God is in Control

29 07 2011

We are in the midst of hurricane season on the Gulf Coast. June 1 – November 30th marks the time period in which our eyes watch the Atlantic for the next hurricane. The weather man with the most hurricane experience becomes our best friend. We follow hurricane preparedness procedures, stocking up on water, nonperishable supplies, batteries, and plywood. What starts out as a little disturbance off the coast of Africa has the potential to devastate lives here at home.

Watching a hurricane build in the ocean brings tension, fear, and stress. We hold our breath as storms roar across the waters, building strength and causing devastation. Hurricanes cause fear because there is nothing we can do about them. They are out of our control. We can prepare, stock up supplies, even evacuate, but ultimately, the storm unleashes its fury and we are helpless.

Hurricanes are a good picture of the other storms that track across our lives. Sometimes we can see them coming, we hold our breath and hope they swing around us. Other times the clear, sunny skies don’t give us a clue that powerful winds and strong rains are about to test the very foundations of our hearts.

Faith allows us to see the storms differently – whether a big hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico or a powerful storm brewing in our lives. God is in control. There is no storm that can shake Him or wind that can push Him aside. Our faith and hope can rest securely in the hands of our Lord. God is bigger than all of our storms. No matter its size, no matter its intensity – God is our shelter and the anchor of our faith.

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember that God is in control. He is bigger than any storm that comes my way. I want to anchor myself in His love, let the inexhaustible supply of His grace fill my heart, and let His peace have reign over my soul.


27 07 2011

George Washington said it best. “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”

America is a special nation. It has a unique position in the world, and with that comes a profound set of privileges and responsibilities. Its influence makes it a world power with the ability to communicate the ideals of freedom and equality in ways unheard of in previous times. Its economic base fuels stability throughout the world. Its work ethic, ingenuity, and ability to see opportunity in every situation provide hope and foster confidence around the globe.

Because of its deep influence and potential to reach into the hearts of people around the world, America needs to set its compass with care. Our first president understood the need to lead in the direction set by God. Recognizing God’s place in our land is essential to maintaining the freedom we cherish. The Bible is a roadmap to answering our deepest struggles, honoring our most valued ideals, and providing the light we need to move forward into the future.

What is true for a nation is true for its citizens. The heart of a country is most deeply grounded in the hearts of its people. If we want to be a nation that walks with God, we must be a people who walk with God. If we desire for our country to be guided by the Bible, we must be a people who live out its words. If we long for America to be a light to all nations, we must each learn to shine with the light of His truth in our own lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to take my citizenship seriously. Governing a nation isn’t somebody else’s responsibility. It is my responsibility to live in the way I want my leaders to govern. If I want the Bible to be the foundation of my country, it needs to be the foundation of my life. If I want God to lead my nation, I need to surrender my heart to His rule. Valuing our independence is best done by recommitting myself to dependence on God.

Shortcut Road

25 07 2011

We were driving home, and saw the sign – Shortcut Rd. It was a regular street sign planted by the side of the road. Even as I was laughing, I was struck by the irony of the sign. We are all looking for a shortcut.

Shortcuts are appealing. They promise that if we get off the main path and follow this side road, we will get there faster, everything will be easier, and less sacrifice will be necessary. Nobody wants to take the long, hard road. Why do all of that work if there is a shortcut that will help us get by?

We want shortcuts for everything. The air waves are filled with commercials for getting rich in three easy steps, going to college in your pajamas, and becoming healthy while sitting on the couch and eating junk food. We want intimate relationships without transparency. We long for deep, refreshing faith while wading in the shallow waters of me-oriented spirituality. We invest tremendous time and energy in gimmicks and shortcuts that are dead ends.

Jesus didn’t take any shortcuts to the cross. The signs were there. Whispers encouraged Him to take a different path. Instead, He took the road that would create the most direct path between you and the heart of God.

