Life Lessons as God Guides Our Steps

Some lessons are learned by walking them. I had retired and had plans to get so many things accomplished. God had other plans. He knew I had some healing to do and he provided the space for that. But then, I got stuck. I had spent so many years rushing that once I set down to rest, I just stayed there. I knew this was not good, so I took a part-time job. I planned to be out around others, being more social, which can be a challenge for this introvert, and to learn a lot of new things. God must have chuckled at those plans because I find myself often spending 90% of my time in the office alone. The first few weeks, I learned a lot, but then the job became pretty routine. The need to stretch my mind is rare. But God did provide a lot of time to think. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that God knew I was going to get stuck and he just wanted to get me moving again. He is teaching me to value the flexibility of retirement but to apply the same structure and discipline I had during my working years at perhaps just a bit less frantic pace. While he left me free to choose the path he would use to teach me this lesson, he provided the lesson all the same.

God really is interested in every detail of our lives. If you look up the word here for directs is means orders or established. God brings a sense of order to the decisions we make, even if you sometimes tend to ping or be a bit random as I can. Sometimes it just takes a little nudge, other times we need a shove to get going in the right direction.

When we read that God directs our steps, this is not as in laying out a road and commanding we walk only on a single path. His direction is more of a goal than individual steps, and he moves us steadily in that direction by moving things out of our way that might trip us or allowing other events, even though they may be difficult, to remain in our path. His guidance will grow our character and our faith too if we acknowledge His hand on our lives.

David is writing this Psalm, and he’s speaking from experience. He’s writing about the preservation of the life of one who delights in the Lord because he has had first-hand experience of God showing up and preserving his life.

He’s the boy who was chosen least likely to be anointed king by his father and his brothers but was anointed king. Why? Because God was looking at his heart and liked what he saw, a young boy, who trusted in him.

He’s the boy who threw off man’s protection of oversized armor, facing a seemingly invincible giant with his faith and a slingshot along with a healthy dose of indignation that his countrymen were allowing their God to be insulted.

He’s a young man, on the run from a king and his army learning how to be a king. Trusting God for provision and finding it again and again.

Put It Into Action

As you lean into this verse this week ask yourself:

  • In what difficult circumstances of your life have you seen God provide for you?
  • Where do you sense God’s pleasure as you walk through life?
  • Where do you think God may be re-directing your path?
  • Can you think of small things in your life where God has shown up?
  • Proverbs 16:9 says We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. What does this verse mean to you in light of this week’s verse?
  • Proverbs 149:11 remind’s us that the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him. Those who put their hope in his unfailing love. The fear spoken of is a healthy respect. How does this influence your path?

Father, we are so thankful that no detail of our lives is too small for your attention. You care about the little things as well as the large. We also thank you both for the freedom to make our own choices and your gentle or even not so gentle redirection when it’s called for.

I know that you want what’s best for us, and because you created us, you know what delights us, and you provide for our fulfillment. Because we can be so short-sighted sometimes God, we thank you for using your infinite knowledge to keep us safe, prepare us for the path ahead and pointing us in a direction that is good for us when we get off track. Help us tune our hearts to hear your voice.

The NLT Bible translation is used for all verses quoted here.

The Illusion of Control

As a woman who often believes she’s got control of her own life, it sometimes takes a peek into someone else’s life to drive home the truth. I read an article this week.  It was about young women who are not ready to have children, but who are concerned that at some future date they may desire children and find that the window of fertility has passed. So, they freeze their eggs. It wasn’t the egg freezing or even the ticking of the biological clock that got my attention, but quotes from the women. Here’s one that’s typical.

“The process, she said, “is a way for you to feel like you’re in control of your life, at least at the time you are doing it.”

Who hasn’t been down that path of thinking? We all have moments when we think we can wrangle control of our own lives, direct our destinies. But that is nothing but an illusion. And furthermore, it’s foolish.

