Missing the Mark

Instant replay caused him to instantly recoil.

Ah, the director’s right! In that scene, he’d missed his mark. The taped “X” seemed to suddenly glow as he felt his face flush.

How could this have happened?

He knew. Although he’d rehearsed it a dozen times, he’d taken his eyes off the mark. He’d assumed his mind knew where to lead his feet. He was so confident, he never even looked.

Now the director needed to reshoot the entire scene, all because the lead actor missed his mark. He knew that the end result of not being completely on his mark meant the cameras couldn’t catch him in complete focus. The strength of the story might be lost. Not only the story lines blur but the actors themselves are often unseen or distorted.

Living as a Christian can be difficult, especially when we take our eyes off the mark: Jesus.  Lines of right and wrong can become blurred or distorted when we take our eyes off Christ. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how to live life, with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Thankfully God doesn’t record our errors so adamantly and rematch our actions so blatantly.  Unlike a TV director, He doesn’t often employ the instant replay either.

Instead of lashing out at His children He redeems what they’ve done.

Romans 8:28 promises us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to 
His purpose.” (NIV)

He doesn’t need us to redo decisions in life to make everything turn out right. While we need to carefully consider our choices and fully expect consequences when we choose folly, God promises to weave good into everything, even the not-so-good things.

He doesn’t highlight when we missed the mark. Instead, He extends mercy and grace, and yes, even blesses our mess. He uses our choices to create a marvelous testimony that He indeed is Lord of all.

Known Heritage

Where do you come from? Families created through adoption often witness a teen’s curiosity about their birth parents as they grow up.

Who are my birth parents?

Where was I born?

Under what circumstances?

What is my biological heritage?

When we become followers of Christ we have a spiritual heritage. The best documentation of it is the Bible. God recorded people and places, promises and predicaments all inside, to pass down our heritage through Him.

He wants us to know what He has done; not only creating the world but also creating plans for you and me.

Not only working wondrous miracles, but weaving unfathomable disaster into faith-building redemption.

He wants us to know the legacy of:

His character,

His laws, and

His promises.

He wants us to know Him.

He wants us to follow Him.

He wants us to love Him as He loves us.

To know Him, follow Him, and love Him, we need to understand our inherited heritage He lovingly bestowed on us.

We need to know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We need to understand how those stories apply to us today.

Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, learning our spiritual heritage can spark tears, sadness, and conviction.

Sometimes, we clearly had no idea.

But, as Nehemiah proclaimed, our heritage is a cause for celebration. As we know God more, we recognize His great love for us.

His heritage will captivate our hearts.

Suggested reading: Nehemiah 8; John 3:16

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Heart Guard

I am so blessed, I get to go to work today! Sierra thought as she jumped from bed minutes before the alarm sounded.

Humming happily, she buzzed through her workout and breezed into the shower. Smiling as she shampooed, she thought of how she might create today.

Her first commissioned work was foremost on her mind.  She needed to do her ultimate best to boost her work, promote the studio, and hopefully someday earn a comfortable living.

How blessed am I to use my gifts, my passion, to glorify God. Stepping out onto the fluffy, white towel, she suddenly stopped; realizing something which halted her heart.

All week I’ve been thinking of and planning for work each morning, breaking my routine of focusing my thoughts on the Lord. I’m so anxious to use the gifts He gave me, to see what I might accomplish in a career, and so excited to finally see the end product; I’m more focused on what I might create than the Creator who gave me the gift.

Sierra slowly toweled off, her heart deeply troubled. “Lord I didn’t mean for my love of my art to overtake my love for You.”

Proverbs 4:23 quickly came to mind, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Her heart had hung all week on her artwork, her masterpiece-in-the-making. It was filling her final thoughts as she drifted off to sleep and consuming her conscience as she awoke each day. It was forever on her mind, always the top priority.

Not today, she thought, shaking her head. She turned on the Christian radio station, streams of Scripture flowing through the lyrics, soothing her longing soul.

After completing her grooming, she carried her Bible to the breakfast table, vowing to start her day with Jesus. She began a conversation that she would revisit throughout the day.

Can you relate to Sierra? I know I have. I can get so excited about an assignment, especially when ministry related, sometimes I forget the true purpose in pointing life toward God.

In the work He gives us, He wants us serving Him, loving Him. What a blessing to enjoy the assignment! But we need to be on guard that the assignment we get to do does not overtake the position of the One who assigned it to us.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember our hearts are to be first and foremost overflowing for God, not for our God-given assignments.