My Jesus Resolution today is to follow Jesus. There will always be signs that say Shortcut Road. They offer easy plans, simple steps, and cheap thrills. But they don’t offer Jesus. There is no shortcut to transformation. Looking like Jesus is a journey that unfolds one step at a time as we walk with Him and learn to live in the rhythm of His grace.

The Worry Alarm

22 07 2011

I am a worrier. I try not to be. I sink a little bit in my chair every time I read Paul’s advice to “not be anxious about anything.” (Philippians 4:6)  But worry happens. It sneaks up on me, grabbing my heart, pulling at my thoughts, and stealing my peace.

I could tell you that I come from a long line of worriers, and that would be true. I could settle for the reality that just about everyone I know wrestles with worry, content to be a part of the crowd. Worry almost seems inevitable, and I sometimes wonder if it is realistic to imagine living a life that doesn’t have worry worming around the edges.

The reality of learning to look like Jesus calls my heart to transform the way I look at worry. God wants to change how we respond to worry. In the moment when we begin to worry, we have a choice. We tend to see worry like a battering ram that pushes against our faith. Too often, we feel helpless to stop the pounding it gives us.

What if, instead, we viewed worry like an alarm clock? An alarm clock serves to wake us up. It redirects our attention and activity. It acts as a reminder and helps us stay on course. Craig Groeschel writes, “Worry then becomes a signal alerting us that it’s time to pray.”

My Jesus Resolution today is to let God speak through my worry. Worry doesn’t have to overwhelm me or overflow into everything I do. Worry can be an alarm that redirects my attention back to God. Rather than letting worry use up my energy, time, and hope, I can use worry to help me burrow more deeply into His grace and protection. I am going to choose to listen to worry only so far as it reminds me that I need to retune my heart to the voice of the Lord. I am going to let my burdens bend my knees in prayer. I am going to let anxiety unleash an avalanche of praise. I am going to let worry be an alarm clock that opens my eyes to God’s presence.

Run Over

20 07 2011

I was almost run over this morning. A truck raced through my neighborhood, seemingly unaware that at this early morning hour anyone else would be on the street. I literally had to jump out the way as the truck hurtled past me on its way to wherever it was going.

It took a moment to register that I knew the guy in the truck. He is a friend of mine, and a Christian. He isn’t somebody who is uncaring or disinterested. This morning he was probably just distracted or in a hurry. I thought about sending a message telling him that he almost ran me down, but decided texting someone who isn’t driving very safely to begin with wasn’t such a good idea.

While the adrenaline settled down, I started thinking. Do I run people over? Not in my car, but with my attitude, my self-focus, my busyness, or my tendency to rush?

Jesus never ran over people. His eyes were always on the lookout for hearts that were hurting, bodies that needed healing, ears open to listen, and souls willing to surrender. He took the time to notice, pay attention, and step outside of Himself. On His busiest days, He felt the merest brush to the hem of His garment. On days dark with grief, He had compassion for the hurting and hungry. Even with agony pressing on every nerve, He was aware of the soul beside Him and offered grace.

My Jesus Resolution today is to slow down. I don’t want to run over people, but I tend to let the time-pressing, stress-crunching, pressure-prodding nature of my to-do lists turn my eyes inward. I get in a hurry, and forget that there are other people on this road called life. Today I have a chance to make a difference to someone I meet on the way. It doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary – a smile, holding a door, allowing someone to go first, letting someone in line – all open the door to letting grace fill the moment. This small move may be the light someone needs to see Jesus.

Chocolate Cookies

18 07 2011

He had the biggest smile on his face. He was bringing me a bag, and you could tell that he was very proud. He handed me a bag of chocolate cookies. “This is for you!” he said. His mom told me how he saw the cookies at the store and insisted that I needed them. “She is out of cookies, mom. We have to get them.” So the cookies went into the basket and into my hands.

