Watch and Wait

When I see something that needs to done or fixed, my first inclination is to make a plan, figure it out and get it done. Are you a ‘fixer’ like me?

God regularly stops me and tells me there is a better way. He challenges me to bring the issue that is bothering me to him and let him take care of it. He promises that the outcome will be better if I let him take control.

So I have to smile as I read Zechariah’s story in the book of Luke.  Zechariah was a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were old and childless when the angel of the LORD appeared to him.  Yes, Gabriel showed up again.

Zechariah was “gripped with fear” when he saw Gabriel.  Angels like Gabriel must be awesome creatures because the first thing they always say to us humans is, “Fear not”. Then Gabriel went on to tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son who was going to do great things for God. They were to name this son John and he was going to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Immediately, Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18. He and his wife were obviously way too old to have a baby.

Gabriel looked at him (how I see this in my head – rolled his eyes and, with a hint of frustration in his voice), said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now you will be silent and not speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will be come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18.

Zechariah could not speak again until the baby was born. He had to watch and wait.

I have learned that sometimes I need to stop asking questions, trust God and watch him work things out for my good right in front of my eyes – through his power and on his own timeline. 

I’m not very patient. How much patience do you have?

It can be very difficult for me to wait for God to move but, when he does, it’s the right thing at the right time, every time.  It’s truly amazing to watch as God opens doors, moves mountains and orchestrates blessings in my life.  

I’ll admit, this hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. I had to grow my trust in God to the point where I can give him my problems, issues and situations and leave it all in his hands. And watch. And wait until he shows me which door he is opening for me.

It’s not easy but – believe me – it’s worth it.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Shut The Gates

Time –

it’s the big equalizer among all of us.  You have 24 hours in a day and I have 24 hours in a day.

So the ‘I don’t have time for God’ excuse just doesn’t fly.  We all have 24 hours and some of us find regular time with God.

Yes, I know all of our situations are different – work schedules, kid’s schedules, and all kinds of commitments fill our calendars.  That’s where the challenge comes – how we choose to fill our calendars.  Because it’s a choice.

I am now in a very blessed time of my life in relation to time because I am retired.  I retired 4 years ago and I love my new schedule.  This cannot possibly be my life now!  My calendar is 99% filled with things I want to do.  I have a lot of time for God.

But this was not true of my life before retirement.  I worked for 34 1/2 years straight for Corporate Jack in the Box.  I was married with a 9 month-old child when I started working for Jack and had another baby 4 years later.  I traveled a lot and got promoted regularly gaining more and more responsibility working on a goal of becoming a VP.

With a husband who worked, 2 kids, a house, a dog and a 60-hour workweek, you can imagine my life. And right in the middle of all of that, God challenged me to put him first. I had been running on empty for quite awhile at that time and I was not happy when I realized that this is how the rest of my life could be. So when I heard God offer me the only way I was going to find joy and purpose in the middle of this craziness, I accepted the challenge.

And I began to reorganize my priorities.  I changed my focus from my career onto my relationship with God.  I started using my time differently –  I stopped working 60 hours a week.  I cut down to 40 or 45 hours a week, always used all of my vacation days to spend with my family and asked God to take care of the next raise or promotion.  Interesting – I performed better when I worked less and I ended up with a career that blessed my family instead of taking away from my family.

My husband was also trying to put God first so we worked together to unpack our schedules. We decided our kids could be in one sport OR one lesson at a time. We totally revamped our weekends. We stopped planning anything on Saturday night that would make us too tired to get up for church on Sunday. Our family started doing all our chores on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for worship and time with our personal and spiritual families. Sunday afternoon became a great family time in the pool or playing games as well as Bible study small groups. Sunday became our God and family day – all day. My two top priorities. How great is that?

I admit, it was hard for me to find my personal time with God during the week.  I have never been a ‘get up at 4 am to read my Bible type of person’.  It just doesn’t work for me – I’m a ‘get up at 4 am and go right to work’ person.  I’m also not a ‘read a devotional every day’ type person.  I don’t get much from that, I want to dig deeper.

So in the middle of the busiest time of my life, I would try to find an hour here or there during the week with God, knowing that I was going to dedicate Sunday to him. I believe God honored my desire to spend time with him and helped make all the things I had to accomplish on Saturday go quickly because, somehow, I would often find an extra hour or two I could spend with God on Saturday as well. I hardly ever watched TV until the kids left home for college – it’s amazing how much time you have when you shut that thing off. Spending so much one on one time with God helped me hear him much better and eventually led to this blog.

