Category Archives: Christian Living

Casting Out Beams

“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” – Luke 6:42

The Lord has recently been showing me areas where I am quick to think harshly about someone else for something that I am guilty of myself. It’s hypocrisy and it’s ugly. If I’m to be of any benefit to others, one of the most important things I must do is examine my own heart and life to see where I have ‘beams’ that need to go – attitudes and actions that are wrong. And praise God that He has the power to change me!

Love the Lord

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
– Mark 12:30

Jesus said this is the first commandment. But how often is it our top priority? It’s so easy to put our heart and mind and strength into other things rather than seeking to love God well. But I find the greatest satisfaction when I do invest in my relationship with Him. What does that look like? Well, I think it looks similar to how I would invest in my marriage relationship if I had a husband.

If I had a husband and sought to love him well, he would be in my thoughts during the day more than anyone else. I would show him the utmost respect, honor and appreciation. I would be honest with him and would trust him. I would always be excited to talk with him, to tell him about my day, to seek his thoughts on things, to just enjoy being with him, and of course to laugh with him! I would tell him all the time how much I love him, how thankful I am that he’s mine. I would be eager to do whatever was needed to serve him and to bless him. It would be my goal to put a smile on his face every day and to make him feel like the most blessed man on the planet to have chosen me.

Since God chose marriage as one of the greatest pictures of our relationship with Him, it seems that ways we can love our spouse well parallel how we can love God well. This type of relationship with God may seem implausible, but the more I get to know Him, the more I fall in love with Him. And the more this type of relationship develops between us because He is a wonderful Heavenly Bridegroom! I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I look forward to spending eternity with Him!

Little Foxes

Song of Solomon 2:15 says “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

This is what God has been bringing my attention to lately – all the ‘little foxes’ of compromise and disobedience that I’ve been ignoring. Are they things God has shown me before and convicted me of before? I’m sorry to say, the answer is yes. But back when He nudged my heart, I chose not to listen. I dismissed that gentle conviction, justifying my actions and attitudes and casually moving on. These things weren’t important to me. I didn’t want to yield these things, so I was unwilling to listen when God told me they were important to Him.

But it’s the areas that I want to dismiss as insignificant that are keeping me from an abundant life. Small areas of stubbornness, of dishonesty, of laziness, of bitterness. It’s so tempting to justify these things and ignore them. But if we compromise in little areas, it’s only a matter of time before we do it in bigger areas. David started out compromising by staying home when men go to war. No big deal, right? But that ‘small’ thing led to him committing adultery and murder.  May we heed this warning!

Matthew 25:21 says: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” That’s what I want God to say to me, and that means I need to be faithful and obedient in the little things. He’s given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” if we will only refuse to settle for less!

Perfect Peace

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

                        – Isaiah 26:3

So often I’m filled with nothing resembling perfect peace. Instead I am filled with doubt, fear and anxiety. But I know it doesn’t have to be this way, and this verse gives me the answer to having peace – my mind must be focused on the Lord. I must remember who He is and that He is capable of taking care of my needs. When I truly put my hope and trust in His Word and His character, that perfect peace begins to grow. A peace that passes understanding. Thank You, Lord!

The one who steals our joy

In  John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The devil never stops, and one of his tactics is that he tries to steal my joy. I so often find myself struggling to walk in joy. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so by seeking God’s face consistently, I will find myself full of His life and therefore full of joy. But it’s so easy to let some minor thing annoy or worry me, and if I don’t recognize this as a point of attack, I’ll soon be consumed by it. This just happened to me this morning. I found myself becoming overwhelmed and distracted by something that was not even a real issue – nothing that I needed to repent of, nothing that truly needed to change. But I couldn’t get past it, and instead of focusing on God, I found myself unable to stop thinking about this “issue.” And my joy was soon replaced with fretting and unprofitable thoughts.

I am thankful I’m getting better at stopping in these moments and realizing what is going on. When God is the one bringing conviction, He always brings hope and direction with it. He shows me what’s wrong and what I need to do. When it’s the devil bringing something to my attention, I just feel overwhelmed and confused. It steals my joy and brings discouragement and despair.

I’m so thankful Jesus died to give us victory, freedom and power over our thoughts and emotions. Through the enabling power of God’s Spirit, I don’t have to let the enemy steal my joy! As soon as I recognized the lie I was believing and that I didn’t have to give into it, the enemy began to lose this battle. I simply looked to God and asked Him to help me believe the truth and focus on Him. And before I knew it, peace and joy returned and I was no longer worried about that non-issue. Thank You, Lord! Now, on with life and life more abundant!

 

Choosing Joy

Recently, I found myself battling a severe case of discouragement and weariness, and a need for direction from the Lord. Often times, I am able to pray and ask God to give me what I need, and I soon find that He has given me joy and strength in place of discouragement and weariness, and has given me things to encourage me. This time, however, it wasn’t happening as quickly as I wanted. As I was expressing my frustration about this to God, I felt like He said “Choose joy.”

I immediately felt my spirit resist and bristle. “No, Lord!” was my initial reaction. I was still waiting for Him to give me clear direction. And, I actually wanted Him to just give me joy without requiring any step of faith on my part. Choosing joy right there in that moment sounded like too much for Him to ask of me. The real problem was that I felt entitled to a little self-pity and a little frustration. I felt I had the right to avoid choosing joy, and instead wanted to wait until God gave me answers before I let my heart be joyful.

