Change Your Mind


“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to him so he can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord…” Acts 3:19 Living Bible (TLB)

God places us carefully where we need to be. Sometimes it is to work something out of us.  Sometimes it is to work something into us. Sometimes it is simply to fulfill a purpose. In every case we have a choice. We can either turn our heart to God or away from God.  It can look a lot of different ways.  Maybe we are working hard at doing everything ourselves without expressly listening for direction.  Maybe we think we know the best way to get things done. Maybe we think we see a situation that is spinning out of control and we need to step in to give it order and get things back under control. But who really control it?  Food for thought.

When we turn our heart to God it is a type of worship. We surrender our heart to Him, trusting He will make it right.  We recognize the magnitude of who He is. We trust that He and He alone can give our heart the refreshment that it needs.

Speaking for myself, there are times that I go to God in prayer stating the obvious.  I know I’m not in great shape. So I just lay it all out there for us to discuss together. I know I need a change of mind. I have found that my change of mind follows a change of heart.  By acknowledging in a very real way where I am at a given moment (no matter how ugly it may be), it allows God to take hold of my heart and turn it around. Turn it toward Him. The ugly stuff I may be carrying around goes away when I release it to Him.  I continue this process no matter how many times it takes.

Eventually, the change sticks in my heart.  The refreshing stays. I have a change of mind that goes with it.

Lord, thank you for dealing with my heart. Turning it toward You. Thank you for the refreshment You bring. Thank you for Your help, strength, and wisdom in all things. I pray that I receive every good thing that You have for me. You know better than I do if and when I need it! I praise Your Holy Name, Jehovah El!

Acts 3, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Deuteronomy 8:18

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Suddenly

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“Thus Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, because of what God had prepared for the people, for it was done suddenly.” 2 Chronicles 29:36  AMP

Hezekiah wasted no time restoring worship in the temple of God. He made quick work of it and carried out the spirit of what God had requested.  It happened “suddenly:” in a little time, with a great deal of ease, and without any opposition. Those that go about the work of God in faith and with resolution will find that it is not as difficult as they imagine. It is a wonderful surprise to see how and when it is accomplished because it defies what they know.

I love how Hezekiah knew in his heart when to dispense with the rules in order to accomplish God’s work. There was no disrespect. It was a matter of necessity to call the Levites in to help the priests administer the sacrifices.  Hezekiah’s heart was turned fully toward God to reconnect  Him to His people. He operated according to the leading of God to accomplish His work. He could see when the rules became an obstacle rather than serving the intended purpose. Hezekiah was more focused on obedience than on rule-minding and performance.  He was all about re-establishing relationship.

Father, help me to trust in You. Help me trust that You will not ask more of me than I am strong enough to handle in You. Father, help me release any fear or anxiety that is holding me back. Help me release it to You and choose You over the familiar. Choose You. It is a choice.  Simply a choice.

2 Chronicles 29, 2 John 1:6, Philippians 1:6, John 17:20-23, Psalm 118: 23
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A Spacious Place


“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19 NIV

I love space.  The wide open plains.  Wide view of the sky.  I love room to roam. A spacious view. A long and winding road. You name it. They all give me a happy feeling inside. God knows that too!

Psalm 18 made me weep.  It reminded me how much God loved David. And best of all, David was not perfect.  He was like you and me. It powerfully reminded me how much God loves me.  And you! It reminded me of how powerful He is and who I am to Him. Peter knew that too.  It’s why he could rest so peacefully in his stocks and chains. He did so without expectation.  He did so because he was solely focused on God…not himself.

This is such a comfort for me. It shifts my heart. It’s grounding in a powerful truth. It feels like being anchored in a stone foundation; not just a rock or a boulder, but a slab of granite! Immovable. Unshakable.

Father, this is Your plan, not mine. I will watch for You. Your favor and Your direction Father. I know its less about what I do and all about what You do.  I will wait for you. I will wait for that spacious place with You.

