Archive for the “God’s priorities” Category

God created each of us uniquely – we’re all wired differently. When life causes those wires to get twisted, things inside us begin to go haywire. A few days and we’re just a little out of sorts. A week or two and satan is there at our side ready to capture us with temptations to return to old sinful patterns or try new ones. I’m sure you’ve been there. Too much work, too many crises, too much isolation or too little adventure and you’re ready to jump at change.

Usually that change isn’t following God. Yes, God can bring us to a state of holy discontent which launches us into a new ministry or new level of intimacy with Him. A holy discontent isn’t the same as a life that has gone haywire.

Whether we like to admit it or not, it is routine (which sometimes become tradition) which grounds us, and it is that grounding that we need when our wires get jumbled.

This morning, I returned to my Saturday morning pattern of sitting in my reclining chair alone with God. For a number of years, I have reserved my Saturday mornings for time with God. It was His idea – He began waking me up early on the only day of the week I could sleep in. And I love to sleep in. At first I was frustrated every week when I awoke early no matter what time I went to bed Friday night. Eventually I remembered one of my life rules – if something out of the ordinary happens repeatedly and it’s not sin, it must be God! It’s not rocket science, but sometimes I’m a bit slow at recognizing the hand of God.

So I started getting up when God woke me and going to my reclining chair, sitting, reading, writing and praying. It had become such a special time each week.

Then life got really crazy. I remained consistent with reading and praying throughout the week, but I missed my Saturday mornings with God.

This morning, after taking the dog for a walk, I am back in my reclining chair with my laptop. Ahhhh….I feel grounded in a way I haven’t for a couple of months. Simply being here, reading, writing, and praying has calmed me in a way I’ve been missing. That’s what grounding is. It takes the negative sparks of energy and dissipates them. Ahhhhh…..

My daily reading and prayer ground me, but they are more of a maintenance level grounding. My Saturday mornings are my reboot and refresh level grounding.

Each of us is grounded by many things throughout the day. Here’s just a few of things other than Bible reading and prayer that ground me throughout the day:

  • I like to stir my tea. Most people stir their coffee or tea or hot chocolate once and then take the spoon out and drink their tea. I leave my spoon in and before I take each sip I stir my tea. The motion of stirring the tea is very calming for me.
  • I pause to kiss my husband and tell him how important he is to me.
  • I stop what I’m doing and evaluate my to-do list and schedule. That causes my husband stress. It grounds me.
  • I take a dance break when a great song comes on the radio at work. (Fortunately, I am not subjecting coworkers to my dancing. Typically I am working alone or with my husband in our basement office.)

How about you? What is it that grounds you? Perhaps a date with your husband or dinner as a family are things that calm your world. Maybe it’s reading a good book before bed or exercising or cooking or cleaning. (Man, I wish cleaning calmed me. It doesn’t.) Maybe it’s snuggling with your children at night or sitting on the porch in the morning with your Bible and coffee. It’s important to take time to do the things that bring calm into your life.

It’s critically important that connecting with God be a part of your grounding. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Read your Bible and pray daily. This daily connection with God, even if it is shorter on some days than on others, keeps you grounded on a regular basis. It needs to be enhanced by those weekly, more intense times with Him, but it provides a minimal safety net when life goes crazy. If I had not maintained this pattern over the past few months of craziness, I can’t imagine how off-kilter I would be today.
  • Meet with God’s people regularly – go to church! Some think that attending a regular Bible study is a substitute for church. I would caution against that. There are few Bible studies that provide the corporate worship experience that a church gathering does. That experience includes worshiping together with other believers and being inspired and instructed through His Word. Each one of those activities are part of our grounding with God. Each provides a different interaction with Him. Most Bible studies provide fellowship and study, lacking intimate worship and inspiration.
  • Enjoy a weekly Sabbath. God created and commanded the Sabbath for many reasons, but one of them is as a gift to His children – a gift of time set aside to reconnect with Him – to become fully grounded before facing the world for another week. Read more about the Sabbath and the joy of keeping it in my series of blogs that start with this one.

For me, the above three activities are non-negotiable for staying grounded in God. Do I miss reading my Bible some days? Yes. Do I miss church some weeks? Yes. Do enjoy a weekly Sabbath every week? No. I’m not perfect in anything yet. Still, I protect each of those activities pretty fiercely, committing to them even when it’s inconvenient or I just plain don’t feel like it. Because God is faithful and will meet us when we make the sacrifice to meet with Him.