I find it interesting to read when Nehemiah confronts the leaders in Jerusalem , “Why is the house of God neglected?” Nehemiah 13: 11.  They had stopped supporting the Levites so the Levites had to go get jobs and were unable to serve in the temple.  Everyone had started working on the Sabbath – selling all sorts of produce and merchandise inside the walls of Jerusalem.

This could not go on so Nehemiah shut the gates to Jerusalem when Sabbath started and they stayed closed until the Sabbath ended.  He put guards on the gates and told everyone to start bringing their tithes to the temple again and start supporting the Levites so they could go back to their temple duties.

He shut the gates.

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I feel like that is exactly what I had to do to find significant time to spend with God. I had to shut the gates on all the other things that me and my family could do on Sundays. I had to shut the gates to the things my family could do that would keep us out late or up late on Saturday. I had to reorganize Saturdays to make significant room for God in my weekends. Looking back, I feel like this re-prioritizing was a blessing for my entire family because it slowed down our Sundays and we had more quality time with each other.

Shutting the gates worked.

Thank you for your help, Abba Father.

What Am I Supposed to do?

When the path right in front of me looks like its straight up hill.

When the issue confronting me is big

and confusing

and scary

and heart-breaking.

When I am threatened on all sides by more problems, more sadness, more darkness.

What am I supposed to do?

please-strengthen-my-hands

When Nehemiah found himself in this type of situation, he turned to God and prayed “Now strengthen my hands.”(6:9)

Nehemiah had groups of powerful people plotting against him as he led the Jews in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  His enemies were trying to frighten the Jews so their hands would become too weak to continue to work on the wall.  But God answered Nehemiah’s prayers and the wall was eventually finished.

Is there something in your life that looks like its impossible to accomplish?  Impossible to fix?

Give it to God.  Ask him to strengthen your hands and then trust that he is answering.  He may use you like he did Nehemiah to actually orchestrate the answer.  Or  he may want your strong hands to be folded in prayer before him, admitting your dependence on him and remaining faithful while he works all things out for your good.

Either way,  God’s got this.

Please strengthen my hands, Abba Father.

Really Living

A valley of bones.

Millions of bones.

When God breathed into them – “they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” Ezekiel 37:10.

Wow!!

Growing up in church, I always thought this vision of Ezekiel should be preached around Halloween because a valley full of dry bones suddenly connecting and standing up is weird as well as scary.

How time changes things! Now I love this visual because it’s exactly what happened when I turned over my whole heart to God.  His breath went deep into my soul and – for the first time – I was truly alive.  I have an eternal purpose.  I have been re-created into one of the soldiers in his army – wearing his armor and working hard next to my spiritual brothers and sisters to share the Good News and push back evil.  Each day, I read and study God’s word – getting to know him better and listening as he speaks into my life.

Are you looking for purpose? Are you looking for guidance? Are you looking for hope?

God gives me hope.  Not the ‘I wish’ kind of hope.  This hope is cemented into my heart by the promises of God.  I know who is in control and I know he is working everything out for my good.  I know where I’m going when I leave this earth.  I know who wins in the end.

God’s redeeming love has turned my dry bones into something good and useful.  His breath moves in my heart and soul – bringing new life each day.

There are no dry bones here.

What about you?  Would you like to experience a new breath of God’s spirit in your soul?

Thank you for your breath of real life, Abba Father.

He is Looking for Anyone

Our country is going crazy, right?

It’s frustrating.  It makes us angry,

bitter,

and disillusioned.

So – what am I doing about it?  What are you doing about it?

Are we busy just talking about it and shaking our heads?  Are we spouting off negativity to everyone around us and filling Facebook with our rants?

Or are we doing something positive to help turn the trend one small step at a time?

When Israel was going down the tubes thousands of years ago, God told Ezekiel, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” Ezekiel 22:30.

God was looking for someone – anyone – who would build a wall against the injustice that was happening.  A wall that would keep out the lies and violence. God was looking for someone to stand in the gap before him on behalf of the Israelite people.  “But I found no one.”

Is this same thing happening today?  Is it all just talk and emotion?  Or are you and I figuring out how to do our part in standing in the gap for our country before God?

