Saturday, September 29, 2012

Overwhelmed

                Anyone else feel overwhelmed? Maybe it’s that stack of mail you haven’t gone through in a week or two. Maybe it’s preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people or getting your house cleaned before they all show up and again after they leave. Maybe it’s that closet that needs to be cleaned out or that garage full of junk. Maybe it’s a new project at work. Maybe it’s a financial crisis. Maybe it’s a decision on which to college to attend. Life’s situations can be overwhelming.
                There are many books and articles that have been written on how to handle an overwhelming task at hand. Large tasks have to be broken into smaller tasks to make them manageable. But what about pressures in life that just make you want to stop and do nothing? It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Things have gotten out of hand and you are truly overwhelmed. You feel beaten, crushed, inundated, exhausted, devastated, and overcome.   You feel like you have been covered or buried beneath a mass of something. That something could be paper, projects, debt, or emotions.
                When I feel overwhelmed and exhausted to the point I want to throw my hands up and give up, I turn to scripture. Does reading the Bible make my stack of mail go away? No. Does reading the Bible complete my work project for me? No. Does reading the Bible make Thanksgiving dinner or clean my house? No.  Does reading the Bible automatically pay my bills? No. So what good does it do when I am overwhelmed with this life?
                Reading scripture overwhelms me. That’s right. Open and read through the Psalms or Proverbs. Read in the Old Testament how God delivered His people over and over again. Read in Romans how God showed his love for us by giving His Son to die in our place. I am overwhelmed with God’s love, mercy, and grace. I cannot fathom such a love that no matter what I have done or not done, Jesus loved me enough to die in my place. I am overwhelmed with the wisdom contained in scripture. Everything I need is there. I am overwhelmed by His strength. I am overwhelmed with the peace that comes from the time I spend in God’s Word. And once I am overwhelmed by God, I am no longer overwhelmed by life. God is my strength, my deliverer, my protector, and my hope.  I stand amazed and overwhelmed.
                I can’t wait to be overwhelmed each day as I watch how God will OVERWHELM what I thought was overwhelming.  God’s overwhelming trumps life’s overwhelming every time. Have you been overwhelmed by God’s love today?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Today or Tomorrow

                If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400—with no balance carried from day to day—what would you do? You may have heard this asked before. This analogy is in relation to time. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds. Every night they are gone. There are no balances carried forward. You can’t save it, store it, loan it, or invest it. You can only use it, spend it.
                We would like to believe that if given $86,400 each day, we would spend every penny each day before midnight. At first you probably would; but if you knew it would be there again tomorrow, over time most of us would come to take it for granted. After all, what you don’t spend today, you will once again have the opportunity to spend tomorrow.
                If, on the other hand, you were given $86,400 to spend today without any guarantee that you would receive it again tomorrow, you would spend it all and spend it in the most profitable way possible. It’s the thought that you have it today but might NOT have it tomorrow that would cause you to spend it wisely today.
                Procrastination puts off today what can be done tomorrow even when it should be done today. What if you knew there was no tomorrow, or what if you knew there would never be another time you could do one specific thing? Would you do it today?
                Now forget the “what ifs”. Fact: The time you spend with God today will not be the same as the time you spend with Him tomorrow. He has something special for you today. If you don’t get together with Him to know what He has for you, you miss out. And even if you don’t believe it, there is no guarantee that you have a tomorrow.
                Don’t put off today what really can’t be done tomorrow. Meet with God, and receive what He has for you today. It won’t be the same tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Road Trip

                Yesterday I read Proverbs 19, and this verse stood out to me. “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27 ESV).
                If I decided to take a road trip from Texas to Wyoming, I would study a map before I left. I would also take that map with me and probably bring along a GPS just in case the map wasn’t clear in certain areas. With the map, the GPS, the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, and the directional indicator on my rearview mirror, I would feel pretty confident in my ability to get to Wyoming.  Every day of my trip, I would check my map and other tools to make sure I was on the right road.
                In life, the Bible is our roadmap. Many of us consult it and then take off on our own without it. This verse says that when we cease to hear instruction, we will stray from the words of knowledge. It’s kind of like turning off that voice on your GPS. First you quit listening to the voice, then you quit looking at the screen, and pretty soon you are lost.
                When we quit studying our road map for life, we quit hearing instruction, and pretty soon we stray from the knowledge needed to make a critical decision at the next crossroad. We have to stay in the word, abiding (living) in it and continuing to learn from it or we will stray off the path God has for us.  We need fresh direction every day.
                Just like a roadmap. Take His word with you on the road trip of life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

