On Seizing Control & Stepping into Sin

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12b NIV

I shared with some folks the other day how unhappy I am with all this social distancing. I’m unhappy with the lack of control I have over others and the choices they make. I’m grieving the loss of my personal freedom. I expect the same is true for some of you.

We are living in a hard time that could be difficult for many and yet, God maintains control.

Control is the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events that take place in our collective or personal lives. Right now, there’s not much of that to be had, which leads to temptation.  Temptation to doubt or be less than convinced that God is driving this bus.

Someone else in Scripture felt the way I do right now, so I’ve looked to him for insight.

When Job asked God, “Why me? Why now?” he got this reply:

“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?” Job 41:1-4 NIV  [emphasis mine. ljh]

Those last two lines brought me up short.

Is that what I have been doing by wishing I could control things?

Oh, Lord, is that what I’m doing with my complaining…with my efforts to seize  control? I’m sorry. Truly sorry! I know that asking You to be my slave and serve my purposes, is evil. I repent of that kind of thinking, right now, and I ask for Your mercy.  I want You to be Lord of me, and not the other way ‘round. Forgive me, I pray, In Jesus’ Name.

Where are you wishing you had more control in your life?  What loss are you grieving today?

Need!

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…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. You’ve said so in your Word, Lord. And so we pray for those who find themselves weak today.

Our weaknesses, our doubts, our sins, we pray that you would remove them, for good and for all, so that we might be better equipped to serve your people.

We don’t know what we ought to pray, Lord, but Your Spirit in us does.

Help us. Equip us. Empower us. Instruct and direct us, we pray.

May You search our hearts and know our motives, and may You make them holy.

We trust that You will, because we know the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with Your will. We know that in all things You work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose.

Our weaknesses we surrender for Your power, today, tomorrow and always. Amen.

Thanksgiving

…the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light…he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12b-13 NIV

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I “might” be thinking about Thanksgiving this morning, since it’s only days away.

I might be thinking about roasted turkey.

Or maybe baked squash all sugared up with marshmallows and such.  Ooey, gooey, good!

I “might” be fantasizing that ALL.THE.PIES. are smothered with mounds and mounds of real whipped cream.

But really, don’t we have reason to be thankful every day? Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae is full of expressions of thankfulness, which is a blessing when you hear all the talk of bad news that’s going on in our world today.

What was Paul thankful for regarding this church? 

Their newfound faith in Christ.
Love, believers shared with their fellows.
Faith that sprang from hope.
The gospel message that came to them and changed them forever.
Faith that bore fruit.
That they understood grace!

And what did Paul ask for from God, when he prayed for this church?

Knowledge of God’s will for them.
Wisdom!
Understanding of God’s plan and how it would be pieced together.
More fruit bearing abilities.
Good works, performed wisely.
Strength to persevere in their faith.
Power, according to God’s glorious might.
Joy, abundant and overflowing.
Redemption and the forgiveness of sins!!!

These…these are the more beneficial things to think on today, and they have zero calories! A win/win for this gal; maybe for you, too?

Who do you have praying for you? Who are you praying for today? 

Obstacles to Closeness with God

I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:5-6 NIV

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV

Sometimes we struggle to get it right in life.

The Prophet Isaiah said the same when he’d returned from time spent hearing God. Either knowingly or unknowingly, we do things that frustrate and anger our Creator.

Things like doubting his greatness or power.
Things like refusing to worship.
Things like being greedy, proud, or selfish.
Things like refusing to go where he tells us to go, or do what he tells us to do.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, but…

But…our iniquities, our sins, our refusals and our delays build a wall between us and God. Either willfully, or as a result of us not taking pains to maintain our closeness with God, that wall gets taller and taller every day. With each new brick laid we find God further and further from us. What do we do in times like these?

The Psalmist gives us some suggestions:

Meditate on all God’s works. Provisions he’s made for you.
Consider what His hands have done. Blessings that have come your way.
Remember when God reached out to you in the past. You and He have a history.
Think on His consuming passion for YOU; He loves you!

If you’re having a hard time finding the good in your faith after doing these things—for surely, hard times make it harder to see God’s goodness—then reach out to someone you respect for their faith journey and ask for his or her counsel. Don’t be afraid to do this, for God has put it in the hearts of those close to him to be a help mate to others along the paths of faith.  If they love Jesus, they won’t ridicule you for your feelings, and they won’t shame you for them either. They will listen, they will read Scripture with you, they will pray for and with you, and they won’t stop doing these things until you find relief and the closely that you had at the first moment of taking Jesus’ hand.

Today, remember God’s goodness to you. Open your heart to Him, and be renewed!

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to trusting God?  What have you found helpful for moving closer to Him?

Relent, Lord!

Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:13-17 NIV

How many times do we cry out to the Lord for his love, compassion, and mercy to fall on us instead of his firm hand and punishing correction?

I do. A lot!!!

We want things to go well with us and when they don’t, we begin the blame game.

Oh, guilty again!

Sometimes it is God who is making life difficult for us.

Sometimes it is Him who is sending us in a direction we do not want to go.

Sometimes it is Him allowing the hammer to come down, but there are also those times when our difficulties are of our own making.  Let me repeat that for emphasis: Sometimes are grief is of our own making!!!

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, Lord!

We cry out to God for goodness and peace, and we should.

He is the ultimate Decider of our days.

He is the One with all power.

He is the Director of our lives and if we will allow it, the Lover of our souls.

He is the God of Angel Armies; the Alpha and the Omega; the Holy One of Israel; the Amen!

Today, let’s open our hands and let anxiety melt away. 