Psalm 18

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Being Neighborly

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“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10:34 NIV 

In the Bible a donkey could be symbolic of knowledge, humility, poverty, courage and peace. It could also symbolize a sign of richness befitting the House of David. So in that sense, it could also represent commerce and wealth.

As we look at the care the Samaritan provided to the man beaten and left on the side of the road, we see all of the above.  We see the Samaritan use every resource he had at his disposal to provide aide: he used his oil, wine and bandages, he delayed his trip, he paid for ongoing care and lodging plus any additional expenses that were incurred.  All for the care of a stranger. Remember, the Samaritan was traveling so his resources were limited based on the journey he had planned.  In spite of that, he withheld nothing.

The other two men in the parable, the priest and the Levite (who were considered holy men), did not miss a step and walked on by. I’m sure they were busy with their own plans and agendas.  They simply stayed on course as planned.  Maybe they were even on holy business trips!

The parable following the “Good Samaritan” in the same chapter in Luke is about Mary and Martha.  The story tells of how Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet while Martha toiled away.

When I looked at these two parables together I saw something I hadn’t seen before.   The priest and the Levite were no different than Martha.  The similarities were all wrapped around being so busy and task oriented that they missed the opportunity right in front of them.

How often have I been so busy doing something that I missed the broken person in my path that I needed to minister to?  Did I stop what I was doing to attend to the opportunity right in front of my face? Or did I find what I was doing more important?

I’m sure the Samaritan had plans at the other end of his journey that had to be changed because of the delay and care he provided to the man on the side of the road.  For him, compassion prevailed. Compassion without any strings attached.  It was not about score-keeping.  It was not for acknowledgement.  It was all about caring for another human being in need. A stranger.

Sometimes it is through these delays and detours in our journey  that God does a work in our own heart.  When we are able to set our interests aside, it opens up room to have the love of God flow through us in a new way.

Lord, give me the wisdom to see opportunities to be Your hands and feet when people are in need.  Place compassion in my heart to stop what I am doing for the sake of others when needed.  Help me to love like You do.

Luke 10:29-37, 38-42; 1 Samuel 10:9-14, Matthew 6:33

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Deep Waters

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“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalm 18:16 NIV

Have you ever had a near drowning incident? I had one in Cancun, Mexico.  I had gone snorkeling and gotten separated from everyone else by a current.  I was washed up on a shallow bed of coral.  My rear end was getting shredded more each time a wave knocked me further up onto the coral bed.  I finally managed to make my way into deeper water, but my body was starting to ache from the multitude of coral cuts.  Swimming back to the group was against the current that had swept me away.  I began to have thoughts of exhaustion.  I didn’t know how long I could continue. I was contemplating giving up.  Suddenly the guide appeared, grabbed hold of me, and dragged me back to the boat.

When I think of this experience on a spiritual level, there is so much to see! I was swept away and distracted by the view of the fish and underwater landscape.  I got separated from my group. The coral that looked so pretty became very dangerous. On my own, my strength gave out.  I needed rescued.

God is like that for us.  He never tires of reaching down to draw us out of deep waters.  He hears our cries and yearns for us to stay with him.  Even when we are distracted by “pretty” things, He continues to wait patiently for us to return, offering that helping hand when we tire of the struggle.

I think of that day occasionally. It could have turned out very differently. I know that God was there, both literally and spiritually, to tend to my needs.  Just waiting for me to return to Him.

Father, thank you for Your long-suffering patience and love.  Thank you for reaching down into the deep waters for me!

