The Blank Page

It is a new year! I can’t say I am sorry to see the last one go. 2016 was filled with tension, conflict and transition for our nation, for many of our lives personally.

For myself , it was also filled with tension, illness and transition as my husband and I moved from a metropolitan area where we have lived for many decades, to a remote area by a lake.

This move meant saying goodbye to lifelong friends, our church home of 35 years and everything near and dear to us. It meant saying goodbye to teaching Bible Study that I had done for years.

When we moved in the summer, I had already committed to teach before I knew we were moving. So my sweet husband told me that if I wanted to keep that commitment for the fall, that he would drive me the five hours each week so I could complete my commitment. And that is what we did.

It happened that I was teaching from the book of 2 Timothy. This book of the Bible is the last letter the Apostle Paul wrote and the last word Timothy heard from him. So, it was very emotional for me because it was my goodbye to a class of women I had taught for many years.

For some reason in the fall semester, I used a different Bible than I had normally used. This one was new and I was not as familiar with how the books and chapters flowed on the pages. Then, in the last week of my study, as I read the last few verses of the book of 2 Timothy, I turned the page for more.

The page was blank.

As I looked at that blank page, I was overwhelmed with grief and thought, “this is what my life looks like right now. Blank. I don’t know what is ahead for me.” No sooner had I thought these things then I sensed God in my spirit saying “What looks blank to you, I have already filled. I know exactly what your future holds – trust me.”

Trust means to be confident and secure in something or someone, and as I thought about it, I remembered one of my favorite passages of scripture:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

In that moment, I had immediate peace like a weight had been lifted because I knew I could be confident in my security with Him. I began to pray “Lord, I do trust you with my life and my future and I thank you in advance for it. Because my understanding was flawed by my human nature and grief, all I saw was a blank page, but you knew what was written upon it and I am confident you have gone before me and paved a path for me.”

One month later, as I sat in my remote lakeside home, I received an unexpected invitation to speak and teach through a radio program. I was shocked! But as I prayed about accepting and spoke with a spiritual mentor, I remembered God’s promise. The page that looked blank to me, God had already filled.

And so as I begin this New Year, I am thankful. I am thankful for God who goes before us preparing the way in which we are to go. He has made all things new in this New Year. He has provided a way for me to continue teaching, even from a remote location.

If He will do something new in my life, He can surely do something new in your life. Trust Him with your present and with your future. He will make a way for you. “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 KJV

Father, what a blessing it is to know you, to trust you and feel secure in your loving arms. And as we begin this New Year, I pray for our readers and beyond, that you will teach us to love one another. That you will teach us to trust you with the blank pages of our lives. Thank you for guiding our footsteps to the places you have gone before in order to make a way for us. Amen

5 Me’s


“O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;

In your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.”

Psalm 143:1 NIV

It is the holiday season – that time of year for celebration and giving thanks for our country and God’s provision for those who landed on the shores of this great land all those years ago.

And yet, for many this Thanksgiving and holiday season, celebration is the last thing on their minds. Hearts are broken, health is in question or provision unknown. Where is the hope and help needed in these times of despair and hopelessness?

In reading a prayer of David in the Psalms, you will find five “me’s in his requests of God in chapter 143:

  • Answer me
  • Show me
  • Rescue me
  • Teach me
  • Lead me

David was overwhelmed by his situation. He was desperate for mercy and word of God’s unfailing love. Despair was trying to drag him down into a pit, but he was determined to trust God. He cried out to Him for his needs of rescue and guidance.

  • He needed a quick answer because his spirit was failing, meaning he was at his wit’s end and sinking into despair fast.
  • He needed guidance and direction for which way to go through the difficult circumstances facing him.
  • He needed to be rescued from those who were out to destroy him.
  • He needed lessons for how to know God’s will and how to do it.
  • He needed to be led on a path that was free from obstacles at every turn.

Throughout David’s prayer, he made commitments to the Lord to meditate on all the works of God and the things He had done. This is where you would remember that it is God who created you to be His very own. It is God who loves you with an everlasting love that cannot be taken away from you.

Then David surrendered his situation, made his “me” requests known and trusted God for answers, love and deliverance. There are times in our prayer life when we intercede for others, but there are times in our prayer life when it is all about “me”. When you are heartbroken and in despair it is perfectly OK for your prayer to be all about you. God wants you to be healed from your broken heart, illness, despair or whatever state has tried to drag you down. He will give you strength to endure.

This Psalm of David is short but filled with hope, encouragement and teaching for all, but especially those in seemingly hopeless situations. With Jesus, there is always hope because He is our Hope! (I Timothy 1:1)

Practice the five “me’s” in your prayers as you trust God for hope, answers and direction. He will guide you through whatever difficult situation you may find yourself experiencing. No matter what you hear, experience or who comes against you, He is with you always. He is there for you and hears the cries of your heart.

