Right Directions, Wrong Turn

Yesterday I stumbled. I didn’t follow the directions given me to my final destination, ended up at the wrong place, stumbled and fell…HARD! Stunned, I lay there wondering where everyone was because the fall was LOUD! Since I was at the wrong place, no one came to my rescue. The large pumpkin desert with whipped cream in a glass dish I was carrying made a huge mess as it flew through the air, hit the driveway and shattered, spreading over several feet. All because I partially followed the directions given me, but not exactly. Rolling off my back onto all 4’s, I pulled myself up and went limping to my friend’s house for clean-up supplies.

This morning, as I read the Bible Study lesson for today, I realized what a perfect example the incident yesterday is for what the Bible tells us can happen when we don’t follow the directions written for us in God’s Word. We end up somewhere we are not supposed to be in life which draws us from Him, we stumble and fall with no one to rescue us.

crossroad1God tells us in Jeremiah 6:19 that when we come to a crossroad in life, to ask for direction to the good way and then walk that way. When we do, we find rest for our souls. The good way is the way of Christ; to know Him and follow Him so we don’t end up at the wrong address.

The funny thing about my fall is that we were to share a Bible verse with one another at the place I was headed before making a wrong turn. The verse that I planned to share is very humorous in light of the fall. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21. Obviously I was not paying attention!

There are times in life when we are not paying attention to the voice of the Lord and we take a wrong turn away from what He has planned for us. When we do, there are consequences that may take a short time or a long time to be set right. It took a while to clean up the mess of pumpkin desert, whipped cream and broken glass, but halfway through the cleanup, someone came alongside to help. Once it was done, I corrected my course and went to where I was meant to be all along. Friends welcomed me there and all was well even though I experienced pain from the fall.

If you find yourself at a wrong place in life and have stumbled or fallen as a result, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. God can set things right and come alongside you to clean up the mess as you turn to Him. You may still experience pain after the cleanup, but dwelling in His presence is the place you are meant to be. He will direct your path and welcome you back into His loving arms.

Worry Free – Part 2

Matthew 6:33 is the first verse I memorized as a new believer. As a young single, unbelieving mom, I had been a worrywart of the worst kind. My life was filled with uncertainty. But when I came to know Christ, this is a verse He used to help me overcome my fears and anxieties.

Worry is a constant state of anxiety over what has happened or may possibly happen. Its root is “to choke” and “to divide” (strangle). Worry fills you with fear, stress and thoughts of a negative nature that keep your focus divided and choke your joy.

A mind divided (worried) is one that is filled with thoughts of many different things at one time. When we are worried, we may be trying to take care of the task in front of us while our thoughts are consumed with difficulties that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

Worry can also be about something that has not happened, but that we think might happen. The “what if” of worry can choke our joy in a way that we are unable to move forward because of constant fear over an expected negative event in our lives.

We all deal with different types of circumstances that are difficult.

  • Will there be a paycheck
  • Is my job secure
  • Are my teenagers safe, are they bullied
  • Does my husband love me
  • Will my baby be healthy
  • Can I prevent disease in my body, and so many more…

And so, how do we overcome the worries of the day so we can be undivided in our hearts and minds to experience joy in the everyday of life? Perhaps Matthew 6:33 will help you as it has me.

“SEEK FIRST” – The verse begins by telling us to seek first – that is to look toward one specific thing before anything else. What are you going to look for first when difficulties cause your anxieties to escalate? What is that one thing?

“HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS” – Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. There is a future kingdom to come, but there is also a present kingdom. It is the establishment of the rule of God through Christ in your heart. It is allowing Him to be the King and Lord of your life. When Jesus said your life is more important than food, clothing and the body, He was talking about the life you find in Him by allowing Him to be the King and Lord of your life in the present. He rules and reigns in your heart as you allow Him to by seeking Him. Therefore, when decisions are to be made or worry threatens disruption in your peace, seek Him first. He will guide you and give you peace. How do we know this?

“GIVEN TO YOU” – He has made a promise to us in the very next phrase of the verse. “all these things will be added unto you.” All what things; everything your mind is divided over. When you take your worries to Jesus in prayer, He will give you wisdom and lighten your load simply because He loves you. When you seek Him first for the answer to life’s problems and allow Him in your heart as Lord and Savior, your future is secure. There is no need to worry with a future secure in Him. Trust Him with your cares and allow Him to be in control of your life. The thing about a Kingdom is that there is a King. With a King, there are people under his care.

