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This is Between God and You

hungry

How do you react when you see someone standing near the freeway or on a street corner holding a sign?  You’ve seen them, haven’t you?  Some are hungry and will work for food.  Others are in need and have children.  What do you do?

Maybe you noticed the cigarettes or the cell phone in his hand and you think, I’m not giving him a dime!

Or maybe you remembered when you were going through a difficult time and someone reached out to you, so you stick your hand out the window with a little cash. It’s not much, you think. But at least it’s something.

Perhaps you drove past the man and his sign and hurried to a fast-food restaurant to order some sort of meal deal with a drink.  You returned to him and handed over the bag and soda, immediately humbled when he thanks you.

Let me ask you this:  Did you ask God what to do?  Did you pray for wisdom?  Or were you too busy making a judgment while hitting the gas to get away from the man and his sign because he made you uncomfortable?

God will tell you what to do if you ask Him.  He’ll give you a nudge.  He’ll whisper softly to your heart.  He may even give you specifics, to buy the expensive and REAL burger for the man instead of the chicken sandwich because God knows he is anemic and needs iron.  God may give you the very word, a spark of  hope the man needs.  He may even have you offer the eternal hope of salvation when you tell the man that Jesus Christ is not only your best friend but your Lord and Savior and maybe he’d like to get to know Him too.

Or God may tell you to keep driving but pray for the man. Perhaps it is for your own protection.  Perhaps the man is dishonest and is not really in need. Or maybe the man has an addiction and one more dollar will be enough for his “just one more time” that could end his life.

Maybe God is telling you to keep driving so the man behind you in the pickup truck will be able to stop and share his testimony.  Only God knows both of these men and their stories and how one can truly reach the other.

You may never know the reason why God tells you what to buy for the man in need, or what to say, or why you are to keep driving and pray for him. You don’t need to know the reason.  You just need to listen to God.

Don’t doubt. Don’t question.  And don’t listen to someone ridiculing you later, saying it was foolish and the man is just going to spend your money on drugs or beer, when God instructed you to give him cash.

You see, your part is to seek God and His wisdom and then obey. That is between God and you.  That’s your part.  What the man does with what you’ve given, what God has given him through you, that’s between God and him.  You don’t need to fret or wonder if you did the right thing.

If you obeyed God, you did the right thing.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NIV.)

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17 ESV.)

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A Prison Cell

prison cell

When something takes place in your life that really hurts you in the core of your heart, it can be devastating. You feel trapped in the moment, stuck in the pain.  You try to move past it.  You try to let go of it again and again and wonder why it still lingers, like a penetrating ache in your chest.

You realize the pain has walled you in, becoming a prison cell. At first you find comfort here:  the walls protect you from being hurt again.  They keep people away.  But soon you learn you’re only free to walk around in the confined space, reliving the conversations, the crushing moments, and the devastating blows to your spirit.  You relive each failure in your mind, the guilt and shame wrapping itself around you like the cold, musty air in your cell. And you can’t see anything new, nothing to hope for because the one window is boarded up, leaving only a crack of sunlight to shine through; that sliver of light hurts because you know the world is moving on without you.

You hear muffled sounds of laughter, joy. It stings because you can’t remember the last time you laughed a genuine laugh that welled up from within and spilled out; not the laugh you force because no one knows where you really are and you don’t know how to ask for help.

But maybe you finally do ask for help because you’re so tired of scratching the walls, of trying to dig your way out. You’re lying on the floor, exhausted from picking yourself up.  You cry out from your prison cell only to hear silence from beyond the bars.  You stare and wait.  But no one reaches in.

You fall to your face and beg God to help. You’re too tired to fight the darkness, the depression, alone.  The burden is too heavy to hold any longer.  A part of you breaks open and spills onto the floor.  You can’t do this alone, not this one.  Not this time.

You need God now more than ever and you tell Him. And when you admit it, when you speak it out loud, God holds you and whispers to your heart, “Let Me have it.”

Your first reaction is anger. You want to yell at God, argue with Him that you have already done that.  You’ve already given Him the entire situation again and again and He should know.

But He gently whispers, oh so gently to your wounded spirit, “Let Me have what’s in your hand.”

You notice your hand, the one you weren’t using to try and claw your way out, is tightened into a fist. And when you finally relax it, finally open it, you find a key.