Candles in the Dark

“I AM the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

It was a great idea! My friend Laura wanted to host a neighborhood social and have a craft project for her neighbors. And so, I volunteered to teach candle making. I had the supplies – all we needed was heat to melt the wax and power to plug in the glue gun.

The day arrived and we were excited! Then I received an early morning call on the day of the event. “We have no power”. The storms had affected the power lines in Laura’s area. We decided to proceed anyway hoping for a quick repair.

Thankfully her stove was gas but with no power, we were working in the dark. I commented to Laura, “This is a good lesson for why we need candles – to shine light in the darkness.”

As I looked at the candles around the room, each had a soft glow of light in a dark place. In order to see what we were doing, we were drawn to light from them. It reminded me that as believers, we are to be that glowing light of Christ wherever we go.

There may be dark places we are required to walk in our schools, work places, community, government or even family events, but our light is to shine in those places. We can be a light in the darkness because Jesus is our power source. Extending love and kindness to those around you, no matter where you are, is letting Him shine through you.

Or maybe you are in a dark time right now. Be encouraged to know there is light for you. His name is Jesus. He will shine on the path before you to light your way and direct your path.

What is That One Thing?

“Tell Archippus: “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17

Archippus was a Christian teacher/minister. He had been given a lifetime job from the Lord – a calling to Christian service. We don’t know why Paul felt compelled to send a word of exhortation to him to complete the work he had been given. Perhaps he heard something about him that we don’t know, or perhaps in his own experience he knew how difficult ministry can be. But whatever the reason, he sent a word to Archippus to complete the work.

As one who is serving the Lord, I know how hard it can be. I know how easy it would be to slack off, or simply give up. I’m sure you do too. In society today, we are hearing more and more about pastors and Christian leaders who are caving under the pressure. Adultery, suicide, exhaustion, financial hardship or turning away from ministry are just a few of the things we hear about.

And so, just as Paul said to Archippus, we say to you: “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.

Let’s break that down:

See to it means to look away from all else and look to that one thing being addressed. In this case, the work you received in the Lord. Is there anything drawing your attention away from that one thing.

See to it that you complete… According to Strong’s and Vines Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words,  some of the Greek definitions for the word complete are:  to fill to the top, carry to the end, accomplish, to cause Gods will to be obeyed as it should be and Gods promises to receive fulfillment.

But my favorite is to end together, thoroughly finished.

And so, the message is to look away from any distractions to the call of God on your life and end together with Him what He has placed within your heart to do. Keep on doing it until He says otherwise.

What have you received from Him to do? What service are you passionate about? Review the list of Spiritual gifts in Romans 12 because God has gifted every believer. If you are gifted to teach or preach, then do so. If serving is your strength, then serve, if gifted to give, then give, etc.

The point is, don’t give up or give in to the pressures of this world that the enemy is throwing at us from every direction. Stand firm in your faith and your mission. There is no such thing as retirement from Gods perspective. Hosea 10:12 tells us to continue to break up unplowed ground until He comes. God’s mission is for a lifetime and He does not discharge His servants from their work. His gifts and calling are irrevocable.

And so, be strong and courageous for the Lord your God is with you. He will fight for you in this battle of sin, corruption and immorality such as we have never before seen. But He wants our participation of faithfulness to press on in the midst of it. Stand firm, don’t give up. This battle belongs to the Lord. Cling to Him. Ask Him for a renewing of passion for the task and the strength to endure.

To God be the glory.

Tuned In …

… When He Speaks

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said…” Acts 13:2a

Nothing draws us closer to the Lord than when we worship Him, especially in a time of prayer and fasting. That is when we are the most tuned in to hearing when He speaks. In Acts 13:1-3, we see that the Holy Spirit spoke when the prophets and teachers were worshiping and fasting. We know they heard the message because they acted upon it and obeyed the message.

It was not a planning session these men attended, it was a time of worship and fasting. It wasn’t the plans of man but the leading of the Holy Spirit that sent Saul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.

The Holy Spirit told them to “set apart” these two men for the work He called them to do. They were appointed to be separated from the others and sent on to be about this work in response to hearing the Holy Spirit speak.

This is why we have worship before the pastor stands to preach the word of God. It is to prepare our hearts to hear quotethe message and apply it to our lives. But if we do not allow ourselves to participate in worship because our thoughts are elsewhere, we are not prepared to hear what God is saying to us personally and, therefore, do not act upon it.