Now understand that I buy these cookies for him. They have been his special cookies at my house for years now. When I am out of cookies, he knows it. The emptiness in my cupboard is personal for him.

What I love most about this bag of cookies is the heart that motivated him to bring them to me. He knew I “needed” the chocolate cookies. My cookie jar was empty. He didn’t just assume that someone else would take care of it. He didn’t pester me to handle it. He decided to meet the need himself.

In his actions, I can see the seeds of a servant heart. At a young age, he is learning to look beyond himself and help someone else. He isn’t worried about what he can’t do. He is eagerly looking for ways he can help. He delights in finding something he can do to bring a smile to someone’s face.

My Jesus Resolution today is share my chocolate cookies. Too many times I catalog all the things I can’t do, the ways where I won’t be able to make a difference, or the stuff that is too big for me to handle. Today I am going to look for simple ways to share a smile and the sweet blessings God pours into our lives. Chocolate cookies are about more than a snack for a rumbly tummy. They create a bridge that connect hearts with love.

Clap of Thunder

15 07 2011

It was so loud that it startled me. A clap of thunder filled the afternoon sky with its boom. We jumped at the noise and turned our eyes toward the sky. Maybe today. Perhaps it will rain. The anticipation swelled inside of us, as hope took flight.

I wish I could tell you that we had buckets of rain, but it is still desperately dry. Instead, God used the thunder to drench my soul with a lesson about anticipating His presence. A clap of thunder is all that it took to draw my attention and light a fire of anticipation and hope. How many claps of thunder – small divine sparks – does God send my way each day, each one meant to draw my eyes to His face and my heart to His hands?

Here is a list of ten ‘claps of thunder’ that God may use today to help you anticipate His presence.

1. A cross on a building.

2. A hug from a friend.

3. A flower in the sidewalk.

4. A note in the mail.

5. A Bible verse.

6. Something delicious.

7. Tears.

8. Answered prayer.

9. Unanswered prayer.

10. An unexpected moment of quiet.

My Jesus Resolution today is to listen for God’s claps of thunder. He is faithful to plant reminders of His presence throughout my day. He wants to catch my attention, pull it back from the world, and refocus my eyes on His grace and His nearness. Too often I let noise, busyness, worry, and my need for control grab my heart and drown out His voice. Not today. I want today to be filled with an awareness of His presence. I want to hear the clap of thunder, and be filled with the anticipation of seeing His face and experiencing His joy.

Updating My Bible

13 07 2011

It just struck me as funny. I was running a regular update on my phone, and one of the instructions guided me toward an update available for an electronic Bible that I regularly use. I like having God’s Word with me all the time. Having a Bible on my phone has stretched my creativity as I find different ways to connect with His voice in new places and situations.

This morning as I clicked on the update button, I was overwhelmingly thankful for the surety of God’s Word. There are going to be updates to the electronic aspects of new technology, but there are no updates for the Bible itself. It is constant, sure, true, and faithful. God doesn’t need to send a message that He made a mistake in Genesis. There are no corrections for Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians or John’s message of hope in Revelation. The Gospels paint a picture of Jesus that is as perfect and compelling as it was two thousand years ago. The prophets still call people to walk with God, experience His grace, and live in His will.

The faithfulness of God, His constancy and unchanging nature, are essential ingredients of our faith. We don’t serve a God who constantly changes His mind, comes up with a new plan, or decides on a whim to rewrite His Word. Every day He calls us to Jesus. Every hour holds the opportunity to live in His presence. Every moment finds His hand reaching out for our hearts, inviting us into the transformation He has planned for us since before the foundation of the world.

My Jesus Resolution today is to memorize Hebrews 13:8. The Hebrews writer reminds me that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We live in a world that prides itself on the speed, certainty, and necessity of change. Updating my phone is a small reminder that what worked yesterday needs to be tweaked today. But not God. The ancient paths hold a relevance for today that no update or app can provide. God’s Word still brings truth and stability to a world caught in sin’s free fall. Every time I use my phone today I am going to write Hebrews 13:8 on my heart. That will be the best update of all.

