Cloudy Times

Today the clouds are gray and there is a breath of coolness in this summer morn. It is summer, yet the day doesn’t reveal the strong nature of a summer day in Texas. The day seems questionable as to whether it will produce rain or sun and if it will be warm or cool.

I find myself wondering what the day will bring much like the circumstances that surround me. After all, this is the last day my husband will perform his job. He was hired nearly 14 years ago by his company and was recently told his job was being eliminated. Now he waits to hear if he has a job as this is the last day he will work in his current role. This leaves uncertainty and with uncertainty comes insecurity.

When I give this much thought, I feel silly. Silly because who knows what tomorrow brings? None of us really know but we plan according to today and last week and last month and last year. We like certainty and a plan yet this is not reality. The only thing I am certain of is the God I know and serve yet have never seen with my eyes. Isn’t it funny the things that seem certain with our eyes is not and what we cannot see is certain. This is the whole premise of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen”.

Dave Ramsey says that women have a gland that spasms when we worry about the uncertainty of security and provision (ie: money). He is right, we do! Did God make us this way? It’s funny to me that as a woman I have this “gland” yet I also have the ability to trust God completely and know he always provides. I will let the gland rest as I trust God with this matter. You see God knew this was coming all along and I’ll just bet on God to have a better plan when this is all said and done.

Continue reading “Cloudy Times”

Three Good Questions

As Jesus went on from there. He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. Matthew 9:9

Following is leadership and leadership is following. You can’t have one without the other. Jesus challenges us to follow him just like he did with Matthew.  Notice Jesus didn’t say, “Do you want to follow me?”. He said, “Follow Me!”. This was not a question but a statement. Matthew got up and followed him. May I suggest that when we are following Jesus, we are leading. We are leading simply by following Jesus Christ.

I’ve been particularly interested in leadership recently. Over the last few years, many speakers and teachers are talking about leadership. Andy Stanley has a Leadership Podcast titled, Simply Lead. Andy tells us to “keep leadership simple” and as your organization is growing, it typically grows with complexity and that is an unavoidable reality. Our approach to leadership should not be complex because our clarity in leading is vital to the growth. Andy tells us to ask three simple questions as we consider the vision or mission of our organization. 

“What are we doing?”  Asking yourself the vision or mission statement of your organization should bring clarity in answering this question. Does this new idea or project follow our vision for the organization? When everyone asks this same question, your team is united in moving forward.

“Why are we doing it?” This is where we find inspiration and clears up what’s at stake if we don’t do it. This goes beyond money and finds us considering how we can make the world a better place. What would be lacking in our country or community if we went away. This is a question all organizations can ask themselves. The leader has to ask him/herself why am I doing this. The “why am I doing this” helps us to see our personal and corporate passion. “Why” has the power to get us through the tough times and is the reason we don’t quit.

“Where do I fit in?” What is my critical role as a leader and what is my unique contribution. What is my core responsibility and am I doing what only I can do? Am I in my sweet spot as a leader. These questions helps us to re-center ourselves. We are at our best when we are doing what we do best and our organization is at it’s best when everybody is doing what they do best.

Andy suggests a one sentence responsibility description for your employees. If all else fails, this is the one thing that is expected from a particular person. That way, with everything else going on in a busy workplace, this helps the employee keep focus and answer the question as to “where do I fit in?”. This helps streamline an organization as the organization becomes more complex.

I love these three simple questions and how they are helping me to stay focused in practical ways in all areas of my life. I hope I’m a better leader which ultimately makes me a better follower. And since we are all following someone, I hope and pray you choose to follow Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).Image

 

 

Grow Your Faith

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If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. Luke 16:10

As a believer in Jesus Christ, how much faith do you have?

Consider this, you have a friend who needs money. You loan your friend the money and your friend repays you. Trust has been established and you believe your friend is trustworthy. When your friend comes again for money, you don’t hesitate to loan it because you trust your friend to repay you. What if your friend did not repay you the first time around? Would you loan the money a second time? I know this seems like a simply analogy but I believe it works the same way with God.

As you spend time in the bible getting to know God and the character of God, your faith cannot help but increase. When God gives you a task or a challenge and you go through with it, God blesses your trust in him. He will increase your opportunities to trust him more. This is how faith grows and with each time God reveals more of himself to you. 

On the other hand, if you didn’t go through with something that you knew God was calling you to do, then you’ve not only missed an opportunity to serve God but you have missed an opportunity to grow your faith. We’ve all done this from time to time because of our imperfect sin nature. However, when you miss those opportunities or just refuse to take them, ask God for another one.

