Be A Lightning Rod

This week someone called me a lightning rod! What!!!!

I remember the lightning rod fastened to the corner of our farm home. Most days, we forgot this skinny unassuming piece of metal existed. Other than the skinny part, I hang around largely unnoticed as well.

But a lightning rod has purpose! It is positioned with function. Don’t we all hope to fulfill our purpose while holding our position and function for God?

Instead of going into detail here, I’ve created a little video for you. God calls each of us to a different position in God’s Kingdom. He equips us with various gifts, both natural and spiritual. But while we are doing the things God calls us to do, I pray we will resemble a lightning rod for God.

Have a blessed week!

I am heading off to the Inscribe Christian Writer’s Conference in Edmonton, and truly looking forward to time with fellow authors, poets, publishers, and illustrators.

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Give Praise to the Lord

Expectation begins to rise when we choose to give praise to the Lord. For every difficulty we face, we have even more reasons to praise God. Many people, including myself, have learned how to spiritually press through humanly insurmountable roadblocks. Some things we continue to contend for in prayer. At other times, we have witnessed doors open before us and bridges form under our feet. Where there previously had been no way through, God made a way.

This isn’t an unusual phenomenon known only by a choice few. Every Christian who consistently prays, seeks God’s direction, and waits for His answers experiences His hand at work in inexplainable ways. Some might mistake it for coincidence. People of faith know their God!

“In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.’ “
Isaiah12:4

In this single verse, the writer encourages us toward action. After looking more closely, I notice the four calls to action: say, praise, proclaim, and make known. Each action rests upon “what he (God) has done.”

May we pause our busy lives for just a moment to consider what God has done within our families, communities, and faith centers.

You Will Say

Whatever we look for, we will find. If we look for good in someone or something, we will discover it. Our attitude either negatively or positively colors our world more than we might realize.

Yesterday, my husband and I shared a bit of what God has been doing in our lives. As we spoke of God’s goodness, those listening were encouraged. Soon others shared what they also see God doing recently. A few shared about things they continue to pray for with faith.

“The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful
than we will ever be able to comprehend.”
– A.W. Tozer

Through Holy Spirit direction, biblical authors encourage us to press beyond silent, heart-felt gratitude to verbalize our praise.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, His love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:1-3

When hearts overflow, praise naturally comes forward. “You will say,” Isaiah wrote. As we speak, thanksgiving and praise activates both within and around us.

Praise

Often the frequent use of a word causes us to overlook the significance of its meaning. “Praise,” or in Hebrew yadah, means to acknowledge, to praise, to give thanks, to confess, or to cast. It represents the act of acknowledging what is right about God through praise and thanksgiving. Yadah’s heavenward recognition is sometimes structured within corporate worship. Often, yadah flows as personal expression.

Someone once said, “Give praise where praise is due!” Good advice, I think.

We should publicly recognize the people and organizations among us who work hard. However, the grandest accolades belong to the LORD. He is worthy of all adoration, honor, glory, and praise.

Praising God doesn’t always come easily. Life’s pressures often weigh heavy on us. We worry. We fret. God knows, understands, and cares deeply for us in the midst of struggle. Perhaps, it is in these times more than any other, that the transformational power of praise really shines the brightest.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalm 42:11

Amidst severe oppression, the psalmist commanded himself to give God praise. He shows us that praise is a decision of the will. As we begin to praise, we welcome God into our circumstances allowing Him to shift spiritual atmospheres within and around us. The enemy quickly loses his position.

Proclaim

The word proclaim comes from the Hebrew, qara, meaning to proclaim an announcement. When we proclaim we make a verbal declaration about something. Proclaiming resembles a flashing message on a neon sign or a broadcast over a loudspeaker. Proclaiming commands everyone to pay attention.

The more we proclaim and declare His active participation in our lives, the more we see His hand at work.

Many and varied opportunities have opened for ministry over the summer — at a Bible camp, in churches, and during a city-wide gathering. In every occasion, I have witnessed God answer prayer at a level I have not seen for many years, if at all. People have powerfully experienced the presence of Holy Spirit moving through healing, deliverance, words of knowledge, and the prophetic.

Jesus quoted these words from Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”
Luke 4:18

Jesus still proclaims good news to the poor. He still proclaims freedom for prisoners. He still gives sight to the blind and sets the oppressed free. Through willing human hands and voices, He moves and speaks.

A great hunger for God is rising in our nation and in the nations around the world. God is on the move! Give praise to the Lord! Proclaim His Name!

Make Known

Isaiah combines two words for “make known.” The first word, yada, means to know, learn, perceive, discern, experience, confess, and consider. It means to be skillful at making something or someone known. I, too, easily forget even the good things God does around me.

