instructions deep within them and I will write them on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”

Thank you, Father God, for sending your Son, Jesus, who offers salvation and freedom to everyone.  Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit deep within my soul when I put my faith in Jesus.  I hear the instructions of your Spirit and I love your Word which is written on my heart.  I never really knew what it meant to have your Word etched into my heart until you challenged me to get serious about memorizing it.  I am now branded by your Truth – thank you for making that happen.  You get the credit since I still can’t remember any trivia and I forget my address and telephone number sometimes but I can recite chapters of scripture. 

I am so very grateful that you are my God and I am your daughter – forever.  In the redeeming name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

You’ve Heard It

I’m sure you’ve heard this famous verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What an awesome promise!  We love to hang onto this one and quote it often.

But did you realize that this promise was originally made to the Israelites who had been exiled by God to Babylon?  God had let the King of Babylon capture Jerusalem and take the Israelites away from their homes.  Right before his promise concerning his good plans for them, God told Israel through Jeremiah that they would be in exile for 70 years.

70 years.

This meant that many of them would die in Babylon – never going back to Jerusalem.

God said he would come and bring them home after these 70 years and then he goes on with this famous verse, “For I know the plans I have for you……”

The Israelites had been ripped away from the homes they had expected to live in for the rest of their lives.  They were now living in a foreign land – exiled.

Do you ever feel like you have been exiled?

I have.

I do.

The life I expected to live was suddenly snatched away from me when my son was killed in the line of duty three years ago.  My world has changed so drastically that sometimes it feels like I am now living in a foreign land.  I’m exiled from the life I expected to live.

And today, God is saying to me – and maybe to you – that I will continue to live in this foreign place until he comes to take me home.  While I’m here, he has plans for me.  He is giving me hope and a purpose.

After his initial, famous promise, God gives me more promises.  He tells me that when I pray, he will listen.  When I diligently look for him, I will find him.

I know God always keeps his promises – that’s a fact.  I have discovered that reading his Word, absorbing what he is saying to me and trusting him gives me the strength and hope I need for each day as I live out the rest of my days here in exile.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

Slippery Paths

Have you been there?  I have –

I’ve found myself on a slippery path before.

A decision was made without a lot of thinking and – boom – I’m slipping down a slope – going somewhere I never wanted to go.  Or the wrong thing just slips out of my mouth to the wrong people at the wrong time and now I’m stuck in a place where it’s said, it’s done.

How did I get here?

Jeremiah tells us about how slippery our paths can become when we wander away from God.  He says we can feel like we are being chased through the dark – how did he know about our middle of the night fears and anxiety?

I know there is only one thing to do when I find myself going down a slippery path or find my anxious thoughts chasing sleep away in the middle of the night. 

I need to turn to God.  He will lead me back to solid ground.  He will guide my thoughts with his truth and his love.

There are no slippery paths with God.

Thank you, Abba Father.