Let’s be full of the realization that God is in command and in control.

Let’s bow to His direction and His purpose in our lives.

Let’s be constant in our devotion to Papa, and let’s pray only to Him for the love, mercy, compassion, and grace that we need to be helpers to our fellows and worshippers of the Most High King—our everything!

If we will let go, God can direct, but let’s be real–He will not grab the wheel of life out of our hands. He’s not that guy. We have free will; we need to exercise it to our benefit.

Are you someone who has a hard time letting God lead, but not so much when it comes to blaming Him?  Can you set aside everything you think you know about God and His plans, and let Him lead?  

7 Steps I Take to Fight Back Against Temptation

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36 NIV

Today’s prompt includes a truth bomb from yours truly. Here goes…

Hi, my name is Lori, and sometimes I’m tempted to take short cuts, do less than my best, or otherwise work things to my advantage even when doing so makes a tiny ding or dent in my ordinarily shiny armor.

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Some days I’m tempted to work around a problem, instead of addressing it full on.

Some days I’m tempted to speak a comforting lie, especially when I fear the truth will hurt too much.

Some days I’m tempted to pout, instead of getting in there and making right what has gone wrong.

Some days, I’m tempted. Just plain tempted!

What do I do when the temptation to skirt life’s more challenging hurdles happens my way?

I pray.
I reach out to others and ask for their prayers.
I use my words, albeit as gently as I can.
I make mistakes, and then I own them and apologize.
I refrain, as much as I can, from allowing the temptation to overtake me.
I lean into Jesus, and I ask for more grace, and gentility, and civility, and love.
I close my eyes, suck in my breath, trust Jesus and jump into the fray, anyway!

Every day I try to live my life the way I think Jesus would want me to live it–the way that would make Him most proud. Some days I falter in the attempt, but because I believe in Him, and I’m thankful for his sacrifice for me and I know He doesn’t want me hiding my gifts under a bushel, I pick myself up and begin again; refreshed, renewed, and full of His glory and grace.

Today, I’m strong enough to resist the temptation to “do” life the world’s way, and that’s why I praise!

Are you being tempted by something today? What do you do to fight back against temptation?

peace

Seriously, though, who isn’t hoping for peace these days?  I think everyone is, but if you’re someone of the world who is depending on congress, or world leaders, or religious institutions to bring hope, you’re probably not real hopeful today.

It seems to me the world seeks hope while at the same time doing a lot of name calling and guilt shaming, as if they are discouraged and they don’t really think hope is possible in this increasingly warring world.  But for us, for today, just today, can we allow our hope to rest on the power Jesus has to turn a world around?

Peace may not happen today, but it might! Let’s continue in hope.

If you don’t have a devotional you use for quiet time with God, may I recommend Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, by Sarah Young.  Good stuff, right there. Good stuff!

What is your hope hinged to today?  Where is your Strength?

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Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NIV

I may have mentioned her before, this coworker I had whose favorite retort when things went wrong was, “We’ll just praise the Lord, anyway!”

Dawn had an amazing capacity for loving her Lord. She was a gorgeous woman, young, vivacious, hair down to her toes in an era when long straight hair was a very appealing quality to possess. She was a hippy-like free spirit who loved on Jesus every day and filled the air around her with this positivity that was hard to deny.

Dawn was winsome in every way, and beautiful to boot. Lots of people were attracted to her, but least of all for her external beauty. It was the constant and abiding love she had for Jesus that attracted me, and I know it attracted others. She made bad situations better by pointing to praise whenever we were tempted to pout. In this, she was like the apostles of old, and the affect it had on everyone around her was amazing.

When the hard times come, do you praise or pout?

The Apostle Paul shared with the church at Philippi some amazing insight into praise that served them well. He wrote,

“ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV.)

Dawn knew how to rejoice in her Savior.

Dawn knew how to spot a temptation and how to take it down.

Dawn knew that praise always opens the door to joy, and she opened that door for others, a lot!

Dawn was a joy to work with and a force for good in a tired world.

I wonder how often I mirror Dawn’s witness? Do you wonder the same about you? 

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For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. . . . But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him. His salvation extends to the children’s children. Psalm 103: 14, 17 NLT

Blessed be God, who didn’t turn away when I was praying and didn’t refuse me His kindness and love. Psalm 66:20 TLB

Sometimes we forget how blessed we are as a people. It’s then we need to be reminded.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16 MSG

Today, let’s share with those in our circle of influence that one-of-a-kind Son of God, who saves, redeems, and sets things right for all time.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a King!!

 

Seek His Face Always!

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This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. 1 Chronicles 16:11

When you get your feelings hurt, where do you go for relief?

Do you curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep?
Do you get on the phone and go over it all with a friend?
Do you head for the cupboard and begin eating your way to calm?

Where do you go and what do you do when you’ve been wounded?

The Bible doesn’t say we should avoid all physical or relational means for soothing our souls. We all do these things some times. But it does suggest that anything that is bothering us is something the Lord wants to hear about.

God loves us with an everlasting love.

Do you know what that means?

If means He’s signed up to be our Adjuster.

God is our Rescuer.

God would be our Peace.

He’s our Defender.

God is our Mighty Warrior–God of the angel armies. His resources are limitless. He knows how to care for you!

Today, are you taking your cares to God in prayer? If not, why not?

He hears, He cares, and He answers. Test Him in this and see if he does not answer. He answers. He always answers!

Trust Him and ask! You might be amazed at what our God does.

When have you prayed and heard a definite NO to your request? What do you want the Lord to do for you today?