The Challenge

I Peter1:14

I think one of the difficult things in a walk of faith is to let go of the control. Sure, we have dreams, but to walk in faith, we must hold those dreams and plans loosely and allow God to guide. We are kidding ourselves if we think we can make better decisions than God. Peter tells us that letting go in obedience is a key indicator of a changed life.

Because God loves us so much, he plans what’s best for us. Now I know from personal experience, that it doesn’t always feel that way when you are in the thick of it. But what I have learned about God’s nature, and my faith tells me it’s true. And as I’ve walked this path of Christ-following, I’m finally starting to figure out that life is a lot easier if I let go of my plans when it’s clear that God has something else in mind.

As I read on in the article, I noted that at least one of the egg freezing facilities had suffered from a power outage rendering the eggs non-viable. Women were suing. Now, I get that.  They went through a great deal of discomfort and paid a lot of money to store up those eggs for later use. I’ve invested in plans too. I’ve had those plans fall flat. I’ve railed at the disappointment I felt and pleaded my case.

As I throw a hissy fit, God is willing to listen to my disappointment. When I’ve exhausted the emotional storm, he points to his crucified son and asks “Are you ready to trust?” I see many examples in scripture where he patiently listened, but then he has the expectation that we will put the rant behind us and get lined up with his plans for us.

As I throw a hissy fit, God is willing to listen to my disappointment. When I've exhausted the emotional storm, he points to his crucified son and asks, Are you willing to trust? #steepedintheword #averseaday Click To Tweet

That’s as good a segway as any to the verses for September, reminders of the illusion of control and the power in letting go of that illusion.

Verses for September:

Week 1

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.    1 Peter 1:14 (NLT)

Week 2

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23

Week 3

He determines the number of the stars and calls them by name. Psalm 147:4

Week 4

Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he’s made crooked. Ecclesiastes 7:13

Week 5

Now all glory to God, who is able through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

And Now…

Won’t you join me this month as we spend time examining our desire for control and our need to turn it over to the only one who is worthy?

Father, help us to recognize the power of filtering all our dreams and plans through your hands. We want to trust you to keep those that are good for us and discard those that will harm us. We want to hang onto you as life throws the hard stuff at us, rather than trying to hang onto control. We know that you have the power, the wisdom and the love to handle not only our dreams but the emotions that go with them. I’m so glad you see a bigger picture than we do. Help us to trust your love as we walk forward together.

Test the Promise

Diet plans are a dime a dozen. We read about them, we hear about them, and if we want to lose weight, we try them. How do we decide what to try? Speaking for myself, I try what I believe will work. I take the first steps to test the promise. Once I see a change in my body, I’m more likely to stick with the plan and share the plan with others.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 (NLT)

James is pointing out to us that if we really believe God’s word, we will put it into action! The proof of our belief is by our action. Now I know, we don’t find salvation by our own actions. However, if we truly believe in the power of God and the principles he lays out for living our lives in his word, then we will test the promise by implementing what we read.

James said earlier in this chapter that we should lay aside the sinful living that we had before our encounter with Christ. Any void must be filled with something. James suggests that we fill the void in our lives with obedience. God’s word is powerful.  When we allow the word to reveal our sin and then live by the instructions the word gives, our lives will be powerfully changed. But, if we refuse to see our sin, or we don’t implement a new, obedient way of living as our sin is revealed, then there really is no power in reading or even memorizing God’s word.

Today my pastor talked about the rich young ruler and his encounter with Jesus. This young man was not really open to change. He asked Jesus, “what should I do” but when he heard, he was unwilling to change. He was not willing to look inside himself and decide that change would give him what he sought. So, he went away sad. It really is sad, because he had just encountered the true answer to what he said he was seeking. He’d met a man who would fulfill his promise.

If I have discovered the ultimate diet plan, but I continue to overeat daily, enjoying all sorts of sweet, rich and salty foods, then the diet plan is worthless.

I have discovered the ultimate plan for changing my life, exchanging the old way for a life that is called abundant by God. But I have to do more than just read about it, I have to grab hold and live it!

