Aim High!

“He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father; he did according to all that Joash his father had done. ” 2 Kings 14:3

In some cases, it’s ok to be mediocre. No one can be the best at everything and some things are not important enough to deserve our energy and time.

Other things, however, mean so much that they deserve our utmost.

I speak specifically to your heart toward God. Today’s verse gives a chilling description of the heart of King Amaziah. At first it sounds like he was getting a glowing review: he did right in the sight of God. The description quickly darkens when it says he didn’t do right like his ancestor David, a man after God’s own heart. King Amaziah was satisfied being “good enough”.

Call me an overachiever, but I want to do more than just get by in my walk with God. I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. I don’t want there to be any area of my life that I am satisfied with the bronze or tin when the gold of knowing God deeper is available by His grace.

How about you?

When we start talking about being pleasing to God, the mind automatically looks at the mountain of times we failed before, but that’s not where we should focus. We must focus on the power God offers to help us persevere and overcome. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

It begins with repentance and surrender. Are there morals you have let slip? Have you given up striving to hear Him say, “well done” because it seems nobody else is trying? The benefits of following hard after God far outweigh the “pleasures” of mediocrity. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

The cross was God’s way of reaching low to save us. Our best response is to aim high in pleasing Him.

A Worthy Example

 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… Then they can urge the younger women….” Titus 2:3-4

I lost my precious mother-in-law yesterday. This last year of caring for her has been the most challenging season I have ever faced. Strangely, when I saw that she had breathed her last, none of that came to mind. Immediately my mind filled with memories of a life well-lived, one that I want to imitate. Kindness, generosity, grace, unconditional love, strength, and hospitality are only a few of the rays of light that emanated from this tiny woman. Having survived the burial of two of her children and a husband, she would tell anyone that her resilience and strength came only from God. The day I married her son, she said she had not gained a daughter-in-law, but a daughter, and she treated me that way till her dying day. If I ever get a daughter-in-law, I hope to pass on that sentiment.

I want to live and leave a legacy like hers. When family and friends gather in a few days to say goodbye, I want all that will be said of her to be said of me when my time comes. I have a lot to live up to, and I know that it will only happen if I rely on the same Power Source that she did. By the world’s standards, her life was not extraordinary. She was neither wealthy nor highly educated, but her generous spirit and uncanny ability to make so many people feel so loved is iconic.

I am struck most by the fact that she did so much with so little. This is the encouragement I want to pass on to you, My Friend. You already have what it takes to shine, to leave a legacy, and to make an impact on those around you. You already possess gifts that you may not think amount to much but mean the world to those around you. Our precious Mimi loved people through her stove. Each Sunday, any and everyone had a standing invitation to come by for a meal and to drink in all the magic that happens when people get together. Her voice rang with chords of kindness so that even when she had to rebuke you, her gentle love took the sting out of it. The fullness of her love makes the loss that much more painful, but we would not change any of it. You and I can have that said of us too. The secret is to let God use us in any way He desires. We often put too much muscle and shine on being a legacy when the real impact comes through the mighty hand of God working through a willing vessel. Let us not try so hard to be what we are not but allow the wind of the Spirit of God to blow us in any direction He pleases. It is the surest way to become a legend; the best guarantee of a life well-lived and to receive the high prize of hearing the Lord say, “Well done!”

Read Anyway

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

If we are honest, we do not always feel like doing what we need to do. If we neglect loading the dishwasher, no clean dishes will be available, resulting in crusty dishes the next day. Poor oral hygiene is a forerunner to tooth loss, so we had better make the effort to care for them. Wait too long to cut your grass and snakes and mice think they have found a new neighborhood. Skip too many baths and ungodly odors emanate from key places that will not stand for it!

Likewise, reading the Word is not always what we feel like doing, but we must discipline ourselves to do it. Think of what happens when we are lazy about it. The weeds of discontentment, fading loyalty to Christ, and the ugly side we all know we have tend to grow out of control. The mindset of the world, the flesh and the devil slither in and we may be slow to notice. The stench of gossip, rudeness, and self-righteousness flow from places that the washing of the water by the Word normally cleanses. We never intend it to happen; each day of neglect often has a promise to get right tomorrow attached to it. Before we know it, we are way farther away from godliness than we realize. That kind of distance happens by choice even if unintended.