This time He was asking me to choose joy before He answered my prayers for guidance and practical encouragement. And I didn’t think that sounded fair or easy. But I knew if He was asking me to do it, then it wasn’t impossible, and it was the best thing for me to do. Nothing in me felt joyful or wanted to feel joyful. But when it comes to obeying God, our feelings can’t be the determining factor. So, I took a step of faith and told God I would choose to be joyful right in that moment, and I asked Him to help me do it.

And as soon as I took that step of obedience, guess what came? Joy. The hard part is that something like choosing joy when we don’t feel like it isn’t a one-time choice. The waves of doubt and discouragement didn’t stop trying to overwhelm me, and I found myself having to choose joy over and over again. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That’s not just a flowery phrase. That’s a promise from the throne room of heaven, a promise backed by the blood of Jesus Christ for those who truly put their trust in Him.

Choosing joy when nothing in me wants to choose joy is included in “all things” – just like every other thing God calls me to do. Not by my own effort or power, but through faith in Christ and in His power. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

I’ve learned that I can choose joy regardless of my circumstances, and regardless of whether or not I’ve gotten an answer to my prayer yet. And God did give me the guidance I needed and the practical encouragement for which I asked. He is so good!

Keep Moving Forward

I recently read a great book called The Lion’s Gate. It’s about the Six Day War – when Israel was attacked by several surrounding countries in 1967. One day I was reading in it about a situation where Israeli forces entered an area surrounded by enemy soldiers hidden in trenches. The enemy began firing at their tanks. They were like sitting ducks. Staying where they were meant certain death for those soldiers. They had to move. The orders were given to enter the trenches and attack on foot. It sounds insane to attack on foot, but it was the only option, and the Israelis were able to overcome the enemy and keep advancing.

I had been battling discouragement the day I was reading this and wasn’t sure how to get past it. I was frustrated about still waiting for certain things in my life, not knowing how or when they’re going to happen. Frustrated over what can seem like a never-ending string of disappointments. And because all I could see before me was more of the same, I just began to feel paralyzed and overwhelmed, unable to fight off the looming despair. I began praying and asked God what to do.

His answer to me was “Keep moving forward.”

Now, this is not the answer I wanted! It doesn’t tell me how long I have to keep going. It doesn’t even tell me where to go beyond the next step. But then I remembered what I’d just been reading in The Lion’s Gate. It would have been terrifying to leave the tanks and attack those enemy trenches. But staying in the tanks was only going to get them killed. To achieve victory, they had to move forward. And I realized that moving forward was the only way to avoid being swallowed by fear and despair. And even if I didn’t have any answers beyond the next step, my God is with me and He is guiding me and He can see far beyond what I see. If I will trust Him, then He will lead me to victory.

What is required to keep moving forward? Hope. Hope that things can change. Hope that victory is possible. Hope that the waiting will one day end. Hope is what enables me to take the next step. When I’ve faced another disappointment, it can feel like the hardest thing to keep hoping. But Romans 8:24 says we are “saved by hope.” Why are we saved by hope? Because if we choose not to hope, there is nothing left but despair and destruction. Those Israeli soldiers moved forward out of necessity. They had to choose to hope and believe they could defeat their enemies because the only other alternative was death.

God encouraged me that when I feel surrounded by the enemies of my soul – despair, doubt, fear, bitterness, and whatever else – that the way to achieve victory is to keep moving forward toward Him, to refuse to give up. That day, I chose to hope and to take the next step forward – toward God as opposed to a step of retreat into doubt and unbelief. And as soon as I took that step of faith toward God, He met me. He renewed my strength and filled me once again with joy and confidence. And what had been a very hard point in time for me became a time full of unexpected blessings and new things!

So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by doubt and discouragement, keep moving forward and keep your eyes on the Lord. Do not retreat into bitterness and despair. Keep hoping! And when we do, the Lord will provide for every one of our needs, fill us with the fruit of His Spirit, and move mightily on our behalf. And we will not be ashamed of our hope!

Manasseh and Ephraim

I love the story of Joseph. When he was seventeen years old, God gave him a vision signifying that Joseph would one day reign over his family members and beyond. Being hated by his brothers, he was sold by them into slavery and later found himself in prison after being wrongfully accused. During this time, Joseph continued to do the right thing and to trust the Lord, despite the most hopeless of circumstances, and despite it looking like God had forgotten him.

But our God is faithful, and He was preparing to do a mighty work through Joseph’s life, and to bring to pass that vision from years ago. Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt due to the famine, and they found that Joseph had become a ruler in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. God did what He told Joseph He would do. But His timing is not our timing. Joseph was thirty when he was made a ruler, which means he waited thirteen years to see the vision fulfilled.

Pharaoh had also given him a wife, and Joseph named their firstborn son Manasseh, which means ‘causing to forget’. “For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). And Joseph named their second child Ephraim, which means ‘I shall be doubly fruitful’. “For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).

God never wastes our toil and affliction! And if we will remain faithful and obedient, and continue to trust Him, our God will give us Manasseh and Ephraim. He will do wonderful things in our lives. He will produce strength of character and great faith in us. He will bless us. We will forget the pain as we see what He can do through those years of waiting, of hardship, all for His glory! He will make us fruitful in the very places that have seemed the most hopeless. The hardest trials will produce the greatest fruit, in our lives and beyond.

May we develop the faith and character of Joseph, and thereby see God do the impossible, and bring about Manasseh and Ephraim in our lives.

Delight in God’s Word

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Psalm 1