Take Your Time

When I was a teenager, people would talk about suicide and remind us that, no matter how bad things are, they will get better. Someone else commented that life doesn’t always get better, but it does change. Regardless of your view, the fact is that nothing remains the same. Some days will be better and some will be worse, but we need not to react to those “worse” days.

My life has been quite a roller coaster. I have been through some dark-as-midnight valleys, but I have also seen some beautiful mountaintops where my heart filled with joy that was hard to contain. It is most likely these experiences that keep me holding on to hope even when I’m not seeing any at the time.

I have had times where I came close to making decisions that would have drastically altered my future, and probably not for the better. I’ve learned that if I give it time, I can typically think more clearly and better hear God’s voice instead of reacting in my flesh.

I know people who think they have to make decisions right away, therefore they act impulsively. I can go to the opposite extreme where I take too long to decide what to do, but I am trying to find a balance. For me, this sometimes means waiting a day to respond to an email or a text so that I produce the best response. It is rarely necessary to respond with the first thought that comes to my mind.

People talk about how easy it is to pick fights online because it’s impersonal but this does not make sense to me since it is easier to think through what you want to say when you have to type it out versus when you are face to face. We live in an age where it should be easier than ever to think before we speak (or interact online as the case may be).

In this fast-paced world, we want everything “right now,” but sometimes the best things still come to those who wait. Be sure that the decisions you make, the words you speak, the reactions that you exhibit are Spirit-led. If you feel anxious, angry, annoyed, or any like feeling, it would be better for you to take time to pray before you respond. “May your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Continuing through the Psalms

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.  ~Psalms 25:8-9

God even instructs sinners. They don’t realize it at the time but when a person comes to know the Lord, I bet they can often look back and see various ways that God was leading them in decisions they made, places they worked, etc. He looks for those who have humble hearts that are open to Him and then He begins His good and perfect work.

I can hear someone saying, “I was proud when God found me.” Yes. You didn’t know the Lord and yet God could still see a heart that was sick and tired of life and ready for a new beginning. And so He lifted you out of the mire and revealed Himself to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  ~Psalm 51:17

Oh, to continue to grow in humility, to not have to have life constantly revolve around me and what I want, to keep growing in quick and absolute surrender to my Father, to be quick to repent when I realize that I have displeased Him or hurt one of my Brothers or Sisters.

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.  ~Psalms 25:14-15

Have you ever thought about the fact that you can actually be friends with your Master? You can. He desires a genuine relationship with you. Not one-sided where all you can talk about is yourself but one where you are willing to listen to Him as well.

Humility begins in the heart and then exhibits itself in how we treat those around us. If you struggle to hear God’s voice, I encourage you to look at your heart and see if it is full of pride or a genuine willingness to know what God desires and to follow Him in all things.

 

Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

The Path of Righteousness

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  ~Psalm 23:3b

A couple of years ago, my sister and I attended a Bible study on Psalm 23. At the time, I felt like, although it was encouraging, it was just fluff, and I wanted something deeper. As I read this chapter again today, I realized that there is depth if I read slowly instead of breezing through yet another well-known passage of Scripture.

Verse 3 especially caught my eye.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

I’ve divided this into three separate sections for you to ponder. If you are following God, He will lead you down a path of righteousness. This means that if you are living a life of unrighteousness, you are not following God. However, living a right life isn’t just to make you feel good and give you a clear conscience (although these can be great benefits); He desires that His children live righteous lives so that they do not bring Him shame. (It’s not all about us!)

As you follow Him down that path, it is then that you can know assuredly that goodness and mercy will follow you for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean that everything will always go your way, but you can rest in the fact that your Father will always be good and merciful to you. What a blessed assurance!