So, friends, I ask again: what is it that grounds you? Is God in the mix? Does He play a prominent enough role in your grounding routines? Let me encourage you to find those things that ground you, and especially those things that connect you to God, and make them part of your routine. Then fiercely guard those routines. Because life without grounding isn’t pretty or fun!

Symptoms that you need more grounding:

  • Impatience – When I’m in the car and all the drivers around me seem to be out to get me or determined to make me late, I need more grounding.
  • Quick to become annoyed or angry – When clients call with routine inquires and I get annoyed, I need more grounding.
  • Always tired – When everything seems a chore because I’m just so tired, I need more grounding. (You might think it’s sleep that I need – it is – and when I’m well grounded, I sleep well.)
  • Lacking in creativity – When I have no solutions to the challenges of life, I need more grounding. It means I’m just going through the emotions and grounding dissipates the negative energy and infuses us with positive energy. Positive energy brings creativity.
  • Seeking escape – When all I can think about is getting away or vegging in front of the television after work, I need more grounding. Grounding is our escape and takes away the need for an escape.
  • Always making excuses – That’s called sin. “The woman you gave me caused me to do it.” Those were Adam’s words to God after he also ate the fruit of the tree. He was blaming both his wife and God with that single statement. When I am well grounded, I am able to call sin “sin.” I am able to confess my sin to God and others and enjoy forgiveness and freedom.

If you looked at this list of symptoms and recognize that you experience many of them (and perhaps made excuses for why you experience them), you need more grounding in your life. Yes, your life is hectic and crazy; and yes, there may be others in your life that impact your ability to develop your grounding routines. But God – those magically inspiring words – but God can change that when you ground yourself and your life in Him. Find those grounding patterns, create those grounding patterns, and fiercely protect them.

You will be honoring God and He will honor you. You will begin to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. Perhaps not tomorrow – because some of us need a major rewiring before we can become grounded – but God can and will do it! He’s that creative with solutions and He’s that good!

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I was asked recently about my position on the rapture – would it occur at the beginning of the 7 years of tribulation, in the middle, or at the end.

I doubt that my answer satisfied the questioner. “It really doesn’t matter!” was my straight forward response to the question.

Studying prophecy can be fascinating. It can be exciting. (It can also be scary if you lose sight of God’s faithfulness and goodness.) It can be great at reinforcing the validity of God’s Word. Reading about fulfilled prophecy was instrumental in bringing me to Christ. And as a young Christian, I spent a great deal of time reading about and listening to speakers teach about different views on when the rapture would occur. I had an opinion at the time, but in honesty, I just don’t any more. Because it has no impact on how I live out my relationship with Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Colossians:

10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:10-14 (NIV)

Paul prayed for the Colossians not so that they would have a correct and perfect understanding of when the rapture would occur. He prayed for them so that they would life a life worthy of the Lord and so that they would please him. He prayed for them so that they would bear good fruit and grow in the fruit of the Spirit and thankfulness. Why are those things important? Because God has done so much for us – rescued us from sin, brought us into the kingdom, redeemed us and forgiven our sins. Because God has done those things, Paul prayed that the Colossians would live a life that honored and reflected them.

Paul urged the Colossians to live out his prayer for them:

6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.    
Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

You see, our life isn’t supposed to be about debating things that have not been fully revealed, it’s to be about living in Christ. It’s to be about demonstrating His life and love to those around us. An occasional evening spent discussing prophecy with friends (note the word discussing, not arguing) can be enjoyable. But if such discussions are the focus of your faith and practice, perhaps it’s time to enjoy the Epistles and spend a little less time in Revelation.

Because the truth is…when the rapture occurs really doesn’t matter. God will keep us in the palm of His hand here on earth until He’s ready to receive us in glory. May we glorify Him through the whole process.

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When everything seems to be going wrong, we don’t like to think it might be our fault. “You did your best” a well-meaning friend might say. Or “sometimes things just happen.” Or perhaps they look at your circumstances with you and commiserate “it is what it is.” Well, yes, that’s obviously true – it is what it is. But why is it what it is? Sometimes it is what it is because we’re outside God’s will. The wise person steps back when everything seems to be going wrong and asks the Holy Spirit to lead them in examining their life.

