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Sleeping through the storm

Luke 8:22-25 – “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

We just went through a hurricane. Not my idea of a good time, I’ll tell you. As we laid in the closet under the stairs while the front and back of the eye of the storm went over our house, my kids slept. The electricity had gone out which caused the fan to go off which woke me up to the raging wind. It howled and screamed and thrashed against the front of our house. I’m laying in the closet praying, “Please God, keep the roof on my house and my friends and family safe” while my children are sleeping. Sleeping! I was glad though. I was in a state enough without having to deal with them freaking out.

While I was out and about yesterday working, I heard the same thing from many of my clients – they slept through the hurricane! What?! How can that be? They went to bed Sunday night and knew nothing had happened until they woke up Monday morning. 

My grandma always said, “The Good Lord’s gonna gitcha when He wants ya whether you’re hidin’ or not.” Faith. Faith that He is in control and we have nothing to fear. I experienced a great deal of fear last week, especially Friday. Friday was tough for me. I believe the majority of it was the uncertainty. We had no idea where the hurricane would hit and how bad it would be. The Holy Spirit had to keep whispering to me – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He had to say it multiple times because I was having a hard time getting my heart and mind to listen. Faith.  Faith that He is in control.

Now, I’m not certain that all of my clients have that sort of faith in their lives. I’m working on that. But I do know that God used their…faith, or lack of hearing, to remind me that I have nothing to fear, even in a hurricane. It is about letting go and letting God. And that, my friend, is tough. I like to be in control of things going on in my life. I like to know when, where and how things are going to go before I step into it. But faith reminds me that sometimes I won’t know all the details. Faith reminds me that sometimes I need to sleep during the storm. I can’t control it. I can’t affect the outcome of it. I can only prepare and pray. 

Prepare and pray. Maybe that should be my new motto. Isn’t that all God really wants us to do? Second Timothy says He gave us a “sound mind” – the ability to know when to prepare and how to prepare. We know that “power” is from God alone. And we know that “love” should cover everything we do. And when we have that power, love and sound mind, we can sleep through the storm. Isn’t that why Jesus slept in the boat during the storm? He had all those things in abundance. 

So the next time you find yourself in a storm, whether figuratively or literally, have faith. Prepare and pray. Allow God to take the fear the devil attempts to plant in your heart and turn it into power, love and a sound mind. And sleep through the storm.

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How to fight the good fight

2 Samuel 10:12 – “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.”

Every day is a battle. Some are more ferocious than others but they are battles nonetheless. We face a variety of choices and challenges every time we wake up.  Will I be lazy or productive today? Will I go back to what I’ve always done or will I try something new? Will I listen to the leadership of the Holy Spirit or strike out on my own?

Let me give you another rendition of this verse (Melissa-ology): “Don’t be afraid. Fight bravely. Make good choices. Trust God for the outcome.”

Sometimes in our battles we get confused. Some think that we should sit and wait for God to take care of things. And some think that if it wasn’t for their smarts and cleverness that nothing would get done. But you see, it is a delicate balance of both that is necessary. We need to trust God for the outcome while using the brains and muscle He gave us. Utilizing our resources to obey God is paramount. We can’t just sit back and wait all the time. Sometimes the battle requires action and thought. Like I said, it’s a delicate balance that requires prayer and leadership from the Holy Spirit. 

So how does this apply to my every day, ho-hum life? You are going to be faced with something crazy today, guaranteed. How about we all try this together? Let’s turn the crazy, mixed up problem over to God, first and foremost, and then let’s do our best. Let’s ask God to show us how to utilize our resources that He has given us to do the best we can in this situation. And then, make SOMETHING happen. Make ANYTHING happen. Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log and wait for someone else to notice the battle. 

You see, battles and challenges of life need to be recognized, turned over to the proper Authority and then dealt with in the best possible way as directed by the so mentioned Authority. Don’t be complacent. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be wishy-washy. Be a solider for Christ. Be different. Be the person that gets it done according to His leadership and guidance. Fight the good fight. 

He’s got it!

Numbers 4:49 – “According to the commandment of the LORD they were numbered by the hand of Moses, every one according to his service, and according to his burden: thus were they numbered of him, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

Do you ever think to yourself that you have way too much to do? How in the world are you going to get everything accomplished that you need to for that day? Do you ever feel that God must have forgotten about you that day because things just are not going as you had planned?

Well, just ponder this for a moment – organizing 603,550 men. Now, remember this number does not include women and children, nor does it take into account the Levites. 603,550 men. That, my friend, is overwhelming.