 

Too Busy To Be Blessed

Blessed is the one who delights in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.” Psalm 1:2 (NIV, emphasis mine)

The word burned in my mind: blessed. I knew I was blessed. I could force myself to see outside my little whirlwind world and count my many blessings. I just wasn’t feeling it.

I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was negative. Very, very unlike me.

What is up with my attitude?

Psalm 1:2 focused me on my folly.

In the busyness I had not read my Bible much. My prayers were rushed whispers blotted out by the screams of the day’s demands. I was not delighted in the least because I had not decided to make time for what is important, what keeps my heart and mind positive, and what is vital to my very soul.

Why is it so easy to push away God when life gets crazy?

Oh, I hold on to Him tightly in the Big-Time Craziness. Birth of a new baby, moving across state lines, cancer.

But “Standard Craziness?”  Juggling work, home and homework? Deciding who gets to clean up after the puppy? Who will discipline the kids tonight?

Not so much.

I had allowed myself to become consumed by life’s craziness and take over my precious time with God.

And then I wonder why my heart is empty while my plate is full.

Maybe you can relate.

Do you contentedly gaze at your to-do list with great anticipation about the next hours? Are you delighting in your blessings each day?

Have you made time with God?

I am learning, spending time with Him can make all the difference on my day and whether or not I can delight in it.

 

No-fail Connection

“So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Galatians 3:9 (NIV)

 

I entered the kitchen, returning from a trek to the library.

“How was it,” asked my husband, referring to my three-hour writing slot.

“Just awful,” I answered, tears threatening, voice cracking. I fought to compose myself.

“What happened?” he asked, crossing the room.

“I made lots of progress on my work, then I went to save it. The Wi-Fi wasn’t working at the library and I don’t think my computer saved all those changes to my OneDrive.” I sank into a chair in defeat.

“Bring me your computer,” he said gently, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Handing over my laptop, I slowly shook my head; “it’s no use, it’s not there. I have no idea what happened but it didn’t save,” I said as I recalled frantically trying to salvage my work.

A few minutes later he showed me the screen, it was all there! My computer had saved the changes and would upload those files the next time it reconnected to the internet.

I had really thought all the hours of editing were down the tubes. You know what my problem is? I’m just not techy. I seem to be missing that gene which makes operating electronics intuitive. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Ever feel that way about Scripture? We think we know what it says, how life in Christ should work, and then, BAM. Something throws us off course. We don’t know as much as we thought.

Maybe we find a passage that doesn’t make sense.  Maybe it goes against all other knowns. Maybe it goes against everything else we’ve experienced. This can’t be right, we think.

And yet, it is.

How can we combat those feelings of frustration? How can we become confident and not fearful as we navigate life?

When I’m unfamiliar with technology it rarely works instinctively. Taking steps in faith can also feel counter-intuitive to what we’re used to doing.

But when I practice walking with God, read Scripture, and continually listen for His voice instead of my own, I learn more of the habits which will lead me closer to Him, help me understand Him, and help me learn who He is and what He expects of me.

And unlike technology, His connection never goes down!

 

Reflections:

What practices help me to learn more about God and His expectations?

What new habits can I implement to further my growth?

 

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for always loving me and never giving up on me. Abraham is recorded as a great man of faith; yet he was human just like me. He needed to live many years with You to build such a faith. Please encourage me to stay the course, to build a faith like that. Thank You for Your great love and for never giving up on me, even when I make mistakes, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Power Of A Woman, Part VII

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” Ruth 2:11 (NIV)

 

“This is hard,” she thought as she gazed into her mother-in-law’s eyes.

She’s freeing me. I could go back to what I know.

 I’ve known such sorrow; no one would blame me.

 Others have done it…

               No!

In the end, it would be a return to captivity, this decision to possibly abandon her mother-in-law, and her God.

Ruth shook her head. NO! There was once a time she didn’t know better, had not been taught as a child. But today she knew.

There was no turning her back on Naomi. There was no turning her back on her faith. There was no turning her back on her God. The road seemed unbearable, yet she refused to change direction.

God would help her, and she would help Naomi.

What made Ruth so obstinate?

Her list boiled down to two ideas:

First, it just wasn’t right to leave Naomi alone, no matter what.

Second, Ruth had found a truly fulfilling way of worship, a meaningful way of life. She had found the one, true, God.

