Crossroads

 

 

Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God is the one who will be fighting for you. ~Deut. 3:22 (CEB)

Do not be afraid. This is a phrase that is used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. It seems these words are said during times of great change or before a call of service. To Abraham when he was called to leave all he had ever known. To Moses who was called to lead his people out of Egypt; to Joshua who was called to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land.  Gideon.., Samuel.., Joseph…

Mary was called at a young age. The first words that were spoke to her were “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Before Mary hears anything else, God first wants Mary to hear that she is safe and that she has found approval from God. Her identity is a gift ~ “favored child of God”. These words are meant to strengthen and empower. To others Mary may seem an unlikely candidate for helping God save the world. She is young, poor, has no social standing and she is female.  Nothing about Mary declares that she can be who she is called to be apart from God.

Mary is treasured as the mother of Jesus. At one point she was just flesh and blood, just like me, no stronger or more intelligent. What elevates her was her simple offering of herself to God, knowing that she was inadequate for what God called her to do, but with a willing heart to go where He wanted her to go. She knew she was limited in what she could do apart from God. It is her willing heart that has set her apart.

I have a gift from God, His love for me. My identity is that I am a Beloved child of God. I am called to hear His voice among my crowded and distracted life. What is my call? My call is to hear and to be willing to go where He leads me. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16) Nothing is more urgent in my life than the yearning to know and do God’s will. Every day I need to ask God, “Where are you leading me today?”

Every day is a crossroads Lord. Will I do your will, or will I follow my own desires? Lead me in the way I am to go.  I know that I am limited by what I can do on my own but with the Holy Spirit directing me I can know and do Your will. I thank You for Your love. Amen.

An awakening

When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” ~Acts 2:37-39 (CEB)

Maybe it is hearing tv evangelists or street corner preachers that plant the idea in our heads that coming to Christ is a lightning bolt moment. While coming to Christ may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience it is really an ongoing journey within us. Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. I can look back over my life and see earthshaking moments that seemed to shift my life more in line with Christ. But such moments are just part of the process not the end as I give myself over to the transforming power of God.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that change is not instantaneous. While conversion requires our decision and action, it takes time to change us into the image of Christ. I have also learned that it took time to develop my bad habits so it will also take time to undo the habits I have formed. Without the work of undoing the bad habits they will come back or new bad habits will take their place. (Matt 12:43-45)

Sometimes like Paul we need to begin our conversion by being knocked down. Once God got Paul’s attention, Paul began his conversion as he groped this way in blindness. With his sight gone, he was able to see with interior eyes. Paul’s conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his hew name, Paul. His conversion continued till he end when he was on his way to Rome in chains.

I get a glimpse of Paul’s ongoing conversion when I read in Romans 7:15-21, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, its sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”

Conversion is an awakening of the spirit. Suddenly the world begins to make sense despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Our vision is opened up enough to be able to absorb the contradictions and the collision of opposites. We go from being blind or short sighted to seeing with God’s eyes. The love of God dawns upon us and with it comes the most amazing promise and a new hope. What we cannot redeem, God can, and what we cannot erase God will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your grace that saves me. I thank You for awakening my spirit and the transformation You allow in my life. I claim the strength You promise as I try to do Your will, one day at a time. Amen.

To act when called

Teach me your way, LORD, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name. I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever, because your faithful love toward me is awesome and because you’ve rescued my life from the lowest part of hell. ~Psalm 86:11-13 (CEB)

What is God’s wish for me? His wish is for me to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called. The Holy Spirit plants seeds, little nudges- feelings that this or that should be done or not done; I get hunches and leadings, signs and signals, and sometimes direct messages. When I make myself available by always giving and unqualified yes when God invites obedience, witness and service, I permit signs and wonders to occur with and through my life.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable that when God put an idea into our mind we could comprehend that idea and immediately act upon it with unquestioning determination? The more I walk in truth the more I give my heart to God undivided.  The more I revere His name the more I am able to discern His will and the actions He desires me to make. The less I hesitate or second guess His prodding’s the more assured I can be stepping out to do His will. The more I say “Yes Lord” the more joyful I am in my work. “Yes, you will go out with celebration, and you will be brought back in peace. Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you; all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isa 55:12)

God calls me to a spiritual life.  A life living in which I bear witness joined with the Holy Spirit that I belong to God as a beloved child (Rom 8:16). Part of discerning God’s will for my life involves every aspect of my life. Paul says, “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). When I discern God’s will and act upon it I give glory to God and give full visibility to His signs and wonders.

Living a spiritual life is living a life in which my spirit and the Spirit of God bear a joint witness that I belong to God as God’s beloved child, (see Romans 8:16).   This witness involves every aspect of my life.  Paul says:  “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God”(1 Corinthians 10:31).  And we are the glory of God when we give full visibility of what it means to live in communion with God’s Spirit. “God delivers and rescues, He works wonders in heaven and on Earth. (Dan 6:27).
Heavenly Father, allow the Spirit to manifest itself through me as I learn to discern and do Your will. I thank You for rescuing me and the wonders You have done in my life. May I ever bear witness to Your love in all I do this day. Amen.

To move on

Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God. ~Dan. 9:9

Part of being human is to hurt and be hurt.   Forgiving does not mean that I am denying my pain. Forgiveness means that I stopped pretending the hurt isn’t real. Only if I experience the sense of having been wronged and the impact of he action or attitude on my life is forgiveness possible. This is true whether or not harm was intended. Until I am honest about how I feel, forgiveness, and the ability to move forward cannot happen.

Loving, merciful and forgiving God, You have forgiven me much. May I forgive others as You have forgiven me, so that I as forgiven and reconciled can walk through this day with a glad and upright heart. Amen.

