Hurry Up! …and Wait.

Hurry up! …and wait. Have you ever felt this way?

I am for the most part a very punctual person. I am usually on time…or even early for just about everything…even with my 2 boys and their craziness!

Just the other day…I was rushing to an appointment and I made it right on time. Thank goodness! I checked in and then sat down in the waiting room. And I waited…and waited …and waited. Finally, I was called in by the nurse.

I hurried…rushed…probably sped (not recommended) to this appointment…only to wait in the waiting room. I did my part…getting there on time…but I had to rely on someone else’s timetable to be seen.

Have you had a similar experience? I am sure we have all had many!

Waiting rooms are designed for just that…waiting! So why are we so surprised when we actually have to wait?!

Maybe because for some reason waiting in waiting rooms is not very comfortable. Waiting rooms are a place of inaction…or lack of activity. And that’s why in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other places…the personnel often offer coffee, drinks, and sometimes even food to those who are waiting in order to make them more comfortable. There are magazines to read and even TV’s to watch.

But does that really make us comfortable? Even with these amenities, who would choose to spend their time…just waiting?

Even the Psalmist expressed his uncomfortable feelings when he wrote Psalm 130:6…

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning… NIV (Not very exciting and notice he repeated himself too!)

In this modern day and age…no one likes to wait…for anything! And what makes it harder and more frustrating is when your waiting is dependent upon someone else and their timetable…especially God.

Are you waiting on God for something in your life today?

Our lives in this world are God’s waiting room.

I absolutely love this excerpt I recently came across from Max Lucado’s book “You’ll Get Through This” called God’s Waiting Room. He says…

Take a moment and look around you. Do you realize where we sit? This planet is God’s waiting room. T

The young couple in the corner? Waiting to get pregnant. The fellow with the briefcase? He has resumes all over the country, waiting on work. The elderly woman with the cane? A widow. Been waiting a year for one tearless day. Waiting. Waiting on God to give, help, heal. Waiting on God to come. We indwell the land betwixt prayer offered and prayer answered. The land of waiting.

Are you in God’s waiting room? If so, here is what you need to know: while you wait, God works.

“My Father is always at his work,” Jesus said (John 5:17 NIV). God never twiddles his thumbs. He never stops. He takes no vacations. He rested on the seventh day of creation but got back to work on the eighth and hasn’t stopped since.

Just because you are idle, don’t assume God is. “Be still, and know that I am God” reads the sign on God’s waiting room wall. You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because he is active. You can rest because he is busy.

Remember God’s word through Moses to the Israelites? “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD … The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14:13–14). The Israelites saw the Red Sea ahead of them and heard the Egyptian soldiers thundering after them. Death on both sides.

Stand still? Are you kidding? But what the former slaves couldn’t see was the hand of God at the bottom of the water, creating a path, and his breath from heaven, separating the waters. God was working for them.

God worked for Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel told her that she would become pregnant. The announcement stirred a torrent of questions in her heart. How would she become pregnant? What would people think? What would Joseph say? Yet God was working for her.

He sent a message to Joseph, her fiance. God prompted Caesar to declare a census. God led the family to Bethlehem. “God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him” (Rom. 8:28 CEV).

To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, worry, fret, make demands, or take control. Nor is waiting inactivity. Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief. To wait is to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; … not fret” (Psalm 37:7).

So perfectly said!

A key point from this passage is that unlike the waiting in waiting rooms…Waiting is not inactivity in God’s waiting room. And realizing that God is busy doing His part working on our behalf…we need to do our part resting in Him and waiting patiently for Him.

Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief.

How many of you know that focusing on God is intentional and does take some effort? Actually a lot of effort! Right?!

And because it takes effort…we have a tendency to skip what it takes to focus on God…and just wait…causing us to focus on our situation which is much easier.

How can and should we wait in God’s waiting room?

1.Waiting in God’s waiting room means reminding ourselves and trusting that God is in control no matter what.

A king’s heart is a water stream that the LORD controls; he directs it wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1 ISV

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 NIV

2. Waiting in God’s waiting room means we don’t take matters in our own hands when God doesn’t move fast enough! Remember He is not idle. And remember that God’s delays are not necessarily His denials.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 NLT

3. Waiting in God’s waiting room means praying without ceasing or giving up even when we don’t think He hears us. He hears you!

Be unceasing in prayer [pray perseveringly] …1 Thessalonians 5:17 AMP

I love the Lord, because he has heard [and now hears] my voice and my supplications. Psalm 116:1 AMP

4. Waiting in God’s waiting room means praising and thanking Him through the waiting period. It is amazing how our gratitude will so quickly change our attitude. Thanking and praising Him allows us to focus on His greatness and power.

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

5. Waiting in God’s waiting room means studying God’s Word and His promises.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 NLT

Waiting in waiting rooms can certainly be hard…but waiting in God’s waiting room…is no doubt…harder especially when you have been waiting a long time.

But we must remind ourselves that God is busy working on our behalf. He is never idle…He is never on vacation…He never twiddles His thumbs…He never stops working. He is doing His part in the waiting room…busy working on our behalf!

So how about you?

Are you doing your part in God’s waiting room?

Reflection Points:

  1. Are you waiting on God for something in your life today?
  2. Is it hard for you to wait in God’s waiting room?
  3. How should we wait in God’s waiting room?