One of the practical ways, I stir up my memory is through journaling, or keeping a record, about how I’ve seen God move in my life and in the lives of others for whom I have been praying. I want to remember! Somehow, writing things down helps to solidify them in my memory and improves my recall of them in the future.

Isaiah calls us to skillfully “make known among the nations what he has done.” At no other time in the history of mankind has this been so easy to do. Whether in person or through the internet, we have opportunity to converse with people of all nationalities. The fluid movement of people from one nation to another creates a wellspring of opportunity to make Jesus known among the nations.

In the prayer tent during a praise gathering, we had the privilege of making God known to peoples from First Nations communities and many immigrant nations. What an honor! Give praise to the Lord for what He is doing. Today, people groups from virtually every nation are being reached with the Gospel.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Hebrews 13:15

Fruit of our Lips

As we give praise to the Lord, it becomes the fruit of our lips. Sweet, nourishing, and enjoyable!

In every season, may we each “through Jesus . . . continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.”

Let’s take a few moments to acknowledge God’s goodness. Let the answers to prayers already received build anticipation for those yet to come. He hears our every cry and holds every prayer precious. He is not slow to come to our aid. His ways and timing are perfect.

Through prayer or songs may the atmosphere of our homes radiate with worship. May today be a “that day” moment when . . .

“In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.’ “
Isaiah 12:4

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Pass the Tests – A Lesson From Nehemiah

What thoughts do you associate with tests? Are they fear-filled or hopeful? How can we prepare to pass the tests life throws our way? Writing this blog became a test when my website crashed midway through preparation!

Nehemiah teaches us how to pass the tests, even when they come in unexpected ways. Each test presented a different range of problems he overcame as he consistently moved toward his goal.

We, too, will face challenges and hurdles as we press toward all God has for us, testing our character, commitment, and courage.

Nehemiah began his journey the best way possible through prayer.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah had received news that the walls and gates of Jerusalem lay in piles of burnt rubble. Deeply distressed, he sought God’s direction and intervention. Unprotected, vulnerable, and open to enemy attack, the people he loved were in the worst possible position.

Serving under the king’s authority, Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem.

Test of Motive

It didn’t take long for Nehemiah’s enemies to push back. Whenever we attempt to serve God, we will experience similar opposition. Three men, in particular, faced off against Nehemiah — Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.

” . . . they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing? . . . Are you rebelling against the king?'” Nehemiah 2:19

Their attacks against Nehemiah aimed deep. Verbal arrows pointed at his motivation, judging him as rebellious.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.'”
Nehemiah 2:20

Some people may delight in questioning our motives — even publicly.

Without anything to fear, this test offers a perfect opportunity to expose our true motive for the Lord’s examination. With the king’s orders in his hand, Nehemiah knew their empty claims were groundless.

Test of Ability

When Nehemiah passed his first test, his enemies became even more aggressive.

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing. Will they restore their wall . . . offer sacrifices . . . finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?'”
Nehemiah 4:1-2

Our inner critic echoes similar questions. Will you? Can you?

Nehemiah wasted no time defending himself. He knew the task far exceeded human ability. The test of ability drove Nehemiah to his knees before God, asking Him to turn the enemies’ insults back upon them.

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” Nehemiah 4:6

As a result, God protected the hearts of the workers. With hearts completely dedicated and trusting in God, all things are possible. Ability with heart will take anyone anywhere God leads.

Test of Courage

To pass the tests of motive and ability Nehemiah and his team consistently focused on the goal. Immediately, the troubling trio enlisted the assistance of Arabs, Ammonites and the people of Ashdod — increasing the troops of opposition.

“They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.”
Nehemiah 4:8

Nehemiah faced the threatening declarations of war in the same way he withstood every test — through prayer. The mission conceived in prayer continued in prayer. Prayer formed a solid foundation for effective, continued ministry.

“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
Nehemiah 4:9

Little by little, a wall began to rise from the rubble. The warrior-builders proceeded with “swords, spears, and bows” strapped to their sides (4:13).

Test of Dedication

As the work continued unabated, the trio attempted to lead Nehemiah into yet another trap. Without a leader, the work would surely stop.

” . . . Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
Nehemiah 6:2

No matter how persistent, we must never “meet together” with the enemy at Ono or anywhere else! Four times they sent the same message. Four times Nehemiah refused (6:4).

“I sent messengers to them with this reply” ‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?'”
Nehemiah 6:3

Distraction and failure to recognize the significance of a task may become the greatest obstacles to reaching any goal.

In the fifth attempt the enemy added even more lies and intimadation “trying to frighten us” (6:9). Again, Nehemiah prayed.