Psalm 18:16-19, 25-29; 1 Timothy 6:6, Colossians 1:11

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Control

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“Riches and honor come from you alone, and you are the ruler of all mankind; your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength.” 1 Chronicles 29:12 Living Bible

Control.  His hand controls power and might.  I have noticed that when I try to control things I struggle more with negativity.  I am taking on the fight instead of prayerfully leaving it with God. Negative thoughts creep in.  I may even see a pity party forming with me, myself, and I!  “God, have you forgotten me?”  Of course He hasn’t.  His Word tells us over and over again how much He loves us.  And then look at the sacrifice He made.  When I really focus there, in a place of gratitude and acknowledgement of all God has said and done, I can see how ridiculous those thoughts are.  But it may take me a minute to get there!

If I have to be in control, I give up the Lord’s wisdom in exchange for my own very limited understanding. I focus on the overwhelming landscape of the future instead of staying in the moment. I miss every blessing of today. If I try to maintain control, I miss my turn to reach a better destination or even a shorter route. I miss my rest stops and refueling stations.  I miss the view of the journey.  My head and my heart are bound to toiling to anticipate every potential outcome and reasoning my way through it. Plan A, Plan B…to infinity.

But if I release the need to be in control, I can stay in the moment.  I can remain thankful.  I can count my blessings. I can rediscover joy and peace and hope in the moment. I can appreciate others that God has placed in my path.  It’s not just about me. If I release control, I can acknowledge that my understanding is limited, as well as my line of sight. I can accept that I don’t know it all and truthfully, won’t ever know it all. I can accept that it’s not all up to me.  If I let go, my hands are open to receive instead of being clenched tightly onto something that isn’t the answer.  It’s just a security blanket because I was not trusting God. If I let go, I release whatever is weighing me down and distracting me from God’s greater purpose.  That yoke He did not intend for me to ever bear.  I can give it back to God.

Father, remind me to let go when I am holding too tightly to those things I need to release to You. Thank you for Your better way and lighter yoke when I dwell in You!

Jeremiah 6:16, 1 Kings 8:36, John 15:5

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Seasons

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

Have you ever sensed a change of seasons? I do not mean like moving from Summer to Fall. I mean a change of season in your life.  When life seasons happen to coincide with nature’s seasons, it seems to have a magnifying effect. It intensifies the savoring of the change.  One Fall I was experiencing a change of life season. The leaves were dropping. The temperatures were dipping. The produce was changing. More pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was becoming darker earlier and later. I even realized that every Fall before this one there had been a sense of grieving for me. I would grieve the loss of Summer. Its long days.  The warmth of the sun on my skin. The ease of throwing on tennis shoes and taking a long walk.  Open windows with night sounds and a gentle breeze.  That was all going away.

I felt the change of season coming for myself.  I was nervous and excited at the same time. I had a weird combination of anticipation, dread, and excitement.  It felt like it was going to be a time of transformation. Growth.  Was there going to be pain with growth? How long would it hurt?  Was I ready?

After pondering all those feelings, I made a choice. A choice to be thankful. A choice to embrace the change even though I had no idea what it was. The growth, the transformation; even if it hurt. I landed in a place of gratitude. I sensed a new alertness was going to be required.  It was going to be a time of listening carefully to God’s voice and following it. A time to keep up and pay attention to His requests. A time to be still when called for. A time to take stock of all He had done, like Moses and Joshua.  A time to give thanks and embrace what is to come without knowing.

As ominous as this all sounds, you’ll laugh.  I couldn’t help but go to a StarTrek reference in my mind! “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Thankfully, that’s not true!  The Bible is full of stories of many people who boldly went where God wanted them to go.  Some were more graceful than others.  Some arrived quickly, while others ended up taking the long way. But they ended up where God intended: Moses, Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Jacob, Joseph, David, Elijah, Gideon, Esther, Ruth, Rahab, the twelve disciples, Zaccheus, Jesus.   We have a rich history to refer to whenever it gets tough.  And we have each other to encourage and support.  Not to go through change on behalf of each other; that is simply God’s work in each one of us.  We each have our own path.  But we can pray.  We can encourage. We can give and receive grace and mercy to one another. We can love. It makes the season of change and growth much sweeter. More tender. Like Jesus.

