Deeper Day 264: Proverbs 29:25

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.   Proverbs 29:25

I’ve truly been feeling the impact of this statement, more now than ever. As I’m walking into areas where I am teaching and training others more and more, I am coming face to face with this truth. I cannot have man as my primary focus. God must remain my primary focus, if I’m going to continue to be influential in a positive way. I must only receive my value from Him, not those I’m instructing.

How many times have we all seen a leader rise into the public limelight and then either plateau or plummet to the ground? That person undoubtedly must have had their sights set more on the praises of man than right standing with God. It is truly that simple. When you begin to really search out your motivations, you may be shocked to discover just how much you are motivated by that fear of man. It can be humbling and shocking.

It is true though, that fearing man is a snare…it will without fail cause you to stumble.

Today I want to leave the devotional shorter because I hope you will spend an extra minute getting with God and asking Him to reveal to you the main focus of your heart and actions. Are you more focused on God or man’s praise? Be really honest with yourself. Take time to ask God to reset your focus on Him. Begin to trust Him in new ways.

If we chose to walk in trust with God, then nothing we face will find success against us. Our trust in Him will keep us safe.

Prayer Moment: God, let my heart trust You more and more every day. Never let the fear of man eclipse my trust in You. Forgive me for the times when I’ve let fear of man move me in the wrong direction or hinder me from releasing what You’ve put on my heart. Help me to never again succumb to that fear. I want to be faithful to You alone. I am surrendered to You completely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Deeper Day 263: Disappearing into the Cloud

I mentioned previously that I fasted for God’s Presence last week. That day and the next I felt so hidden in the cloud. I was walking through normal day to day activities, but I was not fully present because I kept being drawn into heavenly thoughts and visions. I so enjoy living in that place.

The area the requires the largest balance of my life is the space between living in His Presence and living on the earth.

How do you live a life in the presence while still being present for those who need you here on earth? This is the big question. How do you live a spirit led life without becoming completely useless to the practical things? These are necessary questions.

I’m still sorting it out, and honestly, I imagine that I will always be doing so. I don’t believe there is a clear answer, but I do know some things that I’ve found to be helpful.

First…When I serve my family, that is an act of worship. For years, I felt I was only worshiping when I was singing or sitting in the Presence and then one day God showed me clearly that being there for and serving my family was also an act of worship. What freedom that gave me! Then I began to seek to excel in motherhood even more because it stopped conflicting with my “God time”. It became something for me to find Him within every day.

Second…I can pray and talk to God all day, every day. As I go about my daily duties, whether it’s at home cleaning and preparing or going out and interacting with others in a variety of ways, I am consistently calling my mind to prayer. I am deliberately asking God what He has to say to the person I’m speaking with or what He has to say about a situation I’m walking out. I even ask simply, what do you want to speak to me, right there in the middle of basketball games and school pickups and drop-offs. Everything I do can be worship if I include God.

Third…I try to exercise every day and that is a definite act of worship. God ALWAYS meets me when I exercise. It’s an opportune time to set my mind to a neutral place and let God pour over me. As I surrender my body to maintaining physical fitness, God keeps my mind fit, as well. Without fail, He meets me during exercise.

Fourth…not a day goes by that I don’t start my day with Him. I intentionally rise earlier than everyone in my family so I can spend a moment with Him. I write, read my Bible and ask for Him to speak to me. Some days I have more time for this than others, but it’s a daily routine that I will NOT go without. It is a daily act of worship.

So, what I’ve found is, my life can be an act of worship in its entirety, if I let it. It’s a choice to partner with and listen to God at any given moment. It’s a choice to include Him in my daily life.

Prayer Moment: Will you give Him your day? If you do, I guarantee that it will begin to transform your life. He is worthy of every moment. He is our most trustworthy Friend. He loves to do life with us.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:6-8

Deeper Day 262: Don’t Forget to Breathe

One day recently, I realized that I’m not breathing like I normally do. As in, literally. I discovered that I’m holding my breath a lot and not breathing deep most often. Life and the world around me has been stealing my breath. Stress and the strain of so much unknown in life has robbed my breath. Uncertainty at the kid’s school and all of the new restrictions, makes me feel like I’m being smothered. Chris’ work situation continues to make me feel like I can’t breathe. Stepping out in faith and moving into new places in ministry takes my breath away too, only that’s not a bad thing.

Whatever the reason, I have intentionally had to stop myself and take several deep breaths on multiple occasions. In fact, it’s becoming a new exercise…Sit still, breathe several deep breaths and then carry on with the day. Repeat as needed.