Taking everything to God in prayer will strategically lead us to victory. We may consider our mission minor compared to what God asked Nehemiah to do, but whatever our mission, may we face every test with determination and dedication. The smallest actions may prove to have the greatest impact in the Kingdom of God.

Test of Reliance

One final test of reliance awaited Nehemiah, when a false prophet attempted to entice Nehemiah to protect himself.

” . . . Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you — by night they are coming to kill you.”
Nehemiah 6:10

Nehemiah trusted God alone as his protection. Self-protection placed above the call to shield his people would be nothing short of sin!

“But I said, ‘Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!'”
Nehemiah 6:11

Even here, Nehemiah would pass the tests with character, commitment, and courage. As servant leader, Nehemiah set the example by placing the needs of the vulnerable above his own.

Passing the Test

By the grace of God, they completed a humanly impossible task in fifty-two days (6:15). Nehemiah trusted in God, leading the people to accomplish God’s desire for Jerusalem.

What is our calling? What mission has God placed before us? Is it raising our families, teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a small home group? Perhaps, it is boldly living our faith in the marketplace.

May the testing of our motives, ability, courage, dedication, and reliance show a depth of character, a commitment to God, and an unwavering courage in the face of opposition. From here forward, may we learn from Nehemiah’s success and emulate his consistency in prayer. Whatever God calls us to, He will equip us for. There is no shortage with our God!

“Lord make us bold for the task. Give us ears to clearly hear your direction. Grant us a steadfast heart to serve You. Through You, we pick up spiritual weapons in one hand and tools to build your Kingdom in the other. We turn our whole hearts to follow You.”

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How to Discern God’s Will

We daily face decisions — big and small. Should we wait or go? Which direction should we take? Can we even discern God’s will for our lives?

We’ve all asked these questions at one time or another. Have you ever wished handwriting would appear on the wall to remove all doubt? I have! God usually chooses more subtle means to answer us, however. He desires that we clearly sense His direction and move within the epicentre of His blessing.

Paul encourages the new believers in Rome with these words:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

I find a few significant details here:

  1. The world cannot offer the answers we need.
  2. We should seek spiritual transformation and a renewed mind.
  3. We can discern, “test and approve,” God’s will.
  4. God’s will for us is perfect!

Be Transformed

Rather than offer a few gentle suggestions, Paul commands his listeners to change mindsets and heart attitudes — “do not conform … be transformed!” Bombardment by culturally and politically motivated thinking has become our daily norm. It infiltrates our schools, blasts through media, and asserts itself through authoritative voices.

However, the world’s views differ greatly from God’s all-knowing perspective. We choose whether to flow along the broad stream of cultural thought or look within the pages of God’s inspired Word, the Bible, for needed answers.

“Transformed” comes from the same Greek word we translate metamorphasis — the transition of a caterpillar into a butterfly. I call the process of spiritual transformation the “messy middle” between salvation and Heaven. It is the real living out of our daily lives.

Transformation requires changed patterns of living which are every bit as radical as a caterpillar’s crawling on the ground one week and the butterfly’s effortless wafting between flowers the next.

Transformational renewing comes through time spent reading and meditating on the Bible, seeking God in prayer, and trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Test and Approve

As we look to God in these ways, we will discover the answer to many of our questions have already been clearly written for us. Other things aren’t quite so evident, however. How do we test and approve God’s will when there is no chapter and verse answers available?

I’ve found these three basic questions helpful:

First, “Is this God’s plan?” The source of inspiration will either come from ourselves, the enemy trying to lead us off course, or God directing us into His perfect will. If any aspect contradicts Scripture, we confidently know it isn’t God’s plan. God seeks to advance and promote His people, but if we sense a push for money over people, or the desire for self-glory rather than God being glorified, we again have the assurance it isn’t God’s plan.

Second, “Is this God’s plan for me?” Maybe, we tested the idea and proved it to be God’s good plan, but is it God’s plan for me? He actually might desire someone else to fulfill His plan, even though we earnestly want to step into it. It may even feel like a perfect fit for us. Yet if we lack the internal peace to proceed, God might be intending someone else to fulfill it.

Finally, “Is this God’s plan for now?” Maybe, the hesitation we sense comes from God, holding us back until we are better equipped or other circumstances are strategically moved into place. Other times, we recognize a window of opportunity opening for a brief period of time, requiring an immediate, “Yes, Lord!” on our part.

The “not now” feeling has always been the hardest for me to wrangle with. When I sense God’s leading, I want to run with it. Testing and approving God’s plan also includes evaluating the timing.