She was not about to leave her faith now.  After all her losses, she knew she would die without her God. She needed God to sustain her, without Him, she had nothing.

I don’t know what you’re facing right now. Life can play ultimate hardball sometimes. Ruth watched her mother-in-law lose her husband and then her two sons.  Ruth knew the agonizing loss of her own husband.

On top of all that, Ruth and Naomi knew need.  There was famine in the land and no food, and no one to provide.

Yet, Ruth persisted in her faith.  She wasn’t about to abandon God now. She refused to relinquish her relationship with Naomi or with God.

Whatever mountains are staring you down, however much you want to throw in the towel, remember Ruth.

Having lost everything except her faith and knowing true need, Ruth continued doing what was right and acted on faith.

The result? Love, security and peace she never could have authored.

The power propelling Ruth was the power of her faith. When it got unbearably difficult, even near impossible, she trusted God to sustain her. We consider her remarkable, as Boaz did. Yet, I wonder if Ruth would point her finger at God as the remarkable one. If was God who provided for her needs, all her needs. The need for faith, the need for secure provision, the need for human love.

She ‘just’ leaned on Him. That is the power of a remarkable woman.

 

Reflections:

How do I persevere when living faithfully is difficult?

What have I wanted to quit but know that’s not the right choice?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for the example of Ruth. She knew great sorrow and great need and yet refused to turn away from You. Please help me to live out a faith like that. Thank You for always loving, always interceding, and always carrying me through the difficult days. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

               Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, June 6, for the next post.

The Power Of A Woman, Part IV

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share that faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

Eunice was a spiritually single mother. She, a Jewess, married a Greek.  She would share her life but not her faith with her husband. When they had a so, she named him Timothy, “one who fears God.” Eunice truly brought up Timothy to sincerely respect God, as his name would suggest. He grew into a man known for his faith.

How?

How did Timothy grow into such a man of God to inspire Paul to call him, “a son in faith”? (2 Timothy 1:2, NLT) A firm faith foundation, committed caring Christians, and a great dose of God’s grace all factor into this equation.

Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was known for her faith.  She taught Timothy all she knew from little up. I’d hazard a guess she also prayed for him relentlessly. I wonder if she wisely did not point out his father’s flaws in spiritual thinking but demonstrated Christian love and obedience by loving and being submissive to her husband. She might have encouragingly highlighted his gifts and taught Timothy to respect his father simply because he was his father.

She laid the foundation, teaching by teaching, story by story, and prayer by prayer each day trusting that God would bless her efforts.

She was imperfect, just as you and I are. Yet I believe she demonstrated before Timothy what we all need to do: confess our sins to God, and then receive His grace.

She might have been a single mom spiritually, but she had some help. Lois, her mother, shared Eunice’s faith and fervor for passing it on to Timothy. I imagine Lois not only reinforced her daughter’s teaching but prayed over them both for God’s hand on their lives. I would believe she was a God-sent encouragement to her daughter during those days she wondered if young Timothy would ever ‘get it.’

But young Timothy did eventually ‘get it’ and grew into a man of zealous faith.

I don’t know where you are today. Are you a single parent or a spiritually single parent? Do you fear for your child’s spiritual future?

Don’t allow fear to freeze you.

Do What You Can

Lay That Faith Foundation – Weave Scripture into daily life.  Tell Bible stories.  Study Scripture in an age-appropriate manner. Attend church, Sunday school, and youth group.

Pray – Everyday, pray for your child’s faith and future faith. God hears. God sees. God knows. He knows the plans He has for you and for your child.

Enlist Support – You don’t have to do this alone. Ask a prayer partner to pray for you and your child through these years. Join a mom’s group where mom’s share and pray together for their families. Facilitate friendships with Christians for each of you.

Grow in Grace –  Trust God with your efforts. Claim Romans 8:28 over your mistakes. Model what grace looks like and accept it from God. Allow your child to see your shortcomings and how to appropriately deal with them.

I imagine Eunice had some of the “those days” with Timothy. She probably wondered if she were raising the next hooligan. But she persevered. She prayed. And, she trusted God. When it was all said and done, her son did grow up to be a man “who feared God.”

And she did what she as a mother was supposed to do: lay that foundation of faith. Her husband may not have assisted in that goal, but God did provide what she needed.

 

Reflections:

 

How can I positively influence my children, grandchildren or children around me?