This week I pray that you will allow the word to reveal in you the change God desires. Then friend, live what you are reading and learning from God’s word. That is where you will find the power!

Put It Into Action
  • Are you willing to test the promises of God’s word by putting them into action?
  • Are you letting go of sin and filling that void with living according to Biblical principles?
  • Are you seeing God’s power in your life?

If you don’t see God’s power just now, hang on! Not all change is instantaneous. In fact, most lasting change is not! Sometimes you have to step back a bit from the situation to see the change God brought about. If you find yourself here, then I’m praying with you!

Father, help us to bravely test your promises. Give us the courage to make lasting change in our lives. To let go of our sin and ask for your help to live out your word. I believe you can change us. Help us cooperate with your holy spirit and continue to learn from your word as you transform us into women who enjoy abundant life!

 

 

 

The Book That Can Change Your Life!

If you are like most people, you would like to change your life. For the better of course! Did you know that in 2016 the U.S. self-help market* was worth 9.9 billion dollars? Self-improvement books are an 800 million dollar business. These markets are growing. We all have things we want to change. Sometimes, we are so desperate, we will try anything!

Nothing in my life, short of salvation, has changed me like God’s word. The word causes me to look deeply into my life and seek change. The word gives me hope when my heart is broken. The word gives me wisdom when I’m clueless or have a plan in mind that probably will not end well. The word gives me words when I don’t have words and prayers when I desperately need them, but can only organize my thoughts to repeat, “please God!” over and over.

Hebrews

The overarching theme of Hebrews “God has spoken”! The author makes a case for just how powerful the speaker and the speech is. He also points out that although our powerful God once spoke through profits, Jesus was God, right here with us speaking with the same power, demonstrating for us that we could all understand God’s word and experience change from that word.

In this verse, we learn that God’s word will reveal our innermost thoughts and desires, basically, all the bad stuff we hate to admit even enters our lives. But we can not hide from the word of God, it’s able to get down deep and effect powerful change.  Referenced here is a verse from Jeremiah 23:29

Does not my word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?

God tells us he will refine us like fire. One of the tools of our refinement is his Word.

Here’s a lesson I have learned. When the word convicts, pay attention. God is lighting a fire that needs your attention. As we are refined, we develop beautiful lives. Not beauty as the word defines, but beauty as God defines. God is relentless. He loves you and will pursue you until you address what the word reveals. Sometimes, I’m willing to change almost anything except what needs changing when what I need to do is stay in the Word, listen as God speaks to my heart, and then get serious about taking my direction from the creator of the universe rather than the latest self-help author.

What about you? Where do you look for advice concerning the changes that need to be made in your life?

As you ponder this verse ask yourself:
  • Am I willing to cooperate with God to expose and correct my sin?
  • When I read God’s word, is there a repeated theme that strikes me about the way I’m living my life?
  • Am I willing to work with God in rooting this sin out of my life?

Father, I pray that as we read and think about your word we will allow it to unveil our sin. I ask that you give us willing hearts and determined minds to cooperate with the change you would like to see in us. Grow us up into women who are mature Christ-followers determined to allow your refining word to do the work in us rather than turning to other resources.

* (John LaRosa, Research Director of Market Data LTD)

5 Memory Tips Straight from God’s Word

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)

“You are constantly biting your nails! You need to learn to stop it.” Those were the words of my mother. Was I biting my nails constantly? No, of course not. But I was biting them frequently and it was a habit that needed to change. Eventually, I kicked that habit.

Habits are hard. Hard to break and hard to form when it’s a change that needs to be made.

What’s your habit with God’s word? Do you study it daily? Do you commit the words to memory, or as some may say, to heart? Do you spend time letting the word roll around in your mind as you seek to understand and apply it? I will confess, I’ve been guilty at times of a quick “morning fix” and moving on. But I’ve learned that I don’t change much with that approach and changing this sin hard heart is my goal!

