A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

As I look back, I realize more than ever how often a few seconds can change a life. I am still learning the art of using my time wisely by valuing the days, moments, and even seconds God has given to me. The results, or fruit, of these moments become the seeds that influence many other moments of our lives.

I have often told others, “I can not afford to have one negative thought toward anyone.” Why? Because the thought I harbor will influence my actions, my actions will form patterns of behavior, and those patterns will ultimately dictate the course of my life.

Does this sound too dramatic or overstated? Perhaps, but not likely!

God continues to challenge me with the reality of making the most of this moment of time — to reevaluate and refocus.

Procrastination

Procrastination robs us of any future reward for present effort. It deceives us into believing we have unlimited time to do the things we know we should do, and to think the way we know we should think. In the deception, we are hindered from moving forward.

“I know I should forgive, but …” “I should invest in that relationship, but …” “I shouldn’t think this way, but …”

We muse, buried in excuses and self-absorption — unmoved and unchanged. It’s a sad representation of far too many lives.

In a Few Seconds

In a few seconds, we have the power to change both our thoughts and actions.

  • “There’s nothing I can do about it,” can become “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”
  • “Someone else will do a better job of that,” can become “I may not be the best, but I can make a difference.”
  • “It’s not my problem,” can become “Whether I’m the source of the problem or not, I am responsible to do my part.”
  • “I tried, but nothing changed,” can become “This relationship means too much to quit now. I will do everything I can to bring change.”

These changes of attitude demonstrate single moment re-thinks capable of transforming the lives of more people than we realize. A few seconds can change a life. Even mine!

The Seeds of Change

What is it today? What is God asking us to do right now? Les Parrott speaks of six impulses that keep us from improving:

  • Giving up before trying … because we feel helpless.
  • Shunning a challenge … because it seems daunting.
  • Settling for the statue quo … because we lack vision.
  • Shirking responsibility … because its easier to shift blame.
  • Doing the bare minimum … because that is all that’s expected.
  • Avoiding taking action … because we fear failure.

We don’t need to lose momentum, robbed of time and opportunity. By God’s grace, we can move beyond limitations into a lifestyle of wise time management. A few seconds can change a life!

May we be bold, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas which are keeping us from living to our full potential. We have all faced similar challenges.

Truth to Hold on To

Instead of focusing on the problem, God offers us living truth:

  • We are not helpless!

 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”
Romans 8:26

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:5

  • I will do my best in every situation.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

  • God defines me, not failure!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life

Let’s take a few seconds to consider these truths God declares about us — seconds that may change our lives. Hopefully, these seeds of change will produce the fruit of change in others.

“Lord Jesus, show me the paralysing lies that keep me from transformational change. May the truth You declare about me become stronger than the belief systems that have bound me. May I use the time You have given me wisely, bringing life, love, and hope to others. May I accomplish the full purpose and design You have declared for me. Today, Lord, I turn from wasted moments. I know that what You have ahead of me is greater than I can imagine. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”

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Choosing a Course Reset for the New Year

Choosing a Course Reset for the New Year

Today offers the perfect time to evaluate the past and choose a course reset for the upcoming year, intentionally seeking God’s direction. Of course, we continuously allow the Holy Spirit to monitor our progress and bring adjustments. But there is something significant about stopping, evaluating, and turning to God for wisdom ahead.

I never want to crawl out of season exhausted, dragging myself into a new one without a clear compass point from God. God’s wisdom never fails to lead us into unexpected and exciting futures. We may not see all the bumps and hurdles ahead, but He does. We don’t know what opportunities may open as He prepares the way. How much waste of time and resources might we avoid by turning to Him in advance?

Let Go

The first step in the process is to let go. Who hasn’t used a shopping cart with one worn or stuck wheel? It takes so much more effort to keep from running over innocent children or into stocked shelves. That worn cart pulls us in directions we never intend on going.

There are things we’ve tried to steer through this past season that are just as worn out as that shopping cart. Once useful, they now pull us and others into dangerous territory. Let’s recognize the right time to let go of anything unnecessary in order to embrace whatever new thing God has waiting. Then, we won’t stumble behind worn out “carts” that drag us around.

“We all stumble in many ways.”
James 3:2

I like that word “all.” We keep company with the best of people in our stumbling. Acknowledge any mistakes or failures made by ourselves or others. Then, let’s quickly forgive both us and them. It’s time to let go and leave every hindrance behind. We can’t afford to justify or legitimize carting them into a new season.

Like that worn out shopping cart, some things will keep us from following a straight and purposeful course ahead.