Action Points:

  1. Waiting is not inactivity in God’s waiting room. Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief. Focusing on God is intentional and takes work.
  2. Be encouraged that we can wait in God’s waiting room by intentionally focusing on God through the practical ways stated above. Review them.

 

 

 

 

Been Interrupted Lately?

Interruptions! We all have them…Right?

I was actually interrupted trying to write this blog a couple weeks ago and am now just getting back to it!

Whether it’s daily interruptions like your child interrupting you while you are speaking on the phone…the school nurse calling and interrupting you in the middle of a work meeting to pick up your sick kid from school…or your puppy interrupting your sleep because he needs to go potty outside in the middle of the night. Ugh!

Whether it’s life interruptions like an unexpected job loss…an unforeseen medical diagnosis…or an unpredicted loss of a loved one.

Daily interruptions can be hard…and life interruptions can be harder!

What immediately pops into your mind when you hear the word “interruption”?

Inconvenient…frustration…irritation…annoyance…disappointment…even anger…hurt…or pain.

I am not sure when “interruptions” took on such negative terms as these…but that’s how we react and respond to interruptions.

The dictionary defines an “interruption” as “something that causes an activity to stop, break off or cease; the act of breaking the uniformity or continuity of; the state of changing or stopping the sameness or smoothness of something.”

And that’s exactly what interruptions do! They stop something. They stop us in the midst of that “something” we are doing…with no consideration of time and/or importance of that “something.”

Even though interruptions can be brief and temporary and your day may return right back to the normal…Interruptions can sometimes be permanent and life changing to the point that life is never the same again.

Have you been interrupted lately?

Are you facing any daily or life interruptions today?

Did you know that Jesus was interrupted? All the time as a matter of fact!

The question isn’t about how Jesus was interrupted…but what happened when Jesus was interrupted? What happened in Jesus’ interruptions?

There is great significance in each instance that Jesus was interrupted in the Bible. Let’s take a quick look!

While on His way to heal Jairus’ young daughter, Jesus was interrupted by a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. (Clearly an incurable disease) What happened in this interruption? She touched the hem of His garment and she was miraculously healed! (Luke 8:40-48)

While He was sleeping in the boat, Jesus was interrupted and woken up by His disciples who were afraid of a dangerous storm. (No one likes being awoken from sleep…even Jesus I’m sure!) What happened in this interruption? The disciples witnessed the power and authority of Almighty Jesus calming the winds and the storm right before their eyes! (Matthew 8:23-27)

While He was out of town, Jesus was interrupted by Mary and Martha who sent word for Him to come and heal their sick brother Lazarus. (Who actually went from sick to dead when Jesus finally arrived.) What happened in this interruption? Lazarus was raised from the dead and made alive in front of the disciples and a large crowd of people who witnessed Jesus’ power over death! (John 11:1-44)

While He was teaching in a home, Jesus was interrupted by four men who lowered their paralyzed friend from the rooftop of the house. (Talk about an interruption!) What happened in this interruption? The paralyzed man was healed and his sins were forgiven! (Mark 2:1-5)

While He was enjoying a dinner party, Jesus was interrupted by a “sinful” woman who began to pour expensive oil on Him and wiped it off with her hair. (She was actually a prostitute.) What happened in this interruption? The woman was given love and grace and her sins were forgiven! (Luke 7:36-50)

While He was passing through the city of Jericho, Jesus was interrupted by a Zacchaeus…a tax collector…who was up in a tree on the side of the road. (Anything to get a glimpse of Jesus!) What happened in this interruption? Jesus went to His house for dinner and Zacchaeus and his entire family were saved! (Luke 19:1-9)

While on His way to Galilee, Jesus was interrupted when passing through Samaria and meeting a Samaritan woman at the well. (She was drawing water at the unexpected time of 12noon.) What happened in this interruption? This woman who had a “bad” reputation received Jesus’ “living water” and because of her testimony many in the town became believers!

Oh and the list can go on of more examples of Jesus’ interruptions in the Bible!

So what actually happened in these interruptions?

When Jesus was interrupted…people were given love and grace…forgiven…healed…delivered… saved…and witnessed miracles!

Jesus’ interruptions were opportunities…not inconveniences, frustrations, irritations, or annoyances.

Interruptions can be powerful and can impact you and others in a negative way…or positive way. How do you choose to respond to interruptions?

What can you learn in your daily interruptions? What do you think Jesus is trying to teach you in your life interruptions?

I know it isn’t easy…because life interruptions can hit us hard and knock us down for a period of time…but we cannot stay down. With God’s strength, we can get back up!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT

Interruptions are opportunities. Your life interruptions go beyond your interruption…and beyond you.

How can we turn our interruptions into opportunities?

1.Surrender our agenda…our plans…to God’s will.  

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3 NIV

You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21 NLT

2. Place the needs of others above our wants.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3 NASB

3. See our life’s purpose as ministry.

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16 NIV

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

4.Make ourselves available to God.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 NIV 

The greatest and most important interruption in my life was the day I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

And I can say that this interruption is far from being an inconvenience… frustration… irritation…annoyance… or disappointment!

Many years ago while I was headed down a road of sin and destruction…Jesus interrupted my life. This interruption…this stopping point in my life…this break in my continual life of sin caused me to change my direction and walk down a different road…a road toward Jesus.