The book of Haggai reminds us that our actions have consequences and sometimes it really is our fault.

The Israelites just couldn’t seem to get ahead:

5This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! 6You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!
Haggai 1:5-6 (NLT)

Been there, done that! Didn’t have money to buy a T-shirt.

“Let me explain further”, God says:

3Then the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: 4“Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? … 7“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! … 9You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. 10It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. 11I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.”
Haggai 1:3-4, 7, 9-11 (NLT)

God is very gracious. He doesn’t point out a problem without giving a solution.

8aNow go up in to the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house.
Haggai 1:8b (NLT)

He also promises blessings for obedience.

8bThen I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. … 18“Think about this eighteenth day of December, the day when the rebuilding of the LORD’s Temple began. Think carefully. 19I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”
Haggai 1:8b, 2:18-19 (NLT)

Is your life a mess because of your own actions? Maybe you’re using all your money for your own benefit and not giving to God the tithe (tenth) that belongs to Him. Or perhaps you’re using all your time to pursue your career or leisure instead of spending an appropriate amount of it to get to know God better? Or just maybe you’re allowing things into your life that you clearly know are inconsistent with God’s plan for your abundant life.

God used the prophet Haggai to point the Israelites in the right direction. The Holy Spirit will do the same in our lives. The question is “will we listen and respond.” It’s up to each of us to choose God.

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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34“So don’t worry about tomorrow…32bYour heavenly Father already knows…”
Matthew 6:34a, 32b (NLT)

I’m tired today. I’ve been tired for awhile. I’m having some medical tests done in a few weeks, but in the meantime, I’m tired. And frustrated that treatment for the tiredness won’t begin until the tests have been completed. So I feel like I am looking at a (small) tunnel of tiredness and lack of productivity.

Do I have faith that God can interrupt that cycle? Absolutely and I trust that He will. I just don’t know if it will be today, tomorrow or six weeks from today.

So today I’ve been reassessing – what can I reasonably expect to do over the coming weeks, what’s most important to God, what should I put at the bottom of the list? I’m sorry to admit that this exercise has brought me perilously close to worrying! If you’re a regular reader of, you know that I work hard at not being a worrier. It is the antithesis of faith and there’s simply no profit in it.

Which brings me to laying my schedule for the week before the Lord and asking Him what gets weeded out. As I was doing that, I was scrolling through my journal backwards, looking from today back through previous days to review God’s lessons to me. I came to an entry from a few weeks ago in which I had copied Matthew 6:24-34 into my journal thinking I might blog on it. That blog never got written – I guess God was saving it for today because when I came to it, I was so comforted by the Holy Spirit I knew I had to begin to write. Our God is such a God of peace. There is no stress, no uncertainty and no busyness in Him.

Let me share with you how I read the passage.

Since I was scrolling upward in my word processing document, I came to the last verse of the passage first:

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

Sandy (the Holy Spirit said) – remember – don’t worry about tomorrow. I’ve got it covered. Don’t fret about that list of things you want to do and the list of things you have to do. I know about all of it, and I know about everything that hasn’t even hit your list yet. You deal with the immediate. Let’s talk about what you need to do right now. Let’s refocus.

Ahhh. I can let go of all my concerns for the week. I don’t have to keep track of it right now. I’m not saying that God doesn’t want us to plan. I strongly believe that good planning honors God. But as I said, sometimes planning brings me perilously close to worrying and that’s what was happening today.

So I scrolled up a bit further…

32bYour heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
Matthew 6: 32b-33 (NLT)

Ahhhh. My heavenly Father is so good. He already knows my needs. Before I knew about the first thing that was going to be added to my schedule this week, He already knew about it. In fact, He’s on top of it – and has been since the beginning of time.

He already knows all my needs. Not just some of them, but all of them. He knows about those things that I don’t yet know about. He’s on top of those things, too. He’s got me covered. He will give me all I need each day.

Wait a minute…didn’t I just blog about this? Yep. Less than two weeks ago!