Isn’t it crazy that this would ever become necessary? I once heard someone say that breathing is the most natural thing we do, and our bodies do it effortlessly for us. Well, that might be true most often, but it’s not right now.

What am I to make of this? Isn’t it a slight bit interesting that our breath has been the topic of much conversation, as of late? With covid there have been so many restrictions made to our breath. Constantly being under scrutiny for wearing or not wearing a mask makes me feel worn out. It makes me feel short of breath.

Something occurred to me though, for me to have a voice I must have breath. For me to sing God’s praises, I must have breath and breath support. I find it no coincidence that breath is the threat. The enemy knows our greatest strength is the ability to praise and proclaim God’s faithfulness. We sing to proclaim His goodness. We pray to see healing…we pray to even receive salvation.

You see friend, the enemy is trying to steal something far greater and more significant than you could imagine.

So, I encourage you, when you feel short of breath or under a lot of stress, stop and take a couple of deep breaths. If you feel anxiety or fear of the future, stop and breathe. If you feel something trying to steal your voice, stop and use that same breath to praise God. Use your breath while you have it.

Prayer Moment: God, steady my breathing. Help me to take long and purposeful breaths so I can remain fully focused on You and Your plan for my life. Lord, I release all into Your hands. I know that only You can sustain my life. Surround me with a cloud of Your Presence. Let me never walk alone. Let the testimony of Your faithfulness in my life, serve as a steady rhythmic breath to my lungs. I trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn, I will praise You, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples. For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Psalm 57:7-10

Deeper Day 261: The Litter in My Life

As I walked the other day, I began to think about things that have happened in my life. Things that could make me bitter if I let them. Then I heard God say, “You must pick up the litter in your life.” In a moment, I knew what He meant. I must forgive and release those things to God…It’s the same as picking up the litter and throwing it in the trash.

The sea of forgiveness runs deep. None of us are immune to the need to learn to forgive.

Litter can also be wrong thoughts we’ve entertained and have let cloud our view of God, ourselves and others. That too must be picked up. Cleaned out and removed forever.

It’s time for many of us to do some public beautifications to our minds and hearts. In the same way that cities will clean up parks and then plant flowers and add playground equipment and trails, we must clean our minds of refuse and then invite Holy Spirit to come fill the now empty places and bring beauty.

If we don’t release the litter in our minds, then it surely will become a stumbling block and bring about a stench to our lives. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

When I think about releasing all the hurts and lies, I am reminded of this Psalm…

Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

We can always return to scripture anytime we need a solid reason to do good. It’s worth it. Always.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

When we don’t see our reward on this earth, we can be assured of a heavenly one. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. It’s far better to be pointed toward a heavenly reward. On earth we will have wins and losses, and in heaven we will receive our eternal reward.

Prayer Moment: God, clean out the litter in my heart. Help me to walk out forgiveness toward any and all who have wronged me. Give me courage to love those who don’t love me in return. Help me to be a carrier of Your Presence and Your grace. Teach me Your ways. Lead me closer to heaven every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Deeper Day 260: Fasting for God’s Presence

A couple of nights ago, I woke in the middle of the night and felt a tug. In my spirit I felt God encouraging me to fast the following day, so I committed to doing that. I then realized I wanted to fast in order to regain connection with Him. Life has become so busy now that school is back in session and even though I am home alone while the kids are there, that time goes quickly and is very full. I’m busy with many good things right now, not bad things, but still I so easily get caught in the whirlwind of busyness if I’m not careful. I am a close guardian of my relationship with Him, and I needed a day of fasting to put a full stop to my mind and heart and to refocus on what’s most important. Him.

The morning of the fast God rolled out the day as an invitation. I could feel a special warmth in the atmosphere of the day. My insides felt cozy. The house was peaceful. He was ready for me too.

If there’s one thing I hope you begin to realize from all of my honesty, it’s this. God is always so ready to love on you. He’s creating invitation and opportunity in every day you live. The only question is, are you listening? Are you noticing? Will you respond?

My fast was me saying, “I don’t want to become numb to the tug of God in my life.”

When you receive an invitation from God, the worst thing you can do is to bring an agenda. The best thing you can do is to simply show up and let Him move as He pleases. Lay aside your expectation and receive His Presence.