Beautiful, Satisfying, and Perfect

As we discern God’s will, we discover His wonderful plans for us. The Passion Translation records Romans 12:2 like this:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”

The power to discern God’s will leads to a “beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes.” Wow! Isn’t that what we all long for?

God doesn’t promise painfree ease. His plans for us include something more beautiful, more satisfying, and more perfect than we can imagine. As we consistently endeavor to discern God’s will, we will experience these qualities in ever increasing measure.

Discern God’s Will

Am I being inwardly “transformed by the Holy Spirit?” Have I experienced a “total reformation” of thinking? Am I developing an increased ability to discern God’s will for my life? How about you?

Let us commit together to daily read and meditate on God’s Word, being transformed in our thinking and renewed in our minds. May we resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to influence our viewpoints, while revealing the motivations of our hearts.

As we face decisions may we honestly answer three simple questions:

  1. Is this God’s plan?
  2. Is this God’s plan for me?
  3. Is this God’s plan for now?

When we discern God’s will, may we all have the boldness to step into His beautiful, satisfying, and perfect will. Bless you as you continue on your adventure to discern, test, and approve His perfectly perfect will!

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The Middle of the Camp — What Centers My Life?

What centers my life? What anchors me through different seasons? We all center daily tasks and assignments around priorities. What are mine?

As I read Numbers chapter 2, God reminded me how He specifically ordained the order of how the tribes of Israel were to camp. Whether they stayed for a night or for an entire year, a consistent pattern was established for setting up camp.

“The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.”
Numbers 2:2

I envision their family tents positioned with their doors opening towards the epicenter of the camp. Every morning when they began a new day, the first thing they saw was the Tabernacle where God’s Presence rested among them.

There God stayed at the core of all activities, social functions, and worship. What a beautiful image!

The Center

The word center often refers to a noun — a person, place, or thing. What person, place or thing occupies the core of my activities? I desire it to be God, but is He?

I understand the mutual struggles we face. The pressures of parenting and providing for our families demands immediate attention and time. Probably, the most tangible way to honor God comes through faithfully caring for the practical needs of those close to us.

But even within the Israelite camp, grouped by families, every face turned towards God’s tabernacle.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
Deuteronomy 5:6-7

When God alone is the center, the Person we worship, the place we look to, and the main component in our lives, everything else will move in synchronized harmony.

Is it God who centers our lives?

The Central Point

Our hearts fill the central position of our physical bodies — protected by skeletal structure and muscles. From this central point the whole body is nourished and sustained. When the heart functions well, the entire body benefits. The same holds true for our spiritual well being.

I find it a constant battle to keep God as my central point. External demands constantly pull and pressure me to relinguish this prime location to lesser things.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
Psalm 28:7

God helps us form practical ways to bring Him to the center.

  • Daily routine of Bible reading and prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and direction. (For me, the best time is first thing in the morning, before the rush hits!)
  • Accountability! When my time is under a lot of pressure, I ask others to pray for and check in on me. They hold me accountable to keep God first when time is stretched thin or when disappointments and discouragements drain me.
  • Mentorship has been one of the key things to help keep me on track. Whether I am mentoring others or being mentored, mutual benefits produce the desired consistency.
  • The example of other more recent giants in the faith also inspire me to pursue a centered lifestyle.

Keeping God as the central point requires intentional effort — an effort that pays spiritual dividends. But I ask again, “What centers my life?”

Centered

Whether used as a noun, adjective, or verb, God fulfills each application of the word center. Even as the camp moved from one place to another, they centered themselves around God.

“Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place . . . ”
Numbers 2:17

God never sits stagnantly by! He goes with us. Or more accurately, we go with Him.

From the center He directed the camp with a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day.

Are our homes centered around God? Do we pray together. Do we read, watch, and listen to God-honoring entertainment? Are our homes open and available for God to use for the encouraging of His body, the building of His church, and the advancing of His Kingdom?

Is my business or occupation centered around God? Do I ask God for His strategies and ideas to build and expand my business? How well do I live my faith in the marketplace with honesty and integrity? Am I committed to praying for those I work with and for? Do I consistently tithe from the returns?

Do I welcome God as part of recreation and relaxation, or do I confine Him to church and formal worship?

The Question

When I honestly answer these questions and more, I discover what centers my life? Then I can lift God to His rightful place. Adjustments might be necessary. Realignment may be needed in one or more areas.

God speaks to us today as clearly as He spoke to His displaced people wandering through that harsh wilderness environment. He invites us to include Him in every aspect of our lives, repositioning Him to become central to everything we are and do.

God will never abandon us. He fills us with His Presence, instructs us through His Word, and guides us with His loving hand. When we center Him over our lives, boldness and confidence mark our steps. He comes along side, helping us and giving us the capacity to live well in community and to thrive wherever He plants us.