Give us our food for today,
Matthew 6:11

And going back to read that blog, I see that I quoted verses 25 and 26 of the passage we’re looking at today. OK, God. I’m getting the message. Slowly sometimes, but I’m getting it! (Yes, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that after writing and living that blog so recently I am in need of its lesson again today…but we all fall short of the glory of God and I’m SO thankful that He is gracious and forgiving of sins.)

God knows all our needs – even before we do – and he will give us all we need…if we live for Him and make the Kingdom of God our primary concern.

That surely defines our priorities, doesn’t it? As I look at my week, there are still as many tasks as there were when I started this blog, but I can begin to create a plan in faith that God will supply all that I need.

8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

Continuing my scroll up the passage, I see the beginning of verse:

Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things?
Matthew 6:32a (NLT)

Ouch! The Holy Spirit gently reminds me that pagans worry about what they will wear and what they will eat – because they have no God to trust. My God is faithful and worthy of my trust. Today, I can choose to trust in the Living God who will supply all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, NIV)

Finally, I scroll up just a little farther:

28“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith!
Matthew 6:28-30 (NLT)

As I read this passage, I “felt” the care God has for the beautiful flowers. I was overcome with the emotion of an artist taking great care as He creates a great work. He or she moves slowly, tenderly, selecting the proper tools and shaping the work into something beautiful. Colors are mixed until they are the perfect shade and applied with the master’s touch. Things are worked and reworked until they are in complete harmony. God cares for the lilies of the field in this way. Scripture says He placed all the stars in the sky and knows them each by name. It’s not a far stretch of to say that He also placed each flower in the beautiful field of wild flowers. And He cares for me more than that.

As an added kiss on the cheek by the Holy Spirit, I remember that lilies are my favorite flower. I friend gave me some a few weeks ago. They are still beautiful in the middle of my table. God cares for me more than that.

Yes, even when my faith is strong, I have such little faith. Lord, increase my faith!

So I tell you, friends, as Jesus told His disciples – don’t worry about every day life – it consists of way more than whatever you’re worrying about. God has it under control. He knows all that you need and will meet (even surpass) them. Keep your focus on Him and His priorities. And when even those priorities are about to overwhelm you, take a step back and refocus. He’s got you covered!

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9bOur Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.

10May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth,
just as it is in heaven.

11Give us our food for today,
12and forgive us our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

13And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9b-13 (NLT)

As I read Matthew 6 recently, the Holy Spirit whispered into my spirit “Do your prayers reflect Jesus’ Instructions?” I am sorry to admit that often my daily prayers do not reflect the same priorities as Jesus’ prayer. I so easily fall into the pattern of praying needs – my needs, the needs of family members and friends, and needs that touch my heart from around the world. Jesus includes a pray for God to meet our needs, but it’s almost incidental compared to the other elements of the prayer.

I am reading through the Bible in the New Living Translation this year. While I have a favorite translation, I like to read other translations because the different phraseology sometimes draws my attention in a new way. That can be especially true when I am reading well known passages like the Lord’s prayer. It’s easy for my eyes to skim over the words that I’ve heard and read so often. When I read the Lord’s prayer in the New Living Translation, it came to life in a new way.

Before looking at the prayer in more detail, however, let’s look at how the prayer was introduced in Luke’s gospel:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (NLT)

Luke tells us that it was after the disciplines saw Jesus praying that they asked Him to teach them to pray. What’s interesting is that the disciplines presumably knew how to pray. They had been raised in Jewish homes and were regular attendees at their local synagogue. Prayer was not something they were unfamiliar with. The disciples recognized something different about Jesus’ prayers, however. They saw prayers that were more vital than any they had seen before. They saw lives changed as people were healed – physically, emotionally and spiritually. They were stirred in their spirits when Jesus prayed. They recognized that their prayers didn’t carry the authority and power that Jesus’ prayers did…so they asked Him to teach them.

And the prayer He prayed in response to their request is surprising in its simplicity and power. Let’s look at it a bit more closely.

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.
Matthew 6:9

Jesus begins by exalting His Father in heaven. The New Living Translation says “may your name be honored.” The New International Version has a better translation: “Hallowed be your name.” The word translated “hallowed” or “honored” means holy, consecrated and sanctified and is derived from a word meaning “sacred.” In that single phrase, Jesus recognizes and declares God as above all things and completely holy.