Prayer Moment: God, let me hunger and thirst for You. Let all of my being be focused on knowing You more and hearing You more clearly. God, my heart always longs for more of You. You alone satisfy the longings of my heart. You alone can make my life fill full. You alone give me vision and courage for the future. You alone. Draw me closer every day. Help my life to draw others closer to You as well. Here I am, my heart wide open. Fill me. Know me. I love You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2

Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me Your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:7-14

Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty- He is the King of glory. Psalm 24:8-10

I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells. Psalm 26:8

Deeper Day 259: Search me, O Lord

I want to share something with you today…a secret. Lean in and listen and I’ll tell you…I intentionally ask God to search me. I invite Him on a regular basis to examine my heart and mind to test my anxious thoughts. Yes, I really do.

All my adult life I’ve been told, “Never ask God for patience because then He’ll give you ample opportunity to develop it.” I understand why people say that, I truly do. It’s a scary thing to ask for something that you know will sometimes cause discomfort or even pain, but the truth is, we need such discomfort and pain if we are to fully grow.

Likewise, if we never ask God to examine us and to test our anxious thoughts, then we risk far more than we potentially “lose”.

Yes, when God searches me, it sometimes brings great discomfort and even situations that cause me to stretch much farther than I would like, but I never regret it in the end. I always end up grateful for the growth and the reset to my mind. When I allow God to test my anxious thoughts, then I can discover places where I believe lies and then He can release truth to me. The Bible gives us more than one example of another (David) asking for this very thing…

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for Your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in Your truth. Psalm 26:2-3

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

It was from the promptings of Psalms that I desired to pray this way in the first place. If it’s good enough for David, then it’s good enough for me.

In a world full of anxiety medicine and diagnoses…it’s good to remember that we don’t want to medicate that which God wants to heal. Don’t numb what He’s longing to expose and restore. In other words, don’t hide from His tender touch because you fear discomfort.

I’ll defer to the “man after God’s own heart” on this one and trust that being searched is of great benefit. Are you willing to as well?

Prayer Moment: God, search me and know me. Test my anxious thoughts. Remove all offensive ways within me. Hold me close so I can release my anxiety and inhale Your presence. God, You know me better than I know myself, so I will trust what You show me and give You continual and full access to me. I want to be known by You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Deeper Day 258: Quilt

Today, as I sat covered by this quilt, I realized something. My life is much like this quilt. A quilt is many different patches sewn together to make a beautiful covering. Similarly, my life is many different seasons and situations sewn together to make something beautiful. And much like this quilt, I can pass part of it down to my children when they grow up, my legacy.

One thing that I find so beautiful about quilts is that they are rarely perfect. They are by nature a patchwork. Their design and the fabrics used, often tell a story. They become more valuable as they age. Many people love to have them laid around their homes as adornment. They can serve as a conversation piece or just a warm touch to the décor of a room.

My history, my legacy can be much the same. The experiences I’ve walked through, increase in value as I share their testimony over the years. My life is a patchwork of experiences and most definitely not perfect. My life tells a story. It reads of brokenness and redemption, of love and surrender. Now that I’m growing older, my life and testimony has grown to be a source of comfort and encouragement to those it’s shared with. It’s good to continue to share it and never forget how far I’ve come.

A quilt hidden away in a drawer or a box serves no purpose, but if it’s displayed and used then it has fullness. Our lives and testimonies are the same.

I wonder, what does the quilt of your life have to say? Do you keep it packed away in a box so nobody can see it, or do you share it openly and allow God to make it beautiful? We don’t share our testimony to boast of our sin, no we share it to show His strength. Our testimonies point to Jesus. Never be ashamed to use it, and for heaven’s sake, never come to the point when you feel you are “too good” now to share it anymore. It’s important to remember where we’ve come from.

Prayer Moment: God, thank You for the tapestry of my life. I know that You have redeemed me from so much. Thank You. Help me never grow so arrogant as to ignore or deny the depths from which You have rescued me. You alone came into my darkness and brought light. You alone led me into fullness. I am redeemed. You are the redeemer. I pray that You would give power to my testimony. Let freedom ring every time I speak of all You’ve done for me. Thank You for loving me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”- and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:1-5

Deeper Day 257: Isaiah 55:6-13

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on Him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign which will not be destroyed. Isaiah 55:6-13

The beginning of this portion of scripture always makes me feel a sense of urgency. Not panic, but a call to deliberately seek God’s face while I can. We do have a finite amount of time to find Him. It’s a fact that all will die, unless the Lord returns first. Both are endings though. Whether we die or God comes back, we’d better know Him before either happens. This is the privilege and burden of sharing the gospel. We love to share, but we also feel the urgency attached to it. It’s truly eternal life or death.