You drop the key into God’s hand knowing you can trust Him and that He will protect you. As He unlocks the door and carries you out and into the light of a new day, you thank Him for rescuing you.  And you continue to rest in His arms as He holds you close and carries you forward.

“O Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right.  Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free.”  (Psalm 71: 1-2 NLT.)

When Tragedy Strikes

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Mass shootings of innocent people. Horrific stabbings.  There is violence and death all around the world and for no known reason.  None of this makes any sense.  I hurt for the victims and their families.  I’ve only seen photographs, news reports.  I can’t even imagine the real pain they are going through.

Why did this happen? Why would a person do such a thing?  Why kill innocent people you don’t even know?

But this isn’t something we can understand with human reasoning. This is when we need God more than ever.  We need to lift up those in agony who’ve fallen to their knees, lift them up in prayer right into God’s arms.  And we need to run into His arms too and fall apart and cry.  We need His help to make sense out of all of this to avoid going crazy, to avoid losing hope, and to remind us that one day all of the ugliness, the cruelty, and the evil of this world will be gone.

There is something beautiful coming. Someone beautiful is coming soon.  Jesus.  We mustn’t lose hope.

Please, friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters in Christ, remember that evil is very real and roaming freely around the world. We are seeing it every day.  We must remember that a spiritual war is taking place all around us.  We must stand firm in the armor of God.  We must stand together as warriors, alert and praying.

And we must reach out in love and continue to pray for those who have been wounded by that evil.

Heavenly Father, we need You. We need You to help those we can’t reach from where we are, those who are suffering at the hands of evil all around the world, Lord.  You see them right now.  They are not alone.  You are with them, Lord, and we ask that You would comfort them.  Please Lord, meet them in their most painful moments and hold them in Your arms.  Make Your very presence known to them so they may cling to You.

And Lord, we pray that You would make us warriors, strong in the faith and ready to stand against all evil that attack the innocence of this world. Help us to know Your Word in our very hearts and to speak it out loud, boldly.  Lord, we rebuke Satan and all of his demons in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  The enemy has no hold on us.  We are bought with the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to remember who we are, Lord, and that we are Yours. Lord, we love You and we thank You for Your love and Your faithfulness and Your power.  It’s in the precious and holy name of Your Son, Jesus Christ we pray these things.  Amen.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12 NLT.)

“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.   Pray hard and long.  Pray for your brothers and sisters.  Keep your eyes open.  Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6:18 MSG.)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4 NIV.)

 

 

I Won’t Pretend

pretend

I won’t pretend that I know how you’re feeling today. I won’t pretend that I understand what keeps you awake at night or what pulls you from your sleep in the morning.

I won’t assume that I understand your pain. I don’t know what breaks your heart or drops you to your knees in desperation.  I don’t understand what your days look like or even what you’re facing right now, what giant is looming over you while you stand in its shadow.

Are you trying to break free? Does someone or something have a tight grip on you?  Are you lonely, feeling as if no one understands you or what you go through in a single day?

Maybe I don’t know you. Maybe I don’t understand the terror, discouragement, or exhaustion you face, but God does.  He is with you.  And in a small way, I am with you too.  You see, I am your neighbor.  We share the same planet.  And I care about you.

I may not live within driving distance from where you are. Perhaps it would take more than one airplane to bring me to your door to give you a hug, but I can close my eyes and ask God to help you right now.  I can pray and ask Him to bless you right where you are, to help you with what you are going through, and to give you strength and peace during your day.

I won’t pretend to pray for you either. I really will pray.  And I’ll ask God to give you that hug for me.  Right now…

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV.)

When I’m Gone

suitcases

There will come a day when I’ll no longer be here.   I’ll no longer sit at this laptop typing words about how much God loves you or to encourage you to have faith in Jesus. I’ll no longer bake gluten-free cookies in the kitchen or rush out the door to the store.  I’ll no longer hold up the line talking to the cashier because he’s discouraged, reading his name tag and praying for him the moment I walk away.

I won’t need to pack anything for this trip because I can’t take a single thing with me; my suitcases will sit abandoned, gathering dust.

I will be gone.

All of my things will still be here; books on the shelves and in stacks all around the house, coffee cups in the cupboard and a few in the sink, a drawer crammed with thick fuzzy socks, and probably some chocolate stashed somewhere.

You can have those things if you want them. I won’t need them anymore.