I frequently begin my prayers with the simple statement “God, you are so good.” Somehow that beginning centers me – it’s like breathing in a breath of fresh peace and it pulls me from the chaos around me into the center of God’s presence. The beginning of my prayer isn’t meant to get God’s attention, it’s meant to place my full attention on God and His goodness. Jesus’ prayer goes a step further. It exalts the Lord beyond His goodness to His perfect holiness. “Oh, Father in heaven – hallowed be Your name.” The phrase itself steps me into worship.

An aside: I began this blog a couple of days ago. It got interrupted and I am now returning to finish it. It’s early in the morning and quiet in the house. The day hasn’t gone crazy yet. As I whispered the words I wrote – “Oh, Father in heaven – hallowed by Your name” – tremendous worship filled my heart. I am so glad we serve a holy God. It is His holiness that makes His goodness possible. If He were not perfectly holy, He would not be perfectly good. “Oh, Father in heaven – hallowed be Your name.” Wow!

May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth,
just as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

After declaring God’s holiness, Jesus speaks into the spiritual realm and asks God to bring His Kingdom to earth – here and now. He asks for God’s will to be accomplished on the earth. Jesus knew two things as He prayed this prayer: That God’s will is good – it is His will that all be saved; and that God’s will meant great personal sacrifice for Jesus. Jesus knew He was praying into His journey to the cross and He knew He was praying into His journey of making it possible for all to be saved. When I pray God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven,” I don’t know what that means for my future. What I do know is that I serve a perfectly holy, just and good God. I can trust Him with my future.

So let’s step back from the immediacy of our lives and pray into the future. “Lord, I want Your will to be done.” Praying into that future affects the immediate. Lord, if You don’t want me to have this job, I don’t want it. If You don’t want me to have this ministry, I don’t want to have it. If You don’t want me to have this spouse, I don’t want him or her.

I know. Those things are easier to write than to live when we really want the job, the ministry or the spouse. What I really want more, though, is Jesus and His life for me. “Father, Your will, not mine.”

I think it’s very easy to make this portion of Jesus’ prayer over spiritual and not apply it to our own lives. When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are praying two aspects of the prayer. There will come a day when God’s Kingdom will be on earth so we’re praying “come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Until that time, however, it’s important to recognize that we’re praying for His will to be done through us. God isn’t just going to superimpose His great and glorious Kingdom here on earth (at least not yet) – he’s going to work it out in our lives. And that’s a good thing – what a glorious opportunity God gives us to live the life He (in all His holiness) has purposed for us!

Give us our food for today,
Matthew 6:11

God cares about our physical needs. In this simple phrase, Jesus’ prayer tells me two things: (1) ask God for what you need today, and (2) don’t worry about tomorrow’s needs. If we always trust for God to meet our needs today, is there any reason to worry about tomorrow’s needs? No. Yet we are very good at turning tomorrow’s needs into today’s worry, aren’t we? Just a few verses later Jesus encourages the disciples to trust God for everyday things:

25“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? 26Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 
Matthew 6:25-26 (NLT)

As Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He included one phrase “Give us our food for today.” Implied in that sentence is our trust that God will provided the food we need – every day. “Lord, give us the food we need for today and I will be satisfied.”

and forgive us our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
Matthew 6:12

The phraseology in the New Living Translation is a little different from the more traditional phrasing of this verse. It puts our forgiveness of others in the past tense – “Lord, forgive my sins just as I have (already) forgiven others.” There is a relationship between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. Unforgiveness hinders our relationship with God.

In Matthew 18 and Luke 19 Scripture records one of Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness and reinforces this point. A King had a servant who owed him a great debt but could not pay. The King forgave the servant’s debt. The servant then went to those who owed him money and insisted on payment. Even though they begged for more time to pay, the servant showed no forgiveness and had them thrown into prison. The King was not pleased:

32Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.
Matthew 18, 32-34 (NLT)

Christ died so that our sins (and they are many) could be forgiven. Shouldn’t we have mercy on our fellow servants as well?

Remember that previous line in Jesus’ prayer – “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven”? Forgiving one another is part of the working out of God’s Kingdom on earth.

And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:13 (NLT)

I like this translation of Matthew 6:13. It reinforces that I have a responsibility here – to resist temptation. James tells us to resist the devil and the devil will flee from us (James 4:7b). I like that verse!