I chose to accept and embrace this interruption and give Him first place in my life. And I cannot begin to explain how this interruption has blessed me greatly and created many opportunities for me to serve and minister to others!

If you are a Christian today, then Jesus has interrupted your life. How impactful has this interruption been for you…and beyond you?

Whether we experience daily interruptions or life interruptions or Jesus interruptions…let’s accept and embrace our interruptions and allow God to turn them into opportunities today that affect us… and beyond us!

Reflection Points:

  1. What immediately pops into your mind when you hear the word “interruption”?
  2. How is the word “interruption” defined?
  3. Are you facing any daily or life interruptions today? Did you know that Jesus was interrupted?
  4. What happened in Jesus’ interruptions?
  5. How do you choose to respond to interruptions? What can you learn in your daily interruptions? What do you think Jesus is trying to teach you in your life interruptions?
  6. How can you turn your interruptions into opportunities?

Action Points:

  1. The word “interruptions” has taken on such negative terms as inconvenient…frustration …irritation…annoyance…disappointment…even anger…hurt…or pain.
  2. Jesus was interrupted all the time and there is great significance in each instance that Jesus was interrupted in the Bible. Review the above examples.
  3. When Jesus was interrupted…people were given love and grace…forgiven…healed…delivered… saved…and witnessed miracles! Jesus’ interruptions were opportunities…not inconveniences, frustrations, irritations, or annoyances.
  4. Interruptions can be powerful and can impact you and others in a negative way…or positive way. Interruptions are opportunities. Your life interruptions go beyond your interruption…and beyond you.
  5. Review the above steps on how you can turn your interruptions into opportunities.

Behind the Scenes

When I first saw this flower, I immediately thought about how such a beautiful flower could emerge from such a small narrow crack!

Rose

Because many of us know that a flower will bloom when a seed is planted in the right type of soil…is given the right amount of water…and is exposed to the right amount of sunlight. The “right” conditions are so important for optimal growth.

Some of you avid gardeners out there know this…but I learned this the hard way with my boys a few years ago.

My boys were excited to grow a flower and decided to plant some seeds. We had the soil and sunlight right…but the boys didn’t keep up with the water as they should have and we didn’t see anything emerge from the soil. Unfortunately, we didn’t give the seeds the right conditions to grow. My boys were definitely disappointed but…if anything…certainly a good lesson in learning responsibility!

In examining this flower…we can clearly see that these conditions are also not “right” or optimal for growth.

Think about it for a minute…the soil is buried under heavy concrete cement (and most possibly not nutrient-rich) …the water (a rarity here in AZ) would have to trickle through the jagged cement pieces within the crack…and the sunlight could barely reach the trace amount of exposed soil hidden deep inside the crack.

So how could such a beautiful flower emerge from such a small narrow crack? How possibly could this flower have emerged and bloomed?! Well…Only God.

Only God can create such a beautiful flower from what our eyes could only see unfavorable and from what our minds could only deem impossible.

We see limitations…We see less than optimal surroundings…We see no way.

But what we don’t see…is God… “behind the scenes.”

God is working “behind the scenes.”

He has no limitations…He is the master of “optimal” …and He is the way!

The story of Esther in the Bible is truly amazing and such a great example of God working “behind the scenes.” I highly recommend reading Esther’s story if you have never read it. (Esther 1-10)

What is so fascinating about this book is that Esther is one of the books in the Bible… but it never mentions God at all. God is nowhere named in the book nor are there pronouns or oblique references to Him.

Yet God is working “behind the scenes” and even though His name is not in there…. He is actually on every page! Check out these details and see for yourself.

  • The courage of Vashti to disobey the king and not parade before the lustful, leering eyes of drunken officials.
  • The storm that wrecked Xerxes’ 1200 ships so that Greece could defeat the Persians. Otherwise, Europe would be Asian and not influenced by the laws and democracies of Greece and Rome.
  • The choosing of Esther to be the next Queen of Persia.
  • The care and protection of Mordecai for his orphaned cousin, Esther.
  • The overhearing of the assassination plot and the reporting of it by Mordecai.
  • The recording of the foiling of this assassination plot and the credit given to Mordecai.
  • The “sleepless in Susa” night of the king.
  • The choosing of just the right scroll…the opening to just the right lines about Mordecai’s saving the king.
  • The king’s extending the scepter to receive Esther.
  • Haman’s arriving at just the right time on the morning he went to get permission to hang Mordecai. If he had been ten minutes earlier, Haman would have succeeded and history would be totally different.
  • The wisdom to know how to counteract the original edict that could not be revoked.

God was working “behind the scenes” on behalf of Esther and the Jews and His presence is seen so clearly on every page.

Just as God was working “behind the scenes” to bring forth deliverance for the Jews in the story of Esther…just as He was working “behind the scenes” to bring forth this beautiful flower from a crack…He is also working “behind the scenes” to bring forth His plan and purposes for your life and your current situation.

Do you believe and trust that God is working “behind the scenes” for you?

Our human eyes can only see…our husband’s job loss… our child’s waywardness…our shrinking bank account…our family member’s declining health…our friend’s failing marriage… …answers we simply don’t have.

But God is not limited by what we see…because He sees and knows our very present situation and is working “behind the scenes” on our behalf.