Choose each day to renew your mind with the Word of God. Everyday will not be one where a truth leaps off the page, but it is still doing you a world of good, My Friend. The watching world, your family and friends, and your spiritual health depend on it.

Where Is the Love?

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5

I recently spoke with someone who admitted she was living in a situation that was not what God desires. Further discussion revealed that lack of opportunity to make this right was not the core reason she had yet to make the necessary changes. She reasoned out loud that everything else in her life surrounding this situation was in place except this one area. Upon hearing an admonition of the risks her lifestyle posed, she replied that those who already made the change were vulnerable to the same risks as she is now, which was true to a degree.

This set me thinking about what more I might have said in my appeal to her. Why should she do the right thing if there were no apparent consequences? There are always consequences, of course, but so far she had suffered none that she could see. I asked myself what was the strongest reason for doing the right thing anyway. The answer is …love.

Love for the Lord because of all He has done makes all the difference. Love because He first loved us. Love because we care whether He is pleased or not. Love looks beyond the fact that we will be forgiven anyway. It cares about the broken fellowship that hangs between the act and the restoration. If there is no intimacy in our relationship with God, sin becomes less and less of a big deal to us. The nerve endings of sin-sensitivity grow numb and we are the poorer for it. Love for God will often make us do what His rules will not.

Where is the love, My Friend?

If you have lost it or if it has dimmed, how do you get it back? It happens by renewal of the mind, filling it with remembrance of His love for you, and getting back to anything you used to do that cultivated growth and intimacy with Him. Therein is the love-through repentance, renewal, and real relationship.

Speak the Truth

“Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” Ephesians 4:25 (NLT)

My Friends, do not be afraid to speak the truth. What good does it do to know the truth if we are too afraid to tell it? So many try to travel on opposite sides at the same time by saying things like, “Well, God says we are to do this and such, but you do what is best for you.” Truth alert: Whatever God says to do IS what is best! When we become so timid about telling people what the Lord said plus nothing, we are practically endorsing the very thing He opposes! We are called to be salt and light. Salt enhances the flavor of things and light pushes out the darkness. Does that sound like the affect YOU are having on your watch?

Speak the truth in love with gentleness and respect, but speak it! Let us divorce our desire to be well-liked and instead marry the determination to be loyal to the Lord and His Word no matter what.

Today I encourage you to ask the Lord to search your heart and de-bug it of people pleasing, fear of rejection, and loyalty to our own reputation at the expense of truth. Ask Him for courage when the temptation to be silent at the wrong time is strong. Ask Him to help you be bold enough to speak the truth.

Let’s Serve!

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1Peter 4:10

The church cannot afford to have anybody sitting on their hands doing nothing but coming to church. The need is too great! There are too many hurting people for just a few to accomplish God’s plan to encourage, serve, teach, edify, listen to, sponsor, pray for, win back, advise, feed, counsel, mentor, evangelize, disciple, visit, coach, text, hug, educate, and everything in between.

I have observed three main reasons for the ministry manpower issue. The first is insecurity: people think they do not know enough or have enough experience to help. This would be a valid excuse if we did not serve a God Who empowers us and promises we can do all things through His strength. (Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:7) It is time to call insecurity the liar it is and step out to see how true God’s promises are (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The second reason the unemployment line in the church is so long is a matter of priority. “I would love to help, but I do not have the time,” we say. Everyone gets the same daily allotment of time. Few of us have all twenty-four hours booked with obligations every single day. Rest and recreation are important, but most of us have an excess of “me time.” We have become so accustomed to having it that the idea of shaving a couple of hours off to serve someone else seems like major surgery. Once we step out and see the way God is using us to make a difference, we have joy as we realize we do not miss the time as much as we thought we would.

Third, we think serving is an option. As followers of Christ whom God infused with at least one spiritual gift each, how can we fall for the options lie? We are not our own, we were bought with a price; therefore we all have an assignment. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). No exceptions or excuses. What that looks like will be unique to each of us, but serve we must. Besides, our coming to Christ was the result of someone’s decision to be obedient to serve. It is time to pay it forward.

