It’s Not Okay

I’m surprised at how often I find myself doing it – rationalizing.

Making up excuses for bad choices.

Telling myself that something is ‘not that bad’.

Do you do this, too?

Do you tell yourself “everyone’s doing it” or “no one will ever know” when you think about doing something that’s not totally the right thing to do?

God’s words through Isaiah are very clear about our tendency to rationalize away bad decisions.  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”. Isaiah 5:20.

Woe to me when I call evil good…..or call evil okay…..or call evil just easier.  These words echo through my head as I recommit to stop rationalizing things.

I need to be discerning – don’t accept evil as good, don’t call shades of darkness light.

I need to be wise – this doesn’t mean I go around judging other people.  God is their judge.  I’m focusing on my behavior and my values and my choices.  I’m focusing on calling good good and calling evil evil in my life.

Stop the excuses, stop the rationalizing.

Please open my eyes, Abba Father.

What If?

What if our sin and rebellion showed on the outside?

I’m reading in 2 Chronicles that King Uzziah became unfaithful to God and there was a visual consequence.  “King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died.  He lived in a separate house – leprous and banned from the temple of the Lord.” verse 21.  Everyone could see result of the king’s sin.

On second thought, I think many of our sins also show on the outside.  We don’t have leprosy but some of us have broken relationships that are easy to see.  Did these relationships break because of our lack of forgiveness and patience?

Others of us have very difficult financial situations on our lives that are no secret to those around us and are direct consequences of putting ‘things’ in front of God on our list of priorities.

Many of us struggle with very visible anger and frustration because of our selfishness and lack of self-control.

Those of us who ignore God and fail to live our life by faith, can be filled with fear because we trust other things like money, careers and relationships to give us security.  This stress is visible in our lives because we know – deep inside – that none of these things are secure.

Yep – all of this shows on the outside.

But it begins on the inside  – with our heart.  That’s why God starts his transformation on the inside.

God has brought his love and light and truth and grace into my heart – transforming me one step at a time.  And I’ve noticed that- gradually – the change happening on the inside starts to show on the outside.

God wants to do the same transformation for you –

will you let him?

Thank you for your transforming love and grace, Abba Father.

More Than Enough

Dear Father,

You are more than enough for us.

Our desire is to be faithful to you today and every day.  We want to be anchored to you so that we don’t drift away.

Please help us understand your wisdom and directions.  Reveal the truth to us.  Make the lies and traps that surround us clear to us so we can avoid their snares.

Your’s is the only voice we want to follow – please make us deaf to all others.

Your prophet Hosea reminds us that it is wrong to make other things more important in our lives that you, Father. “My people consult a wooden idol, a diviner’s rod speaks to them.  The spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.” Hosea 4:12. 

We don’t consult wooden idols or diviner’s rods anymore but we regularly give large amounts of our time and energy to things in our world which have no eternal value – making money, buying things, building our careers, looking for a good time. 

Why do we so easily let these things take a higher priority in our lives than you do, dear God? 

We’re disappointed when our children follow our lead and get drawn into the mess of our culture.  They are simply following our example.  They see all of the ‘gods’ in our lives so they develop their own.

You are the only true God.

You deserve our devotion and our love.

Please continue to draw us closer, Abba Father.

The Truth

I need to know the truth. You need to know the truth.

And we won’t know the truth by listening to our culture – it is full of lies and half-truths and rationalizations.

Where’s the only place we can find real truth?

God’s Word. The Bible.

I have a huge thirst to know the real truth. I don’t need to hear what he thinks or she thinks or they think or even what you think.

What God thinks – that’s what is important to me.

This thirst has taken me on an 11 year journey of reading through the Bible every year. Somewhere in the middle – like year 4 or 5 – I started saying things like “that’s not in the Bible’ when people quoted things that just aren’t there. One of these things you and I hear often is not true – “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. Not in there. That’s one of the most misquoted scriptures we hear.

I know if what someone is saying is in the Bible about 90% of the time. If anyone says something new, I always look it up. Sometimes I learn something new and other times I realize that what they were telling everyone was not true.

What’s also important is that I know what’s missing when listening to a preacher or teacher teach from the Bible. One of the reasons I read the entire Bible is to get a big picture of God, an overall understanding. So I can tell when someone is leaving something out because its too controversial or maybe they don’t agree with it.

I don’t care if its controversial or you don’t like it. It’s in the Bible. That’s the truth. God calls us to adjust our lives to his truth – not the other way around

Unfortunately, I’m hearing about more and more pastors who are adjusting God’s truth to make people happy. They leave out the tough parts because, well, maybe people won’t like it and they will leave the church.

I’ve talked to several good Christian people I know who have left their church because the pastor started veering away from the truth. A denomination that I was a part of for many years is currently deciding whether they are going to take the Bible literally or change what they preach to fit what people ‘think’ is right. What??

The prophet Amos predicated times like these. “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” Amos 8: 11&12.

We don’t have to stagger around searching for the Word of the Lord. His Word is in the Bible if we make sure we have a credible Bible. People have actually changed words in the Bible to fit what they think as well.

Any doubt that there is a famine?

