Tag Archive | wisdom

Fellowship Matters

friends“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

If I’m going to abide in Christ this year…and always, knowing that I don’t usually keep my resolutions, it would be good to understand what causes me to let go of my plan.

The plan itself is not my issue. I am GREAT at planning. I make lists, flow charts, spreadsheets and know every detail of everything I want to do. What I often miss is the list of those things that could interrupt my plan and when they do, how I will move forward. We know this as “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” In other words, I don’t plan for the worst, the struggle of keeping my commitment.

This is a new step for me this year. I want to understand what keeps me from abiding, staying close to Jesus and have a plan ready when people, situations and conditions of my heart try to pull me from Him.

One thing I’ve learned is that we are all at different places with our faith. There are many things that I once thought were okay and now see completely different. I’m also sure there are things I do or consent to today that in five years I will no longer consider good for me in relation to my faith. Just as I am on a journey, so is everyone else. Even those who don’t claim to have faith in Jesus or God believe something.

I don’t think others ever intentionally try to pull me away from Jesus as much as I don’t think they understand the full benefit of staying close to Him. It’s hard to encourage me in what they don’t consider valuable or meaningful.

Too often, we can make excuses for our own behavior by excusing the behavior of others. If I have a hard time controlling how much I eat, I may encourage someone else to go ahead and have the second piece. If I talk bad about my husband, I may encourage someone else that it’s good to vent or “get it off their chest”. After all, they are just being honest. If I don’t see how what I do is harmful, I may not see it as harmful for someone else.

And others, who don’t know Jesus, won’t understand why it’s important to stay close to Him and most likely, will not be able to encourage me in my desire to abide.

While I don’t want to cut off relationships with those who don’t know Jesus, He came for us all, I need to be careful to whom I listen.

I will be resolved to seek counsel, wisdom and encouragement from others who are actively seeking God and following Christ.

Something to Consider…

We are to live in this world but not be of it. Our relationships matter regardless of where others stand with Jesus.

How can you ensure you are spending time with others who know Jesus? How can you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus even when you are with others who are not?

Regardless of how committed you are to Jesus, how many questions you have about faith, and how many doubts and concerns you have for what it truly means to believe, it will be hard to move forward and find answers alone.

  1. Find a local church to attend and show up. Volunteer and get involved. Even if you’re not sure about this whole God thing, you will meet new people and expand your understanding of the Christian faith.
  2. Identify two or three people who know Jesus with whom you can ask questions and discuss your faith. Don’t ask your friend the atheist or agnostic. They don’t have the answers you’re looking for.
  3. Seek to know Jesus, not just know about Him or assume things about Him. No one likes it when people make assumptions about them. Really get to know who He is and why He came for you.

Pray for Your Leaders

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I admit, I have not prayed for my leaders as I should. I have not been diligent in seeking God’s guidance, understanding or wisdom for leaders in government offices, whether elected or appointed. I have not prayed regularly that those who do not know Jesus would not only come to know Him, but would seek to follow Him in their role of leading others. I have prayed my will, my understanding, and my desires but even as I seek God, there are things I do not understand and I sometimes desire things outside of God’s will.

I have prayed for my husband, my children and myself watching God answer prayer after prayer in His time, in His way. Maybe my distance from the political office keeps me from believing my prayers make a difference. Maybe I’m just so critical and judgmental I don’t really believe they can change. Two issues arise in my own life when this is my mindset:

1) I give myself authority to judge what is only meant for God to judge. I don’t really know their heart. While I may not agree with or understand their position, only God can judge the true motives and intentions of their heart.

2) I limit what I believe God can do. It is not by the power of my will in prayer, but the power of our God that hearts are changed and emboldened for Him.

Why should we pray?

It takes strength, boldness and courage to follow the Lord. In Joshua 1, Joshua knows the Lord. He has been faithful from the beginning. He is the new leader raised up to take the place of Moses after His death. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. To remember and obey all that God has told Him through the Book of the Law. Even though Joshua already has a heart set on the Lord, He needs encouragement to stand firm. Times will get tough. People will want to go their own way. They may come up against his leadership out of fear or pride.

As we pray for our leaders to be strengthened and filled with courage and boldness for God, we are as filled as well. God meet us when we pray for others.