Now, what is God calling YOU to do about the mountain of needs we face in this world, My Friend? Let’s get out there and serve!

Easter means Victory!

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Photo by Georgia Pointer

If there has ever been a time when we need the hope of Easter, it is now! With a pandemic devouring lives and livelihoods, politics revealing the blackest of motives, and violence crouching at the door of every public place, focus on the resurrection is a welcome diversion and confident hope.

I am sure that you who know Jesus are feeling the heaviness of these times like I am. Without Easter, this life would be the best we could hope for. Despair would wear a grove in our minds and the hereafter would be even worse. Thanks be to God, because He raised His Son from the clutches of our worst enemy, we can sing while the world rains down its worst. We have a glorious, invisible place to fix our eyes while the newscasters flood our screens with heartbreaking images day after day. That empty grave means evil does not win, and in every difficulty we can more than overcome.

We already have the victory, My Friend, we only need to lift our eyes of faith to behold it. In Christ, whatever we are facing already has our boot print on its neck! We can let trouble talk it’s treacherous trash knowing that the Risen One will always have the final word. Easter changes everything. Easter means victory!

When You belong to Jesus

Photo provided by Kathy Rainwater

“You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

The world sees belonging to Jesus as bondage, restriction, and the absence of all things fun. Those of us who know Him understand that the opposite is true. To be a handmaiden to the King of Kings is the highest station one can hold. No other master has ever given so much for the security of his servants. We understand that any “no” is an “I love you.” We believers have experienced the peace that comes from doing hard things and leaving the consequences with Him. We understand that while we wait for that ultimate rest, we have power, bankrolled by the cross, to battle in an invisible war with weapons not of this world. Because we belong to Jesus, we revel in a love that will never let us go and that frees us to be all He made us to be.

As for fun, the fence of His commands hem us in so that we may have full-throttle freedom within the widest of fields the Good Shepherd provides for us. Because He did not spare the best He had, we have the joy of what seems like a reckless trust that in reality is a knowledge that anywhere He forbids us go is nothing we needed in the first place.

An easy life it is not; that will come on the other side. The Master has no fine print, He warned us that our journey here involves taking up a cross, tribulation, and suffering. He also assured us that we would never walk alone and that our victory is a foregone conclusion. That’s how it is when you are forever bound with the cords of His love. That’s how it is when you belong to Jesus.

In Times Like These

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.” 2 Timothy 4:2

When troubled times come, you and I have work to do. Those around us need godly direction and the Lord has appointed us to give it. Do not think that you must be eloquent or that you need a special skill to be the light in dark situations. My friend, if you belong to Christ through faith in Him, you already possess the Light, you just need to let it shine!

Refuse to be distracted by political unrest. Your marching orders are still the same in season and out of it. These difficult days are merely a current that brings the fish closer to salvation’s net, an earthquake forcing earth’s inhabitants to look up when all they trusted in is unstable. You are appointed, in your own circle of influence, to be the voice that points your charges to Christ. May the Lord give you boldness, strength, and love that overrides fear in times like these.

The Depth of Christmas

Colossians 2:10. “and you are complete in him….”

Whatever your deepest need, the answer can be found in the Christ of Christmas.

I recently witnessed a woman in desperate need of the father of her baby to declare his love in a permanent commitment. She would never form the words, “Ask me to marry you,” but everything she did said those words for her. The man seemed clueless, and her frustration was palatable.

Human beings can never fulfill us the way Jesus can. As women, we want to be wanted, to be cherished and for someone to show we are worth whatever it takes to win us. It is no exaggeration to say that Christ leaving Heaven to come to earth and suffer crucifixion is the quintessential expression of love! This should forever settle the deep question of our worth no matter who rejects us.

Rejoice that Christ’s coming had in mind the fulfillment of all your deepest needs. Embrace Him in gratitude for all He has done, My Friend. May the rehearsal of His intention in coming merry your heart in its deepest places this Christmas season!