Our Bible can be and should be in our hands and entering our minds every day as we read and apply God’s truth to our lives. You can’t count on anyone else to make sure you know the truth.

God has given my husband and I an awesome new church in Denver with a pastor who preaches the Word unapologetically. When he gets on a controversial subject and boldly proclaims what God says about it, my church family erupts in clapping and ‘Amens’ because we know we would not be hearing this truth in some other churches.

We are in a famine but we have what we need to feed ourselves – God’s Word.

Thank you for your truth in your Word, Abba Father.

Stumbling

Who is wise and discerning?  They will understand that God’s path is the right path and they will walk in it.

The book of Hosea ends with this truth – But those who rebel stumble.

How do they stumble?  They spend many hours on things with little or no ultimate value.  They spend a lot of money on things that provide little or no satisfaction.  They spend much energy looking for something that will complete them and give them a purpose when the Provider of these does not live on this earth.

Those who refuse to acknowledge God as Creator and Savior will stumble.  And they will continue to stumble until they submit to God and get on his path.

Meanwhile, God opens the eyes of the wise so they can walk with him.  There are still small stumbles but they know how to get back on the right path.

How do we walk right with God?  By loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul and loving others.  Simple….yet profound.  When we do this, we are transformed, we make a difference.

When we walk with God, he completes us and gives us a purpose.

He also gives us joy.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Wasted Time

I only have so much time here on this planet – I shouldn’t waste it.  If there is one lesson that has been engraved on my mind these last few years, it’s ‘Life is short”.

I truly never knew how extremely short life can be until my son was killed.  One moment he was here and the next he was gone.

My life flipped upside down in that one moment.

Life is short – I have no time to waste.

Just like Jonah – he had no time to waste.  So it’s a little frustrating to read about Jonah going through his big drama of disobeying God’s direction to go to Ninevah.  Jonah decided to go the other direction, got caught on a ship in a big storm, was thrown overboard by sailors and spent 3 days in a huge fish at the bottom of the ocean.  It was there that he repented and reached out to God. (bottom of the ocean, end of our rope – sound familiar?)

Jonah used a bunch of time running from God before finally deciding to obey him by going to Ninevah.   “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2.  When Jonah turned back to him, God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out on the beach so Jonah could go ahead and do what God asked him to do in the first place.

That whole first whale trip was just a big waste of time and energy!

Wait a minute – do I do this?

Do you do this?

I have to admit that I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past disobeying God.  I ignored what I knew was right.  I did what I wanted to do and gained nothing from it.  It was useless – a waste of time.

One of my life goals now is to obey God the first time.  I want to stop wasting time and energy while disobeying.

I want to avoid getting hit by the 2×4 that eventually comes our way when we ignore the lessons God is trying to teach us. God. The issue or problem doesn’t go away when we disobey – it grows.  And it continues to grow until it’s too big and bad to ignore any longer.

Have you ever been hit by God’s 2×4 as a consequence for avoiding his directions? Have you found yourself at the end of your rope? Or stuck at the bottom of the sea like Jonah?

I have.  It’s a wake up call.  An enormous red flag pops up and starts whipping through my life.  It seems like everything starts going wrong at the same time but, in reality, this issue has been gradually building steam while I prioritized other things.  Because he is a good Father, God doesn’t ignore me when I’m trying to ignore him.  He lets the consequences of my own actions grow until it’s just like getting hit by a 2×4.  By then, the issue has become too enormous and too awful – I cannot continue to look the other way.  Newsflash from God – attitudes and behaviors and priorities need to change – and they need to change NOW!

I got it, God!  I have learned my lesson and I intend to obey right away from now on.  No more 2×4’s in my life if I can help it!

I have also learned that obedience up front, the first time, brings additional blessings of peace and strength that come from being in line with God and in step with the Spirit.

Obeying right away is never a waste of time.

Thank you for teaching me this important lesson, Abba Father.

Not a Coincidence

You call them coincidences.  Situations come together and there’s an unexpected check or a conflict resolves itself without you doing anything or you get an awesome yet much needed surprise at just the right time.  How great!  Wow!  What a coincidence!

But it’s not a coincidence.  It’s a God-incidence.  It didn’t just happen – God made it happen.  Every day God goes ahead of me, working things out for my good.  When I get to tomorrow, he has already been there, taking care of the details and organizing blessings for me.

So I can relate to King Jehoshaphat’s story when the people of Judah were being attacked by a huge combined army made up of several of their enemies.  A prophet of God had just told Jehoshaphat, “This is what the Lord says to you; ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20: 15.  Jehoshaphat believed this message from God and told his people to “Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” verse 20.

Then he appointed a group of men to go in front of his army singing praises to the LORD.

This creates a vivid picture in my mind of this army of tough, armor-clad soldiers carrying their swords and shields while men lifting praises to God marched in front of them, leading the way.

While the army of Judah was marching toward battle, God set ambushes against the enemy army.  The individual armies within that enormous army started fighting amongst themselves and totally destroyed each other.

When the army of Judah got to the top of the hill that overlooked the desert where they were going to fight, all they saw were dead bodies.  The battle was over and they were victorious!