I don’t know where you are at in this journey toward the Celestial City, but I pray that you are staying on the straight and narrow road, not looking right or left or backward but focusing 100% ahead.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 3:13-14

The Lost Art of Longsuffering

But the fruit of the Spirit is … longsuffering …  ~Galatians 5:22

Charity suffers long and is kind.  ~1 Corinthians 13:4

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was staying at some friends’ house at night while the house I live in is under renovation. I was there about a month before I took a pre-planned trip to visit some friends for a few days and then spend a month with my dad. When I go back home, I expect I will go back to my friends’ house for a time until our house is ready for me to move back into.

I rely on other people’s grace quite a bit, and I do not take for granted their willingness to sacrifice their own comfort and routine to accommodate me. That said, I have observed many people who are not that gracious and longsuffering, and I seek to figure out why.

One thing I know is that it is a lot easier to be patient with others when you realize how patient people are with you. People like to talk about how hard relationships are, but I don’t think they should be. Yes, you have to give and take but if both parties are giving and taking, it shouldn’t be drudgery. It is easy to say “I love you” to people who don’t live with you, but the true test of your love is how you treat those that you see day in and day out.

I have plenty of friends and family that don’t agree with me in every area. Most areas are not hills worth dying on from my viewpoint. I will listen to their side and often still disagree when they’re done but if they continue to want to be friends, I am willing to do so.

I am in no way recommending that people have no convictions and become accepting of sin, but most of the things that the Church gets up in arms about do not fall into this category. The key is in being led by the Spirit. If God places someone in your life, you need to work on being longsuffering with that person. Don’t just say that you love him or her but show your friend how much by how you treat them. Begin with those in your own household, and I expect it will be easier to show love to those around you.

Is God’s Love Really Unconditional?

I bristle when I hear people talk about God’s unconditional love. Typically, it is used in a context of borderline bragging about how it doesn’t matter what a person does; God still loves that person “unconditionally.” And, of course, the implication that follows is that we must love people unconditionally as well. After all, we are supposed to be like God. So I would like to ask a couple of questions. Does God really love unconditionally, and are we to follow suit?

On the surface, the answer to these questions would be a hearty, “Absolutely!” Just as God loves us, we are to love others. But I feel like we need to define “love” and what that looks like.

A parent may love a wayward child, but sometimes the most loving thing they can do is distance themselves and let the adult son or daughter make bad decisions so that they ultimately learn better ways of doing things.

Someone who ministers in a prison may feel compassion for those locked inside, but it would not be right or necessarily loving to let them all loose and trust that they won’t hurt anyone else.

So it is with God. He is grieved when the people He created ignore Him and disobey His Word. He may not stop loving them, but He will withdraw from them and, if they don’t repent, He will cast them from His sight forever. I am in no way desiring to take away from God’s love. I long to fully understand the depth of that love so that I can better love others, but I do not want a distorted view that would propel me into eternal torment.

I am currently reading through the New Living Translation, and I like how it refers to God’s “unfailing love.” The King James and English Standard Versions use the word “steadfast.” His love is “resolutely firm and unwavering,” but He still expects His children to love and obey Him in return.

When you are telling someone how magnificent God’s love is, I would encourage you to consider substituting “unconditional” for “unfailing.” Anyone can “love” someone unconditionally, overlooking sin in the process, but God’s love goes deeper than that. He has laid out conditions for His followers, but His love is so pure and genuine that it is worth doing what He asks. When we accept God’s love as it truly is instead of how we imagine it or would like it to be, I expect that we will grow to love Him more in return.

CD Report: Change Is Coming (Joseph Habedank)

Joseph Habedank just released another CD where he has once again co-written every song.

People will relate to Religion Isn’t Working. We don’t need “religion”; we need a relationship with Jesus Christ. “I wanna know my blessed Savior, and I wanna love Him like I never loved Him before.” Amen!

24 Hours is a song of hope for those who have someone they’ve prayed for forever and are still waiting to see a breakthrough. Sometimes these seem like nice ideas, but the fact is that God does still answer prayer. We must keep petitioning until we get our answer.

