What’s the Goal?

Where do I want to be next year?  What do I want to have achieved?

Where do I want to grow in my life?

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my years on this planet is that I need to feed what I want to grow.  I can’t just wish it.  I can’t sit frustrated because nothing is changing if I’m not doing something to change it.

I need to take action.  There must be forward movement – one step at a time – towards my goal.

I need to feed what I want to grow.

And I am encouraged as I read King Hezekiah’s story in 2 Chronicles of his vast and successful religious reformation of his nation.  One step at a time, working with the priests, he took his people who were far from God and led them back into obedience.  This is a great role model for us if our goal is to grow closer to God and grow in faithfulness.

Hezekiah’s first step was to cleanse the temple.  They purified everything in the temple and consecrated it.  What would this look like for you and I?  Stop habits that are not good for our minds and souls.  Stop reading articles, magazines, books that don’t feed what we want to grow.  Change our favorite channels on TV, our favorite music channels and our most visited websites.  Cleanse our minds and souls by controlling what we’re feeding them.

Then Hezekiah had the people gather together to use the temple as it was meant to be used – sacrificing to God and worshiping him.  For us, this means committing to meet with God’s people regularly – studying God’s word and growing together.  It also means making sure we are in line with God’s directions on tithing and giving of our time.  The Israelites gave so much back to God that they had plenty to share with their neighbors who needed help.

Next, Hezekiah invited Israel and Judah to come to the temple together to celebrate the Passover.  He invited his neighbors – just like God wants us to ask our neighbors to come with us to church or our small group or watch the worship on line together.

Then Hezekiah told his people, “Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the LORD…”  Do you and I have any people in our lives that aren’t good influences?  Do we need to pick different friends?  Different role models?

They attacked their idols – destroying them and getting rid of the distraction.  What are our idols?  What things in our lives make us too busy to spend time with God personally and with other believers?  We need to feed what we want to grow.

We read that God blessed Hezekiah and his people as they grew more and more obedient.  God gave them unity of mind as they all looked to him for wisdom and guidance.

I know I want God’s blessings in my life.  I want unity of mind, wisdom and guidance.  One of my main motivations for reading the entire Bible every year for these last 9 years is making sure I’m on a steady path of knowing and loving God more.

I know that I need to feed my relationship with God in order for those things to grow.  And God will be faithful in helping me – he always is.

Thank you, Abba Father.

For Us

I love how accurate Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah were even though he spoke them 700 years before Jesus was born.  This shouldn’t surprise me – God knows everything and is in control of everything – including my future.

One of the things I doubt I will every understand this side of heaven is how God is not bound by time.  He is in the past, present and future all at the same time.  I am a created human who is linear – 3 comes after 4, 5 comes after 6.  That makes sense.

God is not linear.  That might be hard to understand but it’s not hard to believe when I read the prophecies in the Old Testament – especially the prophecies concerning Jesus – and see how they were fulfilled.

Isaiah’s prophecy in the 9th chapter of his book as now become our truth –

People who were walking in darkness saw a Great Light.  Lost in deep darkness, they saw the Light as it dawned.  This Light gave them success and joy.  They celebrated the Light just like they celebrated a great harvest.  They celebrated just like warriors who are dividing the plunder after a victorious battle.

This Light’s name is Jesus.

He forever shattered the yoke of sin and shame in our lives.  There is no need for war in his kingdom.

For he came to us as a child, the Son of God.  And we call him –

Wonderful,

Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

He is reigning forever victorious and there is no end to the peace he gives to those who put their faith in him.

He reigns in justice and righteousness –

now and forever.

The LORD Almighty has done it all for us.

Thank you, Abba Father.

What Does He Want?

Have you heard anyone say something like, ” I just can’t figure  out what God wants from me?” or ” I really don’t know what God wants me to do?”

Statements like these confuse me because I think God is amazingly clear and to the point about the ‘main things’ that need to be a focus in my life.

The first and second commandments are love God with my whole heart and love others.  Jesus tells us that obeying these 2 commandments fulfills ‘all the law and the prophets’.  That includes the original 10 commandments from the Old Testament.

Used to be 10 commandments – now it’s 2.  God knows we need simple and clear directions.

As I read the 6th chapter of Micah, I am again amazed at how direct God is as he tells me what he expects from me. ” And what does the LORD require from you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Which part of that is unclear?

Act justly – do the right things and God tells us what is right in his Word.

Love Mercy – forgive others.  Give people a break especially when they don’t deserve it.  Help others.

Walk Humbly with God – develop a close relationship with God understanding that he is a supernatural combination of Creator of the Universe, the Holy and Perfect One and my Abba Father.

Micah told us this thousands of years ago.  It’s time to stop asking God what he wants us to do and start doing it.

Thank you for how clearly you guide me through your Word, Abba Father.

It’s Bad

I’m surprised when I find myself doing it – rationalizing.  I start to make excuses for making not great choices.

I find myself thinking it’s ‘not really 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 right?

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”.

Woe to me when I call evil good…..or call evil okay.  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.

And stop the excuses, stop the rationalizing.

Please open my eyes, Abba Father.

 

Jonah’s Prayer, 2020

When it all hit the fan, I decided to call out to you, God….

and you answered me.

My choices took me to a deep, dark place in my life,  far from you.  But you still heard me when I prayed.

I tried to run from you – a very bad decision.  And now you’re letting me pay the consequences as waves of darkness and regret wash over me.  I feel like you are very far away, dear God.

Even so, I am going to look for you, watch for you, call out to you.

I keep sinking….

down,

into the cold,

deep,

sadness.   This is where my choices have taken me.

But I know you are here, Lord God.  And you will lift me back up into your arms.