We can be confident that God is working in the circumstances surrounding us. We cannot always see and understand what He is doing…but that doesn’t mean that He is idle. He is working out His plans and His purposes in our lives (and in the world) and nothing…NOTHING…is going to stop Him from completing them.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6 AMP

God working “behind the scenes” is based on our believing…not our seeing.

For we live by faith not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

The phrase “behind the scenes” means “done, maintained, or held out of public view or in secret.”

So when God is working “behind the scenes” …He is “doing” for us out of our view…out of our sight. And that’s why we must believe and trust Him…no matter how bad things may look or be.

In Esther’s story, Mordecai and Esther were so committed to saving God’s people that they actually risked their lives. God works “behind the scenes” for His committed people.

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? Esther 4:14 NLT

Who knows but what in your life you have come to such a time as this?

If we claim to be Christians, then we must also show our commitment and do our part…especially when we can’t see or don’t know what God is doing ‘behind the scenes” …and especially when we can’t see anything happening or changing in our situation!

Pray…Prepare…Practice…and Praise

Keep praying! Bring your requests to Him and pray without ceasing. (1Thess 5:17)

Keep preparing! Study God’s Word and do not depart from it. (Joshua 1:8)

Keep practicing! Please Him with obedience. He will bless you. (John 14:15)

Keep praising! Show gratitude in the midst of it all. He inhabits your praises. (Psalm 22:3)

You may not see it…feel it…know it…or experience it right at this moment…but God is working “behind the scenes” in your life. He is working on your behalf and He will work all things together for your good! (Romans 8:28)

Look at the beautiful flower growing and blooming from the crack…You would never think it could be done based on these less than optimal conditions. But God is working “behind the scenes” …He doesn’t need the “right” conditions or He can just create the “right” conditions…regardless…He is the master of miracles.

He can make the impossible…possible!

Whatever you are facing today…believe and trust that He is working “behind the scenes” for you. He sees…He knows…and He is in control.

Reflection Points:

  1. Do you believe and trust that God is working “behind the scenes” for you? If not, what is getting in the way of you trusting Him? Limitations? Unfavorable conditions? Doubts?
  2. Are you praying…preparing…practicing…and praising Him?

Action Points:

When we stay committed to God and pray without ceasing…prepare by studying God’s Word…practice through our obedience…and praise Him in the midst of our situation, our trust in Him will grow especially when we can’t see anything happening or changing our situation. We can be confident that God is working “behind the scenes” on our behalf. We will see and know that God has no limitations and all things are possible through Him.

Breastplate of Righteousness

Lately my family and I have been enjoying watching Major League Baseball games on TV. No chance of this ever happening with my boys a few years ago but now that they play baseball, they have shown interest in watching the game on TV. With my husband a baseball coach and having been a baseball fan for many years myself, there’s definitely no complaints here!

The one position that always amazes me is the catcher with all his protective gear. He voluntarily places himself in the path of a 95mph fast ball headed right towards his chest and catches it without flinching!

This most certainly is not the case with my boys when they play this position on their little league teams…the catching part I mean…well and of course the 95mph fast ball part too!

I remember the first time I watched my 5-year old little guy Bryce put on these large pieces of catcher’s equipment. Not only was it entertaining but so stinkin’ cute!

He could barely walk…let alone see a baseball coming towards him! Since kids at his age tend to miss so many balls thrown to them behind the plate, they sure get hit a bunch…pitch after pitch…in the chest. Thank goodness for all their protective gear especially the chest plate!

And interestingly, leave it to us women to get into the act of making catching a safer profession! Legend has it that the wife of Detroit Wolverines catcher Charles Bennett devised a chest pad to protect her husband during games. He wore the creation outside his jersey in 1883. Prior to her creation, catchers did not wear chest protectors outside their uniforms.

She clearly saw the potential for injury or may have already seen her husband injured which prompted her to create this protective chest pad. She wanted to protect her husband from getting seriously injured. I can’t blame her. After all, the chest plate protects the most vital organ in our body…the heart.

As women, we may see the need to protect our husband as did Charles Bennett’s wife… and see the need to protect our children with a chest plate in baseball…but what about you?

Now I am not saying you need a chest plate…well unless you play baseball or softball or another sport requiring it. But what are you doing to protect your own heart?

The Bible instructs us to guard our hearts. Why? Because the heart is the inner being of man (and woman). Our emotions and desires dwell in our heart. Our actions flow out of our heart. We do what is in our heart.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 NIV

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…Proverbs 23:7 KJV

So how can we protect (guard) our hearts?

In the Bible, Ephesians 6:10-18 specifically describes a “spiritual” chest plate…the breastplate of righteousness…as one of numerous pieces of protective armor that we as Christians are to put on.

This passage uses the imagery of each piece of armor that Roman soldiers put on to represent each piece of armor we…as Christians…are to put on too.

From the belt of truth to the breastplate of righteousness…from fitting our feet with the gospel of peace to the shield of faith…from the helmet of salvation to the sword of the Spirit…we are to put on these pieces of spiritual protective gear…the armor of God… in order to stand firm and fight against the devil’s schemes. (For more on who the devil is and his schemes, check out my previous blog called Your Daily Armor.)