The next part of this is also amazing.

God’s thoughts are something that leave me feeling a sense of wonder. We could never even comprehend the vastness of One Who has always been and knows all things from beginning to end. Why would I even want to attempt to “out think God”? I am comfortable leaving the wonderful to Him. The things too great for me to understand.

Then the last part…

His word will NOT return void. I love the solidity of this statement. Nothing He says can be cast aside. His word accomplishes what it’s meant to accomplish without fail.

Have you ever heard people lamenting how they missed God, or made a decision contrary to His direction for their life and it leaves them in an utter tailspin? Well, if we truly believe that His word will accomplish all it is set to accomplish, then what are we worrying about? He is a redeeming God. He will give other opportunities, in fact, I’ve found God to be rather “fool proof”. He sets me up constantly. This whole concept tangles in with not trying to be smarter than God…if we realize He is Who He says He is and nothing less…Then we will admit that He is smart enough to lead us where we need to go.   

Sure, we can make choices along the way that make it more complicated or painful for ourselves, but He will get us where He wants us to be. And why would He do this? For the Lord’s renown.

We will go out in joy and be led by peace. What more is there to say?

Prayer Moment: God, help me to always go out in joy and be led by peace. Never let fear or discontent be my guide. Keep me steadfast. Guard my heart and mind. Restore the hope I had in my youth. Anoint my head with oil. Let my cup run over. I will dance in Your goodness the rest of my days. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Deeper Day 256: Psalm 27:4-14

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me Your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:4-14

There are reasons that I do not fear a lot of things that others fear. This verse begins to uncover it…

My greatest and deepest desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord. I pray for it all the time. I long to not be on the outskirts of anything, no, I want to be right at God’s feet. I want to be “in the thick of it”, as they say.

Because of this desire and living a life intentionally focused upon His face, I don’t fear calamity. I am calamities foe. When a negative report or mandate of any sort comes, I immediately feel the protection of God and realize that He will give me a way out. That’s truly my default.

When taxes are raised or the oil field is seemingly destroyed, I begin to look around for the next way that God will provide exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

Does this mean I never feel the stretch of circumstances? Well, I’ve been pretty honest to reveal that it doesn’t. But it does mean that I am unwilling to surrender the greatness of God’s calling on my life and the lives of my family members, due to circumstances.

See, even when we feel pressed and almost crushed, I’m still looking into the future and seeing success and blessing. The now, is just a time of waiting for them to unfold. The discomfort of today is just the growing of character to support the magnitude of the calling God’s placed upon my life.

Everything has purpose. Ever circumstance can be transformed into an opportunity.

I refuse to compromise with fear. I will stand firm on the promise. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Prayer Moment: God, thank You for renewing my mind so I can see You everywhere I look. Thank You for constantly reminding me of the greater things to come. Thank You for repeatedly delivering me and my family from the evil one. We know we are secure in You. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Deeper Day 255: Psalm 73:23-28

Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from You will perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds. Psalm 73:23-28

I love the promises in this portion of scripture. The whole thing is great, but for a moment look at the last two sentences…

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.

Where will you find me? As near to God as possible. He is my safe place. He has proven to be a refuge for my life, over and over again.

How do you maintain a positive attitude when walking through an uncertain world? Be as near to God as possible. How else can you hide in the shadow of His wings. So many of the verses about His protection and provision make it clear that the best way to receive that is to be near to Him.

That’s what is so amazing about the entire portion of scripture I typed at the start…I have nothing but God. It’s not like He’s my last resort, He’s my first choice. I choose to be near to Him. I decide to walk under His wings. I set my life up to be in step with Him.

When you do these things, it is far easier to know when you may step off course a little. I am so familiar with His presence and His closeness, that I immediately feel it if I take a step away. I am so accustomed to hearing His voice that I begin to feel disconnected if I go even part of a day without hearing Him. This familiarity keeps me so close. It guards my life, my heart and mind. It brings a steadiness to my life. It draws others to want Him more too, and isn’t that the ultimate goal? To live a life that draws others closer to Him?

Prayer Moment: God, in everything I do and in every way I respond to life, let others be led to Your heart. Help me live a life that serves as a beacon of Your presence. Hold me near. Never let me stray. Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings. I am Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I will give thanks to Him in song. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. Psalm 28:7-9

The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace. Psalm 29:11