God will deliver us from the evil one, but we must resist him. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Jesus had to resist the temptation. He battled it with the Word of God and satan fled.

As we walk purposefully through life, honoring God’s name and making His will our highest priority, yielding to temptation becomes less and less desirable. We will battle our fleshly nature as long as we are in the flesh, but the closer we draw to God, the less tempting those sinful natures become. The passage in James 4 continues with a key verse:

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.
James 4:8 (NLT)

Draw close to God today – through the prayer His Son taught us to pray. Make it your own.

“Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come on earth, may Your will be done on earth – as it is done in heaven. I trust You today for the food, clothing and shelter I need. Forgive my sins, Lord. I forgive those who have sinned against me. Help me to resist the temptation to sin today – deliver me from satan’s snares.”

“For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

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And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

Lately my days have been stolen from me! At least that’s how I would have viewed them in the past. I am learning to view them simply as God having other plans. As my parents age, it’s not unusual for me to get a call that has me drop everything and drive an hour to Cleveland to spend hours at the hospital then drive the hour home. That’s usually followed by phone calls to make, e-mails to write and fallout to deal with the following day or days. That fallout might be more trips to Cleveland, making arrangements of one sort or another, or just dealing with my own emotional condition following the crisis.

I’m not complaining. I am blessed to still have my mom and step-parents around. I’m just saying that God is using this time to teach me in a new way that my time is not my own any more than my money or my possessions are not my own. Learning that my money and possessions were not my own was much easier!

I like my time being my own. I like scheduling out my days and having a plan. I’m even pretty good about things happening that change the plan – because things always happen and plans always change. But the situations I’m facing these days are not changes to plans, these situations are the demolition of plans with little likelihood of being able to develop an alternate plan.

Have you been there? How have you dealt with it?

God is teaching me to let go and trust that He is the author of time and He will and does make it possible to either accomplish what’s necessary or give grace for what isn’t finished as planned. I love that about God.

1) God is teaching me…He doesn’t expect me to just know it. He doesn’t expect me to get it right all the time. He understands that this doesn’t come naturally to me, so He gently pulls and shapes me until I am malleable clay and am formed into the image He has in mind. OK, sometimes it doesn’t feel so gentle, but the end product is pleasing to Him. And if it’s pleasing to Him, I’m good with it.

God has me in training and training is grueling and painful sometimes. Other times it’s repetitive and boring. That’s where perseverance comes in. The Apostle Paul had a few things to say about racing and perseverance:

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

2) He enables me to accomplish things I can’t believe can be accomplished in the time available. Wow! I preached a sermon once about the power of a time-warping God. That sermon was about how He has worked in the past, even before I was born, He works in my present and He is somehow at work in my future – to set things up and help me become the woman of God He wants me to be. That’s pretty powerful stuff. This is a different kind of time warping. This time warping somehow accomplishes four hours worth of work in one – which doesn’t do much for my income when I bill on an hourly basis, but He takes care of that too and it keeps the clients happy which causes them to be repeat customers.

3) He gives grace for what isn’t accomplished that I thought needed to be accomplished. Sometimes I’ll learn that a client was on vacation when I thought he was expecting a project, or I’ll receive changes that would have made all my work a waste had I had time to do it. And sometimes clients are simply understanding as we humbly admit we won’t be able to deliver when we expected to.

Both this point and the previous one are reflected in our company’s key verse:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

The sum of those three lessons teaches me one other thing – that I truly can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

I love that God deals with us where we are but takes us to a greater place. He not only has plans for us – plans to prosper us and to give us a hope – but He turns those hopes into reality by walking through our every day life and especially our every day challenges.

My challenge for each of us is to look for what God is doing in each of those 3 areas:

  • What is He teaching you through your most significant challenges this week?
  • How is He helping you get through those challenges?
  • What extra-ordinary grace is He extending to you or others that makes your life work?

My prayer is that we become partners in our growth – recognizing God’s work in us and allowing Him free reign to conform us into the image of Christ – for His glory in heaven and on earth.

Blessings, friends, as you are molded into something greater than you are!

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God, the Creator of the Universe is Our Dwelling Place

1Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

What a reassurance to the psalmist! “Lord, throughout all the generations, you have been our dwelling place.”

