This week I had the joy of going to the state of Georgia and speaking at two Christian schools and one church. I spoke to both junior and senior high students. I loved being with them. They asked wonderful questions and talking with some of them afterwards, I could sense their deep love for and commitment to following God. It was a blessed time.
My mother joined me on this trip to Georgia. We had a general idea of how to get there but didn’t know the exact route to get to our destination. Enter – Rosie. Who is Rosie? Rosie is the name a friend of ours has given to his GPS device. I turned Rosie on, typed in the address, and presto! we were off. “Drive 12 miles to Interstate 65,” Rosie said. “In 1.2 miles turn left onto Hwy. 80,” was another direction. How comforting listening to and following Rosie.
But then – what? Did she say that? Turn there? That doesn’t make sense. Surely Rosie has got it wrong. Twice her directions seemed like she had blown a fuse and couldn’t possibly be right. Even so, we decided to give Rosie a try. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you. Rosie was right every time and she got us safely to our destination – right to the door.
I’m so thankful for the GPS invention that knows the way I need to go in my physical world. I’m even more thankful to our heavenly Father who knows the way I need to go in my spiritual world. Sometimes His commands and instructions seem not so important. “No one does everything God says,” we reason to ourselves, “and they seem happy enough.” “God will still love me,” is another fact we use to convince ourselves that not following everything God says is necessary. Of course He still loves us when we disobey Him. We never lose God’s love but we do lose our own inner peace and joy. Obedience to our Father’s ways bring perfect peace. Why does He instruct us? It’s because of His vast love for us. He knows our ways are imperfect but His ways keep us on the road to joy and courage and wisdom and peace.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
The shootings that took the lives of 27 people today, 20 of them little children, is a terrible tragedy that has touched the hearts of our nation and no doubt the hearts of many around the world. Such an incident is senseless; it is evil; it is a violent act that is happening with greater intensity and regularity.
Why? God’s Word tells us why. The answer is found in Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This verse has been widely misinterpreted. That’s because of the use of the word “vision.” Today we use the word “vision” to mean something akin to setting a goal or to have a worthwhile cause to follow. Often in Christian circles this verse will be quoted as a means to stir up people to have a goal and press on to see it come to pass. This is a misinterpretation.
To find the true meaning of the word “vision,” we must look at the original Hebrew text. The Hebrew word meaning vision is the word “hazon”. Hazon does not mean vision in a sense of having a goal. The translated word for vision in Hebrew means revelation. Reading Proverbs 29:18 in proper context and definition, the verse reads, “Where there is no revelation of God, the people perish.”
In the light of today’s tragedy, we think of the young man who killed all those people. This man behaved with evil intent. Why? We can conclude by his evil action that he was a man with an absence of God in his life. He was a man with no relationship with God; therefore, there would be no obedience to God’s Word, nor any respect for it.
Increasingly in today’s world we see an absence of God’s Word and the truth of righteousness and goodness that it teaches. A huge example of this fact is in our film industry. There is a great absence of love, goodness, respect for God and respect for one another in many of today’s films. Video gaming is another example. Both films and videos are filled instead with violence and hatred; everything that is opposite of God. Much of today’s music scene is filled with obscenity, vulgarity, and hatred. Once again, this is the opposite of everything that God is.
Where there is no relationship with God, there will naturally be no obedience to His Word. When there is no seeking God and His Word, people will lose restraint to an evil nature and they will abandon the goodness of God. When God and His love is abandoned and evil is left free to fill our minds instead, there will be evil action; there will be murders and all manner of violence.
What can we do? I encourage each of us to adhere to a very important instruction from God’s Word. II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Our nation is in a terrible state. Nations around the world have turned their backs on God. We are not “evolving” as some would say, into something better. We have collectively turned our backs on the revelation of God and we are perishing as a result. We must encourage each other to stand for God and His ways, which are light and truth and goodness. Without Him, evil will continue – without Him, we will perish.
