Saturday, September 29, 2012

All Things Work Together...

I recently started following Chuck Swindoll's daily devotion via Facebook. I enjoy logging in and seeing the way he brings scripture to a place of practical application in my life. This one was really worth sharing since it's something I have written about several times in the past. It's about God's Timing. Here's a portion of this devotion below and I've included a link to his website so you can read the entire devotion.

From Chuck Swindoll at

Among Christians, a favorite verse of Scripture is Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
The key part of the verse is "work together." That verse does not say "all things are good"—just as Solomon's comment does not say "everything is beautiful." It says, "All things are good as they work together for His purpose." This says, "He makes everything beautiful in its time." Read the rest

Friday, September 28, 2012

Looking Back, but Moving Forward

A friend and I were recently talking about life changes and the past. She sometimes struggles with how often she should revisit the past. Her thought was that it's good to revisit the past because so much can be learned from it. But on the flip-side of that coin it's important not to dwell in the past. So what's the healthy balance?

We've probably all known someone who tended to live in the past. Sometimes it's evident by their appearance or the things they do or say. Many people do this because it's a place where they were most happy and/or comfortable. Some of that behavior may be harmless. Then there are those who are reliving the past over and over again because they are still working through unhappy memories, bitterness, or issues. They haven't come to terms with whatever happened and so their life is "on hold." Our Enemy loves for us to get stuck in the past, dredging up old painful memories. His purpose is to keep us from fulfilling God's plan for our lives. 

As my friend shared this struggle a word picture came to my mind. I was visualizing how a driver must regularly look in the rear view mirror to see what's behind her. Glances in that direction are vitally important to a driver for her safety and well-being. However, the driver must keep her main focus on the road before her. My friend helped expand this word picture by adding a great point. A new driver needs practice learning how to glance back at the proper intervals and not become distracted. Only when a driver matures does she learn these techniques.

What does the Word tell us about the past?

The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger. ~ Job 17:9

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:18-19

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. ... I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. ~ Philippians 3:7-9, 12-14

We should keep an eternal perspective on our past, present, and future, staying focused on God and His path for us. Remember what God has done and share these things with others, but continue moving forward, pressing on to the end of the race. If you're not looking where you're going, you may miss out on something really great!

What keeps you stuck in the past?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordy Wednesday

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
    the terrors of the grave overtook me.
    I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
    So merciful, this God of ours!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Easy Way vs. The Best Way

There's an adage in the business world which goes something like this: "Do you want it fast? Do you want it cheap? Or do you want it good? Pick two." In other words, you cannot have all three. It's either going to be fast and cheap (but not good), fast and good (but not cheap), or cheap and good (but not fast). That does seem to describe most products in the marketplace, doesn't it? I'll admit that I like to do things the easy way, which is usually the fastest route, even if it's not always the best way.

Have you ever noticed that God rarely seems to do things the "easy way?" At least, it never seems like the easy way when it involves something I want, I'm waiting on, or interrupts my plans. My mind goes to a story we all know about a young woman who received a divine revelation which directly affected her life and her plans. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a very young woman. In our day and age she would be considered a girl, probably still in school and looking forward proms. But Mary's future had been planned by her family that she would marry a carpenter, Joseph. All was going according to plan until she had an angelic visit announcing a "change of plan." God had something different in mind for Mary and Joseph.

Of course, the first thing Mary did was question this new plan: “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:34   [Questioning. Check.]

Then Mary responded to the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38   [Acceptance and Anticipating. Okay, a very hesitant check.]

Finally, Mary shared the news with a loved one, she considered all that had happened, and responded like all of us would when our plans suddenly get changed by singing: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!" Luke 1:46-47  [Sharing and Singing. Half a check for talking about it.]

If you go on to follow the life of Mary, you'll note that several times she "ponders things in her heart." Those are the things which she observes but cannot explain outside of God's sovereignty. She holds them in her heart, probably (just guessing here) rolling them over in her mind multiple times hoping that one day it will all make sense. So why would God choose to interrupt her plans and expose Mary to ridicule for being unmarried and pregnant? Of course, looking back from our perspective we can see that it was all for God's glory that He chose that particular path for her.