When I was lost, I remembered you and I turned back to you, God.  I’m not like those other people who idolize money, success or fame.  I praise you with a joyful heart, my God!

I am here to do your will.  I will do what you have asked me to do.

I’m listening, Abba Father.

He is Doing It

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 relate to Jehoshaphat’s story in 2 Chronicles.  The people of Judah were being attacked by a huge combined army made up of several of their enemies.  King Jehoshaphat told his people to “have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld.”  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’m aware, 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.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

How Many Jars?

How big is my God?  How much does he want to bless me?

God stopped me today as I read the story of the widow whose son was going be taken as a slave because her husband had debts he didn’t pay before he died.  She asked Elisha for help saying she had nothing left except a small jar of  olive oil.

Elisha replied, ” Go around and ask your neighbors for empty jars.  Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside…and pour oil into all the jars…”  She did exactly what Elisha said and she just kept filling the jars until they were all full. The oil stopped flowing when her last jar was full.  Then she sold the oil to pay her debts and had enough money left over to live on.

Now that I know the end of the story, my automatic response is – too bad she didn’t get more jars!

Did you go there?

And then I wonder how many times God was willing to bless me abundantly but I didn’t bring enough jars?  I didn’t bring enough faith?  Enough trust?

How often do I short-cut God’s attempts to lavish love and care on my life because I don’t ask?

The message I’ve been consistently receiving lately from God is that there are some mountains he will move if I will boldly ask.  He’s stirring up a wind of his Spirit that he is inviting me to take part in if I will ‘bring enough jars’.

Nothing is impossible for my Father God so I will acknowledge that by boldly asking and watching expectantly for his answer.

I’m getting a lot of jars lined up, Abba Father.

Violence

It’s all around us.  Unspeakable violence and pain and loss.  People are doing horrible things to their neighbors.  They are putting themselves in danger and getting hurt.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  As I read the historical account in 1 Kings of Elijah facing off against 450 prophets of Baal, I am stopped by the picture this passage forms in my mind.  The prophets of Baal had just put a bull up on their altar and they are calling on Baal to come burn up their sacrifice.  Nothing happens. (of course)  So they began to shout louder and ‘slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.’

The frantic violence I’m seeing in my mind looks a lot like the videos of looting and rioting that I see going on in our world right now.  And Satan is smiling.  His plans to divide and hurt as many people as possible are working.

Violence never fixes anything.  The gruesome self-mutilation of the priests of Baal sure didn’t do anything.

But wait!  I love this next part-

Elijah prepared a bull on the altar of stones and wood that he made as a sacrifice to the One True God.  To show the power of God, he poured 12 large jars of water on top of the altar.  The altar was totally soaked with water running down all over it and filling the trench around it.  Then Elijah prayed to God, asking him to show himself  ‘so these people will know that you, LORD, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

As soon as Elijah finished praying, the fire of God came down from heaven and burned up the bull, the wood, the stones , the soil around it and all of the water.

“When the people saw this, they fell prostate and cried, ‘The LORD – he is God!”

Dear Father, we need you to send your power down to earth today.  We need this hate and division all around us to be burned up.  We need a purifying rain of your love and grace and peace to fall on each one of us today.  Let everyone see that you are the One True God.  Heal our country, Father.  Take the smile off of Satan’s face, God.  Turn all the angry, frustrated, violent hearts back to you, God.  You are the answer.  Thank you, Abba Father.  In the powerful name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Enough

How much is enough?

I think it’s a matter of perspective.  I know people who don’t own very many ‘things’ and have limited resources who are happy.  I know people with a lot of money and ‘stuff’ who are not happy.

What makes the difference?

The story of the widow who feeds Elijah what she thinks is her last loaf of bread illustrates for me what makes the difference.  Elijah was hungry and asked the widow if she could give him some bread and she answered, I have ‘only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug.”

Only.  A little.

Elijah then teaches her a lesson that changes her life – “the Lord, God of Israel, says:’The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.”

After that, the woman had food every day for herself, Elijah and her family.

God provided for her and he provides for you and me.  If it feels like we don’t have enough, the problem could be that we’re using words like ‘only’ and ‘a little’ when we think about God’s provision for us.

By putting my faith in God, I am plugging into the power of the Creator of the Universe.  Nothing is impossible with God.  When God moves in my life, sometimes he changes my circumstances and sometimes he changes my perspective.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Ever since I accepted the free gift of grace he offered me, he has been feeding my soul with love and truth and peace.

Every day he feeds me.  And it is enough.

Thank you, Jesus.

How Do I Know?

Timing is everything.  Many of us have heard this said several times.

If you’ve been on this earth as many revolutions as I have, you know just how true this saying is.  A great idea becomes a very bad idea if its not the right time.  Saying something that is true at the wrong time can create a lot of bad feelings and regrets.

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew all about the importance of timing.  He wrote about it in Ecclesiastes – “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

How do I know the right time?

Some of the activities he lists are easy to figure out – “a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Others are not as easy – “a time to search and a time to give up”.  How can I be sure it’s time to give up?  With my personality, I have no trouble persevering, the question is when to give up.

“A time to keep and a time to throw away”.  Some people never think it’s time to throw away.  I am a semi-minimalist so I like to give away things I’m not using.

“A time to be silent and a time to speak”.  I wish I got the timing right on this one more often.

As I read King Solomon’s list, I realize how much wisdom I need if I’m going to get the timing right for many of these ‘activities under heaven’.  And I’m thankful that I know where to get that wisdom.  God clearly tells us in the first chapter of James that he generously gives wisdom to everyone who asks for it.

I know where to go to get the answers for some of these very tough questions about timing.  I have learned to ask God to move when it’s the right time.  And then I watch and wait and do what I already know to do until God shows me that now is the time – his time.

Thank you, Abba Father