Goal

We set various goals for our lives; for example, for our health, our finances, our careers, and our relationships, including the most important relationship of our lives – the relationship we have with God. I am learning that all of these goals are subsumed in the goal stated in 2 Corinthians 5: 9, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (NIV).

We do not have to strive to earn God’s love. He has freely given it to us. We do not have to strive to earn His acceptance. We are already accepted in the Beloved. But we must make it our goal to please Him. Taking care of our bodies is pleasing to Him because our bodies are His temple and we honor Him by engaging in self-care. We please Him by being good stewards of the finances and other resources with which He blesses us. We please Him when we love others as He loves us. And, as Philippians 2:13, states, He gives us both the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT).

I am joining the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure (on a Saturday). Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Goal.”

Sustenance from the archives+: Start

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I love books and, except when I am reading (skimming) one in a library or a bookstore, usually I do not start reading a book with the intention of never finishing it.

But I have done so. Started reading books that I have yet to finish.

And I have started projects that are incomplete (and may never be finished).

But God always finishes what He starts.

This truth is especially encouraging when I have failed yet again. No. Not at completing a book or something superficial. At the real things of life.

I have His blessed assurance that He is working in me, giving me both the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13, NLT). And, that work that He has started, that good work? He will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6, HCSB). Thank You, ABBA.


Today’s post is for Day 21 of the series, “Sustenance from the archives+,” that is part of the 31 Days Free Writes writing challenge. The post is one of the “+” in the series title “…archives+,” in that is freshly minted. The prompt is, “Start.” To read the post for Day 20 of the series, please click on the link below.

Day 20: Audience

“Mother, May I?”

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“Mother, May I?” is a game commonly viewed as a children’s action game that can be modified for teenagers and adults. The goal of the game is for a player to be the first person to reach the person who has the role of “Mother.” The goal is achieved by asking for and being granted permission to make movements toward “Mother,” and taking the permitted steps. Let us review the process of achieving the goal: “The goal is achieved by asking for and being granted permission to make movements toward ‘Mother,’ and taking the permitted steps.” Permission means little without action on the part of the one granted permission.

“Mother” can be viewed as our best selves. Each day we take steps toward becoming who God created us to be or steps away from becoming that person. Staying stuck is moving backward. Sometimes our progress is hindered or halted because we confuse, “Could I?” with “May I?” “Could I?” is about ability and resources. “May I?” is about permission. In the times when we confuse the two and mistake “May I?” for “Could I?” self-doubt can cripple us. The issue in those seasons of confusion, however, is not a lack of ability or resources to take the steps that move us closer to becoming the person God created us to be. He is committed to transforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-30) and is working in us, giving us the desire and ability to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13). We have His permission and His enabling. Sometimes, the obstacle to our progress is that we have given someone or a group of “some ones” the authority to control our lives and dictate our steps. At other times, the missing item is our surrender to God. Our moment by moment, full surrender to God is the ultimate way of giving ourselves permission to become who He created us to be.

When the evening comes

Let me be singing when the evening comes

The title of this post is from the song, “10, 000 reasons (Bless the Lord),”  written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin. I love the song and it has become an anthem for me in all seasons. When things are going well, it is a shout of jubilation. In challenging times, it becomes an instruction, a commitment, and a prayer.

I sang the song during my quiet time today and, conscious that 2018 is still in its infancy and much is unknown, the words below became a plea:

Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

“When the evening comes.” “When the evening comes,” not if.

Evening, as in painful seasons.

Evening, as in periods of distress and confusion.

Evening, as in periods of shattering loss  and aching grief.

As we can be certain that evening hours will come in the (approximately) 24 hours of each day, we can be certain that the evenings of life will come to each of us.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth,” said the psalmist-king David (Psalm 34:1, AMP). “All times,” including evenings, as defined earlier. What makes this form of consistent praise possible? Two sources come to mind:

  1. Consistent praise is possible when we base our praise to God on His character, not on our emotions or circumstances.  Our emotions and circumstances can change in seconds but our God is unchanging. When we praise Him because of who He is, we can praise Him, with the grace He gives, in all seasons.
  2. Consistent praise is possible when we make the decision to praise Him, regardless. Note, David said “I will bless the Lord at all times” (emphasis added). “Will” is defined, in part as, the power to decide or control emotions or actions, and, a particular person’s decision or choice (merriam-webster.com). David made the decision to praise God at all times. We can do the same. Praising Him at all times is one of “all things” we can do through Christ. 