Just as the chest plate protects the baseball catcher’s heart…so too is the purpose of the breastplate worn by the Roman soldier.

The breastplate of the Roman soldier is actually more elaborate covering the front and back of his chest.

The soldier’s breastplate was made of either bronze or brass, usually brass and started from his neck and went all the way down to his knees. It was composed of two different pieces of metal… one went down the front while the other down the back with the two pieces being held together with brass rings on top of the shoulders.

This breastplate is the heaviest piece of the Roman soldier’s armor weighing 40lbs or more. FYI… In the story of David and Goliath, Goliath’s breastplate actually weighed approximately 125lbs!

In order for the soldier to be able to carry this heavy breastplate, the breastplate had loops or buckles that attached it to the soldier’s thick belt. Thus, the weight of the breastplate was held up by the belt.

NOTE: Keep this picture of the breastplate being held up by the belt in your mind as a very important and interesting point will be made later.

And so just as the breastplate “physically” protects the Roman soldier’s heart…the breastplate of righteousness “spiritually” protects our hearts.

Why is it called a breastplate of righteousness and what does righteousness have to do with protecting our hearts?

Righteousness means being or doing what is right in God’s eyes. God’s commandments are righteousness. (Psalm 119:172)

When Paul compares the armor of God with the armor of a Roman soldier, each piece represents a part of God’s strength that He extends to us when we become His children. The breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Jesus at the cross. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, a “breastplate of righteousness” is issued to each of us. It is specially designed by God to protect our heart from the devil’s evil schemes and deception. Because if the devil has access to our hearts…he will have access to our emotions, desires, and actions.

We are instructed to “put on” this armor…which implies that we do not automatically wear it all the time. Putting on the armor of God requires a decision on our part.

In order to put on the breastplate of righteousness, we must first have the belt of truth firmly in place. Why?

OK…so remember how the Roman soldier’s breastplate of righteousness is held up and in place by his thick belt?

Well so too with the belt of truth in our spiritual armor! The breastplate of righteousness is held up by the belt of truth!

The truth is that when Jesus died on the cross, he made a way for all people to be free from the power of sin.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 NIV

Without the belt of truth, our righteousness will be based upon our own attempts and deeds to impress God. This leads to legalism or self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). Our righteousness would never measure up and is even referred to as “filthy rags!”

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 NIV

We must choose instead to acknowledge that…apart from Christ…we can do nothing (John 15:10). We must see ourselves as “in Christ” and that… regardless of our failures…His righteousness has been credited to our account.
It is God’s righteousness…and not our own…which must serve as our breastplate against the devil and his schemes. And so when the breastplate of righteousness is held up by the belt of truth, we won’t feel burdened by righteousness.

So how do we “put on” this breastplate of righteousness?

By seeking God and His righteousness above everything else. (Matthew 6:33)

By making Him and His ways our dwelling place. (Psalm 91:1)

By delighting in His commands and desiring for His ways to become our ways. (Psalm 37:4; 119:24, 111; Isaiah 61:10)

By obeying and allowing God to work in us when He reveals an area of change to us.

Without the breastplate…a Roman soldier would be asking for death as any attack can instantly become fatal. Without the breastplate of righteousness, we leave ourselves open to death as well.

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 11:4 NASB

Whenever we say “no” to God and “yes” to sin, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through. (Ephesians 6:16) As we wear Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, we begin to develop a purity of heart that translates into actions.

Wearing this breastplate creates a lifestyle of putting into practice what we believe in our hearts.

As our lives become conformed to the image of Christ, our choices become more righteous. And consequently, these Godly choices also protect us from further temptation and deception.

It would be silly for a catcher or a Roman soldier to say they don’t need to wear their protective gear…so why would we as Christians think that we don’t need to put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts…especially when it has been given to us freely?!

Are you using your breastplate of righteousness? It’s never too late to put it on.

Reflection Points:

  1. How are you protecting your heart?
  2. Why is it important for us to protect our hearts?
  3. What does the Bible say about protecting and guarding our hearts?
  4. Did you know that when you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, that you were given a breastplate of righteousness to protect your heart?
  5. How do we “put on” this breastplate of righteousness?

Action Points:

Refer above to the list of ways we can “put on” this breastplate of righteousness.

 

 

 

Soaring on Wings Like Eagles

There are seasons in life when I feel tired…weary…and flat out exhausted. Working a full-time job (in ministry) …balancing my role as a wife and mother (of 2 energetic boys) …and not to mention adding 2 mischievous puppies in the mix (Lord have mercy!) …I can admit I am in a season of weariness.

Not the season I would like to be in when school is just about to let out for my kids. And so while most children are jumping with jubilation (expected of course) this mommy is trying to get a grasp on this quickly approaching summer break!

Have you ever had a season where you feel tired…weary…and flat out exhausted? Maybe you are in one now…like me.

Whether the weariness is from facing challenging circumstances…carrying heavy burdens…pushing through a painful loss or adversity…or just the busyness of life’s changing seasons…we all may find ourselves looking for some sort of boost…energy…and strength.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Yeah…sign me up for that! How about you?!

I have always loved this scripture because it has given me encouragement in times of weariness in my life…and it truly speaks to me right now in my current weary season.

What is so surprising is how many times I have read this verse over and over and over again and never really gave much thought about the symbolism of “soaring on wings like eagles.”