Joshua is addressing the people of Israel just as they are about to cross out of the desert where they had wandered for 40 years and cross into the land of promise. A lot of things were about to change. Old habits would be no more and new habits would form to take their place. No more daily manna, they were entering the land of milk and honey and would harvest the food that would be eaten daily. No more pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They would have to learn new ways of keeping the Lord foremost in their minds. Just as God had provided for 40 years in the wilderness he was providing now. The instructions were to study those words, those instructions, those laws that God provided to guide them in the new life they were about to enjoy.

Joshua goes on to say that only then if you keep God’s word continually before you will you prosper and succeed in all you do. If you read on, they didn’t. And the outcome was not so great! The word translated here as meditate is best represented by the concept of pondering the word.

Take a look at Deuteronomy 6:7-9 “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  These are the words of Moses.

So here’s the deal. We are supposed to have God’s word constantly before us if we want to stay in his will. I was thinking too, that the instructions Moses gives are really some great memorization tips.

  • Repeat them again and again.
  • Teach them to your children.
  • Talk about them with those you come into contact with throughout the day.
  • Stick them up where you will see them.
  • Write them on your hands and your foreheads if need be!

I’m sure you have seen the pictures of Jewish men with little boxes tied to thier heads or arms. But here’s what I’m thinking. Do they even know what’s in those boxes? I hope so! I really don’t plan to go around with a box tied to me. And that is really not going to help me remember God’s words. However, if I put that verse on my phone, on note cards on the table beside the chair I like to sit in, on a sticky note on my mirror and computer monitor, well, then I’m getting somewhere!

Learning from the mistakes of others is a relatively painless way to learn. Won’t you join me as I make it a daily habit to ponder God’s word?

Learning from the mistakes of others is a relatively painless way to learn. Won't you join me as I make it a daily habit to ponder God's word? #Memorizetheword #averseaday #steepedintheword Click To Tweet

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The First and Final Word

He spoke the universe into being. The first word! Then, he sent his Son, to have the final word. This month we are going to concentrate on the Word of God.  I have decided that if I’m going to focus on what God says in his word, then it might be a good idea to also see what God has to say about his word. We will look at many of the things God tells us his word is and does.

From my study, I find there are two different Greek words for God’s word used. The first use is Logos. This is the word we will study for week 1. The second is hagah. The verb hagah means to ponder or look internally. This is really what happens when we study God’s word, and I’ve discovered, that’s exactly what God wants us to do.

Here’s the list, then we will look further at the verse for Week 32 which is this first week of August.

Week 1

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1 (NLT)

Week 2

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)

Week 3

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 (NLT)

Week 4

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  James 1:22 (NLT)

Digging Deeper

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1 (NLT)

God created the world. This is Logos. Logos expresses an idea that gains concrete expression. Jesus is the Logos in that he is the final word in God’s redemption story. He shows us God in physical form, much like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit hovered over the deep and spoke, logos again, the world into being.

For years as I read John 1:1 it confused me. I was thinking Word…as in human words. But clearly, God’s word is nothing like human words. As I’ve studied the concept of God’s words I’ve learned that the word is many things: Here are just a few:

  • Truth
  • Powerful
  • Eternal
  • A Shield of Protection
  • Trustworthy
  • Wise
  • Life-giving/Salvation/Life Changing
  • With us

And then there is the list of things we are told to do with God’s word.

  • Believe it
  • Obey it
  • Teach it
  • Delight in it
  • Meditate upon it
  • Trust it

If you skip on down to John 1:14, John goes on to say:  “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” This is Logos again, and that word translated as home, means tent, as in the tabernacle that was also filled with God’s glory! God always ties everything up so neatly. He had the first word, and he will have the last.

If that doesn’t make you want to spend time in God’s word, I can’t imagine what will! Won’t you join me this week as we meditate on God’s mighty word so that we can gain the benefits it offers?

Here’s a printable version of this month’s verses. I hope you will print these out or write them down or both so that you can spend some time pondering these verses.