“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (Philippians 2:13, AMP)

Because of this truth, “Whatever may pass, And whatever lies before” us, we can be singing “when the evening comes.”

“O my soul, come, praise the Eternal with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am— praise His holy name” (Psalm 103:1, VOICE).

31 Days of Loving Well: Light

LIGHT

Week 4 – Loving people I do not know, well: Introduction

The idea of loving people I do not know, well, seems far-fetched. Isn’t knowledge and a relationship necessary for loving well? But, within me, I sense this truth, “I can behave in loving ways without feeling love.” And I see that, of all the ways of loving well that I have reflected on in this 31 Days of Loving Well series, this one, “Loving people I do not know well,” highlights the fact that love is a decision. But, while it is true that I can behave in loving ways without feeling love, I cannot do so in my own strength. So I thank God for the truth of Philippians 2:13 (ISV), “For it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him.”


The following question was posted on the boyslife.org website, “I have a lantern that has a removable glass covering, and it has soot all over it. How can I get it off?” The answer is to wash it with soapy water. The last sentence in the answer states, “New lantern or old though, a clean globe will improve the brightness of your lantern …” And, as I think of the light of God within me, and allowing His light to be visible in me, I recognize the need to keep the “globe” of my life, so to speak, clean. And I do so by allowing my life to be washed in the water of the Word. Allowing His light to be visible in me, is one way I can love (behave in a loving manner to) those I do not know, well.


Today’s edited post was written for Day 22 of the 31 Days of Loving Well series. The prompt is, “Light.” To read other posts in the 31 Days of Loving Well series, please click here.

Tempted? Our High Priest Knows

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After Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he (John) saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus), and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted!”

Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, …” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written …”  (Matthew 3:16-4:11, AMP)

As described in the Scripture passage above, after Jesus was baptized by John, had the Spirit descend as a dove and light on Him, and received God’s audible approval, He was led by the Spirit. He was led, not to a mountain top, into the temple, or before the spiritual or political rulers of the era. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was tempted during a time when His physical strength was likely depleted after 40 days and nights of fasting. He was tempted and met every temptation with the written Word.

He was tempted and, although only three temptations are mentioned in Matthew 4:1-11, Hebrews 4:15 makes it clear that Jesus was tempted “in every respect as we are.” We have a High Priest, this verse tells us, who is able to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations. He sympathizes and understands our weaknesses and temptations because, as the Amplified Bible translation of Hebrews 4:15 states, our High Priest is “One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.”

In addition, Jesus, “… although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]” (Philippians 2:5-7, AMP). He did all this for you. He did all this for me. He did all this for us. And assures us of this truth,

“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy]” (1 Corinthians 10:13, AMP).

It is easy to recognize the desire to do something we know is wrong, as a temptation; however, a temptation, is also a strong desire or urge, the Merriam-Webster dictionary informs us, to do something that is unwise. Whatever form a temptation takes, we can be sure that our compassionate Father, who has declared us to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37), has provided a way out. Also, He works in us, giving us both the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13, NLT). Thank You, Lord.

Five Minute Friday: Control

control

Joining Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday Community for our weekly writing adventure. To learn more about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is “Control.”

Control. There is a peace which comes from accepting there are limits to what I can control. To accepting that, more often than not, and especially when other people are involved in the equation, I have less control than I may think.

Control. There is a peace that comes with accepting that I have less of it than maybe I would like. But this acceptance does not give me a waiver to be irresponsible, to say whatever and do whatever I choose. Rather, it frees me to focus my attention and efforts on developing self-control.

Self-control. My Father clearly communicates this is a trait He expects me to have. This is evident in both the Old and New Testaments. From verses such as Proverbs 16:32 which states, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city,” to 2 Peter 1:4-7, which instruct me to “make every effort” to add self-control to knowledge.

Thankfully, self-control is also a component of the fruit of the Spirit, so I do not have to give in to despair when I fall short of the mark. Instead, I can yield to Him with the confidence that He is effectually working in me, giving me both the desire and ability to do what pleases Him.

Notice the Table

 

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I continue my focus on God’s goodness this week by looking at verse 5 of Psalm 23 (NKJV):

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”

My focus is influenced by the five-session, video-based small group study, Good things: Seeing your life through the lens of God’s favor, which I have the privilege of engaging in with three friends, as part of a larger, Life Group study event at my local church.