But not for God. As I was reading through Numbers 1-4 this morning, I started thinking about what was really going on here in these chapters. God was numbering the people for several reasons – for dividing the land once the children of Israel got there, to know the number of soldiers available AND to see whose job it was to transport what. You see, God already knew these numbers but the leaders did not.

The ones leading this group needed some guidance in organization. They needed to know what they were dealing with and how to get things done. Can you imagine the bedlam that would have ensued if God hadn’t taken the lead to tell those 603,55o men who was to carry what and how they were to move the tabernacle? They would have probably stood there staring at one another waiting for the other one to move first.

And then when it came to setting up again, God had that covered too! He told them exactly where each tribe was to set up its tents.

Organization. I love it. It drives me crazy when things are scattered everywhere. But there are days and times in my life that are hectic. I am overwhelmed and crazy. I feel like God may have forgotten that I’m floundering like a fish out of water. When I begin to feel like that, I hear this little voice in my head reminding me that He has got this, if only I would let Him have it. I have trouble with that one. I get possessive of my troubles. It’s not really a good place to be. If God could organize and take care of all those people in the middle of the wilderness, surely He can take care of my piddly little problems.

So, let me challenge you today to remember this awe-inspiring truth – God saw probably over a million people through 40 years in the wilderness with no help from man. If He can take on this crazy-big task, trust me, He can handle your problems. No matter how overwhelming, no matter how big, no matter how complicated, God can handle it.

Makin’ plans

Psalm 119:1-8 – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.”

The last day of 2014. It is crazy that 364 days have already passed. My year has been filled with heart ache and tears and laughter and celebrations, reunions and good byes. Like most years, it has had its ups and downs. But when I look back, I mostly remember the good.

On a day like today, I don’t just want to remember the events of the year. I also want to review my behaviors. I had times when I walked ever so closely with Jesus. And I had times where I had to kinda shout because I had walked on a side path.

I also want to take some time and think about the goals that I accomplished and those that I did not. It seems that more often than not the goals that I set for myself were not accomplished. So why do I torture myself by setting goals every year? I need direction. I need a point to try to hit.

You see, when I look at these verses for today, I see someone who tries – someone whose desire is to follow more closely after The Lord and who knows that he (or she) will not always be successful. But in their trying comes a blessing. The writer desires to keep the commands of God and desires to seek after Him. Yet, the writer asks that God not utterly forsake him. Why would he ask that? Because he knows that sometimes he will fail.

God knows who He is dealing with here – He knows that we are sinners. He knows that we are going to make grandiose plans to serve Him and that somewhere down the line, we will neglect that desire. But He knows that we desire to serve Him and learn about Him. He knows that we desire to do our best. Remember, God sees and discerns the intents of our heart. You can’t fool God. I teach the young teen Sunday School class and I am always asking them to give me their real answer, not the “Sunday School answer”.

God doesn’t want your “Sunday School” plans. He wants your down in the nitty gritty plans. He wants to be a part of the plans that you make for every single aspect of your life. He wants to direct them. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” You see, even the writer of this Psalm had a desire for God to direct his ways. He didn’t say “just my ways when I’m learning about You”. He said “my ways”. To me, that means all of them.

As you remember this year and your successes and failures, you joys and your tears, your ups and your downs, take a moment and see where you have let God lead you. Rejoice in those moments and plan for more. Set your goal list before The Lord for approval. Make sure that He is directing all your ways.

Time for a check-up

Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Okay everyone, the countdown is on. Only three more days left in 2014. Can you believe it? You have three more days to make the best of 2014 and plan for 2015. What are you going to do? Where are you going to go? How are you going to live the days you are given next year?

Most people will be preparing their New Year’s Resolutions this week. May I suggest that you do something different this year – make plans, not resolutions. Plans mean that you have a goal and how to get there. You’re not making arbitrary wishes. You are making well thought out goals and goals will always get you farther.

So, let’s begin. Let’s look at your health. I want to look at your health in three different areas: mind, body and soul.
First, your mind. Are you making an effort each and every day to renew your mind? Romans 12:2 – “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” How do you expect to be able to do God’s will if you and He are not on the same page?
Second, your body. Are you taking care of the temple God gave you? Do you care for it and feed it properly? Or do you just live life with abandon and eat whatever sounds good at the moment? 1 Corinthians 3:16 – “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” I know I don’t want to give God something yucky to live in. So this next year I want to care for my body in a better way. I encourage you to think and pray about how God wants you to change things to make your body more healthy to do His work.
And lastly, your spirit. How is your relationship with Him? Are you walking with Him? Are you letting Him have every day, every moment? Do you talk to Him as much as you talk to your best friend? He just wants to be the biggest part of your life. Think for a moment about Jesus’ life with His disciples. He spent three years walking with them and spending every moment with them. They didn’t just meet for classes once a week. They walked with the Savior and talked with Him and laughed with Him and cried with Him and ate with Him. It was a very intimate time. Jesus still wants that same thing with you.