Brain spin – that’s what I call it when my brain gets so much in it, that it’s hard to keep track of everything all at once. It’s a foggy and stressed-out feeling. Know what I mean?
Events, appointments to keep, lists of things to do – it suddenly feels like our daily “things to do” is spinning out of control. We look on the calendar and see more things to do in the weeks to come. It feels hard to think straight. It’s like being on a merry-go-round that goes faster and faster. You feel you’re going to be thrown off so you hold on for dear life. Remember as children when doing that was fun? In real-world adult life, the merry-go-round experience is no longer a game. It’s full of stress and can become a fearful thing if left to spin faster and faster. Still, the faster the spin the harder we grab hold.
Brain spin started to whirl in my thoughts today. I looked at the calendar along with my “to do” list and felt the brain spin begin. What can we do when the merry-go-round of life is spinning out of control? We can take our frustrations out on those around us but no one feels good after those moments. We can beat up pillows or break things but we have to clean up the mess and such behavior scares people. We could just scream or run naked down the highway but that would put us in an asylum. Hmmm, what to do, what to do.
I know – let’s look to the Master Stress-Reliever. It’s a heavenly choice. It’s an action to take. In Psalm 121: 1-2, we read of a choice available to us: “I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” It’s impossible to look up and down at the same time. We have to choose to do one or the other. If we choose to look down, we see the continued daily stresses that send us into brain spin and we go faster and faster hoping not to fall off the merry-go-round. If we choose to look up, we see a heavenly help; we see Jesus in all His strength and wisdom, ready to rush to our aid bringing His own peace, slowing the brain spin into a manageable ride.
Are you on a merry-go-round in life? Brain spin whirling out of control? Look up. See Jesus. Hear Him speak, “Peace, be still” in the middle of your storm.
I write a new blog entry every Friday – but not this past Friday. There was no blog. There were no emails. There was no catching up on Facebook or Twitter. There was nothing at all. I had lost my internet connection!
Frustration flowed into my mind and set in my heart like fresh poured cement. At first I was just disappointed on Wednesday when it all began. The frustration came on Friday when I couldn’t write my blog. Further anxiety took hold on Saturday and drained me of all joy for the day. It was just an internet connection malfunction but I couldn’t shake the “down in the dumps” feeling that took up residence in my heart.
Then, a phone conversation with the technician and presto! Here I am back online! Frustration disappeared immediately! Joy returned in full! Oh what ecstasy.
At first, I had made my own attempts to find and fix the problem. Nothing worked. I tried just one more click of this and moving that and – still nothing. Only when I phoned the technician, listened to the instructions and followed them, did I get my connection back and frustrations melted away.
We all experience occasional internet malfunction. There are also situations in life that can give us relationship malfunction. It might be relationship malfunction with God; it might be relationship malfunction with people around us. Things seem to be going well and then suddenly, we discover we are disconnected. Disappointment comes, then frustration, then we realize our joy has slipped away.
We try to repair the situation on our own – usually by ignoring it and hoping it all just goes away and normalcy returns by itself. Those hopes are usually dashed as feelings of separation takes control of our thoughts.
How do we get connected again? God’s own Word is our instruction manual for any situation in life. It is only when we go to it and search like we are looking for buried treasure, that we find what we need. I love Proverbs 2: 3-5, “Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear (honor and respect) the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”
It’s a promise. When we seek and find, we are connected once more. Frustration is replaced by that lovely, sweet joy, that only comes when we are choosing to obey the instructions found in Philippians 4:6-8, “…Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about these things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Today I pray for all of us to choose to stay connected; to “fix our thoughts” on our Father and His instructions that always bring peace into our frustrated worlds.
It happened yesterday afternoon. I was in a parking lot and about to reverse my car to pull out of my parking space. I thought I had carefully looked both ways before proceeding to back up but suddenly – bump! What was that? A box in the road, I thought to myself? I turned around to look and to my surprise there was a silver car directly behind me. Oh, no!