Father God, as I go through change I pray I do not lose sight of being tender and gentle with others.  While I may need it, others do too. I pray that You will help me give grace and mercy to others even when I feel like I need it myself.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

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Lessons From A King Snake


“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Matthew 3:7 NIV

I was looking at the scripture references for vipers and the one thing that I learned very clearly is this: Don’t be religious about anything!

Religious: 1.Pious and extreme conformity with outward observances. 2. Sham or hypocrisy. 3. Devoted, unswerving, meticulous. 4. Reverent.

Again, it all boils down to our heart. God does not tell us to be religious always, but to rejoice always!  Rejoicing in God is not a journey of conformity.  It is a walk of freedom. Take Jesus for example. His power from within was not always obvious from the outside.  He did not tread heavily, make demands or put on a show. He simply did what His Father asked Him to do. No show. No fanfare.  He just delivered. He knew when to be quiet and when to move forward.  He knew when to take time for the things He needed: prayer, celebration, listening, speaking, redirecting.  All because He listened so well and was obedient. He stayed focused. He was not distracted by little things.  He didn’t spread Himself too thin.

When I thought of a viper, I thought of something to be afraid of. But of course Jesus was not afraid. Neither was John the Baptist.  They saw the Pharisees and Sadducees were missing the point. They were off base. Focused on the wrong thing and REALLY distracted by the little details.

I went online to take a look at vipers because I didn’t want this lingering feeling of fear.  I found the most interesting video.  It is not for anyone squeamish about snakes! I found it so fascinating.  I had always thought of vipers as one of the most deadly snakes.  The image of one brought an element of terror to mind.  In the video I found (see below), it is a battle between a viper and a hungry king snake.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I had downplayed the power of the king snake.  In the video, you watch a king snake literally hunt down a viper, strike, and devour it.  It happens so fast and so skillfully! The viper doesn’t have a chance.

When I looked into the king snake further, I was even more intrigued! Here is what I found. The king snake was dubbed “king” for being a snake that will devour other snakes. It kills by constriction and is known to be immune from the venom of other snakes.

As I reflected on the video and my new education about the king snake, I had a few thoughts.  The viper has a very fierce, showy way in its movements and posture (kind of like the Pharisees and Sadducees).  It has a reputation to be feared and revered.  The king snake (especially the hungry one in this video) is much more subtle in its movements and approach.  But it is focused and fast! It is quick to strangle its enemy and is not daunted by its foe.  It proceeds with a quiet confidence, the confidence of a victor (like Jesus).

This really put the viper in perspective for me. I can equate Jesus to the king snake. His strength is quiet and strong. Focused. He is not deterred by the enemy.  He was always on task to be about His Father’s business. He knew how to go in for the kill whether it was demons, sickness, brokenness, poverty or death. He killed what was harmful and replaced it with something new. He was immune to the venom of others, even on the cross. He was a victor. A conqueror.  He knew how to put the vipers in their place and was not intimidated.

Father, thank you for showing me Your might and strength!  I pray I will stay focused on you and not be caught up in religious fanfare or practices. Let me not be distracted by the little things. Give me the strength, courage, focus, speed and boldness to always deliver according to Your word, even if it means going up against a viper!

Philippians 4:4, Matthew 12:33-35, 23:32-34; Luke 3:6-8

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A Club And A Stick

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“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NIV

Psalm 23 was something I grew up with. It was a psalm that my mom was fond of.  I remember visiting a family that was grieving the loss of their father and grandfather. I think I was in the third grade. It was really different and I don’t even remember why we were there. It was not a funeral visitation.  We were in their home.  It was quiet and there were no words that seemed to give comfort so my mom asked me to stand up and read Psalm 23. So I did.  Even as a child I could sense the peace, calm and comfort that came with the words. I remember feeling a sense of awe as I watched the peace and calm fall on the family.