My favorite song on this project after first listen is Not Far From Home. The truth of this song becomes more real every day. We are not far from Home.

Other songs included are Thief in the Night, Change Is Coming, Jericho, Child of the King, Judas, Rebel With a Cause, and Rise Above Eden

 

Pray For Your Leaders

There is power in prayer and the way Christians can turn the world’s attention toward God is by praying for the decisions our leaders make. … By lifting them up to God, praying about the influences on them, and asking God to give them wisdom and discernment, we influence our own quality of life.  ~Carolyn Larsen

Some may disagree with this assessment, but the overall sentiment is true. Paul told Timothy:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  ~1 Timothy 2:1-2

I confess that I have a hard time giving thanks for our country’s leaders at times, but I do pray often that God will guide them, overriding any plans that are not of Him, and drawing them to Himself. Sometimes I ask that He direct them even if they don’t know why they are making the decisions that they are. This may seem silly to some, but I believe that God is able to do even that.

I used to think of corruption in politics as a recent phenomenon in an era where people are waxing worse and worse. However, in reading books of presidents from days gone by, I wonder if there was ever an election that was cut and dry. It seems like the recent election was not the first to be contested and accused of foul play. Back as far as Thomas Jefferson, there were scandals and possible debates over whether or not he won the election fair and square, but life went on, and here we are today.

It’s easy to complain about masks, lack of masks, rising gas prices, etc. but, for the most part, there’s not a lot we can do about these things. But we can pray.

I don’t know what life is going to look like 5, 10, 30 years down the road. I listened to Bill and Gloria Gaither talking again recently about why they wrote Because He Lives. Even 50 years ago, people wondered if they were stupid to bring children into a declining world. So the Gaithers wrote the words:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone

That is just as true today as it was then. God is still alive. He still sees. He still cares. He may allow us to experience chaos and unrest for a time, but He will continue to care for His children, and if we say goodbye to loved ones or if we ourselves die from COVID, we will know firsthand that “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Brothers and Sisters, let’s stop fighting each other. Let’s not look at the government as our savior. But let’s repent of our sins, turn from our wicked ways, pray for our leaders, and ask God to heal our land.

 

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
Quote at the beginning taken from the One-Minute Devotional for Women.

A Place in Jesus’ Arms

I have a place I love to be whenever things go wrong
I know that fears and doubts give way; this place is Jesus’ arms

These words penned by my grandparents have been a tremendous source of comfort through the years. Whenever I am going through a dark time, I ask God to please wrap His arms around me and, in my mind’s eye, I can see Him do so. This reality is really the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever. We all go through trials but, as Christians, we know that God will carry us through them whereas the unsaved do not have that assurance.

One of my favorite hymns is “Higher Ground.” The chorus says:

Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plain than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

It may sound cliche, but it’s true that after we emerge from a valley, we can often look back and see what God was doing during those times. I have been through crises in which I’m still convinced that nothing positive emerged, but I can trust that at the very least, they drove me closer to the Lord, which may have been the only purpose.

I hope you can feel God’s loving arms today. May you experience the joy and peace that He desires you to have in the midst of the tumult. If you are struggling to hold on to hope right now, ask Him to wrap you in His embrace and sit in His presence until you can feel Him do just that. One day, I trust that you will walk right out of this valley, lifting your hands and praising the Lord. He is faithful!

God Still Answers Prayer

I never doubt that God hears me when I pray, but I too often marvel at how quickly He answers my prayers. I have two examples of this that happened just this week.