I quickly got out as did the driver of the other car. Over his right back wheel there was a huge smear of my car’s red paint with a streak of raw metal showing through. His paint had been completely scraped off. There was also a small indentation over his wheel. My car had silver paint smudged on my red and also a long scrape of bare metal showing. Goodness gracious! It was just a bump. I had to have been moving about 1 mile per hour. How did such damage occur?
Thankfully the other driver was a very kind man. He said, “I’ve seen you somewhere before. ” We soon deduced that I had spoken in his church in years past. Great, I thought, missionary plows into local church member’s car! I was very thankful for his kindness.
We each phoned our insurance companies and the police who came to file the accident report. Then, with handshakes, and another apology from me, we waved and went our separate ways. In just a few days time both our cars will be repaired and will look as if nothing ever happened. Body shops amaze me at what they fix.
Contemplating my mishap when I got home (and with that wonderful hot, steaming mug of tea to help the nerves), the verse Galations 5:9, came to my mind:
“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” My paraphrase: It takes just a little yeast to work through the whole batch of dough.
Remember the feeling that comes upon us when one day we realize we’re not as close to Father as we have been in previous days? Then we have to admit to ourselves and to our heavenly Father that we have taken a step away from Him? It was only a little sin, nothing significant, we tell ourselves as we proceed to do something that deep inside we know we shouldn’t. Well, it’s nothing terrible, we argue further with ourselves, I mean, it’s not like I killed someone. On and on goes the dialogue in our minds as we try to explain away to ourselves why we did or did not do something or why we said what we said. Still, the distance from our Father is acute. It won’t go away until we do the one necessary thing: We must go to the repair shop.
One of my favorite verses is I John 1:9:
“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How often will Father forgive us? Every time we ask Him to do so.
How long will it take to feel close to Him again? Immediately. He restores us to Himself; He loves it when His children come back to Him.
If you’ve discovered there’s “just a little bump” in your life, go ahead today and get that repaired. Your loving heavenly Father is waiting.
I returned to the US this week in time to celebrate the American holiday known as Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday of the year as family and friends gather around a table to share blessings with each other. There is much more than turkey with all the trimmings shared at Thanksgiving.
We are reminded to be thankful for our family that are near to us and to be thankful for the memories of those who have left us to join our Father in heaven. We are reminded to be thankful for dear friends who might as well be family because of the closeness of our hearts knit together in an unbreakable bond of love and care.
We reflect at this time upon the blessings of the year gone by and all that God has done for us yet again. He has given His strength when we have been weak. He has given us courage when we have been scared. He has given us comfort when we have been hurting. He has given us assurance of His presence when we have felt alone. He has given us His understanding when we have been misunderstood. He has lifted us up to a higher place when circumstances have sent us reeling to depths of despair. He has put His wisdom in our minds when we have felt foolish and small. He has spoken His words of love when we have felt unloved and forsaken by others. He has been the light when the world has been dark. He has been our everything when we have felt like nothing.
Jesus is our rock in every situation of life, year after year, day after day, moment by moment. With thoughts of God’s love for us in the forefront of our minds, it makes everyday a time of Thanksgiving and enables us to say with the Apostle Paul:
“We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
I’ve shared with you before that I absolutely adore weather. I love the magnificence of lightening and thunder, the softness of an overcast day, bright sunshine sparkling across the water of a lake or river or ocean. I love it all. I love the results of weather growing fresh flowers with the warmth of Spring coming, providing longer days in summer, the vibrant colors of leaves it gives in Autumn, the coziness of long winter nights.
