Stepping Out in Faith

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Have you ever wanted to “freeze” a moment and make it last a lifetime? I have. I have also lived through certain moments that I wish I could change or even delete and pretend they never happened. But change is a natural part of life. We can embrace it, or we can fight it.

My husband often says that the only people who really like change are wet babies. However, I have discovered that some people thrive and live for change to the point that they are “change junkies” and have little stability. Others dig in their heels and refuse to change a thing and ultimately become prisoners of old habits – both good and bad. When it comes to change, we have a decision to make. Change is a sign of growth and life and is sometimes needed simply to survive.

God may be asking you to step out in faith and make a change in your life. He has already been where He is asking you to go and prepared every step of the way for you. You don’t have to be afraid of the unknown. It is unknown only to you.

God is well aware of where you are and of every step He is asking you to take. He may be asking you to get rid of old memories, eliminate destructive habits, or forsake lifeless traditions. He is waiting for you to take one step.

Faith in God does not come all at once. Faith is a step-by-step process that begins with one small step and increases as we go. An Old Testament story found in Joshua 3 illustrates this truth.

The Israelites are camped on the bank of the Jordan River. Forty years earlier, they had escaped from Egypt and have been wandering around in the wilderness ever since. All of their needs have been met by God. They have seen miracle after miracle and now they can see Canaan, the Promised Land. However, there is a problem.

A huge river stands between the Israelites and the Promised Land, and there is no way around it. God told His people that He would make a dry path through the river, but the priests had never seen that happen. In fact, they hadn’t even been born when the Red Sea was parted and there were no reruns of the Ten Commandments at the local Wilderness Theatre. The Israelites had spent their entire adult lives in the wilderness and finally, they could see a way out. Oh, and one more problem — the priests couldn’t swim. This was probably the first river they had even been close to in their lives. I can imagine their fear and questions. God was asking them to step out in faith as never before.

I don’t imagine the Israelites had a great deal of faith in God at that moment, but they had just enough faith to take that first step. And that was enough.

During harvest the Jordan overflows its banks. When the priests carrying the Ark came to the edge of the river and stepped into the water, the water upstream stopped flowing. It stood up in a heap. So the people crossed over.

Notice that God did nothing until those toes touched the water. That first step was all God needed to see. Many times, we won’t take the first step of change because we’re afraid we won’t be able to make the whole journey.

Don’t wait until you believe it all.
Don’t wait until you can see it all.
Don’t wait until you understand it all.

Trust God and step out in faith. He will meet you there.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Talking Back to Yourself

Thank you to Lisa Morrone for today’s message…

Last week, while selecting some avocados in the produce aisle, I heard a loud gasp which caused my attention to be diverted to a woman who had just started an avalanche of sorts over by the oranges. As she restacked the fruit I distinctly heard her mutter, “Stupid girl! How could you be so clumsy?” In that moment I imagined her as a five year old child being berated by her mother, in the same tone, for the same offense.

From an early age, I remember learning that spoken words have power, both to hurt and to heal. My mom taught me to use the words that came out of my mouth with care, particularly when they were directed towards others. What I did not understand then was that the way we talk to ourselves can have just as much power to transform our minds—in both good and bad ways.

In the first testament, the Bible contains an historical timeline of accounts surrounding King David, beginning in his childhood and culminating with his death. David, like you and I, encountered some great highs and some equally low lows. In today’s Scripture, we find David battling with what I believe to be borderline depression. He was tired of being chased by his enemies, tired of being misunderstood, and likely tired of waiting for God’s promises to come to fruition. Can you relate?

Buried in the words of Psalm 42 is a valuable lesson on self-speak that we would do well to put into practice. David knows he’s feeling particularly low. So he wisely acknowledges and labels his feelings. But then David uses the power of his own words to construct a ladder which he uses to climb his downcast spirit out of the pit of despair he’s found himself in.

Here are the four rungs David put in place:

HOPE: He looks his despair squarely between the eyes and directs himself to “Put your hope in God.”

PRAISE: Next David invokes a new (contrary) attitude by saying, “for I will yet praise him.”

AUTHORITY: He reminds himself who his Lord is by identifying Him as, “my Savior and my God.”

RECOLLECTION: Lastly, David takes a decisive walk down memory lane when he declares, “therefore I will remember you”—which I am sure brought him back to thoughts of himself as a boy killing a lion and then the giant, Goliath, and having escaped from the tip of Saul’s spear a time, or three.

Do you feel in a state of despair today? Have you been passively listening to (and agreeing with) all the negative self-talk that comes along with it? Do not lose heart—USE YOUR WORDS! It’s time you quit listening to yourself, and start talking back to yourself instead. Speak out transformative words of hope and praise. Remind yourself aloud who your Lord is and recount the many times He has redeemed your circumstances, been true to His promises, and shown His kindness towards you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

That Little Sneaky Path to a Bad Place

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

One Sunday my pastor had to do some housekeepin’ fussin’ at our congregation before he started his sermon. It was a “visitors, close your ears” moment as Jimmy interrupted the service for an important message from our neighbors.