What about you? What effective ways have you discovered to live a God-centered life?

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“What if?” — Two Words Can Change A Life

What if something as small as two words could change the trajectory of your life, improve your relationships, bring increased joy and renew purpose. Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but honestly, I’m not.

Twelve years ago, my husband and I refused to retire and chose to repurpose our lives instead. We shifted from business owners to working for paychecks and shedding the load of business responsibilities. Then just five years ago God interrupted our pleasant lives with what seemed like an impossible proposition. There was a sudden urgency to publish a “children’s” book.

Others encouraged me. However, the pressures of full time work, ministry obigations, and family life squeezed the majority of my time and energy. Eventually, I resigned from work to give writing and publishing complete focus. After jumping into the deep waters of unknown outcomes, persevering through disappointments, frustrations, and many tears, Olivia & Me was published in 2017.

What a journey! It was like running a marathon without training. Whether stubbornness, frugality, or simply the quest to learn, determination ultimately pushed me into the diverse and “techy” processes involved in website development, writing, formating, book design for interior copy, graphic design for covers, coordinating with printers, and forming marketing strategies.

Now just five years later, the eighth book, Great and Awesome God is in the publishing queue. When we are willing to give God our “Yes, Lord!” anything is possible!

“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

Stumbling

Honestly, stumbles and trips still occur almost daily. Even now, I struggle to overcome many obstacles — some internal and others external. But “what if” my roadblocks became highways to success.

These two little words are capable of changing anyone’s perception, even mine!

We all know the voice of our internal critic.

  • You are not enough!
  • Nobody will buy these.
  • You will make a fool of yourself.
  • This is nothing but a waste of money.
  • You have no training for this.

However loud your harassing voice, we all have the ability to silence it.

  • What if God is enough!
  • And what if people buy them and are encouraged?
  • What if others grow spiritually, even if at times I might look foolish?
  • Or what if the money spent becomes an investment into the eternal futures of people?
  • What if I seek training, engage in writer’s groups for support, and God does fill in the gaps with His wisdom and the help of others?

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.'”
Luke 18:27

These two little words exceed any positive thinking strategy. They open a heart and mind to trust God for His possibilities worked in and through our lives. The only thing we have to offer Him is a segment of our time and limited resources.

Possibilities

Although creativity infused my life in a multitude of ways and I had once played around with oil paints, my inner critic told me (in no uncertain terms) I could not illustrate a book. After my husband bought $350 worth of watercolor paints and supplies for me, I cried, absolutely convinced it was a waste.

One step at a time, God led me like a little child to create color charts by blending one color with another and to watch numerous online tutorials.

Alone one day, when no one could watch me fail, I sat with a broken HB2 pencil and began to sketch the image of a baby. To my astonishment, a beautiful face began to appear on the paper! What if this was possible, thoughts broke through the inner voice of condemnation. What if God is all I need . . . and more!

These two little words, “what if,” transformed my pessimistic mindset to one of God possibility.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Ephesians 3:20

There Is More

We all face daily challenges.

As covid restricted personal contact with people, my confidence took a nose dive — especially in the area of markteting. In person meetings gave people opportunity to see me, hear the message, and develop trust. On line, however, seemed cold, detached, and artificial. To propel me through the challenges, God connected me to Christian Book Academy, where I found support, prayer, and strategic tools.

What familiar chant does your critic play through your thoughts, pointing out roadblocks and limitations. It may be saying something like:

  • Your marriage is doomed to fail.
  • Your business is about to collapse.
  • You will never survive that blunder.

And more and more . . .

Last week God encouraged me to make a list of critical and negative thought patterns. Then with a stroke of the pen, He led me to create a different outcome beginning with “What if . . .” What if God works through us to establish a beautiful, healthy marriage? What if this downturn is actually for a longterm benefit? With God, even my greatest mistakes become what if possibilities for character develop and lessons learned.

“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:21-22

Faith Rising

This may sound foolish, but by the end of the exercise, I was high-fiving, fist-pumping, and cheering in triumph around my living room. (Fortunately, there were no cameras present!) God strengthened my faith, blowing the lid off perceived limitations.

Everything becomes possible with God on our team!

I would encourage you to make your own list. Then give God room to fill in the “what if” over your situations, relationships, businesses, dreams, and desires.

I pray that by sharing my simple experience you will find courage to transform negative thinking into God thoughts over your life. May you have faith to believe in God possibilities. What if your roadblocks are God’s highways to something great? What if your difficult season propels you something better than you could imagine?

May we al give ourselves permission to believe the “what if” thoughts of God!