There are occasions when we may be present at church, but not as a participant. Worry, circumstances, pain and even criticism can get in the way of worship. Therefore, focus is distorted and we are easily distracted by those around us. On those days, we leave the church disheartened and critical because we “didn’t get a thing” out of the service.

If this sounds like something you have experienced, set you mind on worship before you arrive at church. Make a determination that you will focus on the words of worship in order to have your heart prepared for the Word spoken. Yes, I know… we all have different tastes when it comes to music and different opinions when it comes to worship. The drums are too loud or the beat is too jazzy or someone raised their hands. Or if you are younger, you may think it is too boring or traditional. But if you can focus on the message rather than the volume, the beat or the movement, you will be drawn into worship where your focus is fully on the Lord.

In Acts, it was when the people were worshiping that they heard the Holy Spirit speak. If you want to hear a word from the Lord, worship Him. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

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

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

Seeing True Thanksgiving

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16 NIV

 

Last week I saw what it truly looks like to give thanks in all circumstances. We visited my niece in the physical rehab facility where she has been for many weeks following an extensive hospital stay. Her legs will not hold up her body and she was continuing to get weaker and weaker. The doctors finally diagnosed her with Gillian Barre Disease. It is a rare and unusual disease causing weakness and paralysis.

As we visited, I was amazed at her sweet and positive attitude. Just before we left, I prayed for her. Immediately following the Amen, she said; “Can I tell you something. The way I am able to cope with this is by being thankful. I just tell the Lord all day long how thankful I am for everything that happens, and I know this experience will simply strengthen my testimony for ministry.”

I was speechless. This is a young woman in her 30’s, married with three children. She has a busy life and certainly doesn’t have time for this illness. She lives in West Texas and was brought to a Dallas hospital, then transferred to Fort Worth closer to her Mother. She has been away from her young family for at least two months and is unable to walk. But she is thankful. What a testimony of faith to others she already has, beginning with her Aunt Virginia in that humble moment of sharing.

And I was not only speechless, but deeply humbled to realize how much complaining I have done in my life. I learned a very important lesson in seeing the scripture lived out in my sweet niece. When God said to be thankful in all circumstances, He knew it was not an impossibility. He did not give a task we would not be able to accomplish. Audrae is living proof of it.

Today I want to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with an attitude of gratitude. May we all be thankful in all circumstances for that is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

And if you would please remember Audrae in your prayers and give thanks for her testimony of faith as God does His work of healing in her life, I know she would appreciate it. I am thankful for you. Have a blessed weekend.

Virginia

For Faith and Freedom

In 1620, the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts after a difficult voyage from England. Following a winter filled with hardships, the native Indians helped the pilgrims learn how to plant corn and produce crops. At the first harvest, in November 1621, pilgrims and native Indians joined together for a meal to give thanks for the harvest. And so, we in America have followed this tradition of our forefathers in celebration each year on the day that was designated as Thanksgiving.

But have we lost sight of what we are celebrating? Do we look at it as just another holiday when we don’t have to work? The pilgrims sacrificed lives and property in order to come to this new land to have the freedom to worship and practice their Christian faith. Thanksgiving was the day to give thanks to God for His freedom and provision. This faith was passed from generation to generation, but somewhere along the way, the Christian faith has lost national momentum.

In Second Timothy, as Paul gave thanks to God for Timothy, he was thankful for the faith of that young man. He stated it was a faith that had been passed down for two generations that Paul was aware of. This faith was lived out by Timothy’s mother and grandmother before him. Paul’s personal purpose in writing the letter to Timothy was to give him encouragement for carrying on the ministry in Paul’s absence. Apparently Timothy was timid in doing so, therefore, Paul’s words were given to empower him to overcome his fear. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1:7) He was thankful for Timothy. His prayer of thanksgiving was personal, powerful and affirming. Paul was pouring into the life of the next generation for the purpose of growing others in faith for generations to come.

As we approach our designated national day of Thanksgiving next week, let us remember the purpose of our forefathers’ arrival in this land. Let us be thankful for the sacrifice they made for a country of freedom and for our current day military serving to keep our country safe and free. Let us not forget the purpose of this holiday. And then, may we make our thanksgiving personal, giving thanks and encouragement for those close to us who need an extra boost of affirmation for their life’s work and calling of God as we pass along the faith of those who have gone before us. Pour into the next generation the faith made possible for us by the sacrifice of Jesus. Pour into the next generation the history of our country and the true meaning of Thanksgiving that the momentum of the Christian faith may be revived in America.

“Thank you O Lord for the freedom we have in Christ. Thank you for those who have gone before us as a testimony of faith and freedom. Amen”

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did,

with a clear conscience, as night and day

I constantly remember you in my prayers.”

II Timothy 1:3 NIV