We can stand in the gap by daily praying to God for our country.

We can stand in the gap by putting our feet and hearts into action while working together with God to help turn our country back into the land which was founded with “In God We Trust”. One step at a time. Each of us creating a small ripple that can grow into a wave when we all get involved.

You have found someone who wants to stand in the gap, Abba Father.

After, Not Before

How often do I decide to make a positive change in my life- and then I don’t follow-through?  I change my mind.  It gets too hard.

How often does this happen?

More often than I like.  What about you?

How often are we convicted by the Holy Spirit to make an adjustment in order to better line our lives up with God’s will?  And, after we try, we give up.  When it gets tough, we go back to our old habits.

We are very fickle.  When it gets hard, we opt out of the difficult changes that are needed and decide to go back to being comfortable.

In Jeremiah 34, we read about the Israelites doing this same thing.  The Law of Moses had restricted how long Hebrews could be slaves.  When Jeremiah pointed out that fact that the Israelites had not been following this law,  they saw that they were doing this wrong thing.  And they let their slaves go free.

“But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.” (vs 11)

God doesn’t tell us the details of why the Israelites changed their minds – but we can read between the lines.

Life got hard.  The Israelites had to get their own water and cook their own food.  They had to clean and do all of the dirty work the slaves had been doing.

Obeying the law was just too difficult so they decided to disobey and go back to the comfortable life they had before they were convicted of their sin.

And they missed the blessings that come after we obey.

God blesses obedience.  He has blessings lined up, waiting for us……if we’ll go through the tough part of obeying.

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When I do the things that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to do, I feel the satisfaction that comes with partnering with God in his plan.  I feel the contentment and satisfaction of living my life in line with God.  I also experience with wonder of God’s supernatural love and strength and peace.  These are blessings from God.

The blessings that only come after I obey.

Thank you, Abba Father.

He Found the Book

The Book of the Law. Moses’ book. God’s words.

God tells us an encouraging story about King Josiah in the second book of Chronicles.  King Josiah knew it was time to repair the temple of the Lord.  So he made it happen.

While they were cleaning and fixing the temple, they discovered “the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses.” 2 Chronicles 34:14.  The book was read to the king who immediately tore his robes and asked the prophetess Huldah to tell him what God wanted to say to him.  Her message from God could be boiled down to three words, ‘disaster is coming’.

The king reacted immediately by having the Book read to all of the people and then leading them in renewing their covenant with God.   The king cleared out all of the idols from the temple and destroyed all of the places for idol worship and altars. He also had to get rid of the priests who were leading the people in their worship of idols.  He did away with all the mediums and spiritists along with all other ‘detestable’ things.

When everything was done, they celebrated the Passover which had not been celebrated properly for hundreds of years.  Great job, King Josiah!

So what about me?  What about you?  Is it true that some of us need to ‘find’ the book of the Lord?

Are there ‘things’ in our lives that we put a higher priority on than our relationship with God?  These are our idols.

Do we look at sources other than God for our guidance and direction?   How often to we check with Google on important things rather than checking with God?   These other sources are our mediums and spiritists.

Is our Bible sitting on the shelf more than its been sitting open on our lap?  We need to read it and know it.

And let God transform our lives through it.

I cannot think of a time in my lifetime that it was more important for me – and you – to know the Word of God for ourselves. Almost daily I hear stories of pastors and religious leaders who are not teaching the whole truth found in the Bible. We must know the Word ourselves so we can compare what we are being taught to what we know is the truth.

King Josiah’s cleansing of the land of Judah was a high point in their history.  He heard God’s word, he listened and he obeyed.

King Josiah found the Book.  The book led him to God.  God led him to renewal and celebration.

Is it time for some renewal and celebration in your life?

Maybe its time to REALLY find the Book.

Thank you for revealing your truth to us in your Word, Abba Father.

May My Roots Go Deep

“They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,

a planting of the Lord,

a display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61: 3b.

I want to be an Oak of Righteousness.  A planting of the Lord.

May my life display even a tiny portion of his splendor!

God points out to us in Isaiah 61 what it means to be an Oak of Righteousness.  As I read this, it relates directly to our culture today.