A God-incident.  He took care of it before they ever got there.

God often does this in my life.  When I have my spiritual eyes open, I see God-incidences happening all through my life.  I have learned that, when I am unsure of my next step in a situation, I need to pray to God.  I trust that he’s going ahead of me – either taking care of the situation or creating an opportunity for me to say or do what I’m thinking about.  So I pray….and watch…and wait…. until he moves.  It’s amazing!  He either works it all out for my good without me doing anything or he opens up a door for me to do or say what he’s prompting me to say.   Sometimes it takes a while for it all to come together but timing is everything.

God-incidences are always the perfect thing at the perfect time.

Next time you think something is a coincidence, open your spiritual eyes and take another look.

Thank you, Abba Father.

His Whispers

If I’m not careful, I’ll miss it.

I’ve missed it before – God speaking to me.

Just like with Elijah, God doesn’t speak to me in a terrible blast of flying rocks or in an earthquake or in a fire.  “”The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was no in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was no in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  1 Kings 19:12

God often speaks to me in a whisper – a faint breeze of truth and light that flits through my mind.  I have to stop, concentrate and reach out to catch it.

If I’m not careful, it’s gone.

If I’m not purposefully opening up my spiritual eyes and mind, the spark moves on.  And I’m left wandering, ‘When God is going to answer my prayer?   When will I see him move?’

Do you ask yourself these questions?  Are you listening for his whispers?

When I am quiet,

when I am focused,

when I don’t let distractions derail my time with God, I hear him loud and clear.

God’s Word is alive – he will underline passages (you wouldn’t see it but I do), he will change the font of a sentence to bold to get my attention or he will read the words to me in my head to make sure it’s his voice I hear, not my own or anyone else’s.

There are situations where he simply opens up my eyes to how he has already answered my prayer.  He has taken care of the issue and moved on.  Keep up, Judy!

That’s when I realize how much I miss when I’m not quiet,

when I’m not ‘zoned in” enough to hear the whispers and feel his breeze of truth ruffling the pages of my Bible.

Please open my eyes, open my ears, Abba Father.

A Whirlwind

It’s hard to understand.  Dying seems like such a permanent thing here on earth.

But it’s not permanent.  My death on earth is when my body stops functioning, but my soul – the core of who I am – does not die.   Your soul doesn’t die, either.  Our souls live on – eternally in heaven if we have accepted salvation through Jesus or eternally separated from God in hell if we aren’t saved.

As I reach the fall season of my life, my body reminds me daily that it has a specific shelf life and there will be an end.  I have already started my eternal life – this first part is on earth, the second part will be my forever home with my Father.  I’m amazed at how many people call these man-made shelters we live in here on earth their ‘forever home’.  Not me – my forever home is much, much better than this one and it’s waiting for me when this part of my journey ends.

The prophet Elijah is one of two people in the Bible whose bodies didn’t die. Elijah and Elisha were walking together when, “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” 2 Kings 2:11.

I would love to go to heaven that way – now you see me, now you don’t!  But I believe my journey home is going to be a lot less dramatic.  When I breathe my last breath, Jesus will be holding my hand and he will walk my soul into heaven with him, leaving my body behind.

No chariots of fire.

No whirlwinds.

Just joy.

I will finally be in my forever home.

Thank you for preparing a place for me, Abba Father.

Under a Bush

It’s happened to me.  Has it happened to you?

I’ve gone to a great seminar or a camp or a retreat – feeling more and more motivated as the event progressed.  I’m on the mountaintop – very close to God!  Right on track!  Ready to tackle the world!  Fired up to make my dreams come true!

You get the point.

And then I come back to reality.  I have to face the real world – disappointments and distractions and disillusions.  The people and problems and various perspectives drain away my enthusiasm.  I am no longer on the mountaintop – now I’m in the valley.

If you’ve been there with me, we are all in good company.  In 1 Kings, Elijah the prophet orchestrated an epic confrontation on a mountaintop with 850 pagan prophets.  I can’t believe this story hasn’t been made into a major movie because it has tons of drama and great visuals.  God sent fire down from heaven to burn up Elijah’s sacrifice and even dry up all the water around the altar.  The pagan priests slashed themselves trying to get the attention of their gods and then they were all slaughtered.  All of this violence would fit right in with our ‘action movies’ today.

What a mountaintop experience for Elijah!

But then Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he crawled under a bush, praying that God would take his life.

Have you ever felt like crawling under a bush?  I have.  I have ‘crawled under a bush’ and wanted to stay there….. forever.

Instead of taking Elijah’s life, God sent an angel to feed him and care for him.  God still sends angels to us today when we’re in a valley – often human angels – to love us and care of us.

Then God told Elijah to go back up on the mountaintop so he could get close to God.  Because God does not often talk to us through the powerful wind or the earthquake or the fire.  God usually whispers.

When you and I come down off the mountain into a valley of disappointment and confusion, God says the same thing to us – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew11:28.

As I seek God when I’m in a valley and draw near to him, he wraps his arms around me and whispers his truth and love into my mind.  This is where I find peace.

I love you, Abba Father.