How do you seek Him first? Prayer is the answer. Time alone with Him in conversation and trusting Him for peace and joy. Jesus is your King and He cares for you. In Him, you can be worry-free!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

Can I Be Worry-Free? (Part 1)

Reference Text: Matthew 6:24-33

As women, we worry about our bodies. We’re too tall, too short, too big, too small, too old, too young; or our health, obsessed with our weight, diet, exercise, and so on and so on. What is at the root of all that worry? It is what we look like to others. What others think about us.

Yes, we need to be concerned about our bodies for the sake of our health. But to be obsessed with our body for our looks is to put undue anxiety and worry into our minds that distract our focus away from what the real concern is for our bodies. And that is to understand that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit of God who is in us, and are therefore to be treated as such. It is not how we look on the outside that is most important. It is what we look like on the inside that matters to God. Jesus said “do not worry about your body”. Don’t become fixated on the constant physical improvements to your body. But be concerned with healthy choices for the body that replenish and refresh the spirit.

Paul said in Romans 12:1 that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – “this is your spiritual act of worship”. Wow! How did I not catch this before? We are to bring our bodies before the Lord, giving ourselves to Him saying something like, “Lord, I am giving my all to you.” To truly worship God is to say “I am yours” “My body is yours to do with as you will” I surrender all…

Jesus said “do not worry about what you will wear”. Let me just stop right there for a moment. Really! Who didn’t stand in the closet this morning and worry about what to wear today. Ok, maybe worry is a little strong. Who didn’t have to make a choice this morning about what to wear? That is a constructive concern. It moved you to make a decision. But sometimes, we can take that a little too far and the choice becomes a concern that grows into anxiety that causes panic that steals our joy. Jesus said “Your life is more important than food, the body and clothes.”

These things; money, food, physical body and clothing are temporal, they are not eternal; but life in Christ is eternal. Our life is most important, therefore we are to be concerned with our spiritual life in a way that prepares us for our eternal future rather than be so caught up on the things of this world that they weigh us down and steal the joy God intends us to experience while on this earth. If we are dwelling on a problem to the point that we are all stirred up with negative emotions all the time, that is worry and it is counterproductive to the life God wants us to live. Jesus said that you are not going to add one single hour to your life by worrying.

Please don’t misunderstand that what Jesus is saying is don’t exercise, diet or that clothing can’t be pretty. What He is saying is don’t worry about these things.

But if we are thinking about a situation in a way that moves us forward toward a solution, that is care and concern and it is productive. It is preparing, not panicking. The promise we have from Christ about all these things is that God has dressed the lilies of the field and fed the birds of the air but He cares much more for you than these. And furthermore, He knows you need food and clothing. He knows your needs! Just as He provided for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, He will surely provide for you. The life you have in Him is more important than any of these temporal things.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink,

or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food,

and the body more important than clothes?” Matthew 6:25 NIV

Return of the Ring

 Once there was a 12-year old girl who had a cute freckled-faced, redheaded boyfriend. He delivered newspapers and she twirled a baton. Each day as he delivered the paper to her house, she would be in the yard twirling. They would talk for a while every day.

One day, he gave her a ring. She didn’t recognize the ring for what it was. It was a high school senior ring. All she knew was the 12-year old boy liked her enough to give her a ring. She couldn’t wait to show it to her girlfriends the next day.

The problem was, she had two brothers who were in high school. One saw the ring and looked closely at it to see the initials of the owner. Not only did he know who it belonged to, but the owner played football with the other brother. So, he told her Daddy. He called the owner who came to pick up the ring. The girl was shy and embarrassed and hiding in her room, but her Daddy told her to go and give the ring back herself.

With her head hanging and her face red, she walked into the room, but what she saw on the young ring owner’s face was not anger. She saw compassion. As she handed him the ring, he reached in his back pocket, took out his wallet and handed her a $20 bill. That high school senior bought back something that already belonged to him… something that had been stolen.

That young girl was me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized God had given me a beautiful real-life picture of what redemption looks like. The innocence of humanity that was stolen in the Garden of Eden has been bought back through Jesus. He is our Redeemer and paid the price in order to buy us back for God.

How could I know then the value of what God was teaching in those moments in a 12-year old life. What a great hope we have in our Savior who knows all things and uses the situations in life to remind us of His great love, mercy and grace. In His compassion, He paid the price for our sin that we can be drawn into the presence of God as clean as Adam and Eve before sin entered in.

That’s what took place on what we now call, Good Friday. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross to pay the price once for all to redeem us. Then, on Easter morning, He arose! Praise the Lord, Christ arose!

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NIV

No “M” in FOCUS

Last month, my blog message was about the meaning and use of the word Focus. This morning as I listened to the pastor’s message, the thought occurred to me that there is no “M” in the word focus. The word is not fomcus or focums, it is focus.