Apply

James offers insight on how to daily apply the principles of God’s Word. He speaks directly to another problem we “all” tend to encounter.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says … But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:25

There was only one Person who obeyed God completely. His name was Jesus. The rest of us are works in progress.

Of course this type of reset occurs daily as we meditate on and study God’s “perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it.” How much more important is it as we end an old season to seek God’s Word for direction?

We all want to experience the full freedom and blessing of God plans for us in the season ahead. So, let’s lay aside our own agendas and pick up the faithful wisdom of God.

Just as we all stumble in many ways, we each stumble in a few predictable ways. But God desires freedom and blessing for us — especially in the greatest areas of our struggle. A course reset may be the turning point from merely listening to confidently walking.

Seek Wisdom

Wisdom stands as a key element in choosing the right course reset.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
James 3:13

We may glean insight from knowledgeable people spattering the next trendy “plan” across the internet or from “how-to” books lining the store shelves. But true wisdom comes from God. Wisdom that supercedes all time and place bears the evidence of His divine counsel.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
James 3:17

Seeking God’s wisdom never fails to produce positive results. He promises to lovingly guide us into whatever may await.

Jealous Love

I meditated for awhile on the next passage from James.

“… The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us.”
James 4:5 TPT

James gives us the best reason to purposefully set aside time with God for a course reset. The Holy Spirit relentlessly pursues us. He takes it personally when we turn from Him to pursue friendship with the world systems.

Culture influences us far more than we realize, causing us to adopt ways of thinking and doing that are contrary to God’s. When we welcome Holy Spirit into our course reset, we give our greatest Lover opportunity to draw us closer to Himself — realigning our hearts with His.

Surrounded by His love, every course correction becomes easy.

Course Reset

I sense this as a personal challenge — a challenge I share with you — to designate time, focused prayer, and thought to where, or who, we desire to be in a year from now. Let’s give God room to speak into and give new direction to our lives. Let’s worship, pray, and read God’s Word, asking Him to guide the season ahead.

You might want to journal what He says through Bible verses or through God-inspired, God-directed thoughts. Then create a way to highlight those Scripture verses and key words as a reminder in the time ahead.

(Hint: I often need to be reminded of the good things God speaks over my life. So, I post them in a prominent place over my desk or create a bookmark to use in my daily reading. As an artist, I often turn His counsel into an painting, giving His words visible life.)

Change usually occurs gradually and with effort. God commits Himself to helping us as we step into new areas, ministries, business endeavors, or seasons.

Let’s celebrate every success — large or small! May we confidently and boldly choose a course reset as we let go of the things that would steer us off course, apply God’s Word to our personal lives, seek His wisdom, and fall in love with Him all over again.

Blessings my friends! May this be our greatest season yet!

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Becoming — Reaching for Purpose and Meaning

Becoming — Reaching for Purpose and Meaning

Whether we acknowledge it or not, each one of us is reaching for some kind of purpose and meaning behind our existence. We all subconsciously ask, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” We all want our lives to matter.

Recently, I had the tremendous privilege of talking with a group of young adults. They are living centre in the age of pursuit. Some attended university. Other entrepreneurs had begun new businesses. Yet others pursued relationships they hoped would lead to life-long commitment and fulfillment.

One of the young men asked me, “Who do you want to be like?” He explained that keeping someone we desired to emulate in our focus would help us change our lives for the better.

I surprised him with me answer. “I want to be like me. No one in all the world carries the potential to be me. So, I aim to be fully me — the idea God had in mind when He first thought of me.”

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2

At first glance, my answer sounds arrogant. But two things have incited the greatest transformation in my life. The first is coming to know God more fully. As I grow to know Him and His heart better, even in the smallest ways, my desire increases to live a reflection of who He is. The second pursues to discover the unique creation God had in mind when He formed me.

Knowing God

Human minds will never comprehend the immensity of glorious God. He is too awesome, too wonderful, too magnificent, too glorious … for us to understand. Yet, He desires to be known. He looks for those curious enough to seek Him.

“‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the might man glory in his might. Nor let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this. That he understands and knows Me. That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-23 NKJV

God makes Himself clearly visible to those hungry to know Him.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
Romans 1:18-20

As we read the Bible, we find these recurring words, “So you may know that I am your God.” I brought you out of bondage so that you may know. It was Me who healed your bodies so that you may know. I gave you this land and established you so that you may know. I continuously make Myself known to you. He is a mystery. Yet, He reveals Himself to us.

The First Steps

So, the first steps come through an awareness of knowing God’s character through His love, faithfulness, grace, and goodness. God awareness inspires so to reach for genuine purpose and meaning. All true purpose and meaning are found in Christ.

