What Does God Want From You?

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

Sometimes I think we’ve made our relationship with God far too difficult and confusing. We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in.

For more than half a century, I have been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing her tail, I’ve been going in circles.

Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness wandering ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God. During a recent poll, 65 percent said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth. On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

We have everything we need to experience the ever growing, continually maturing, abundant life, so why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

“God, what do you really want from me?”

I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their heart through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot.

And somehow, we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

I had asked the question a thousand times, but one morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that my busy sisters and I have been asking the wrong question.

Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those eight little words: In Him we live and move and have our being. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

So today, I encourage you to be still. Just get quiet. Breathe deeply. Jesus in. Worries out.

Don’t make your faith about what God wants from you, but what God wants for you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Overcoming the Troubles of This World

Thank you Erin Odom for today’s message….

God doesn’t promise us a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. To the contrary, Jesus told His disciples that in this world we would have trouble. But He didn’t stop there: He reminded them that He overcame the world.

Several years ago, my family walked through a period of extreme financial frustration. Month after month, we saw our savings dwindle and our bank account diminishing. We felt like we were barely surviving financially, emotionally, and even spiritually at some points.

But it was during that troublesome and turbulent time that God pointed us to Himself and the promise that He has overcome the world—despite the troubles we encounter in it. He also showed us very clearly that He is the Great Provider of all our needs. No, we will not have perfect, trouble-free lives on this earth, but God has promised to provide exactly what we need, when we need it. His provision might not always look like we would imagine or what we would pick out for ourselves, but it’s exactly what He knows is best.

I clearly remember when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I thought life would never get better. We would never be able to breathe. And we would always barely be making it.

The humility of our season of trouble brought me face-to-face with real need, and real provision. More than anything, our time in the tunnel tuned our hearts to God’s. We failed to acknowledge or appreciate the Lord’s provision when it seemed we were meeting all of our own needs, when we had enough money for excess. But when every penny counted, when our budget never made sense on paper, when we had cents instead of dollars in our bank account at the end of the month, that was when we learned that only God is the provider of all of our needs.

Are you there now, friend? You don’t see a way out. Hope is dim. There is no light. Are you stumbling around in the fog? Is the tunnel still dark?

Romans 8:37 says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Yes, we will have trouble in this world, but, through Him, we can overcome them.

With the right attitude and perspective, we can look back on a season of troubling times as some of the most faith-building days of our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

As a Child in the Presence of a Loving Father

Today we lay my dad to rest.  We will gather together as a family to say good-by again as your ashes are buried.  I can’t believe it has been almost seven months since I heard your voice.  I know you are near every time I hear talk about the “aliens”.  Miss you dad….

Thank you Michele Cushatt for today’s message.

The second the bus stopped at the corner, my little girl climbed off and ran as fast as she could toward where I stood.
Something wasn’t right. She was crying.
Immediately my mind jumped to worst-case scenarios.

Not quite so dramatic, someone told her they didn’t like her anymore. In typical grade-school fashion, the mood of the relationship had turned sour on the playground. As a result, my girl fell out of the other girl’s affection.

There on the street corner, I held her close while she cried. I was glad she told me. But what made me most proud is what she said next: “When we get home, can we cuddle?”

For years I’ve been working with my girl to learn how to ask for what she needs. It’s hard for her, tough girl that she is. Typically she either guts it out or reverts to theatrics. Instead, we’ve discussed how to use words to communicate needs.

That day, on the street corner, she did just that.

If only I could learn to do the same.

Most days I’m glad to be an adult. I mean, really. Who wants to travel back to the days of diapers or pimples?

When I’m hurt or discouraged or afraid, however, my adult skin wears thin.

When bills demand paying and parenting proves impossible. When marriage is hard, friendships struggle, and doctor’s appointments fill a calendar.

Then I wish to travel back in time, when a girl’s greatest fears could be soothed in a mama’s arms. Held close, all was well. To a child, there’s nothing greater than a parent’s ability to comfort.

But comfort doesn’t come so easily to us grownups.

Where do you and I go when relationships wound and the injustice of life stings?

We adults carry such responsibility, don’t we? Such blunt knowledge of the unfairness and volatility of this life. Even if we avoid news and media, fear and pain still have a way of finding us. We can’t escape them.

Ourselves, more often than not. We either erect a false front of strength or cave in to a pattern of complaining. But neither brings much relief.

There’s a better way.

The Bible is rich with examples of men who voiced their needs and asked God for His comfort.

Even better, the Bible nearly explodes with examples of God’s corresponding tireless affection. At times He comforted those He loved through their circumstances, and other times He comforted them in their circumstances:

– To the leader Joshua, overwhelmed by his new task: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Josh. 1:9).

– To the Israelites enslaved by ruthless Egyptians: “I am concerned about their suffering” (Ex. 3:7).

– To the widow who’d lost her only son: “Don’t cry” (Luke7:13).

– To the adulteress caught in her shameful sin: “Neither do I 
condemn you” (John 8:11).