For those called to ministry, the struggle to meet the demands of operational obligations is always a reality. There never seems to be enough money to meet the needs of the ministry. But if we focus on the money rather than the mission, our focus becomes skewed and our ministry distracted.

What is your mission? What is the calling God has placed on your life? Think about what it means to accomplish the mission and then do it. When God speaks to you through prayer, His Word and by His Spirit; He doesn’t say to be in ministry because you will make a lot of money or be in ministry to meet your every desire. If our desire is to make money, ministry is not the avenue for it. You should instead seek opportunity to work outside the ministry. For those in full-time ministry, the purpose is always to accomplish the mission given you by God – to instill His love, His word and His gospel of salvation into the hearts of others.

I am not saying you do not deserve to be rewarded for your labor. Paul addressed that in I Corinthians 3:8-9 when he said “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”.  There are different types of ministry, but all for one purpose and as God’s workers, we are rewarded for our individual labor in accomplishing God’s purpose.

Paul further stated in I Corinthians 9:11-12. “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” And then in verse 14-15, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights.”

The point is this; those in ministry deserve to be rewarded for their labor, but Paul did not focus on the money he would receive when he went out to preach. His love for God and people overrode his physical need and desire. Rather, he focused on the mission so as not to distract from the message. What I am saying is that when we trust God as our Jehovah-Jireh – the LORD who Provides, He will provide according to our needs as we diligently seek Him and serve in obedience according to the calling or task He has given us to do. Anything that gets in the way of that calling or task is a distraction from accomplishing the purpose.

Sweet women, focus on what God has called you to do because it is all about the mission and what we give in serving Christ, not about what we receive.

Since my husband and I have been in ministry, I could tell you story after story of God’s provision in unexpected ways at just the right time. So, I am not just putting words on paper that I do not know to be true. There is no “M” in focus and I know it very well. If there were, it would stand for mission, not money. It’s not about the money, yet we must have it to take care of our responsibilities. But, don’t ignore the mission for lack of money. Move forward by faith, trusting God to do what He says He will do. He is Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider. As we trust Him for provision, it would be against His very character to not provide for those who serve Him in order to accomplish His purpose and mission.

There is no “M” in focus, but there is a “C” so let’s commit together to focus on the mission and let God be who He says He is – Our Provider.

“So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 NIV

2014 Word of the Year

It is the first day of a new year. A new year means new opportunities and perhaps a new focus. The word ‘focus’ has been at the forefront of my mind since October. According to Webster’s, the definition is “a point where rays of light meet after being bent by a lens, curved mirror; correct adjustment of the eye or lens to form a clear image, a center of activity or interest, to concentrate, to adjust the focus of.”

In Scripture, the word for focus is “devote”, or “see to it”. For example, in the New Living Translation, I Timothy 4:13 says “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers and teaching them.” But in the New International Version, the verse says, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching.” The following verse says, “Do not neglect your gift.”

And so to focus on one thing, such as a goal, is to be devoted to the accomplishment of it and see to it that it is completed.

Women are natural multi-taskers. We typically have many things to manage at one time. This is good in that the husband, kids, home, church, work responsibilities are being met. It is not good in that we can be easily distracted by all the demands around us making it difficult to complete any one task. Focus is needed, that is to devote ourselves to one thing at a time. “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17) What is the work of the moment? Be devoted to that one activity.

What comes first, focus or desire which is passion? I believe they must work hand in hand in order for the goal to be accomplished. If you have focus and no passion, you are simply looking at what needs to be done. But if you add passion or desire, you will work to see the goal accomplished. If you have the desire without the focus, it is easy to become distracted by all the other things going on around you. The entire lens of your focus becomes blurred and nothing is accomplished.

For example, this morning I was staring at a lamp across the room. I was focused on the lamp. The lamp has a purpose of providing light. We’ll call that the goal. However, the goal will not be accomplished unless there is desire, or passion, along with the focus. Being focused on the lamp directed my attention to that one thing. Everything else in the room was blurred in my peripheral vision. The detail of the lamp was sharp and clear. However, in order for the purpose of the lamp to be completed, I had to have the desire to get out of my chair, walk across the room and flip the switch of the lamp for the light to shine.

What is your focus for the New Year? Is it combined with passion? 

F = Family

O = Opportunity

C = Commitment

U = Understanding

S = Service

Pour love into family, taking advantage of opportunities by being committed to understanding God’s Word and serving the Lord where He leads. Do not neglect the gift of God within you and allow Him to work it out from you to accomplish His purpose.

Happy New Year!

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