Confession: These are not my typical responses to a sudden change of plans. Depending on the scenario, I can sometimes roll with the change and be flexible. But if it's something I was really, really counting on it could take me a good, long while to get through the questioning stage and then I might accept it begrudgingly. Note to self: There's definitely something to be learned from Mary.

God always chooses the best way for us. His best way may not always be the fastest or the funnest way. The best way often involves stretching our faith to the point in which we are forced to draw upon God's strength and usually teaches us something we might not have learned any other way. The best way will likely be different for each one of us. Two people could be going through similar circumstances. One person's "best way" may involve waiting for an answer to a prayer for years. The other person's "best way" may involve waiting for an answer to prayer for a few months. Doesn't seem fair, does it? Yeah...This is the point where trust becomes essential. Trusting in God's sovereignty and His loyal love. We can try to manipulate our circumstances but we may miss out on some blessings along the way.

Another confession: I've been through 22 months of "the best way." Now, if I had received a divine message from an angel about the circumstances that would unfold, I doubt that I could have handled the news as well as Mary. But, God knew exactly what He was doing. I've learned so much, have been blessed beyond measure, and grown closer to the Lord than ever. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordy Wednesday

One of the "things to do" in the blogging world is to do a Wordless Wednesday post. Those are posts where the blogger lets a picture speak for itself. I'm going to do a little twist on this and allow the Word to speak for itself.

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Strongholds: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

In my Bible reading lately I've run across the word strongholds. Now, typically when I hear about strongholds, I immediately think of something negative--an area of my life where the Enemy loves to work. Places of unforgiveness, low self-esteem, fear, doubt, worry, pride, etc. are all considered strongholds that believers hold onto for one reason or another. I've never really considered what the term stronghold means.

Here's an outline of biblical usage which comes from the lexicon:

Place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold
a) place of safety, fastness, harbour, stronghold
b) refuge (of God) (fig.)
c) human protection (fig.)

The Bible usages refer to it as a fortified place. The same root word as Fortress (2 Sam. 22:33) and Strength (Neh. 8:10) and Defense (Ps. 27:1) and Refuge (Ps. 52:7) and Helmet (Ps. 60:7) and Protection (Is. 27:5) and Safety (Is. 30:3)

So if a stronghold is actually a place of safety or a refuge, then how has it become associated with sin? I don't think the strongholds mentioned above start out as sin. We worry about finances when times are lean. That's a normal human thought. But it's when we stay in that place of worry--we camp out there--that it becomes a place of sin (a stronghold). That's when we are essentially saying we don't trust God to provide. That's only one example of a potential stronghold.

What I found really interesting is the connection between the definition of stronghold and our (my) own sins. I started thinking about what I turn to for safety, for refuge, for strength for comfort. If it's not God first, has it become a stronghold in my life? Hmmm. Ouch!

"A stronghold is an area of thinking
in which we allow Satan entry.  
Satan cannot force his way into our mind.
It's our private space." ~ Charles Stanley

I don't have a lot of answers here. I'm just sharing my thought process as I grapple with issues. However, I do know that only God's Word can break down those strongholds. Truth defeat lies. So here is a bit of truth to hold onto as we think through this issue. And if you have any thoughts on this subject, I'd love to hear it.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up 
against the knowledge of God, and we take captive 
every thought to make it obedient to Christ.~ 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Monday, September 10, 2012


Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. These unmet expectations can turn into...
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Reliving the past (if only...)
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Unforgiveness
  • Jealousy
  • Disillusionment

We've all experienced varying degrees of disappointment. As a child we're told NO when we really want to hear YES. As a teenager we're disappointed when that guy or girl we admire doesn't show any interest. Adults experience disappointment when the job or promotion they hope to receive doesn't come through or a spouse forgets our birthday. Many of us are experiencing disappointment right now. Fill in the blank: "I'm disappointed now because _____________."