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Rules Matter! Run to Win the Prize

Rules matter, guiding every area of life. Competitors must run according to the rules in order to win a prize. In far too many competitions, someone becomes exposed for breaking the rules in an attempt to reach the top of the podium. Why is twisting and bending any or all regulations so common — not just in athletics but in every aspect of life? Whether in sports, politics, business, or even ministry, people willingly risk disqualification or loss of reputation to attain perceived goals.

“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Here, Paul lays out strategic guidelines for success for virtually any area of life. Rules matter!

Know Your Lane

Whether in baseball, motor sports, swimming or track events, each participant runs within an assigned position or designated lane. Lanes ensure safety for the competitors and fairness in the competition.

What lane has God called you to run in? Is it within business or finance? Maybe your lane focuses on caring for and loving your family or community well. Is it shepherding a church? Or perhaps teaching or writing? Are you running in your designated lane?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

God calls each one of us according to His perfect purpose and design for us. He equips and empowers us to fulfill specific roles. When we know and intentionally run in the lane God has called us to, our lives become exciting and fulfilled.

Whether you a professional dragster or an elementary school sprinter, knowing your lane determines your starting position and the course ahead! If you are unsure which position God has called you to run, ask Him for clarity and allow Him to show you.

Rules matter. The most important rule is staying within the lane God provides.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Discipline and Self-Control

We will all start the race at some point, but too few will complete it. Perhaps, a lack of self-discipline or self-control hinders us from staying the course. Whatever the goal or purpose, these qualities will help successfully carry us from start to finish.

A good start doesn’t guarantee a great finish! Sacrifice marks the road to victory. Just as rules matter, so does character.

“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3

Though not a contest, entering God’s “race” comes with a physicaly, emotionaly, and often financial cost. However as we run our race, we experience many benefits. God brings out the best in us, deepening our character.

Titus lists qualifying characteristics of those who lead the pack:

“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
Titus 1:8

These attributes form the personal character needed for a great finish to any race we begin.

Oh, my fellow runners, let’s not slow our pace or deviate from our course. May we remain faithful to run with perseverance, character, and hope.

Champion Others

The race we run resembles a relay or a marathon more than a solo sprint. Others run with and beside us. Still more will follow in our footsteps.

As we devote ourselves to run our race, may we champion others — encouraging, training, and developing those co-laboring with us.

We have opportunity daily to choose whether to wear the mantle of encourager or that of a critic. May any encouragement be sincere and all critqueing be given with humility, inspiring listeners to press beyond their expectations.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2

May we refuse to look over our shoulders, judging others for running in a different manner than we would. Criticism inevitably causes us to lose personal momentum, veer off track, or even break godly guidelines of good stewardship of gifts and resources. Rules matter!

What strategies for success can we pass on? How can we help someone else meet and surpass their goals? What tools, resources, or influence can we share?

May we humbly and willingly both receive and pass on the baton of encouragement, creating a synergy of wins.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Through the days, weeks, and years of training, a competitor strains toward the goal, the highest prize possible— the top mark, the highest rank.

Every earthly award will eventually break or lose its luster. In a few short weeks or years, it will fade into insignificance.

As Christians, we run or compete, not for human recognition, but to finish the course God has set before us. Everything will pale in comparison to hearing the King of Glory say,

” . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .”
Matthew 25:23

Let us not become distracted. Rules matter! Staying the course matters! Character matters! Passing the baton and keeping focus matters, too. But maintaining sight of eternity guides us along a straight and purposeful path “heavenward.”

Run Well

Maybe you feel like you have tripped up too badly to continue. Today, I encourage you to restart and refocus. No matter how tragic your fall, with God’s help, restart. Move back into your lane and step-by-step aim for the finish line.

None of us know how much time we have left to run. Today, God offers us a fresh start and a new opportunity to gain ground. He is the God of second chances.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . “
Ephesians 5:15-16

You can do it! God is on your side, while forerunners in heaven and on earth cheer you on!

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Spring is Here Signalling a New Generation of Growth

Spring is Here!

Everyone from the far north announces when spring is here. Snow melts; puddles appear. Even the muddy messiness is a welcome reprieve. Preparation by gardeners and farmers began months ago. Proud growers splatter social media with images of seedlings flourishing under growlights lights and in greenhouses.

Most people look forward to spring. Maybe not the muddy part, but certainly the clean, fresh, green part! We watch and listen for the return of waterfowl and songbirds, building nests and laying eggs. We google over sprigs of green bravely emerging from the cold, once barren, earth. Spring brings promise.

Spring comes slowly only to leave quickly, followed by the steady rhythm of other seasons.