As I was revisiting this passage today, the phrase “rod and staff” caught my eye.  Why are they comforting?

A rod was a 2’-4’ club that the shepherd used to defend the sheep from robbers and predators. It resembled a walking stick.  It was a weapon.  A tool for safety.

The staff was used to hold sheep during shearing and for gentle correction or redirecting. The top hook fit around the neck or head of a sheep to reroute them. The bottom of the staff had a spoon shape, kind of like a shovel. If the sheep wandered from the herd, the shepherd would use it to flick up a chunk of dirt toward the wandering sheep to get its attention and redirect it toward the herd.

When I stepped back and looked at this psalm, I could also see all the promises of care our great Shepherd gives us and just how little I have to do.  Here is what I noticed:

GOD

  • Makes me lie down in green pastures – meaning rich and luxurious places that hold peace and nourishment for me
  • Leads me beside still waters – He leads me out of chaos and confusion and into peace
  • Restores my soul – like no one and nothing else can; He heals, renews and restores
  • Leads me in paths of righteousness – His ways keep me out of trouble
  • Is with me – I am never alone
  • His tools – His rod and staff – comfort me – so I need to pay attention when I am being redirected; it is for my safety and well-being
  • Prepares a feast for me – I am a child of the King
  • Anoints my head with oil – He honors me and lavishes His love on me
  • Fills my cup to overflowing – His care is abundant

ME/I

  • Will not fear
  • Dwell with God

See how little there is for us to do to receive all the care and blessings from God? I have to tell you.  Looking at this psalm from this perspective blew my mind a little bit!

HIS PROMISE

  • We shall not want
  • Goodness and mercy will follow us every day

So why the tools?  If we have to do so little, why does God need the tools, the rod and staff? When sheep are afraid or get lost (Have you ever been afraid or lost?  Be real now!), they stop. They are helpless.  Without the shepherd and being a part of the flock, they do not move forward. The shepherd uses his tools to keep them together and on track. They will not find green pastures and water without Him and His guidance and prodding!

So Father, thank you for Your lavish grace and every good thing that You do and have already done for me! Thank you Jehovah Rohi, my Shepherd, for Your abundant blessings and wise and diligent care.  Thank you for not leaving me stuck or lost along the way.  Thank you for every prod and redirection You provide to keep me safe and on track!

Psalm 23

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Yield

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“So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6 NIV

Faith based on anything but God is heresy. Even faith in faith. What I mean is this: faith in hard work and diligence rather than obedience to God’s Spirit.  Be wary of anything that puts the burden of performance on you rather than God. Be willing to yield to the Holy Spirit.

So I had to ask myself the hard question, “How much am I truly yielded to the Holy Spirit?” Am I truly stepping out in faith, or cowering in fear? Fear of what others think. Fear of what things look like to others. If I am fearful, then how can I experience God’s love and share it with others?

Fear causes us to hold on tightly to things and elevate their level of importance. So where do I hold on too tightly?  I could see pride coming into play.  That feeling as if I have control.  Yep, there it was, control…which ties back to pride, fear, lack of trust. It kind of made me sick to my stomach.

When I step back, I am amazed at the grace, mercy, and favor of God. As I struggle with balancing trust and dependence on Him, walking in faith and obedience, He continues to defy circumstances. When I think I am in control and circumstances turn ugly, I interpret them as punishment and look for what I did wrong.  But when I let go and trust everything to God, circumstances are simply circumstances.  Just like God’s favor isn’t based on my performance, circumstances aren’t either. Even if I mess up, nothing is too big for God. He is always there to teach me.  I am constantly learning. I have to continue to trust God knowing that as He teaches me He is also being gentle with my heart.

Father, I repent for my lack of faith in You. I’m sorry for hanging onto those old ways. Thank you for creating me in Your image to do Your work that You have prepared in advance for me to do.

Acts 7:48-53, Ephesians 2:1-10

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