What should we pray?

There are many things we can pray based on the person and the specific needs of a country, community, business or organization but here are just a couple that cover some basic ideas.

1) Our leaders who do not know Jesus would come to know Him. If we are to follow God, it is best that those we submit to would be leading us His way. In surrendering to His authority, they understand the limits of their own authority.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

2) Our leaders would create laws that are fair and impartial. They would not be swayed by public opinion just to be elected. They would not use circumstances as an excuse or justification for wrong doing. And they would not allow wealth to keep someone from a consequence nor would they use it as a reason to have a heavy hand and take more than due. When laws are applied fairly, mercy prevails.

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)

3) Our leaders would be peacemakers seeking to reconcile and move forward with the necessary business they are in office to carry out. One key role for leaders is conflict management. As peacemakers, they are to help settle disputes between parties that disagree, quarrel and fight. Leaders should be unifying not divisive with their words and actions.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NIV)

God’s perfect plan does not always play out the way we think is fair or just, but in knowing Him, we can trust that He is faithful. He is and always will be in control.

Something to Consider…

What attitudes, criticisms, or judgments have you held against your leaders? How does your attitude add fuel to the fire or help others move forward in solutions? How do your criticisms and judgments move you closer to or further away from Gods heart.

In your own role as a leader, whether at work, volunteering or at home, what attitudes, criticisms and judgments do you find others hold against you? What would you want others to see in you as a leader?

As you seek to be resolved as a leader who you would willingly follow, ask God to not only help you bring glory and honor to Him, but that those you submit to would also seek His glory and honor in all they do.

Our Desire, His Plan

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I have had plans and dreams that I assumed could never happen. I’ve also had plans that I thought would satisfy and fulfill some deep desire but still fell short. There are things I always thought I would do and those that I said I would never do. And yet, here I am; nowhere near where I thought I would be.

Recently, I was thinking about our retirement plans. We still have a number of years before that reality but we’ve always had a general idea of where and how we wanted to live. Somewhere warm and near water would be perfect! No snow, no seat warmers in the car, no shovels, snow boots or ice melt needed. Then out of the blue, just the other week I thought, “I don’t want to move. I can’t imagine leaving and giving up what we have here. This means way too much to me!” How would I ever tell my husband that I didn’t want to go south?

But to my surprise, just a few days later, we were driving through the neighborhood and he said, “We’re going to be living here the rest of our lives, aren’t we?” He didn’t have a defeated tone, just one of fact. All I could say was, “Yes.”

God had changed our hearts and lead us to a new way of thinking; a new desire in our hearts.

I have found lately that God has a different plan for me than my deepest desires; at least those desires I had before I really knew Him. The idea of “giving up” my desires for Him was so scary. If I really stepped into what He wanted for me and from me, what would it require of me? What would I have to give up?

So far, it’s been some material possessions, self-gratifying activities and ultimately, fear.

I had to give up the fear that I would never have what I really wanted – a life of convenience, ability, and fun.

The truth is God has shown me how much more fun my life is when it’s not all about me. There are conveniences that free up my time, help me stay in communication with others and allow me the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do; but the focus is on serving, not being served. As I step away from the desire to have things, I move closer to the ability to provide for others.

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Just as we didn’t see a past move to California coming, there may be something else God has up His sleeve for us. And just as we did think we would be moving back to Minnesota, we know God’s plans for us will be good.

Something to Consider…

The deepest desires of our hearts cannot come close to the plans the Lord has in store for each of us. Until we begin to understand this, we may tend to approach God with a bit of fear and intimidation worried about what we will have to change or give up.

The dreams and desires this world says we should crave and fulfill are empty and dissatisfying. God has good plans for you when you seek Him and His desires and dreams for your life. Boldly come to Him and lay your plans out before Him. Ask God to show you how His plan not only brings glory to Him, but can truly fulfill the deepest desires of your heart.

The Lighter Side of LYF – What is Beauty?