How can I support and encourage moms in laying that foundation of faith?

 

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, May 16 for the next post. Happy Mother’s Day!

The Power of a Woman, Part I

“She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6b (NIV)

Influence.

Power.

Persuasion.

 

She possessed all three. She also possessed a rare beauty, at least in the eyes of the man who adored her.

Without her, he knew he’d lead a lonely existence. He didn’t want to displease, disappoint, or discourage her. He’d do anything to keep her attention, her admiration, and her respect.

She knew her influence over him. She knew she possessed the power of persuasion. And she used it – but not for good.

Eve engaged with the Enemy. She fell for his flirtatious lies. She knew God’s rules, but deducted for herself it would be okay to break them.

And, she did.

Then, she enticed her husband to follow her down a desperate and dangerous path. It proved a path straight out of paradise, locking them away from God’s presence and provision.

If you’re female, you just might know how strong the power of female persuasion can be.  Especially if the one you’re persuading is a man who loves you.

Girls, whether we realize it or not, we possess a great power over key people in our lives. The question is: what will we do with that power?

What is the objective in wielding that power?

Women of integrity don’t manipulate or annihilate.

Women of integrity don’t wheel, deal, and steal.

Women of integrity want only the best for all the rest.

Women of integrity want God’s will and are willing to be still.

When requesting something from a man, check your motives.  Is your request selfish – only benefitting you?  Will fulfilling your request draw him closer to God? Or, like Eve’s, is your request detrimental to you both?

Girls, we will each answer to God for our own personal actions, including when we led others astray.

Let’s check our attitudes, actions, and hearts against God’s word before we proceed.

 

Reflections:

What do you imagine running through Eve’s mind before she requested Adam break the rules?

Can you ever relate to Eve’s thoughts?

Recall a time when you chose integrity when you had a chance to influence. What influenced your choice?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your open instruction manual, the Bible.  Three chapters in the first book, You vividly show how not to behave, You show attitudes to check, and You show actions to avoid.

But the story doesn’t end there. Thank You for Your grace that restores us first to You, and then often to the people You envisioned when You created us. Thank You for Your great love, and generous grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, April 26 for the next post.

He Knows

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet is without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

 

Outcast.

Alone.

Defeated.

Sometimes this world can overwhelm and undermine the most positive of people.

Maybe you’ve had a rough day, a wacky week or even an awful year.  Maybe you just want to give up. Maybe you just don’t have any more fight left in you.

You believe no one understands. No one could possibly comprehend. No one has ever felt like this before. Maybe you feel you can’t stop the steep spiral down into the depths.

Yet, you’re not alone.

Really.

We have promises we can and should call upon. We don’t have a high priest who is unable to empathize. In other words, He knows.

Jesus knew the depths of despair. When his sweat poured blood and He repeatedly asked His Father to take away His burden in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He knows.

He knows the feelings of defeat. Of loneliness. Of no way out.

He knows.

How did He continue? He trusted in God to provide what He needed to get through it.

And God did.

God fulfilled His promise in Deuteronomy 31:7b, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God promised Jesus and each of us, in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He designed those plans at the beginning of time.

So, how do we go from despair to deep trust when nothing seems to change?

God didn’t change Jesus’ assignment. He may not change yours or mine. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Basically, think positively.

What is true? The promises in Scripture.  Lean on those. Copy them where you will see them as reminders. When we feel we lack the faith to murmur a prayer, God promises to provide that faith.

The Holy Spirit is interceding for you right now. (Romans 8:26)

Jesus is interceding for you right now. (Hebrews 7:25)

Jesus knows.

He understands.

He comprehends.

And, He’s not content to sit on the sidelines watching you suffer.

He wants to help. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)

An abundant life.

Not just a peaceful eternity when this life is over, but an abundant life here, today. A life filled with joy, fulfillment, laughter and love. A life with purpose and meaning. A life that is carried through challenges and setbacks by a Father who truly cares.

Life as a Christian is not promised to be easy.  But it is promised to be abundant.  And He promises to be with us each step of the way, if we only invite Him.

Will you?

Reflections:

Which promise speaks significantly into your heart? Please share it with us!

 

Prayer: Dear God, Please lead me to recall and lean on Your promises as I navigate daily life. Remind me to spend time in Your word, as I can’t recall what I don’t know. Thank You for Your great love which is demonstrated throughout Your word. Thank You for this life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for reading! Please return by Monday, April 11, for the next post.