This week, where I live on the south coast of England, we have seen a mixture of pouring rain, overcast days, leaves of bronze and yellow scurrying across the grass, bright sunshine filling one day, and a frosty morning the next. On the day the leaves were blowing wildly across the lawns, I was noticing how they swirled in the air blowing in one direction, and then swirled and blew in slightly another. As soon as I stepped outside an icy blast of wind hit me in the face, biting my ears, making my eyes water. I pulled my hood up and bent my head against the wind and rain that was just starting to drop from the sky.
I can see the colors of the leaves and sky, the rain fall, the sun shine, but of course, I can’t see the wind. I only know it’s there when I feel it or when I see the evidence of it when the tree branches bend or fallen leaves blow across the ground.
I thought to myself, that’s like God’s love. You and I can’t see it, but we know it’s there by the evidence of it in someone’s life. Like bending branches give evidence of the wind, our behavior towards another gives evidence of God’s love. How amazing that Father chooses to use you and me to touch someone else with His love and how vastly important that we let Him use us in this way.
His own Word says:
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
“Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” I John 3:18
“This is real love, It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, surely we ought to love each other.” I John 4:10-11
As the wind touches the branches, may God’s love in us touch someone today.
My dog friend, Katie, went back to her own home two days ago. What a great week we had together. Before she left, Father gave me another reminder of a vital truth to make our Christian walk sweeter each day.
It began with a pill. Katie, because of her arthritis and joint pain, has to take two tablets a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. She’s actually very good about it, and doesn’t put up a fight as I might do if someone began to poke a pill down my throat. It’s all a quick procedure. However, when she sees me coming, she does her alligator impression of clamping her teeth shut. When I win and open her little alligator mouth, down goes the pill and that’s that. She instantly looks at me with smiling eyes, nub of tail trying to wag what’s not there, and her whole back end swaying from side to side in delight at my praise of what a good dog she’s been for taking her pill. We repeat this twice a day.
This daily procedure brought to my mind the verse in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse and the passage where it’s found should be a great joy to every Christian, but too often it’s a disappointment. That’s because we don’t really understand it. We look at it with physical eyes and try to give it physical explanation. We tell ourselves that we’ll live right before God, and then He’ll give us our heart’s desire, perhaps of needed finance, or improved health, or a job, or a list of anything we need in our physical world at present. When things don’t go to plan as we had hoped, we live in the disappointment of God not giving us our heart’s desire.
Katie’s desire was to do without her daily pill. Her whole body and alligator teeth clenching, let me know that in no uncertain terms. She’s a sweet little dog that I love dearly, but she was going to get that pill, no matter her own desires were different. She doesn’t know what the pills are for and how they give her better leg movement so she can walk and play with less pain, but I know it. Therefore, in her best interests, down goes the pill day after day.
It’s the same in our spiritual world. There are many difficulties and challenges to face in our physical worlds. We desire they go away. We don’t want to deal with them. Perhaps we don’t even know how to deal with them but we come up with a plan that seems right to us, so we look at this verse and pray to Father to give us the desires of our heart.
I want to suggest that if we look at this verse with spiritual eyesight rather than physical we will certainly gain a beautiful understanding that will bring much joy. To delight ourselves in God isn’t to put on some good behavior for the purpose of getting what we want; to delight ourselves in God is an implication to be delighted with God. David wrote in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord.”
This is the key: When our desires are to know Father more intimately, then we naturally begin to take hold of all His characteristics: His own strength, His own courage, His own wisdom, His own joy – to face any “pill” episodes in our own lives. After all, we know Father never allows anything to come into our lives that we can’t bear. He promised to never leave us, and He promised to give us everything of Himself to get through anything.
Is there a pill that Father says you must swallow? A situation you can’t get out of? A direction you’re uncertain of, filling your thoughts with fear of the unknown? I encourage you – don’t concentrate on the pill – concentrate on the pill-giver and trust Him. He loves you. He knows what He is doing in your life and it’s always in your own best interests. The bigger the difficulty in life, the more we need to meditate on Father Himself and all His loveliness and of His love for us.
When our desires are for more of Him, we get just that – more of Him, to face and get through whatever today holds.