Have you?

Eagles are absolutely fascinating creatures and it’s no wonder why God uses this analogy of renewed strength and eagles in Isaiah 40:31. In fact, there are 33 references to eagles in the Bible.

Eagles are born with big, heavy wings. And part of the survival mechanism they are born with is that they have to learn to fly without actually flapping their wings. Why?

Because eagles can literally die if they expend too much energy flapping their wings during flight. So they have to learn to soar without flapping their wings in order to conserve energy. FYI…Flapping requires 20 times more energy than soaring!

The word soar means “to sail or hover in the air often at a great height; to glide”

So as a result, what eagles have to learn to do  very early on…in order to be able to soar without flapping their wings…is to wait for what are called wind thermals to come up on them.

A wind thermal is a big gust of wind that will rise up from the atmosphere.

As the eagle circles over the middle of a rising thermal, it will spread its wings and soar…allowing the warm air to lift it to heights up to 3 miles above the surface of the earth. Wow! That’s amazing!

By using the powerful strength of the thermal, soaring is accomplished with very little wing-flapping…thus enabling the eagle to conserve energy.

Long-distance migration flights are accomplished by climbing high in a thermal…then gliding downward to catch the next thermal…where the process is repeated.

And interestingly…eagles learn to wait for the thermals to come up on them. Sometimes they will remain perched for days before they can catch a good, strong thermal. Then they can launch onto and combine a mixture of flying and soaring to get them to where they want to go without using much energy. And thus they cover long distances relatively effortlessly.

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. Isaiah 40:31 AMP

I absolutely love the Amplified version of Isaiah 40:31.

You see…just as the eagle learns to wait for the thermal, we too must learn to wait (expect, look, hope) for the Lord.

Because just as it is the thermal that gives the eagle the strength to soar high above…it is the Lord who gives us the strength to soar through and above our challenges, burdens, losses, and changing seasons!

For the faithful there is no failure, and faith knows no weariness. Ellicott’s Commentary

Additionally, the eagle…unlike any other bird…has two sets of eyelids, one of which works like sunglasses.

So when a predator bird is in hot pursuit, the eagle can fly directly into the sun. As soon as the eagle flies into the sun…using its special sunglass eyelids…the enemy bird is blinded by the sun and loses the eagle in the blinding light of the sun! What a tremendous way for the eagle to overcome!

…they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]

And we too can overcome and keep soaring like the eagle when we fly directly to the Son and draw close [mount up] to the light of Jesus!

…the image is derived from the fact that the eagle rises on the most vigorous wing of any bird, and ascends apparently further toward the sun. The figure, therefore, denotes strength and vigor of purpose; strong and manly piety; an elevation above the world; communion with God, and a nearness to his throne – as the eagle ascends toward the sun. Barnes commentary

And so it is when we hope and wait for the Lord…that we will have renewed strength.

[We] will soar on wings like eagles; [We] will run and not grow weary, [We] will walk and not be faint.

Thank you Jesus!

Reflection Points:

  1. Have you ever had a season where you feel tired…weary…and flat out exhausted? Are you in one now?
  2. What is the cause of your weariness? Challenging circumstances…heavy burdens…a painful loss or adversity…or just the busyness of life’s changing seasons?
  3. Where do you seek encouragement and strength? Do you look to God and His Word?
  4. Are you encouraged by the Lord’s symbolism between the eagle and renewed strength? Does this give you a deeper understanding of Isaiah 40:31?

Action Points:

  1. We all have seasons when we may feel tired and weary. Even though it is important to seek encouragement and strength from our family and friends, it is most important that we seek God first and encouragement from His Word. (Matthew 6:33)
  2. God’s word is full of thousands of promises for you and for me! Isaiah 40:31 is only one of many scriptures we can turn to in our times of weariness. And when we dig deeper in God’s Word we can have a greater understanding of analogies and symbolism used by God…like the eagle.
  3. Just as the eagle learns to wait for the thermal, we too must learn to wait (expect, look, hope) for the Lord. Because just as it is the thermal that gives the eagle the strength to soar high above…it is the Lord who gives us the strength to soar through and above our challenges, burdens, losses, and changing seasons.

I Don’t “HAVE” To…I “GET” To!

When I was single I thought I was a pretty selfless person. Then I got married…and I realized how selfish I was.

Just when I began to think I was selfless again…I became a mother. And I realized just how selfish I really was…again!

A simple quick trip to the grocery store just doesn’t happen anymore when you have children of the ages 5 and 7 like my boys…well unless they stay home!

When you are married and especially when you have young children, your time is no longer your own. You can’t just easily jump in the car and meet a friend for coffee or get together with girlfriends for dinner.

You have to plan ahead and many times I find myself having to give my regrets saying something like… “I am sorry I can’t make it because I have to watch my boys that night.”

Not too long ago I read an article that really challenged my attitude and changed my perspective…not just about being a wife and mother but about living my life differently.

And it all stemmed from 3 words… “I have to…”

Now think about it…How often do you say these 3 words?

I have to work…

I have to wake up…

I have to make dinner…

I have to workout…

I have to watch my kids…

I am sure the list can go on and on and on…right?

The words “I have to” tend to create the attitude that what we “have to” do is a burden. But…

What if we don’t have to…but we get to?!