  • God has been faithful to His people for thousands of years. He has sheltered for them.
  • We have a heritage of generations who have been sheltered by the Lord. The older I get the more important my heritage is to me. That heritage connects me to something much bigger than me. When I allow the Lord to be my shelter, I continue an established heritage.
  • We are part of a community – He is “our dwelling place” – we are not alone.
  • Our dwelling place is the Lord – As we’ll see in the following verses, the Lord almighty!

2Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

4For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

  • He is an eternal God.
  • He is the God with power to create the earth and the world.
  • Eternity is an unimaginably long time. Perhaps a thousand years is like one evening.

We are Sinful and Deserve God’s Wrath

3You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
5You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
6though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

  • He rules over the lives of men and women.
  • In light of eternity, our lives are as short-lived as a blade of grass that comes to life one morning but dies in the heat of the sun.

7We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
1 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

  • We are a sinful people and deserve nothing short of the wrath of God.
  • We could easily be consumed by our sin.
  • Our sins are not a secret from God. They are offensive in His presence.

Seek the Lord and His Favor; Find a Heart of Joy

In light of God’s faithfulness and power, and man’s sinfulness and impotence, the Psalmist does the only thing that makes sense: He Asks for wisdom.

12Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

  • Wisdom comes from the Lord. Lord, teach me how to order my days, giving priority to the most important things and forsaking the foolish.
  • It is the Lord’s unfailing love that satisfies our deepest needs, our deepest hunger. Lord, reveal Your unfailing love to me in the morning until I am satisfied in it.
  • Being satisfied in the Lord enables me to face the world with songs of joy and gladness. Lord, put that song in my heart to carry me through the troubles of this life.
  • Show me Your deeds and splendor, Lord.
  • Let Your favor rest upon me. When God’s favor rests upon us, we are blessed.
  • Establish the works of my hands. Keep my life from being meaningless.

I can’t help but see that these ending prayer requests are an outcome of verse 1 – that when the Lord is our dwelling place, we are positioned for Him to show us His deeds and splendor and to be satisfied with His unfailing love. We are positioned to have the song of joy in our heart.

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Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

I apologize, readers, for blogging so infrequently over the past eight weeks. I have been working unusually long hours and have had little energy or brain-power left for blogging. As I get back into the habit, I thought I’d start with a short blog about dealing with over-busy times.

We all find ourselves unexpectedly over-scheduled at times. This blog is about those times. Let me start with a caveat, however. If you find yourself perpetually over-scheduled, may I suggest that you take a time out (yes, you can – really!) and evaluate your life. I truly believe that God is not honored by a life that is perpetually over-scheduled. Some of these tips will help you, but stronger medicine is required to heal the perpetually overly full schedule.

8 Things to Do When You’re in a Short or Temporary Season of Over-Busyness:

  1. Pray specifically asking God where your priorities should be. Ask Him for guidance about the big picture (i.e., those tasks that should be dropped or handed off for a period of time) and ask Him about your priorities each day. Here are just a few ways that God might make His priorities known to you:
    • A persistent thought or leaning toward one project or another.
    • A peace about passing some tasks to others or leaving them undone.
    • A change in your passions for specific tasks.
    • An unexpected person offering to shoulder some task you were wondering how you’d accomplish.
  2. Be obedient – Do those things that are God highlights as priorities. Sometimes you may want to do other things instead. Trust that God knows best.
  3. Act with integrity – Be proactive about asking others to help and advising others when you will not be able to accomplish something you’ve promised. Don’t wait until the last minute or until you’re already late with something.
  4. Trust that God is in control – When we are over-busy, it is easy to become stressed about the many, many things we ought to do. Trusting God brings a confidence that pushes that stress away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded myself over the past two months that none of this unexpected busyness took God by surprise. When each person created the schedule that I’m responsible to meet, God knew about it. He will either enable me to meet that schedule, provide someone else to meet it for me, or He will give me the grace to honestly admit that I cannot meet it. Guess what! Even though I am quite tired from my busyness over the past eight weeks, it’s been fun watching Him in action.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing those things that God has said is not your top priority. I have hated not writing my blog more regularly, but I’ve also been confident that it was lower on the priority list than meeting working deadlines, maintaining some ministry locally, and visiting my parents. It would be easy to feel remorse or guilt for not blogging regularly. To do so, however, would be acting as if God’s priorities for my time were wrong.
  6. Don’t neglect Bible reading. You may not have time to do as much study or meditation of the passages, but be sure to read.
  7. Be thankful. It’s so easy to become overly task driven and forget to pause to be thankful. It will change your day.
  8. Don’t neglect church and continue to observe a Sabbath. Scripture says that we are to observe the Sabbath even during times of harvest. This is a harvest time at work and it is so tempting to spend just a bit of time on Sundays “catching up” so that Monday will be better. Trust me. God knows best and you will be more “caught up” on Monday if you fully step away from work on Sunday. (No, I’m not legalist about Sabbath being Sunday – any day of the week is fine, so long as you are careful to observe it.)