Princess, the time is now. The time has come for a check-up. Take these next few days and think about your health – the health of your mind, the health of your body and the health of you soul. Do you need to change some things? Could you make any one (or all) of these areas better? Just begin with a list of these three areas and things that could (or should) be changed. Then pray. Pray about how God wants you to change them.

Bloom where you are planted

Mark 4:26-29 – “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”

The other day I was walking into work and I noticed something – a flower growing in the gutter of the building. It always makes me smile when I see something like that. A tiny, beautiful little flower growing way up high in a place where flowers really aren’t supposed to grow.

It made me think about what God expects of us. Here we are in this yucky old world where society is ever trying to sweep us away. And we are supposed to be just like this little flower. We are supposed to grow no matter what. Despite the circumstances, despite where we are at, we are supposed to grow. And we are supposed to produce fruit. We are supposed to bring hope to those around us by showing the beauty He has created within us.

I know that no one person purposefully climbed up on a ladder and planted that seed up in the gutter. But I believe that God put that seed up in that gutter for a very specific reason – He wanted me to see it and He wanted me to remember that it is so very important that we grow where we are planted. You may be planted in a fertile field where people are coming to Jesus every day. Or you may be planted in the desert where birds of prey are waiting to pick your bones dry. Either way, we are instructed to grow. If cactus can grow in the desert, then so can you. You just have to get creative. Cactus produce fruit as well. They provide water for animals and flowers to grow other cactus.

The endpoint is this – Christ’s return is coming soon. Harvest time is almost here. How much fruit are you producing? Is it bountiful? Or are you just scraping by? We can’t grow without the Living Water supplying all that we need. We can’t produce without the Master Gardener pruning and encouraging growth. So get with it, sister! Get that soil fertilized and get those weeds pulled. Times a wastin’!

The Sly Old Fox

1Peter 5:8 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”

I was sitting here this morning praying about what God would have me to write about today and this song came to my head. It is an old one; one that I haven’t thought of in years. It goes like this: “The devil is a sly old fox. If I could catch him, I’d put him in a box. Put him in a box and throw away the key, for all the tricks he’s played on me. Glad that I’m a Christian. Glad that I’m a Christian. Glad that I’m a Christian and trusting in the Lord.”

I looked through my concordance trying to find a reference to the devil being a fox, but found none. But I did remember this verse that referenced him as a lion. Lions are mentioned several times in the Bible, yet with different meanings. Sometimes Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah. But in this instance, it is the devil being referred to as a lion.

Have you ever seen a lion hunt? I haven’t seen one in person but I have watched it plenty of times on television. They are sly and sneaky. They look around trying to find out which animal is the weakest and most easy to attack. They know they are going to have to work for their food but they want to do as little as possible. So, they pick off the weak ones or the ones falling behind the pack. They sneak around the tall grass and pounce when their prey least expect it. Sometimes they have to run to catch their food. Lions are really fast. Their prey rarely escape.

Knowing all of this gives us a greater perspective of this verse in 1 Peter. The devil pursues us in the same way. He looks for those of us who are weaker, those of us who are falling behind. He doesn’t want to have to work too hard to get another one of us to mess up. But if the need arises, he will chase us down and only an act of God will keep us from from being brought down.

The lesson to learn here is found in the verse – Be ready. Be watching. Don’t give the devil opportunity to catch you or even think about how he can mess you up. This means you have to do whatever is necessary to keep up – go to church, study your Bible, pray, talk with other believers, listen to music that glorifies God – anything and everything that draws you into His protection. Believe me, you don’t want the devil to catch you. It is possible to get free of his grasp but it is hard, very, very hard. Your best option is to not even get in that position.

But don’t try and go at it alone. Follow the Leader. Let Him show you the way. It takes effort and choice. But princess, it is worth it. I know I have said it before, but repetition is the way we learn. And trust me when I say that it is a much for you as it is for me. Life is hard. It would be easy to just give up. But we have been called to cheerfully endure until the end. And if that is what I have to do, then that is what I shall do.