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:1-2

I love music. It truly touches a place deep inside me. My husband says there is no bad music. Personally, I enjoy classical music, am highly irritated by jazz, and move to a funky R&B groove. But, I LOVE rock when there is a get-down, heavy electric guitar. My soul sings when I hear fingers fly! I also love “whalers”. A term coined by a friend of mine for those singers who open up their mouth wide and a smooth, full-force voice comes forth and resonates with very little effort on their part. They carry the notes with what seems like unending breath. Not everyone sings this way and not everyone should. Different voices with different styles singing in different octaves – all beautiful in their own way. But the one that FILLS the room is the one that will most likely catch my attention.

I saw an article recently commenting on people’s ability to stop in the middle of their busyness and notice beauty. It made me stop and think. What is beauty? What makes something beautiful? Is the same thing beautiful to all people? Should it be? Why do some stop and notice while others keep moving? If people don’t stop, does that mean that they don’t take notice, consider it beautiful or are not blessed by it in some way?

“When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth – his eyes not seeing sleep day or night, then I saw all that God had done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

Then I wondered, what isn’t beautiful?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Can two people do the exact same thing and get different results? I wonder if God blesses intentions. Does one who sets out to test man according to what he thinks is important and beautiful get the same results as the one who sets out to bless man with what God says is important and beautiful? Maybe, if what we do, anything we do, when done solely for the glory of the Lord will be beautiful and noticed by those who are meant to notice and be blessed by it.

I admit I have not always stopped for those things God has wanted me to stop for. I have been hurried at times, distracted, and my mind set on my own plans; but I do know that I don’t want to stop for what someone else assumes I should stop for. And I don’t want to assume I know a person’s story, thoughts, or heart solely by how they measure up to my expectations.

Maybe, when we consider beauty, our plans and our expectations of each other; the best we can do is stop when God says stop and move when God says move. That just might be beautiful.

Something to Consider…

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26a, 27

If we were to stop to notice every beautiful thing around us, would we get anything done? Regardless of your position, name, talent or trade, each person is beautiful because we are each made in the image of God.

When was the last time you really looked a stranger or a loved one in the eyes and saw the beauty of God within them? Can you even begin to comprehend the plans God has laid out before them or you?

Choose today to bless, not test, those God puts in your path.

To Forgive AND Forget

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

There are times when people say things and I wonder what they were thinking. Did I hear them correctly? Were they joking or serious? They have just offended me and they have no clue. And then, I wonder if they care. Maybe they’ll blow it off saying it’s just a joke and I’m too serious anyway.

The truth is sometimes people do say things and they have no idea that it bothers us. They don’t understand our past hurts, habits or experiences, and they don’t need to. They didn’t mean to upset us and yet we think they now owe us big time for hurting us so badly. We react quickly and forcefully; sometimes directly and other times behind their back.  We vent to someone else or to the world through social media.

It’s also true that sometimes people push our buttons on purpose. Do you know anyone who likes to argue? There is something about the battle of words that they relish. Proverbs is full of words that describe people who like to “stir up conflict”. Words such as perverse, harsh, greedy, mocker, and hot-tempered all describe people who intentionally cause conflict.

There are also descriptions of those who have the opposite demeanor. Words like love, gentle, patient, and wise all describe the person who guards his tongue while he settles and calms disputes. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul says to be kind and tender-hearted with each other. When we are patient, we can step back from the situation and be objective. Does this person know my past? Do they have any reason to hurt me? What did they really mean?

And then we are to forgive.

Sometimes we may need to talk to the person about the incident, but often the issue dies out when we let it go. Our reaction to others words can intensify the conflict or calm a quarrel. If we decide to keep the issue going, we should realize that we may then fall into the “stir up conflict” category and that is not God’s way.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

To forgive is to forget. Forgiving is not the same as reconciling and it’s not the same as trusting. But forgiving is freedom. If you say you forgive and don’t forget, you remember and replay the incident in your own mind and it keeps you a prisoner to pain and anger.

Jesus Christ died for you. If you’ve put your trust in Him, God does not continue to remind you of who you use to be. He doesn’t go around with a check list waiting for you mess up again. God forgives and forgets your sins. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far He’s removed our transgressions from us.

Something to Consider…

Is there someone in your life – at home, work or school, who continues to offend you? Seek God’s wisdom in how to handle your words and actions in order to defuse the situation.

Is there someone you bear a grudge against and won’t forgive? Jesus came to set the captives free. Don’t choose to be a prisoner. Allow God to heal your heart and your hurt. Forgive as He has forgiven.