See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.”
Song of Songs 2:11-13

Solomon never endured the lengthy, frigid winters we do. Yet, he welcomed spring with a song, “Winter is over! Spring is here!” He relished the sights, sounds, and aromas of the season of awakening and fresh starts.

Fresh Start

God often refers to autumn and spring rains as refreshing and rejuvenating the earth. The spring rain carried a promise of future harvest.

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.”
Joel 2:23-24

Spring symbolizes new beginnings. Those fresh sprouts of green will eventually produce a harvest. In the Bible, an overflow of grain, new wine, and oil speaks of abundance flowing from fresh starts and new beginnings. Each symbolic, not just of earth and soil, but people with soul coming into spiritual overflow.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-14

Can you feel it? God’s promise of abundance and blessing?

The Patience of Spring

All us dirt-between-the-fingers gardeners know that to plant a seed or see a fresh sprout rising from the dust doesn’t mean harvest has arrived. Spring may be here, but harvest follows much later.

The sower plants with patient expectation. The patience of spring represents another more important waiting.

“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

Just as the spring rains cause the dead sprigs to burst into life, spring announces the promised return of Jesus Christ. When He comes, death will forever be cast aside as He breathes fullness of life into His own.

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
James 5:7

Farmers know we need more than just a few spring showers to produce a harvest. Timely summer rains bring the crops through to completion. But, no rain carries as much significance and promise as the early spring rain.

Ask for Rain

The patience of waiting partners with fully trusting in the Lord’s provision. The sower plants, waits, and seeks God for the increase. Within patience flows asking — asking God to provide His rain at strategic times.

Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.”
Zechariah 10:1

Spring follows winter as surely as day follows night. But God encourages us to ask for His showers of blessings. Zechariah reminds us to be bold in our asking God for the full provision of spring.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry gournd; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

God remembers we are made from dust. We forget what a dry thirsty people we become apart from the constant “showers” of the Spirit. The spring rain points us to Holy Spirit being poured out on humanity — on us and our children — saturating and reviving all that has grown cold and barren.

Faithfulness

More than anything else, spring reminds us of God’s faithfulness. We might easily forget in the cold, dark night of winter, but as the sun rises higher and higher warming the land and restoring life, we remember again that God is faithful.

“Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The LORD will indeed give what is good and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”
Psalm 85:11-13

As wars and corruption flood the earth, throwing nations and peoples into uproar, God’s reminder that spring is here brings hope. As we lift our gaze to Him, we remember His faithfulness, seeking a greater outpouring of His Spirit. Even when justice and righteousness seem distant, God is faithful!

The muck and mud always gives way to beauty. God’s righteousness will always prevail, preparing the way for intervention in our lives and in our world, until His ultimate return to gather the real harvest.

Spring signals a new generation of growth. Look down enough to avoid the muck and mud, but keep looking up to God who is forever faithful!

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The Names of God

The Names of God reveal His nature and character. With each disclosure of His Name, God reveals something unique about Himself. In this way, we discover how to relate to Him and others and a life-giving manner.

As we meditate upon His Names, we discover more about who we are by design, how to maintain healthy relationships with others, and how to live fulfilled and exciting lives.

I have created a few resources to help you meditate more on the power of God’s Name and the qualities of His character. This is only a beginning, but it is a start.

Click on any of the icons below for your free downloads. Use them yourself or even print copies for your family or church group. Enjoy!

Infographic

Infographics display in point form the main points of a topic. “Knowing God” illustrates the five main benefits to studying His Names.

Bookmark

All readers, young and old, need bookmarks. Grab crayons, markers, watercolor pencils, or whatever other writing tool you design and personalize your bookmark.

Coloring Page

I find that turning on the artistic side of my brain quickly reduces stress and helps me jump back into “work mode” with greater enthusiasm. Studies show that coloring actually improves brain function and improves motor skills.

Take full liberty to print off a sampling of new coloring pages I am working, focusing on the Names of God. Copyright is reserved. Please don’t altar image in any way or sell to others. Free to you, freely pass it on. Woohoo!

Other

If you feel like going deeper, check out this recent post which may inspire you. Or perhaps you may be interested in watching sermon on two of God’s Names — The Lord my Shepherd and the Lord Who Makes us Holy. You can grab that HERE!

When God Says, “No” Keep Going

What is your tendency when God says, “No?” You created a wonderful plan, have the resources to implement it, and all doors appear to be open. Will you trash the idea and go a different direction? Will you press on, pursuing your goal at any cost?

I have a stash of seemingly great ideas! Or at least, I think they are great. Actually, some may even be God-inspired ideas. Even godly people with fantastic God-given ideas hit roadblocks. I find the proof in the Word of God, the Bible.