Called to be me.

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. ~Eph 4:11 (CEB)

A couple years ago, I picked up my daughter from a mission trip with her youth group. As we gathered her things to go I told her that every time I pick her up from a mission trip someone tells me “Your daughter is a good digger”. She looked at me with all seriousness and said, “Well, when there is a lot you don’t know how to do, you find what you can do and do it well.” In one heart beat I went from laughing with my daughter to being proud of her. We could all do well to remember this in life. “Find what we can do and do it well.”

It is humbling when I look around at all the great things people seem to be doing. Always before me I can see what I don’t do well. But instead of focusing on what others are doing and what I seem unable to do, I need to remember that God doesn’t call me to what others do well. He calls me to what I can do well through Him who will give me the ability to do His will (Phil 3:14). God calls me to be me. If it is digging holes while others build decks, He will give me the strength to dig those holes. If it is to quietly sit with someone whose heart is broken while others lead thousands to Christ, God will give me the strength needed to hold that dear hand.

Paul addressed the Corinthians about this in the first letter to them, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:4-11 (NRSV)

What God calls me to do is for the common good. He doesn’t call me to a work to make me feel good about myself. Ephesians 4:12 says our ministry is for the building up of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:25-26 reminds me that my work is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and that I am not to become conceited, competitive or envious of what someone else may be called to do. So even though I may think someone else’s work is more glamorous than what I have been called to do, I am to keep my eyes on Him and walk only this road His has given me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength You give so that I can be all that I am meant to be. Help me to remember that all work is for the common good and not about me. Amen.

My plan for sucess

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. ~Proverbs 16:9 (CEB)

In my office, there are several sticky notes with, ideas, reminders, phone numbers, and notes from family. It seems that most days find me scrambling to use a sticky note. They are a really neat invention aren’t they? I often wonder how people come up with some of these ideas.

The idea for a sticky note itself came out of a failure.

A scientist at the 3M Company was working to try to improve the glue that they put on their tape so that it would stick better.  He came up with a new formula for glue, but the new glue didn’t stick very well at all.  It would stick at first, but then it was very easily pulled off.  He thought his new glue formula was a failure, but instead of throwing the formula in the trash, he decided to share it with others in the company and see if there might be some use for it.

A man named Art Fry started trying the new glue in different ways and finally he came up with the idea for the Post-It Note.  Now, Post-It Notes are the biggest money maker for the 3-M company. What started out to be a big failure for 3M turned out to be one of their greatest successes.

I am a planner. Sometimes things don’t go the way I intend for them to go. Even when I try my hardest it just doesn’t seem to work out. It would be so easy at these times to just throw my hands up and quit. When I remember at those times that there is Someone else who can take my failures and turn them into possibilities, I see things I never would have considered. When I turn failures over to God I often find that there are answers that can lead to a different success.

Proverbs 16:9 tells me that I may make the plans, but God will direct my steps. Often I know where I want to go, but I just can’t seem to get there. If I put my faith and trust in Jesus, He will direct my steps to where I need to be.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Jesus to guide my steps, despite my planning. Soften my heart to go were You lead me. Help me to not get discouraged as I try to go about Your work this day. If I hit a wall, help me to wait patiently for You to show me the way around it. Amen.

Adrift

Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters arrived on earth. Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark to escape the floodwaters. It rained upon the earth forty days and forty nights. The flood remained on the earth for forty days. The waters rose, lifted the ark, and it rode high above the earth. The waters rose and spread out over the earth. The ark floated on the surface of the waters. The waters rose even higher over the earth; they covered all of the highest mountains under the sky. The waters rose twenty- three feet high, covering the mountains. The waters rose over the earth for one hundred fifty days. After forty days, Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made. He sent out a raven, and it flew back and forth until the waters over the entire earth had dried up. Then he sent out a dove to see if the waters on all of the fertile land had subsided, but the dove found no place to set its foot. It returned to him in the ark since waters still covered the entire earth. Noah stretched out his hand, took it, and brought it back into the ark. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out from the ark again. The dove came back to him in the evening, grasping a torn olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the waters were subsiding from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent out the dove, but it didn’t come back to him again. In Noah’s six hundred first year, on the first day of the first month, the waters dried up from the earth. Noah removed the ark’s hatch and saw that the surface of the fertile land had dried up. In the second month, on the seventeenth day, the earth was dry.

God spoke to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. ~Gen. 7:6-7; 12; 17-20; 24; 8:6-16 (CEB)

There are times that I feel that I am adrift, not knowing where I am going or what I am meant to do, literally afloat at sea and no idea what to do.

Noah sat in his ark bobbing about on an ocean, not in control of where he was going, clueless as to when his ordeal would end. All he could do was to wait on God’s timing. Eventually, over the long and landless days, waiting turned to watching. Noah watched. Amid the waiting, hope and a sense of future possibility emerged.

Amid the uncertainty and suspense of not knowing, or the sheer tedium of things remaining the same, I can learn to keep my eyes wide open, scanning the horizon of my experience. Like Noah I may have to do this for a long time until at last some green sprig signals that there is land ahead. Signs may beckon through something as ordinary as a kind word, a hug from a child, the smile of a friend, or as subtle as an inner urge whispering, “This is where you need to go.” All of these are signs and promises of hope as I am tossed about on the sea of unknowing.

Wondrous God, Your signs and promises are the rock on which my hope is built and my shelter in times of unknowing. May the memory of Your faithfulness sustain my faithfulness in you. Let me not tire of praising You, no matter how difficult the wait may seem. Amen. 

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