24/7

I once assumed all the Christian women I knew (especially those that went to a Bible Study or spoke at a retreat or were married to a minister) listened to Christian music, spent daily quiet time with God, read their Bible every day, prayed every day, and heard from God every day. These were things I felt I should be doing. If I didn’t do these things, I wouldn’t want anyone to know; because most every other woman did them, or so I thought.
I was amazed the first time I mentioned a popular Christian song in a women’s group as a comparison to something we were studying and received a lot of blank stares communicating they had no idea what I was talking about. They were evidently not familiar with the song. Granted, not everyone is musically inclined or enjoys the same type of music I enjoy. I am not condoning legalism in someone’s musical taste.
Another occasion also brought surprise. I admired a certain woman for her faithfulness to study the Bible. I mentioned to her that I was writing a book on prayer and how to get started when you don’t know how to pray. She shared how she felt like this many times and would sometimes write out her prayers to get started. What? Surely with her faithfulness to Bible study, she must be a prayer warrior. Surely she had to make no effort in her prayer life.
We are not alone in our walk of faith. It was good for me to realize that none of us does it perfectly. We should not condemn ourselves for a less than perfect walk with God. God doesn’t condemn us; however, he does sometimes convict us. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. He may use what our pastor says or what someone else says or something we read to pierce our heart, but it will be conviction--not condemnation. It will reveal to us an area where we need to make changes for the better. It won’t cause us to suffer with guilt.
I have recently been convicted about what I would call 24/7 with God. Whatever that may mean to you, I’m trying to figure it out for me. I know it involves walking with Him 24/7. It’s not just spending time with God in the morning or at the end of the day. It’s minute by minute as life happens. It’s not waiting until my scheduled prayer time to talk to God about a need or someone’s prayer request. It’s every minute, every hour, every day. Do you think that too extreme?
The benefits of 24/7 will mean I am much more likely to make the right decisions, shine with His light to others, experience joy, as well as love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--all the fruit of the Spirit. It means my spiritual jewelry box will be full to overflowing. I’m committing to strive for 24/7. Will you make this commitment with me? If not, ask yourself why not? It’s not about being perfect. It’s about spending your life 24/7 with the one who is.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Purpose

Joseph had dreams. No matter what life threw at him, he never lost sight of those dreams. God used each situation to accomplish His purpose. Joseph told his brothers, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20). Has God given you a dream? Have you discovered your purpose?
Romans 8:28 is a familiar verse, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” What this verse doesn’t say is that God causes all things to happen. What it does say is that all things that happen work together for a purpose defined by the remainder of the sentence.
For good
To those who love God
To those who are the called according
To His purpose
No matter what this life may throw at you, if you love God and are part of the called (a believer), it will work together for good  and  to His purpose. You have to be willing to trust Him and be part of His purpose.
Ask yourself what purpose God wants to accomplish through your life. Are you willing to let God work out the things life throws at you to accomplish His purpose? Sometimes our perceived defeat is all that stands between God and His purpose being accomplished. “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world” (I John 4:4). Do you believe it? Do you believe His word?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seeking Wisdom

                As we remember the events of September 11, 2001, we pause to remember those who lost their lives and to give thanks to those that continue to serve our cities and our country. Events such as 9-11 and election years with their political banter can cause us to be uncertain in the direction we should take in our lives.
                I’ve been reading one chapter from the book of Proverbs each day this month. Proverbs continually tells us to seek wisdom. When we seek after something, we pursue it. We search for it or hunt for it. I am reminded of the childhood game of hide and seek and also of annual Easter egg hunts. We should seek wisdom with the same passion as a child playing hide and seek or hunting Easter eggs. The question then becomes, how or where do we seek wisdom?
                In I Corinthians 1:22-24 Paul says he “preached Christ crucified . . . the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Colossians 2:3 says of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
                So if I am going to seek wisdom with the passion of a child searching for hidden Easter eggs, I am going to look to Christ. We find Christ and His wisdom in scripture. We see the Old Testament saints looking forward to Christ, and in the New Testament He was manifest in the flesh. We see Christ portrayed in the lives of the believers in the New Testament as they walked in the good works of their calling as an example to us. I see Christ in answered prayers. I see Him in the miracle of new life when a baby is born giving us renewed hope to continue our journey. I see Christ in the changed life of a new believer. I see Christ throughout scripture as He tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
                James says “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask.”  If we are seeking and we ask, we will find and receive.
                Seek wisdom – Seek Christ.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Project Manager

In Psalm 23:1, David said, “The Lord is my shepherd.” He didn’t say the Lord is my tentmaker or the Lord is my builder. He had firsthand experience in being a shepherd. He knew what a shepherd did and how a shepherd cared for His sheep.
Most of us have been taught about a shepherd and his sheep in order to truly understand what this meant.  But what if David weren’t a shepherd? What other analogy might he have used?
I know what my role is at work and where my strengths are in everyday life. The Lord is not only my shepherd (because I have learned what that means); He is also my manager, my planner, my organizer, my project manager, and my life controller. These are areas that I know firsthand. Here is one way this speaks to me.

The Lord controls my life, I shall not worry.
He makes me sleep peacefully at night.
He leads me beside fulfillment. He restores my soul.
He leads me down paths He has prepared, because He knows best.
Even though I walk through the valley of the unknown,
I will not fear, for You are with me.
Your omniscient GPS and Your compass comfort me.
You prepare a plan before me in the presence of the chaos around me.
You anoint me with love, and my heart overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I challenge you to write this for yourself. Is God your financial planner, your police officer, your home manager, your teacher, your assistant, your dispatcher, or your guide? Sometimes the hardest area to surrender to God is the area you know best. What is your career, or what are your strengths? Let God be those things to you, just as God was a shepherd to David. Leave a comment, and let me know what God is to you.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Ruby Red Slippers

We all remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She walked down the yellow brick road because she was looking for a way home. What she didn’t realize was that she had the ability to go home at any time. She just didn’t know it. She was walking in the ruby slippers that gave her a way home.
According to Ephesians 2:10, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  God wants us to walk in the good works He has prepared for each of us individually.
In order to walk this path, He has provided ruby slippers designed just for you. They are covered in rubies of His love. They fit perfect. They don’t pinch, rub, or slip. They are designed for you to walk in His love comfortably.
Everything you need to walk in the good works planned for you, God will provide.  Just click your heels three times. Ask Him for what you need, listen to what He says, and act on what He tells you. Remember, there’s no place like home. If you have wandered off of the path God has for you, pull those ruby slippers out of your spiritual jewelry box, come back home, and rest in the arms of God.