We were created in God’s image for divine purpose and meaning. The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes concluded that all the opulence the world could offer stands meaningless in comparison.

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
‘Everything is meaningless!’ …
Now all has been heard;
hear is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.”

Ecclesiastes 12:8,13

Are there powerful and successful men and women worth emulating? Yes, of course. Paul invited others, to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But the greatest One to emulate and imitate is God Himself. As we do, we will find ultimate purpose and calling.

The Second Steps

To walk out the second steps in fulfilling our purpose and calling requires us to discover God’s personal plan for our lives — our God-given identity. However, we can’t turn to biblical reference points for this.

Of all the billions of people only you can be you. You, and I, owe it to God and to each other to be that one. God had his best idea when He created you. No matter how far off that path you may feel you have wandered, you will forever be God’s good idea.

So, who am I? Who are you? Not the present you or me! But the you and me God had in mind before the creation of the world. And yes, He thought of us even then!

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

As we walk in relationship with Christ and in obedience to Holy Spirit, we begin to see ourselves through His eyes. As we live with and through Him, He begins to reveal things about ourselves we previously didn’t understand or even know.

It is in His Presence that we become — that we reach our full purpose and meaning. The divine Architect slowly reveals His plans. With each passing season, He desires us to discover a freedom in being and a fulfillment in living. Giftings and passions slowly rise to the surface.

You Fit

We weren’t created for the world, so we will never “fit” in it. But the skin we live in will begin to fit and form around the image He created us to be the closer we walk with Him. Our full purpose comes with eternal design.

As we begin to live with eternity in mind, we will automatically fulfill our earthly calling. This short life stands as a mere preparation for the eternal one to come. Our lives are too short to waste by imitating even the best people around us.

May we each see God in previously unrealized dimensions. May we also grasp in a fuller way, all He designed us to be. Then may we set our hearts to fully reach our God-given purpose and meaning.

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.
Philippians 3:12-13

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Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

An embroiderer weaves the thread looking at the good side everyone will see, but flipping the beautiful project over reveals an ugly side. On the good side, symmetry and order create an attractive design. On the opposite side, the ugly side, threads criss-cross in weird angles and knots hang limp.

Illustrations of the good-side-ugly-side of things are revealed in innumerable ways around us.

Instinctively, we all try to hide our ugly side, even pretending only the good side exists. Jesus consistently flipped over pretty facades to reveal hidden uglies underneath. He wasn’t, and isn’t, sadistic, taking pleasure in tormenting or humiliated people.

Jesus purposefully flipped and turned, looking for those responsive to His teaching and drawing the humble to maturity and order.

The true masters of needlework produce artful pieces, beautiful on both sides. Although I tried, I never reached that level of excellence.

Good or Ugly?

At times, we may be quick to form opinions and cast judgments. The good side might not be as good as we first think. The ugly side might not be as bad as we think, either.

John the Baptist called people to repent in preparation for Jesus’ coming. Tax collectors and sinners, the ugly side of society, responded to his ministry. The religious elite held fast to a different view.

“(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”
Luke 7:29-30

Those who fought to maintain a strict appearance of looking good ended up nullifying everything — even God’s divine purpose for their lives. Strutting in distinguishing robes and high hats to fit their high heads, they failed to realize the cost of their unyielding pride.

When the good-side people rejected John’s call to acknowledge their bad side and turn their lives around, they forfeited all God had waiting for them.

This Generation

Jesus spoke directly to His generation. They dismissed the invitation to turn — to humbly admit their ugly side, so He could bring out the good side. No one could twist His meaning for some future time, although similarities would exist for every generation.

“Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?”
Luke 7:31

Jesus broadens His focus beyond a limited group of religious leaders to “this generation.” All of us!

What He reveals isn’t pretty! The more we attempt to hide our ugly side, the uglier it becomes. The longer we wait, the greater the mess we create in and around ourselves.

The Ugly Side

How ugly is the ugly side? Downright ugly! Immature, idle, stage-seeking, groupy ugly! Ouch! Truth stings!

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.'”
Luke 7:32

What would Jesus say about me? Forget about brushing this indictment off to others. If Jesus flipped me over publicly, what would He find, and others see?

Where are the areas in my life where I childishly resist taking responsibility — where my attitude or behavior exhibits immaturity? Am I idly “sitting” around when there is Kingdom work to do? Do I seek a platform to be heard or a spotlight of attention? Do I expect others to adjust to my command to “dance” or “mourn?”

As I read this passage this morning, I knew God wanted my full attention. Maybe, He desires to speak to you as well, but I’m just sharing about a little flipping Jesus is doing right here with me.