For example, one day I was at my local Sonic drive in ordering lunch. I saw a city trash worker sitting at a table. I knew God wanted me to buy his lunch but I didn’t. As soon as I drove away, I was feeling convicted. I asked God for another opportunity and purposely went back the next day. The same city trash worker was sitting there again and I had a second chance to buy his lunch! I have no idea why God put that on my heart but I was filled with joy and blessed beyond words when I saw his face light up. God knew his story, I didn’t need to know it, I just had to be faithful. This little faith step was one step toward bigger faith steps and I pray that it continues because the joy and blessings that come with an increased faith is remarkable. We serve a remarkable God who has big plans for us.

Will you allow God to grow your faith?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

 

 

Love of Money and Wealth = Futile

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The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. Ecclesiastes 5:10

 Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 gives us seven reasons not to devote ourselves to getting rich.  

  1.  Seeking wealth is an endless quest and those seeking are never satisfied.
  2. The more you have, the more consumers around you who care only about your money.
  3. Once you have an abundance, all you can do is look at it.  
  4. Worry and anxiety keep you awake at night, your thoughts are consumed with your money and investments.
  5. The more you have, the more you risk. In one deal you could leave your children with nothing.
  6. You can’t take it with you!
  7. The love of money will leave you in darkness with much sorrow, sickness, and anger.

The bible goes on to tell us that you are better off not to have been born than to love money and wealth. Why? Because when you love money and wealth, there is no happiness. It is a life without joy and a life that is wasted. How sad and how true for many people even believers. 

These verses speak to me and I wonder how much is enough? Am I content with what I have or better yet, what I don’t have? I truly want God to be my focus and if money comes with that, praise The Lord. This is the attitude that I desire for my mind and heart. 

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.

What’s more important, the love of money or wealth or joy in your heart? You cannot serve two masters.  Choose the better one today.

Dry Bones

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I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it. This is the declaration of the LORD. Ezekiel 37:14

This passage is speaking of the Israelites and how God was going to resurrect them. God took Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones and set him in the middle of the valley where it was full of dry bones.  The bones were very dry and God told Ezekiel that he was going to use him to prophesy concerning these bones to breathe life into them. He did just that, Ezekiel commanded the bones and at first he heard a rattling sound of the bones coming together. Then tendons appeared, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath verse 8 tells us. God directed Ezekiel to command the breath to come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so they may live and it worked! They came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army. 

There was a time when I felt like I had dry bones. I moved to Texas from another state where I had been very involved in my church. I was leading a bible study and felt very close to God. When we started looking for a new church home, it was not an easy task. I could not find church that felt like home and I felt myself drying up spiritually. Gradually, I began to shrivel and I remember telling my sister and friend, that I felt like I was drying up. I was reading my bible but I needed community and not just any community but a spiritual community. They prayed for me and shortly thereafter, we found our church home. It wasn’t long before life came back into these dry bones and I was leading a group of women in bible study. It was refreshing!

In verses12-14 God says the dry bones represent the whole house of Israel as dried up, hope has perished and they are cut off. God tells that a time is coming when He is going to resurrect the people of Israel, lead them into the land and they will know that he is Yahweh. He will put his Spirit in them and they will live and they will know He is their God!!

Since we live in New Testament times, we don’t have to wait to be spiritually alive. It’s a simple heartfelt decision and action to move toward God through his son, Jesus Christ. If we take one step, He meets us there, ready to breath life into us! 

What are you waiting for?

In His Hands

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A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses. Proverbs 21:1

God directs a king’s heart like streams of water and directs it wherever He chooses. I love this proverb! I think what I love most is that I can trust God without having to worry that He’s got it. Whatever it is….our country and leaders, my church, workplace, family. You name it, God’s got it!

There are a few biblical examples of how God changes hearts for his purpose and plan. One is found in Ezra when The Lord changed the Assyrian king’s attitude toward the people and allowed them to work on the temple.

Ezra 6:22 They observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, because the LORD had made them joyful, having changed the Assyrian king’s attitude toward them so that he supported them in the work on the house of the God of Israel.

Another example is found in Acts when God hardened the hearts of Herod and Pontius Pilate along with others, in order to fulfill the purpose of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Acts 4:27-28 For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.

I have to admit, I don’t completely understand but here’s the cool thing, I don’t have to understand. God is in complete control and that’s all I need to know. I need to make sure that my heart is right and pure. I need to make sure that I am allowing God to use me in the ways He needs in order to fulfill the purpose that he has for my life. I totally believe God can use me in spite of me. What I mean is even if I don’t keep my heart pure and clean, God can use me to help others. But listen, I am not blessed and fulfilled when it happens that way. If I make myself ready to be a vessel, then I can blessed beyond words when God uses me for the kingdom.