It’s a burden when you have to… but… It’s a blessing when you get to.

You see… the words “have to” conveys a negative attitude. It demonstrates feelings of weightiness, tiredness, being dragged down…more like an obligation. I HAVE to…

The words “get to” conveys a positive attitude. It demonstrates feelings of enthusiasm, excitement, joy…more like anticipation. I GET to…

Think of it like a child going to Disneyland. I can guarantee you that no child will say… “Mommy do I have to go to Disneyland?”

They are more than likely so enthusiastic and restless in anticipation that they shout with excitement… “I get to go to Disneyland!” And it truly is a blessing when you get to go to Disneyland…right? I know…I know a blessing for the kids…but we are talking about changing our attitudes and perspectives right?

A great biblical example of this attitude is seen in the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. To summarize…

Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi. When both of their husbands died in battle, Naomi planned to return to Israel from Moab and encouraged Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah to return to their mothers’ families. Orpah chose to go back to Moab but Ruth instead answered…

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17NIV

Ruth had a choice…She didn’t have to go to Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi but she got to go with her and because of her decision and her attitude…God truly blessed her. God allowed Ruth to remarry and give birth to a son named Obed who became grandfather to King David. Yes! The King David who is in the same lineage as our very own Jesus!

And because of the decision we made in accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior…we don’t have to be a Christian. We get to be a Christian!

What a privilege and honor to be a child of God and get to follow Him!

Do you view your relationship with Jesus as a burden? Even sometimes? Or do you view it as a blessing?

How is your attitude when it comes to pleasing Him and setting time aside to spend with Him? Does it feel like an obligation or an anticipation?

This is where the line gets drawn between having to follow rules and regulations…and getting to enjoy a relationship with Jesus. This is where the line gets drawn between legalism…and love.

Why is this simple change in words so important?

When we begin to change the words we use…our attitudes will change. And when we begin to change our attitudes… our perspective will change. Then our eyes will be more open to see more blessings in our lives…rather than burdens.

It’s a burden when we have to… It’s a blessing when we get to.

We don’t have to pray to God…but we get to pray. What a blessing to communicate freely with God Our Savior!

When you call out to me and come and pray to me, I’ll hear you. Jeremiah 29:12 ISV

We don’t have to study the Bible…but we get to study the Bible. What a blessing to get to know our Creator!

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 NLT

We don’t have to set time aside…but we get to set time aside to spend with our Lord. What a blessing to spend time learning and growing in our faith!

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

We don’t have to go the church…but we get to go to church. What a blessing to get together and be encouraged weekly with other Christians.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 NLT

We don’t have to give…but we get to give to God. What a blessing to sow into God’s Kingdom financially and impact others’ lives for Him!

Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift.] 2 Corinthians 9:7 AMP

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10 NIV

Changing our words…changes our attitude. Changing our attitude…changes our perspective.

I don’t have to go to work…I get to go to work. What a blessing to have a job when there are many who don’t.

I don’t have to work out…I get to work out. What a blessing to be able to exercise when there are many who are physically unable.

And with my new perspective…I no longer have to watch my boys…I get to watch my boys! What a blessing that these little guys have been entrusted to my care and I get to spend time with them before they grow up and prefer to hang out with their friends…rather than their mommy.

Changing our words is certainly not easy but remember we don’t have to do it with our own strength…we get to do with God’s strength!

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4 NASB

My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Reflection Points:

  1. How often do you say “I have to…”?
  2. Do you see how these 3 words convey a negative attitude in comparison to “I get to…”?
  3. Do you view your relationship with Jesus as a burden? Even sometimes? Or do you view it as a blessing?
  4. How is your attitude when it comes to pleasing Him and setting time aside to spend with Him? Does it feel like an obligation or an anticipation?

Action Points:

  1. We all may say that we “have to” do something out of habit and really not thinking about the specific weight that these words may carry. However, the words “have to” conveys a negative attitude. It demonstrates feelings of weightiness, tiredness, being dragged down…more like an obligation. If we replace “have to” with the words “get to” we can see that it conveys a positive attitude. It demonstrates feelings of enthusiasm, excitement, joy…more like anticipation.
  2. Many times Christians know it’s a blessing to have a relationship with Jesus but can sometimes feel burdened by legalism. When our relationship is filled with the attitude of following a bunch of rules and regulations, it can become a burden. We can begin to have feelings of guilt and shame and condemnation.(Romans 8:1) As Christians we should be obedient to God and His Word but it should be out of love and a desire to please our Father…not out of duty or obligation. And then we will be encouraged to see the blessings from our faithfulness.
  3. Changing our words is certainly not easy but remember we don’t have to do it in our own strength…we get to do with God’s strength! Pray and ask God to help you be disciplined with your tongue because there is so much power…positive and negative…in your words. (Proverbs 18:21) The more time you spend with Jesus…learning and growing…the more you fall in love with Him and be blessed to get to spend time with Him. And the less you will feel burdened and obligated that you have to spend time with Him!

 

 

 

 

Power in Focus

Living in AZ we sure get our share of sunshine!

On average there are 299 sunny days per year according to one study. Now that’s a lot of sun! And even though we get hit with some extreme heat in the summer, I am not complaining one bit!

Having 299 sunny days certainly gives me and my boys plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors playing baseball…kickball…basketball…collecting bugs, rocks you name it…and not to mention…trying fun experiments.