The Good Side

Even as I felt the pain of my ugly side being exposed, I heard God’s sweet voice of grace inviting me to the good side — the beautiful side displaying His creative hand at work. Again, I felt His nudge to harmonize my life with His good, I mean really good, purpose and plan.

May you hear and feel Him too. May you sense Him drawing you from childish ways into maturity, taking you by the hand, lifting you to our feet, and mobilizing you to a place of fulfillment. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone, including you and me, to miss out!

Jesus gently draws us away from the crowds and distractions of business and busyness — away from conforming to like-minded, going-no-where thinkers. Instead of setting our own pace and demanding others march to the beat of our personal drum, He welcomes us to the good side.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . “
2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Point of View

Honestly, it is okay if Jesus or others point to my ugly side. By His grace, He continues to take that ugly old side, with warped and knotted ends, and recreates it into a beautiful design no one could imagine. Through Him, even my ugly becomes new!

Oh, may we not resist His perfecting touch! May we each look into the mirror of His doing and see the miracle of the “good side” — His new creation worked in us.

May the tune of our song align with His truth:

“The old is gone!
The new is here!
All this is from God!”

Oh, sing it saints! Sing it again and again until it settles in your soul. Sing it mature, active, humble followers of Jesus. Don’t try to hide your ugly side from God or others, but let the world see your truly good side.

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The Word of God – Cutting a Straight Line!

The Word of God

Where I live in Saskatchewan, highways run straighter than an arrow shot on a calm day. They are a good illustration of how the Word of God is able to “cut” a straight line, preparing us for better things.

In contrast, Guatemalan roads are scariest I have ever been on. They twist their way upward in snakelike fashion. When our van going down met a truck coming up, we barely stayed our course, scraping adjacent mirrors with the oncoming vehicle. The rocky outer edge of the road gave way under the weight of the tires. I was thankful for the darkness of night that hid the true depth of the precipice beside us.

Mountains of Guatemala

Cut a Straight Line

Straight is what Paul was describing to Timothy.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who does not need to be ashamed
and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15

This term “correctly handles” literally means “to cut straight, to cut a straight road, or to keep a straight course.” We need the Word of God to accomplish that!

It reminds me of another verse referring to the Bible,

“For the word of God is alive and powerful.
It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword,
cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.
It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
Hebrews 4:12

Sword of the Spirit - The Word of God

The word of God is alive and powerful! It is sharp, cutting deep and cutting straight.

Separating “soul and spirit, joint and marrow, as well as thoughts and desires” is precision work. God has been using His word as a cutting tool in my life continually.

My life will appear to be flowing smoothly, until I hear his voice, “MaryAnn come closer.”

He is calling me to separation. God’s Word does the cutting and revealing; it is up to me to do the separating.

Separation

At the sound of his voice, He creates the dividing line, the straight path, for each of us to walk unashamed, acceptable, and pleasing to Him.

It may be separation from

  • entertainment choices
  • from time wasters
  • an occupation or specific workplace
  • a relationship
  • a dream or preconceived notion of what I think my life should look like

Bible - Separation and Preparation

God’s word does the cutting! I have opportunity to choose the way of separation! Separation unto Him! He never forces such separation upon us. It is a beautiful invitation for something better!

Preparation

In reality, separation is the path, the straight road, of preparation.

Abraham was called to leave his home and family and go to some unknown place, before God allowed him to be the father of many nations. Moses spent 40 years in the desert to prepare him for his leadership over the people of Israel. Elijah spent time in isolation by a brook being fed by ravens to prepare him for Mount Carmel and the prophets of Baal. David lived in caves for 15 years on the run from King Saul before sitting on the throne.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit,
left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
Luke 4:1

Separation is never easy! It comes at a price!

The bible makes it clear! Preparation for the work of God requires some degree of separation. The greater the ministry call, the greater the invitation of separation to prepare for what is ahead.

Many people want the honour of ministry! Few welcome the process of preparation!

“Those who cleanse themselves…
will be instruments for special purposes,
made holy, useful to the Master and
prepared to do any good work.”
2 Timothy 2:21

Special Purposes

God is calling every one of us to His special purposes! He is purposefully preparing us for His good work! Separation always has a wonderful purpose and design! When the preparation is finally over and we step into His special purposes, we will all nod our heads in agreement, “It was worth it!”

Cut for special purposes!

God is faithful to cut the straight path. We follow, trusting the course He has marked for us.

We rest in the process knowing the beginning is His! The outcome is also His!

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More Good Reading!

Answer the Call – Responding Immediately, “Yes, Lord!”