I am having the joy of keeping my friend’s dog while she is away this next week. Katie, the Schnauzer, arrived yesterday. We’re already having a great time together. I love my dogs that I regularly get to take care of when their owners are away.
Katie is a senior dog now and has her share of old-age woes. Arthritis has taken a firm grip and is noticeable by the limp when she walks. I live in an upstairs apartment. Obviously, there are stairs that have to be climbed. I put a strong and short hold on Katie’s leash when she is going down and I stand behind to give little boosts to help her up.
This morning she was all excited as usual as we both got ready for our first walk of the day. It was daybreak and fresh and silent. There is a small lake just outside my home with ducks and moor hens and coots. There is even a fox den inside some dense bushes at the edge of the lake. I love this time of day walking around the lake, and was just as excited about the walk as was Katie.
I quietly opened my door and led the way to the stairs. Katie stopped firm and fast. Having just woken up, she was no doubt feeling extra stiff; her joints had not had time to loosen up. She was prancing up and down on her front feet, so wanting to go down the stairs, but obviously fearful of doing so.
I spoke encouragingly and placing my hand beneath her abdomen I proceeded to guide her down the stairs. I wanted her to feel safe against a possible fall. We took several steps together when all of a sudden Katie took obvious control and began a steady but resolute descent. She no longer needed my help. Away she went!
I find this same thing happens in our spiritual world. We can be fearful about so many issues in our lives. Sometimes the fear takes hold, like Katie’s arthritis, and we are fearful to move; we know our own pain and it could get worse. We stay stuck at the top of the stairs, desperately wanting to get down but fearful to make a move.
I have found in my own experiences that when fear takes hold, I remain fearful as long as I merely stand at the top of the stairs looking down. However, when I take a first step, boldness begins to grow immediately. No matter how weak I feel, with each step taken, faith that speaks, “You can do it!” sounds in my heart. More steps are taken and with each step God pours in His own strength, and peace, courage, and joy.
May you be blessed in the steps you face today. Take the first, God will give you strength needed for all the rest.
I’ve been visiting friends in Wales and they’ve shown me some beautiful and interesting sites. One day they took me to the town of Hay-On-Wye which is known as the book capital. The streets are narrow, and winding along gentle slopes. There is a castle and a church dating back as far as 1070AD. Surrounding this small town are valleys and hills, and at this time of year the colors are bright with bronze and yellow autumn leaves.
It was raining the day we visited, but even the grey wet of the sky didn’t take away from the charm of the town. We walked along, peering inside old bookshops, its worn, wooden planks creaking its welcome to our visit. When the rain got too much, we ducked inside a tea shop for a refreshing drink of the hot, golden brew. It gave us a moment to wipe the rain from our faces and catch our breath from the cold, before we set off again. We ducked inside several tea shops that day to escape the rain for a few needed moments. Without it I think we may have ended up being more on the miserable side than the contented one on which we found ourselves.
As I have reflected on this day, I have been reminded of our occasional spiritual walks that take place in the rain. Life brings us sunshine and it brings us clouds and sometimes storms. They can’t be avoided. Life is full of stormy challenges but in our spiritual world we may stop and take a rest with God Himself. Even if just a moment in the midst of life’s rainy days, it helps to calm our inner spirit, and to wipe the rain of despair from our faces. Resting with God is a needed warm drink in any storm of life.
Remember the words of Jesus when He said in Matthew 11:28 NLT, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
He also said, “Come with me, by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV
Jesus understands very well the rainy days of life. He too took time to be alone with His Father. Remember too: While it’s great and needed, to physically get away to be alone with God, there are mad moments in anyone’s day when that is not possible, but do not fear – Escape with Him in your heart, in the quiet places where the Holy Spirit resides, and from where He will give you His own peace, strength, and wisdom to carry on through your day. Needed rest is only a, “Help me, Father,” away.