After a couple busy weeks of traveling and activities, celebrating my birthday with various family members, things finally slowed down so that I was able to get back into a regular routine. On Monday, as I was thinking over my schedule and the things I needed to be working on, I decided to ask the Lord for more editing work. I don’t have another conference until October so it seemed like the perfect time to make my petition. Shortly after I opened my computer, I received a message from a friend letting me know that she was passing my contact information on to a friend of hers who was looking for an editor. Then the next morning, another friend emailed to let me know about a ministry that is looking for a part-time copy editor. Keep in mind that this is not something I posted on Facebook. I had just asked the Lord if He would provide this for me and, although I don’t know if these will come through immediately, it was the perfect way for Him to let me know that He heard my prayer.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next morning I was walking and crying, overwhelmed by the needs of several family members, feeling like I’m letting people down and yet reminding myself that I can only be one place at a time, and I’m where I believe God wants me at present. In the middle of this, I received a text from a friend to let me know that she was praying for me for “rest and provision, a joyful and pain-free day.” Talk about timing! I can’t say that I cheered up right away but God answered her prayers, and I have had a much better day today. I don’t think I even had pain last night which is a rare occurrence.

I don’t write this to brag as if I am someone special or super spiritual. Definitely not. I do, however, want to remind you that often we do not have because we do not ask. I can go months talking about how I would like more work or how my family needs help, but talk is cheap if not accompanied by prayer. Sure, God knows our thoughts, but He desires us to come to Him and make our requests known.

I can hear someone now sputtering, “That’s great that God does that for you but He doesn’t do that for me.” God is not a genie in a bottle who is waiting with a wand to grant every whim. There are many prayers that God has not yet answered in the way I would like Him to. But I keep praying until He makes it clear that it is not His will. When I am tempted to become frustrated with unanswered prayers, I quote Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” If my greatest desire is to serve Him, He will give me everything that I need. And if I’m honest, I admit that He also grants many of my wishes as well. Come to think of it, I feel spoiled. But I know that the love He has for me, He has for you as well. Luke 12:32 tells us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He has also promised in Matthew 6:30: “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

I was filling out an application today for a part-time job with a ministry, and one of the questions had to do with areas that I’ve grown in since walking with the Lord. I believe that one of those areas is trust. Only time will tell if I have mastered it, but the older I get and the more I look back at instances where God hadn’t left me even when it felt like He had, the more I can attest to His faithfulness.

This week, I encourage you to think about the situation that you’ve been complaining about, the person who has hurt you, your friend who needs a healing touch from the Lord. Then turn those concerns over to the Lord. Pray specifically for those needs and know that He hears you. If God has recently answered your prayers, I would love to hear about it in the comments. God bless you as you seek to draw closer to Him.

Live Like You Were Dying

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went from seeming fine one day to being confused and disoriented the next. It is hard on her family, but they are clinging to God and finding the strength they need to take each day as it comes. Although aware that God can heal and could choose to do so, they are taking advantage of this time to draw closer as a family. If God chooses to take this wife and mother Home, He has given those who love her a gift in being able to appreciate whatever time they have left with her.

Not everyone receives advanced notice that a loved one is going to die. Even when someone has an extended illness, it seems there is never enough time to brace yourself for the day when they will no longer be around, especially if the person is young. And so people continue on with life as usual, filling their lives with busyness while ignoring the ones they love until it is too late, and they wish they had taken even a few moments to let that person know how much he or she really did mean to those still living.

I harp on this a lot because I feel that it’s really important. Although there are things we must do each day, we should not allow life to be so busy that we neglect those around us. You don’t know who might need someone to listen to them or encourage them today. You may know someone who is always smiling as she tries to mask the pain that has sent her into a depression that she can’t seem to get out of. Or there may be an elderly person who is struggling to know why he or she is still here when no one seems to care. One text or email or phone call may perform a world of wonders in lifting someone’s spirits.

I challenge you this week to think of someone who means the world to you and make time to let them know. If you can fit it into your schedule, invite the person out for lunch or coffee. Take time to catch up and to find out what is on their mind. This isn’t about you and making you feel better about yourself as much as it is about caring for others. If you’re an introvert, this may take you out of your comfort zone, but I assure you that you can’t go wrong when you reach out in love as unto the Lord.

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