– To the blind man longing to see: “Receive your sight; your faithhas healed you” (Luke 18:42).

– To the disciples, who ached because their friend would be leaving them, Jesus said: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

– And to those of us who wade through the deep waters of this modern life, longing for a world we’ve heard about but have not yet seen, Jesus promises: “I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Regardless of your pain—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual— you don’t have to pretend to be strong, nor do you need to succumb to your tears. Become a child in the presence of a comforting Father.

Don’t be afraid to expose your need and ask God for comfort.

Then, count on Him to deliver.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Look Where You’re Going

Thank you to Girlfriends in God for today’s message…

I live in a suburban neighborhood. As my family of five pulled out of the driveway in our minivan, we were about to encounter a very strange sight.

There – smack dab in the middle of the road – was a teen girl.

She was walking away from us, right in the center of the street. Her eyes were glued to her phone. She walked slowly, completely unaware of her surroundings (including our two-ton vehicle quickly approaching).

As we got closer in our van, I capitalized on this larger-than-life teachable moment.

“Kids, do you see that girl? Is she even aware we are here? Why is it dangerous to stare at your phone, especially when you’re in the middle of the street?”

My husband James was having a lot of fun with this. He followed her slowly, not passing her so she wouldn’t be startled. We were all curious about how long it would take her to realize she was being stalked by the mighty minivan. Would she get scared? Embarrassed?

To our utter surprise, she did not notice us. She turned the corner (still in the middle of the street) and then veered to the left, getting on the sidewalk.

She never looked up once as we drove by.

How much she missed by her preoccupation with her phone above all else! She averted danger and didn’t even know it. You and I (hopefully) won’t be walking down the middle of the street anytime soon, but perhaps there are times when we’re buried in our phones instead of looking where we’re going in life.

In Genesis 15, we see that Abram (who would later be renamed Abraham) didn’t have any offspring. He was a wealthy man with no heir. His quest for a son characterized much of his life. When he looked to make his servant Eliezer his heir, the Lord told him He had a different plan. “Look to the sky and see if you can number the stars. So shall your descendants be.”

Like Abram, when we look up from our phones and into the promises of God, the sky is the limit. We are not designed to be plugged into a device 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Instead we blessed when we meditate on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2). Which promises of God are you standing on? Are you walking by faith with an expectant heart?

The next you are taking a walk outside, make sure your phone is in your pocket or purse. Look up into the sky God has created. The heavens declare His majesty if we will stop to listen. Don’t blindly follow the crowds with your head down, buried in your texts, emails, posts, and pins. Look around for your physical safety and look up to God for the safety of your soul.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Choose Forgiveness and Set Yourself Free

Thank you to Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you ~ Colossians 3:13, NIV

Do you remember the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross? “It is finished!” The most literal translation would be “paid in full.”

I will never forget paying off my very first car loan. After sending in my forty-eighth and final payment, I celebrated the fact that I finally owned my bright blue and ever-so-compact Chevrolet Vega – from bumper to bumper. There were those who said you couldn’t drive a Vega – you had to wear it. Others described the bright color as strangely “unique.” But to me, it was the most beautiful car in the world because it was mine.

I quickly found other places to spend the once allocated car payment and went on with life – until the day I opened my mailbox to find the loan papers for my car. Stamped in big red letters across the document were the words, “Paid in full.” I danced a jig right there in my driveway because I was finally free of that debt.

Part of forgiveness is releasing the person from the debt we think they owe us. Refusing to let go of the hurt and pain someone has caused in our lives will always rob us of our joy.

We can choose to release our pain and cut our losses, instead of allowing the weight of an unpaid debt deplete our mental and emotional energy. In other words, we can forgive the debt and free ourselves.

Forgiving the debt is a deliberate choice that is made by an act of your will. You may not feel forgiving. It doesn’t matter. Just do it, and many times the feelings will follow that choice – other times they won’t. Feelings are irrelevant, but obedience is crucial. Do not base the validity of what you are doing on how you feel. Make the choice to forgive … and then obey.

Someone once said: “We put our resentments in cold storage and then pull the switch to let them thaw out again. Our grudges are taken out to the lake of prayer to drown them, and we end up giving them a swimming lesson. How often have we torn up the canceled note, but hang on to the wastebasket that holds the pieces? This is not to say that human forgiveness does not occur; only that it is rare and that much that passes for forgiveness is often not so at all.”

God is the One who heals painful memories. Forgiveness puts us in the correct posture for Him to do so in our lives. Over the years, I have learned several life-changing truths about forgiveness:

If we make the choice to forgive, God will supply the forgiveness.

There should be no limit to our forgiveness because there is no limit to His.

Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice.

Forgiveness is our greatest need and God’s greatest gift.

While we cannot change the past, we can change our response to the past and dictate the power it has over us.

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.

But because our greatest need was and is forgiveness, God sent a Savior.

Jesus Christ is calling us all to a higher place, a place of forgiveness. The choice is ours to make. Today, we can choose freedom by choosing to forgive.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!