I was talking with a friend about this topic. Something we wanted so badly didn't happen. These desires (unmet expectations) were really good things to want but they didn't work out the way we hoped it would or when we thought it would. Inevitably those unmet expectations turned into things like anger, frustration, and bitterness. In the circumstances my friend and I were discussing, our disappointments were aimed at God.

Why would God not answer this prayer? 
What is He waiting on? 
Why would God allow us to go through this? 

Answers to these questions will be different for each person and each circumstance. Only the Lord knows the answers and may choose to reveal them to us in time (or in His sovereignty God may choose to never reveal it). Some circumstances in life don't seem to make sense to us. We have limited vision but God can see the whole picture (past, present, and future) and knows perfectly well why things happen the way they do. Ultimately it's our response to these disappointments that are most important.

How should we respond to a disappointment?

We should confess the disappointment to God, pouring our hearts out to Him. He already knows what we're feeling, but talking to God about it opens our hearts up for His love and comfort in the midst of it. If we choose to remain angry at God--giving Him the silent treatment--what good does that do? It only hurts us in the long run and it doesn't get us any closer to an answer either.

Remember that God is in control and has our best interest in mind. Just as a parent will withhold a treat from a child because it might spoil her dinner, God may withhold something we want now because He's got something far better in mind. This is where trust comes in. We have to trust in God's Word and in God himself. "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28)."

It's really easy to get stuck in the If-Onlys and the What-Ifs of the past. We should ask God if it's time to move away from that unmet expectation and ask Him to replace it with anticipation for something He desires for us to have. “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19)."

What about you? How have you handled disappointment? Are there any Bible verses that have helped you with these unmet expectations?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nuggets of Wisdom

It's been a while since I've shared some of these little nuggets I glean during my reading and study time. I'll start with a quote and then follow it with my own commentary of what I gleaned from the passage.

"Failure to do exactly what God asks, regardless of how strange or incomplete
His instructions may seem, shows that we don’t trust Him. 
It shows we don’t believe that He is God and knows what’s best. 
When we don’t do what God tells us to do,
we are saying that we don’t think He is wise enough or capable enough 
to handle our situations." 
~ Priscilla Shirer, He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of God.  

Um, wow! Just wow! I recently heard Chuck Swindoll teaching on Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. Now there is a great example of strange instruction from God. This beloved and long awaited son was now to be sacrificed. It really didn't make any sense. God didn't tell Abraham what was going to happen. Hebrews 11:17 gives us a clue about Abraham's quick obedience. Abraham knew God's promise and by faith followed those instructions not knowing how God would keep His promise, but Abraham trusted God.

"You and I were not designed to be whom others expect us to be, 
or even want us to be.
We were created to become all that God planned for us to be."
-- and --
"God had established Eve’s worth as His child and the crown of His creation. 
He also gave Eve every woman’s desire: intimacy, beauty, security, significance, 
and purpose. Yet Satan conjured up feelings of insecurity by getting Eve 
to take her eyes off what she had and focus on what she didn’t have." 
~ Renee Swope, The 7-Day Doubt Diet.

Okay, there are two different quotes here from the same book. I just started reading this short little book which is a companion to one I've already read which is called A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. The first quote is simply a great reminder that God didn't make any mistakes when He created us AND we should not strive to live up to other people's expectations, particularly if those expectations are contrary to God's principles. God has a plan for each of us! The second quote is closely related to the first. We should find our worth in God and not in others. Satan (our Enemy) WILL try to make us feel inferior, insecure, doubt, and he will discourage us.

"In the lifelong process of discovering what true love is, 
God's steadfast love holds us up. He will never leave us or forsake us
along the way. And the more we experience and live in his love, 
the more we'll be free to love like him— with no strings attached, 
without demanding compliance or running away, and… without hypocrisy." 
~ Tim Clinton & Pat Springle,  Break Through: When to Give In, How to Push Back. The Moment that Changes Everything.

I've said this before on this blog but it is definitely worth repeating. Until we begin to understand God's love for us first, it's difficult to truly love others the way we should.