Seems to me Proverbs 21:1 is a lot like a song I use to sing as a kid.
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Remember God’s in control you can trust Him, He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Now go live like it!

Sticking Tongue

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The tongue is a powerful tool and it can be sticky business at times. Ezekiel found that out when he was called by God at age 30. Ezekiel’s purpose was to warn the people of coming judgment and expose the nation of Israel’s moral depravity and absence of spiritual truth. We read in Ezekiel 3:26 that God made Ezekiel’s tongue stick to the roof of his mouth so he couldn’t talk. One time he couldn’t talk for 7 days (3:15) and another time for 7 years (33:21-22). During the 7 year period, God would only allow him to speak when he wanted him to give a message to the Israelites.

I find this fascinating and have been pondering this for a few days now. You see Ezekiel was a Watchman. The Hebrew word for watchman is zahar. A zahar is someone who is to warn or instruct, to shine, to be clear. A watchman was to warn cities against attack. Ezekiel was a prophetic watchman instructed to warn about divine judgment against sin. God made him a watchman over the house of Israel and told Ezekiel that when he heard a word from God’s mouth, then he was to to speak a warning to the people (3:17-18).

What if we all lived this way? I don’t know about you but my mouth gets me in trouble at times. Have you heard the old addage? You have two ears and one mouth in order to listen twice as much as you talk. There’s a lot of truth in that saying.

As New Testament believers, we are God’s watchman. We are to guide people toward Jesus and warn them about a life without Christ. If God only allowed me to speak when it was for his good, what would my life look like? What would your life look like? This is my challenge, the next time I want to speak and I know it’s not from God, maybe I will let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth until I clear it with God. Will you join me?

A Righteous Man

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Matthew 1:18-21, The birth of Jesus came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

This morning I noticed something special about Joseph. We often talk about Mary this time of year and rightly so. However, I noticed something about Joseph’s character that really struck me. He was a righteous man! He didn’t want to publicly humiliate Mary. Most likely his peers would have exposed her obvious sin and why not, this was a heinous sin in that culture. But before the angel could appear to Joseph, he already decided to show compassion and mercy. He intentionally decided to show grace even though he was deeply hurt.

What a powerful lesson for us today. When we are hurt by someone, we naturally want to retaliate or defend our position because we have every right. Especially if we are right! But what I see in Joseph is righteousness that only comes from a right relationship with God. We can have that too if we want it. I’m thinking about the next time I’m offended, what if I immediately responded with compassion, mercy and grace. Would the end result be different? I would imagine so.

This Christmas season is a joyous one but also can be difficult for some. Maybe family or friends have hurt you and you have every right to be upset. However, what if you responded like Joseph and extended grace? A right relationship with God through Jesus Christ makes this possible. This is the very essence of righteousness.

Next time, how will you respond? How will I?

Waiting

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I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. Psalm 40:1

As I am anticipating the anniversary of my mother’s death, I am reminded that The Lord hears me and my cry for help. When I am a mess, He is not. When I am sad, He is not. When I am angry for a death that came too soon, He is not. When I am tired, He is not. When I am weak, He is not.

So I wait patiently for the LORD in many ways and areas in my life. When I wait for Him, God is doing a work in me and is always faithful. He turns to me like a parent to a child and says, I am here and I hear you. I see you and I hear you, I am here and will never leave you.

Last evening my church held a Service of Hope and Healing for those who are experiencing grief during this Christmas season. It was a small, quiet and very meaningful service. The Stephen Ministers served Holy Communion, assisted those in lighting a candle in remembrance of someone and were available to offer a prayer. Our Pastor anointed those with oil who needed a blessing and gave a beautiful message of hope through Christ who is our light in the darkness. It was beautiful and I hope those who came felt the presence of God deep within.

In ministry, I see a lot of hurting people for all kinds of reasons. But one thing I have noticed is that all need Jesus. Jesus truly is the bread of life and without him, we are lifeless. Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” Jesus not only wants to give you life for the hereafter, but also for the here and now. Only Jesus can do that for you and me. So if this holiday season is difficult, call out to Jesus. He sees you and hears you.

I close with this thought, in the first New Testament book of Matthew 1:23. The prophet Isaiah is quoted, “See the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel.” The name Immanuel means God with us. Glory to God, for He is with us. Know this dear brothers and sisters, God is with you.

Will you allow His presence to comfort you this season?