But I’m hoping you won’t need them either. I’m praying you’ll be with me, that you’ll be gone too.

But if you’re still here, if you haven’t been caught up in the air with those of us who have believed in Jesus Christ, if you haven’t been watching how quickly things are unfolding in the world and haven’t been getting ready and now you’re surrounded by questions and fear and shock at the number of those who are suddenly gone, I’ll leave you the most valuable thing I own: my Bible.

You see, I won’t need it anymore. I’ll be at home with the Author.

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  (Romans 10:9-10 NIV.)

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV.)

 

A Distracting Itch

Autumn

Have you ever been so eager to do something or desperate for change that you feel antsy, even itchy in your own skin?  It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Or enough to distract you.

Distract you from what?

Well if God has called you to do something but you’ve been pulled away by the “itch,” then perhaps you’re distracted from God and His will for your life.

Let me give you an example:

Like so many bloggers out there, I’ve written a book.  Correction: God and I have written a book.  It’s in the final revision process and it’s not going to go anywhere until I submit it, which I can’t do until it’s ready.  So I need to get to work.

Along comes fall, an extremely antsy time of year for me, and I’m ready to start something new and I want it to be big.  I’m ready to start a business, ready to find a job, ready to have an income to help my husband who’s been carrying the load for far too long.

So I look online at jobs and inquire about an opening I stumbled on while out running errands. I go to the library and search for hours for the right “business.”  I research online sales, craft, and baking ideas.

Why?  Because the itch to “do” is constant and won’t go away.

Meanwhile, the book lies dormant within my laptop.

And God is waiting on me.

I have a choice to make.  I can either abandon the task God has given me for a quick fix or I can go the long haul and finish what He and I have started.  Perhaps a blessing will come from the finished book.  Or perhaps the blessing will simply come from obeying Him.  Either way, I have to ignore that antsy feeling, forget about going my own way, and finish the book.

Satan would love it if you and I would never finish our God-given tasks because we’re too focused on the itch of our flesh.  The enemy will use whatever he can to distract us and lead us astray (read The Monster in the Closet ).  Remember, he’s at the head of the line when it comes to rebelling against God.

Are you feeling antsy, impatient in your spirt because the task God has given you is taking way too long?  Is your flesh itching to do something else and you’re not sure what to do about it?

Friend, pray about those antsy feelings and hold on tight to God’s hand.

It would be a real shame for you to let go of Him now just to scratch that annoying itch.  You may just miss what you’ve been praying for.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 NASB.)

God’s Reflection

God's reflection

I was sitting in the doctor’s office surrounded by all different types of people:  an elderly woman with a cane shouting to the friend at her side, a toddler with his arms reaching high as his mother walked him out the door, a couple with dark skin laughing and drinking coffee, and another couple with lighter skin talking about a cat.

The news report of another violent protest blared from the television set mounted on the wall.  Differences causing so much hate.  The sound filling the room has sadly become so common.

I started to think about the people around me:  the woman across from me filling out papers with a dark braid and long skirt, the young man on his phone beside me.  Were they getting numb to it all?

There would probably be a thousand different opinions in that one office about any number of topics.

But what if we look at the faces instead of the opinions?

I know.  It’s hard when the opinions are so loud, distorting faces into rage.

But what if we look, really look, at those faces and ask God to help.  We may notice something a little different:  those individuals, regardless of opinions, were created in the image of God.

The news in the doctor’s office shifted to victims of massive flooding.  Images of total devastation flashed from the screen; cars submerged and homes flooded beyond repair.  An exhausted elderly woman still clinging to her cane was carried out of waist-deep water while a toddler in a yellow raincoat wore an expression of fear with eyes opened too wide for tears to come.

Do you see their faces?  They too were created in the image of God.

We have a choice, my friends:  We can join in, take our swings, and start throwing punches physically, verbally, or even on social media when violent protests ensue and in the meantime simply ignore those suffering in the world.

Or we can focus on God and pray for those consumed with hate, intercede on their behalf, and love them as we’re supposed to do as we catch a glimpse of God within them. And we can pray for and reach out to those in need, those suffering great loss, those who need to see the face of their Creator staring back at them through a compassionate hug, a warm place to sleep, and food and clean water to know hope is not lost.

Will you choose to see God’s reflection in all of His children?  If you do, you will see we are really not that different after all.

The choice is yours.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  (Genesis 1:27 NIV.)