Recently my boys and I did one such experiment…burning a hole in a piece of paper using the powerful rays from the hot AZ sun and a magnifying glass. FYI…burning a hole in paper…not burning ants… though the latter appeared to be a much cooler idea to my boys!

Anyone else recall trying this experiment as a child too? Not the ants part…

What’s so cool is that it really works! My boys got real excited when they actually witnessed a burning hole in the paper. The sun rays literally burned (yes fire!) a hole in the paper! (Kids should do this with adult supervision of course.)

And so this simple experiment began to peak my interest as I recognized a great spiritual parallel.

When the rays of the sun passed through the magnifying glass, the lens caused the rays to focus on one spot on the paper. When these rays converged…concentrated…focused on one spot on the paper…there was enough power…energy…and strength to burn a hole.

There was…Power in Focus.

Now when my youngest son didn’t keep his hand as steady on the magnifying glass, the rays of sun no longer focused on one spot and it took much longer to achieve the end result of burning a hole in the paper. Why?

Because all the rays were not focused…some were deflected…distracted…and directed in another direction thus decreasing the power…energy…and strength needed to burn the hole.

Sure sounds a lot like our lives…when we are not focused on Jesus…doesn’t it?

When we are not focused on Jesus…we will be distracted by life’s busyness…deflected by life’s temptations…discouraged by life’s challenges…dejected by life’s worries…directed by life’s problems…and dependent upon our own power, energy, and strength…which never proves to be enough anyway!

Where is your focus today? Is it on Jesus? Our all-powerful Jesus?

There is…Power in Focus. There is…Power in Jesus Focus.

If we focus our eyes…our hearts…our minds on Christ…we most certainly will experience this power in our lives…no matter what tries to distract us…derail us…discourage us…and eventually devour us!

The word “focus” in this context is defined as “to direct, set, fix your attention; to converge, concentrate.”

I love how the scriptures reflect that our focus should be on Christ! Now they do not actually state the word “focus” but instead use such synonymous words as “fix” or “set” to depict this concept of focusing.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:2 NASB

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1 NIV

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, set your minds on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. Hebrews 3:1 BSB

Fixing…setting…focusing our eyes, hearts, and minds on Jesus! There is so much Power in Jesus Focus!

Why is this so important for us?

Whatever we focus on…we give power to.

Good or bad.

If we focus on everything around us and upon us, we give power to everything around us and upon us…we give power to our tough problems…our challenging circumstances…our negative feelings…our unhealthy thoughts…our crazy busyness…everything but Jesus.

If we focus on Jesus, we give Him the power to empower us through the Holy Spirit so that we will have the power to live this Christian life which isn’t always easy!

We will have the power to do what is right…power to say no to temptations…power to forgive…power to guard our hearts…power to control our minds…and power to be disciplined in our relationship with Him.

There is…Power in Jesus Focus.

And there are no limits when you focus on a limitless God!

Just as the rays of sun passing through the magnifying glass is powerful enough to burn a hole in the paper…so too is the Power in Jesus Focus powerful enough to produce miraculous results!

And we can no doubt see that this miraculous power in focus was experienced firsthand by individuals just like you and me in the Bible.

Daniel focused on God while in the lion’s den…not the lions. The miracle? He survived the mouths of these lions! (Daniel 6)

Peter focused on Jesus while stepping onto the water…not the water beneath him. The miracle? Peter (the only human I know) walked on water! (Matthew 14:22-33)

Paul and Silas focused on Jesus while praying and singing worship songs in prison…not the chains that bound them. The miracle? Their chains literally broke off and they were freed! (Acts 16:16-40)

There is great power…miraculous power in this concept of focus…Jesus focus.

What is getting in the way of your focus?

What is distracting you…deflecting you…discouraging…dejecting…directing your focus away from Jesus?

There is Power in Focus. When we focus our eyes, hearts and minds on Jesus, We will have greater power to live as Christians in a world that focuses upon and glorifies everything and everyone…but Jesus!

Reflection Points:

  1. Where is your focus today? Is it on Jesus?
  2. Why is it important for us to fix…set…focus our eyes, hearts, and minds on Jesus?
  3. What is getting in the way of your focus?
  4. What is distracting you…deflecting you…discouraging…dejecting…directing your focus away from Jesus?
  5. Do you see why there is Power in Focus? Especially Jesus Focus?

 

Action Points:

  1. When we are not focused on Jesus…we will be distracted by life’s busyness…deflected by life’s temptations…discouraged by life’s challenges…dejected by life’s worries…directed by life’s problems…and dependent upon our own power, energy, and strength…which never proves to be enough anyway! There is Power in Jesus Focus!
  2. It is important for us to focus on Jesus because whatever we focus on…we give power to. Good or Bad. If we focus on everything around us and upon us, we give power to everything around us and upon us…we give power to our tough problems…our challenging circumstances…our negative feelings…our unhealthy thoughts…our crazy busyness…everything but Jesus. If we focus on Jesus, we give Him the power to empower us through the Holy Spirit so that we will have the power to live this Christian life which isn’t always easy! We will have the power to do what is right…power to say no to temptations…power to forgive…power to guard our hearts…power to control our minds…and power to be disciplined in our relationship with Him.