Sibling Night

11 07 2011

My kids were whispering. I raised my eyebrows and looked at my watch. I knew that it was only a matter of time before they made a request that was going to involve me giving them money and the car keys.

“You ask her.” “No, you ask her.” “It was your idea!” Obviously the plan was now complete. All they needed was parental approval and whatever resources it was going to require to make it work. I finally just told them to tell me what they wanted and how much it was going to cost. Six puzzled eyes turned my way as they stopped whispering. It still surprises them that I can read their minds.

“We want to have a sibling night.” They laid out their plan to spend the evening together, going to the movies, eating popcorn, and spending some time laughing, talking, and being together. They have discovered the joy of connecting with each other and investing their time and energy in the special relationship that exists between brothers and sisters. I said yes and pulled out my wallet. This is worth it.

My husband and I are thrilled that our kids are choosing to give themselves to a deeper relationship with each other. The memories, ties, confidences, and time that they share now will only build a bridge that will allow them to walk together into the future.

I imagine that God must be equally pleased when His children choose to invest in each other. When we take the time to learn about one another, spend time together, and build our relationships, it highlights the work of the Spirit in our lives. Unity, togetherness, delight in being one, and mutual love are all evidence of Christ’s transformation in our hearts.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35.

My Jesus Resolution today is to invest in some sibling time. We are the family of God. My brothers and sisters in Christ create a wall of love around me that helps me face each day with hope and grace. I want to know them better. I want to develop a deeper longing to be with them, to talk about the relationship we share, and to build a bridge that will help us all walk into tomorrow. It takes time and transparency to create a lasting connection. On the cross, God looked at our hearts and decided that it was worth it. So I am going to have lunch, send a card, make a phone call, sit on the porch, or give a hug. I am going to make time for some sibling time and watch God smile.

The Christ Compliment

8 07 2011

I was cleaning the kitchen. I had made sandwiches for a group of teens working on plans for camp. The words to the “froggy” song floated in from the other room as I packed up pickles and put away what remained of lunch. I smiled as I listened to them talk about looking like Jesus and how they could show Him to the youngsters they were taking to camp. Serving kids who are committed to learning how to be servants is a neat way to spend an afternoon.

The gentleman walked over to the counter just as I was trying to decide whether to leave the brownies out for a few more minutes. Teens seem to get hungry again in thirty-seven minute cycles. He stood next to me and watched the kids with a twinkle in his eye. He is a quiet man with a servant heart, and a quick sense of humor. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you and your husband,” he began, and from there he spent the next few minutes telling me where he sees Jesus at work in our family.

It was a holy, humbling, precious moment. God used this gentleman’s words to trace His handprint on my children’s hearts. His comments became a lens through which I saw more clearly the movement of God in our lives. He encouraged me to press on, to keep trusting in God’s plan, and to become even more committed to Christ.

I am so thankful for his words, but I am even more grateful for his example. Taking a few minutes to express appreciation, say thank you, encourage someone to keep going, or verbalize where you see God at work is a tremendous gift. Too often, my eyes are so focused on myself that I miss these opportunities. Sometimes I notice, but don’t take the time to share what I see with someone else. Maybe I am embarrassed, busy, or filled with good intentions that just never get realized. Whatever the reason, these few minutes in the kitchen reminded me of the power of pointing out where you see Jesus in someone else’s life.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be deliberate about passing on a Christ compliment. I am going to keep my eyes open for an opportunity to tell someone that they look like Jesus. I want to notice the moment when someone surrenders and stand up and cheer. I want to pay attention to the quiet service another gives and thank them. I want to help a friend capture of glimpse of how God is working in their life. Today I am going to speak up. I am going to search for the moment when I can encourage someone’s faith and help them see Jesus the way I see Him in them.