Today, God’s Oaks of Righteousness are leading the way in their own spheres of influence in helping to reverse the tide of moral decay of our culture. They are working to strengthen our families and are sharing the love and truth of God to the people around them. They are so dedicated to God’s work that they refuse to get distracted by the mess and confusion of the world around us.

God is calling each one of us who are serious about our faith to rise up and be an Oak of Righteousness where he has planted us.

Yes – I can point fingers at politicians and lawmakers.  That’s the easy way out – the blame game.

Sure – I can get upset.  I can say all kinds of things about how bad our culture has become – complain, complain.

But what part of this do I own?

And what am I doing about it?

How often am I talking to God about it, asking him to point out my next step in making a difference?

As we obey, we become this solid planting of the Lord with our roots sunk deep into His truth.  God hates wrong-doing and injustice.  He righteously fights these battles using us when we are in line with him.

God promises that our obedience will bring us double portions of his blessing and everlasting joy.    He extends these blessings to our children (awesome) and tells us that we will be acknowledged as ‘the people the Lord has blessed’. (vs 9).

Amen, let it be so, Abba Father.

Not Like Me

I am created in the image of God,  I am like him.

But he is not like me.

I have found this to be a crucial truth to get straight in my brain so that I have the correct expectations of God. I have to apply this every day to my relationship with God so I can avoid frustrations and confusion.

God tells me through Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8.

God is perfectly holy, perfectly just, perfectly loving and always right.

I am farrrrrrrr from perfect.  I cannot judge God’s actions – whether they are right or wrong – based on what I think.  My thinking is very flawed.  It is self-centered, self-seeking and severely limited.  I don’t think like God.  I will never think like God.

So I submit to his will, his plan, his purpose.

I am totally confident in God’s goodness and his perfect love for me.  I know to the depths of my spirit that God wants the best for me.  Even though I will never understand how he thinks and why he has permitted a painful tragedy to happen in my life when my son was killed, I will trust God.  His ways are not my ways – his ways are perfect.

In response to this truth, I have decided that my way is to walk in trust and faithfulness to God for the rest of my days on this planet.  I have decided to live in gratitude for his free gift of redemption through Jesus.  I don’t question what God does or doesn’t do.  I don’t try to determine if he is right or wrong – I know he is right.  He is always walking beside me, loving me and caring for me, even when he is not doing what I think is best.  He knows better.

I trust you, Abba Father.

The Only Way Out

I’ve been there – a place where there’s no way out.

When there is nothing I can do to even try to fix it.

A total dead end.

This is when the only way out is up.

King Hezekiah knew all about this place thousands of years ago when a huge Assyrian army came to Jerusalem and camped right outside the city walls.

The Assyrian King told Hezekiah that the LORD had told him to destroy Jerusalem.

What?

King Hezekiah was wise enough to recognize a big lie when he heard it so he went to the prophet Isaiah to get the truth. The Lord told Isaiah that King Hezekiah should not be disturbed by what the Assyrians were saying –  God was going to move against them himself.

Next, the Assyrians send a letter warning King Hezekiah that he should not be deceived by God’s promises to protect him.  (There were serious mind games going on here.) The Assyrians had been completely destroying everyone in their path and that’s what the Assyrian king was planning to do to Jerusalem.

King Hezekiah knew that was exactly what the Assyrians had been doing – destroying everyone and everything and no one had been able stop them.

So Hezekiah took the Assyrian’s letter to the temple and spread it out before the Lord.  He laid out his concerns to God and asked him to rescue them so that all the nations of the world would know that he was God.

I visualize Hezekiah on his knees spreading out this scroll full of scarey and deadly threats.  Then he totally lays himself down on the floor in front of the scroll as he asks God to save his people.

How interesting – he doesn’t summon the commander of his army.  He doesn’t consult with anyone.  He and his people are facing annihilation and he prostrates himself before God.

I’ve been there several times in my life – when there is no way out but up.   Faced with massive issues that were extremely beyond my control, I have laid it all out before God and asked him to take care of it.  I didn’t know how he would do it and I told him I didn’t care what he did – I was just placing it all in his hands and trusting in his promise that he is working all things out for my good.

It worked for me just like it worked for Hezekiah thousands of years ago.  God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and took care of the situation. God always hears my prayers and he answers by orchestrating situations in his way with his power to benefit me.

I have discovered I don’t have big issues for long when I have a huge God.

Thank you, Abba Father.