See, right beside our church property is a city park. On Sundays, when our parking lot is full, we tend to use the city park lot for our overflow parking. The only problem is that the folks going to the city park don’t like the fact that those daggum CHURCH people are taking their parking spaces.

It is not nice of us. Really. I’m sorry. I’ve done it, too.

And while our sweet pastor calmly asked the congregation, once again, to STOP PARKING IN THE CITY PARK PARKING LOT (he didn’t yell, but I bet he wanted to) folks still do it. As soon as Jimmy finished his announcement and began his sermon, God had a sermon just for me. He wasn’t finished with me and the forbidden parking lot issue. That’s what happens when you make a path or keep a path open, He seemed to say, “You’re going to walk down it eventually.”

See, while we have been warned, scolded, and pleaded with not to park next door, there is this nice little path through the bushes from the city park’s parking lot to our church’s parking lot. The bushes are trimmed on both sides, cobblestones are succinctly placed, and a nice little bit of concrete forms a gently curving sidewalk. Someone keeps the bushes clipped and the grass maintained. The breezeway almost beckons us (me) to break the rules.

Now let’s go down a different path. Let’s call the path sin. Let’s say that you have decided that once and for all you are not going to park yourself in the parking lot of a particular sin.

  • You’re not going to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts and eat a dozen chocolate-covereds in one sitting. You’re not even driving by.
  • You are not going to sleep with that boyfriend…ever again!
  • You’re not going to date that guy you know is bad for you…ever again.
  • You’re not going to look at that particular website.
  • You’re not going to flirt with the married guy in the next cubicle.
  • You’re not going to gossip about other people.
  • You are not going to drink because you know you have an alcohol problem.
  • You are not going to indulge in online shopping because you’re in debt.
  • You’re not going to _______________.

There are hundreds of vices you could put in that sentence. But then there’s a nicely groomed little path that you’ve kept open…just in case. You wouldn’t call it “just in case.” You wouldn’t say it out loud.

  • The guy’s name is still in your contacts list on your smartphone.
  • You still think about what that guy in the next cubicle would like when you get dressed for work in the morning.
  • You still pull up that website when you think God isn’t looking.
  • You still pull up a chair when someone begins to gossip.
  • You still take the route home from work that goes right by the Dunkin Donut store.
  • You keep a bottle in the cabinet…just for company.

The paths beckon you. And as long as you keep the breezeways open, you’ll probably breeze right through them…eventually.

The answer? Remove the path. Put up a gateless fence.

  • Remove the contact.
  • Change your job.
  • Get rid of your computer.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Take a different route home from work.
  • Remove the bottle.
  • Unsubscribe.

Make the path impassable, implausible, and impossible to take, and put up a gateless fence instead.

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29 NKJV). That is pretty dramatic. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eye, and I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was saying either. But He was telling us to remove the cause of the temptation.

Remove the path. Put up a fence.

So here’s my question: Do you need to put up a fence where you now have a path?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

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!

It’s Not About Me


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message….

Some of my Girlfriends in God are not going to like this devotion. I’m not even sure I do. But I’m going to put it out there anyhow. During the month of February, I write devotions on marriage. It is the month of love, and marriages certainly are in shambles all around the world. Each February, I am flooded with e-mails: some are appreciative for the reminders on how to love their husbands; some are filled with hurt because they are in their own struggling marriage, and some are broken-hearted because of shattered dreams. These women are so thankful for the balm of God’s truth in a very tender area of their lives.

But I also receive e-mails from women who are not married, who do not like the attention to marriage at all. They are flat out angry and frustrated because the devotions do not pertain to them. “Don’t you know that all of your readers are not married?”

“Oh honey child,” as my grandmother would say.

I’ve seen the same attitude in church. “I didn’t like that sermon.” “I didn’t like the singing today.” “I couldn’t relate to that teaching.” And on and on we go.

You know what I’ve discovered…it’s not about me. It is all about God. If the pastor is preaching on a topic that is not my struggle, I pray that God will open my eyes to new truths that I’ve never seen. If he is talking about losing a loved one, I pray for those who have lost a loved one recently…even though that might not be my struggle at that particular time. Is the teaching on raising young children? I have a grown son, so I pray for those who are raising the next generation.

One Sunday, I was singing in church. Barely singing, I might add. It was a dry old hymn and I just wasn’t into it. Then I looked at an older woman a few seats down and she had tears trickling down her wrinkled cheeks. She was moved to tears by that old hymn and was taken to the throne room of grace.

“Oh Father,” I prayed. “Please forgive me. This is not about me. It’s not about what I like or don’t like. It is all about You. Truth is truth. Worship is worship. Help my focus be on You and You alone. It’s not about me.

Here’s a truth I want you to underline, memorize and ponderize (I know that is not a real word, but it should be.) Say it out loud: As long as I think the world is all about me, the angrier and tired-er I will be. The more I realize it is all about God, the happier and freer I will be. (I know tireder is not a word either. I’m just feeling feisty today).

Listen to how David focused on God during worship:

So let’s commit to remember together…it’s not about me. It’s all about God.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!