King David came up with an excellent idea to build a permanent place for the Ark of God.

“After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.'”
1 Chronicles 17:1

Wow, David! Great idea! Build a place for God’s Presence. David confided with others who also thought it was a good idea.

“Nathan replied to David, ‘Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.'”
1 Chronicles 17:2

But God disagreed.

When God says, “No”

“‘Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.”
1 Chronicles 17:4

Good plan! Wrong man!

Honestly, it hurts to not be chosen, overlooked for a position, or have a creative idea only to have someone else fulfill it. This brings back painful memories of being chosen last for a sports team or not at all in a group as a child. It also includes being disqualified for a desired position or facing the rejection of others as an adult.

God’s “no” meant He had something permanently better for David.

God basically said, “David, thank you for wanting to build a house for me. Actually, I’m going to build a lasting house for you.”

God loves flipping things around and turning things for the good. No matter what we attempt to do for God, He comes back with a bigger, better blessing for us. It may not be immediate, but it is guaranteed.

Solomon, David’s son, became the immediate fulfillment, but Jesus ultimately completed it.

“. . . I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him . . .”
1 Chronicles 17:11-13

Praise

David’s response might seem difficult; he rested in God’s answer.

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD.”
1 Chronicles 17:16

David wasted no time and energy in self-loathing or questioning. He sat, resting in God’s Presence. Praise flowed from the position of rest.

“There is no one like you, LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”
1 Chronicles 17:20

I love this attitude! When God says, “No” to us, will we become distracted from fixed focus on Him? Or will our hearts be fully devoted to give Him praise? In the posture of adoration, David humbly received the blessing God promised.

“And now, LORD, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised.”
1 Chronicles 17:23

Without dispute, David accepted the closed door with grace and dignity. When we are willing to receive from God both the pleasant and the difficult, we demonstrate quiet trust and confidence in Him.

Prepare

David picked the exact place to build the tabernacle. Interestingly enough, the place marked the spot of David’s greatest failure but quickest turning back to God.

Then David said, ‘The house of the LORD God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
1 Chronicles 22:1

Insecurity might cause some people to place stumbling blocks in the path of their successors. Confident assurance, however, leads others to level the way, giving all who follow the greatest advantage and full opportunity to achieve their calling. When God says, “No,” we quickly discover internal motivations.

When we examine David’s responses, we find him to be a true gem! He

  • Appoints stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and craftsmen (1 Chronicles 22:2,15-16)
  • Provides large amounts of iron, bronze, cedar, gold, and silver (1 Chronicles 22:3-4,14)
  • Designs the specific plans (1 Chronicles 22:5)
  • Orders Solomon to carry it out (1 Chronicles 22:6)
  • Clearly declares God’s intention over Solomon’s life (1 Chronicles 22:7-11)
  • Prays a declaration of blessing and transfer over Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:11-13)
  • Appoints leaders to assist Solomon ( 1 Chronicles 22:17)

Who wouldn’t benefit from such extensive support? This list causes me to examine how I could better help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams. When we put God first and others ahead of ourselves, we discover may creative ways to motivate and encourage.

Peace

Many of us might be tempted to quit when we run into set backs — get off the road, park the bus (or car or eighteen-wheeler), and find a quiet beach somewhere to do nothing. Bad idea!

God reminded David of his successes — a fearless warrior leader, bringing peace and rest for his nation. None of it was accomplished through striving. Complacency didn’t bring it to completion either.

But now, God needed a leader of peace and rest to do the future great work of building the temple.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side . . . I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name.”
1 Chronicles 22:9-10

God has given each of us a specific place and purpose. Sadly, I believe too many of us carry a large portion of our God-given destiny to the grave unfulfilled. How many talents and years are wasted wishing we had someone else’s call or gifts.

Freedom comes from trusting God to help us do all He has called us to do.

Promote

David did everything humanly possible to ensure Solomon’s success, not just because the idea to build a temple was a good idea, but He desired God to be glorified through it.

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.”
1 Chronicles 22:19

Who’s name do I promote? God’s or my own?

When God says, “No” let us confidently promote Him, remembering everything is for His glory. We can do nothing apart from Him. We accomplish everything (even the smallest things) through His grace and goodness. Every point of success results from His blessing in our lives.

David affirms his son, Solomon and the importance of the work ahead. He calls him to give God pre-eminence in everything. Then God’s Name would be exalted.

When God says, “No,” let us each remember that His closed door for us might be the wide open door someone else is waiting for. We prefer when He throws opens those doors wide and gives us the go ahead signal. But today, David’s example helps us to keep on going, doing what we can, when we can, how we can.

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