I know it doesn’t seem like you need 8 more things to do when you’re already over-busy. Trust me, put these 8 things first and God will control the over-busyness. Of course that’s not to say you won’t be tired for awhile! Blessings, friends!

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” [Jesus said]
Matthew 13:44

This is one of those passages we often use to teach about how valuable the Kingdom of Heaven is – it’s so wonderful that this man went out and sold all he had so that he could have it. I wonder how often we allow the passage to challenge us. If we have truly found the Kingdom of Heaven – that is, eternal life in Christ, do respond as this man did. There are two phrases in the passage that challenge me:

  • Notice that the passage says “in his joy” he went and sold his possessions so that he could buy the field. Are we joyful in our obedience when it requires sacrifice on our part? If not, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing – our focus should never be on our sacrifice, but on the wonderful treasure that will be ours – Jesus.

I have been convicted lately about how self-focused my life is at times. Yes, I regularly serve the Lord in a number of ways, but the self-focus comes in when I become aware of the cost of serving – generally, a loss of personal time, energy or finances. Perhaps that’s an indication that I sometimes allow my focus to get fuzzy or even all out of whack. Lord, help me to continue “in joy,” not giving recognition to any loss I might experience along the way.

  • The passage also says that he sold “all he had” to purchase the field. Have I gone all in? (I can guarantee you that I have not.)

As pondered this passage in my mind, I was in an airport waiting for my flight. Not far from me there was a young couple with a little girl. She was perhaps about three years old – at the age where little girls love to walk on their tippy toes, almost bouncing from place to place. Her mom was standing next to several pieces of luggage while giving the little girl a bit of freedom before requiring her to sit quietly in an airplane for several hours. The little girl would get about fifteen feet away and her mom would call to her and tell her to come back. The little girl would obediently turn and bounce back to her mom. It occurred to me that at any second the child could choose to disobey (as children learning about freedom are want to do). I am fully confident that the mother wouldn’t hesitate to leave her belongings for a second to run after her child. I was standing there with my laptop bag between my legs, my arm resting on my purse with half an eye on my cell phone that was laid on the counter next to me charging while reading a book* and pondering this passage. I was ever aware that at any moment my treasured possessions could be pilfered if I wasn’t diligent in the crowded airport. Yet I’m certain this mom would gladly leave all her possessions behind (not even selling them as in the parable) if her most treasured possession began enjoying too much freedom.

In my heart, have I sold all my possessions to pursue the Kingdom of Heaven?  Am I willing to hear God say “give this away?” or “go here?” I want to believe that I am…

How about you? Is Jesus your most treasured possession and do you treat all your other possessions accordingly?

In my previous blog, I wrote about the disciplines practiced by early Christians before their baptism on Easter Sunday. They devoted themselves to prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. I have purposed in my heart to ask God to give me some person or organization to give financially to each week. We’re coming up on week three and God has been already identified where I am to give. It has been a joy to give, but in the back of my mind, I’m becoming aware that week four is coming up…And I’m starting to feel the financial pinch. I am excited about God using me…but it won’t be as easy in the coming weeks as it has been in the first couple of weeks. This is evidence that in my heart, I’m not “all in.”

I’m convinced that if I want to experience more of the Kingdom of Heaven, my heart needs to be predisposed to joyfully sell it all. Clearly Christ is worth the price.

How are you challenged to joyfully sell all you have? Share your story with me, as a comment below or on Facebook. As David Platt says in his book Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, “For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.”


*This blog was inspired by the first chapter of David Platt’s book Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, copyright 2010 by author, published by Multinomah Books ebooks, Colorado Springs, CO.

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