The author of the study, who is also a pastor, unequivocally states, “God is the source of all goodness and good things.” He spoke at my home church last Sunday and one of the things he highlighted is, David, psalmist and king of Israel, kept noticing the good in the most difficult situations. Psalm 23:5 is an example of this trait of David. He declared, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies …”

As I reflected on David’s declaration, I recognized that David could have focused exclusively or primarily on his enemies; after all, it is a human tendency to focus on the difficult or what-is-not-as we-desire in our lives. David, however, recognized that God was both protecting him and providing for him even in dangerous situations.

The author and pastor encouraged us to (like David), “Notice the table in the presence of our enemies,” to train ourselves to look for the goodness of God. And I wonder, “Was David able ‘to notice the table’ God prepared for him in the presence of his enemies because he expected to see God’s goodness?” This expectation of his is clearly stated in Psalm 27:13, “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living” (HCSB; emphasis added). He was not hoping to see God’s goodness while still on earth. He was certain he would see God’s goodness. His certainty was not based on his perception that he deserved the goodness of God but on his knowledge that God is good.

Do we share David’s certainty? If we do not, it is likely that the antidote, the cure for our uncertainty is to deepen our knowledge of the One we call Father. A growing, intimate knowledge of our Father is a lifetime process which requires a heart that longs to know Him and the practice of time with Him that includes prayerful, consistent study of His Word. Before you exempt yourself because you are not sure you have a heart that longs to know Him, hear this, “Yes, God is working in you to help you want to do what pleases him. Then he gives you the power to do it” (Philippians 2:13, ICB). Or, as one of my favorite Bible teachers notes, God can fix our “want to.” He is such a compassionate and loving God, I believe that even our “wanting to want” creates a place for Him to work in our hearts and lives.

I am issuing a two part challenge:  1(a) Review one of the difficult experiences or seasons of your life and notice God’s goodness during that time; and/or, 1(b) over the next 24 hours, look for the goodness of God in your life and list all evidence of His goodness.  2) write a blog post about what you notice and link it back to this post with the tag #noticingthetable or share  some or all of what you noticed in a comment. You also have the option of doing a visual post using photographs.

Let us train ourselves to “notice the table” He will always prepare for us. Blessings.

Five Minute Friday: Favorite

Lyrics of the song, “My favorite things,” from the movie, The Sound of Music, were the first things that came to mind in response to today’s prompt, “Favorite.” “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings … Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes (Just the thought of this image makes me smile). Silver white winters that melt into springs (How I appreciate the fact that hard seasons have an end point. How I appreciate the promise of spring).

I thought of these lyrics and I also think of my favorite things, at least some of them.

Long, meandering conversations with a sibling over a meal.

A well brewed cup of tea.

Warm towels just out of the dryer.

Freshly pressed, white cotton napkins, folded just so.

Sky portraits, especially in the early morning, declaring His glory.

A well written book.

A truth revealed as I read His Word.

A child’s laughter or smile.

The reminder in Philippians 2:13 – He is working in me giving me the desire and ability to do what please Him.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Joining Kate Motaung and a group of courageous writers for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is “Favorite.” To learn more about Five Minute Friday (and perhaps join us?) click here.

Five Minute Friday: Dream

GO

I dream of being braver than I am
Not every now and again
But every time courage is called for

I dream of being faithful to God
Regardless of the circumstance
Regardless of how dangerous being faithful to Him might be
For my reputation
For my hopes of promotion

I dream of being loving
To love as He loves me
To allow the love that He has poured into my heart by the Holy Sprit
To flow out of me
In every waking moment

I dream of always being the first to reach out when a relationship is ruptured
Even when I cannot identify any specific injury I have inflicted
To forgive quickly
To stop holding grudges

I dream of being compassionate instead of judgmental
To stop trying to change people
But recognize that only God can do so
That I can only control my own behavior and can only do so with His help

I dream of being more generous
To live, as one minister said, not with the fear of running out
But faith in running over

I dream of becoming the person He created me to be
And I am thankful that this is not an impossible dream
Because even right now, He is at work in me giving me both the ability and the desire to please Him
I am dreaming

STOP
But Father, let me also act

Joining Kate Motaung and a group of courageous writers for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is “Dream.” To learn more about Five Minute Friday (and perhaps join us?) click here.