Memory Tip

Try setting an alarm to remind you to ponder your verse this week. If your life is like mine, I get busy and forget things. An alarm makes me take a few minutes to refocus.

Fearless Joy – Path to Freedom

She lived a life of fearless joy.  After years of fighting, cancer finally ended her life on earth. But what a legacy from one who lived life with joy in the face of daily pain! She feared nothing, not even cancer that sucker punched her at least twice.  She danced through life with a joy that was contagious. I know she is dancing now on the streets of heaven, greeted with what we all long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In this Psalm, David is still on the run from the enemies trying to take his life. But he knows when he cries out to God he is heard and he trusts that the protection of God surrounds him. This brought freedom. Freedom to a man on the run and hiding in the hills. It is no coincidence that a man who trusted God in this way was called a man after God’s own heart.

But he knows when he cries out to God he is heard and he trusts that the protection ofGod surrounds him. This brought freedom. #averseaweek #memorizetheword Click To Tweet

Do you ever wonder, what would happen if we cried out to the Lord in our distress? Have you tried it? I have. Sadly, not as often as I should, but when I did I heard the soft whisper in my heart, “trust me” and as I trusted, my distress faded. I need a reminder that when the worry and distress of life threaten to choke me off, I need to cry out to God and then trust He’s got it! Committing this verse to memory is a good reminder for me. I’m making that promise part of who I am.

I wonder, do you need to cry out and then trust? I know my friend did, and it brought her pure joy! As I was thinking about a fitting memorial for her, it hit me! I need to live that joy-filled life! I can think of no better memorial.

Freedom to Choose Love Over Rules

I find it terribly freeing to not be caught up in a list of rules. I will memorize the rules, but then after a while, I just can’t do it! There is something in me that rebels against the constraint. Many of the old testament rules really were created by God to show how powerless we are to overcome sin in our lives. There are things in my life that demonstrate this truth. Take, for example, my many attempts to diet. I learn the rules, I commit to faithfully abiding by the rules, and I do for a while, but then as time passes I just feel backed up against an impossible standard! I want freedom from the rules!

In this verse, Paul is talking about how the Christ-follower has been set free from rule-following. Instead of being governed by a list of rules and by the dictates of man, we are instead governed by a greater principle, that is love.

Love, on the other hand, is not tied to rules. You live in the moment. You ask yourself, what is the most loving thing I can do, then you do it! Sometimes, giving up our freedom, because it is the loving thing to do is a choice we are compelled to make. But, we are free to choose to do the loving thing.

Jesus made choices like this all the time. Healing on the Sabbath, eating with tax collectors, forgiving sins. Freedom is not the easy way out. It’s the opportunity to step up to the plate and truly love one another!

When we accept Christ we are guided by the spirit living in us. The spirit will not condone satisfying our sinful nature. Sure, we can refuse to listen to the Spirit’s guidance and just do as we please sin and all, but then we aren’t really allowing Christ to be lord or ruler of our lives.

We are compelled as Christ-followers to go even further. We use our freedom to serve one another because love is the greatest commandment right? (Matthew 22:37-40)

This week let’s break a few rules as we use our freedom to demonstrate love!

 

 

No Longer Condemned

No condemnation. I’ve needed that message for a long time, and chances are I’ll need it again. I’ve been sensitive to criticism my entire life. I’ve endured a lot of it. The criticism has not only come from others but sometimes my self-talk is pretty condemning too, but I’m trying to change that! I grew up in a family that was pretty harsh with words. I thought this was normal until I was a grown woman. Continue reading “No Longer Condemned”

What Freedom Provides

This last week I pondered my freedom a great deal. I want to see my freedom as God sees it. Not from a cultural view or from my own selfish perspective.

In this portion of the gospel of John, Jesus makes the argument that a slave can never have security. Even a beloved slave can be sold. Once an owner dies, the slave is available to be purchased by another owner. Only a family member has the security of freedom. Continue reading “What Freedom Provides”