Seeking to Understand Will Make You Find Good Things

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Joshua 3-5 GW; Proverbs 19 GW

Gain understanding, gain insight.

In today’s world, people force their plans more than they listen.  Instead of taking time to understand what the other person is saying, they assume they already know.  We all think we know what other people are thinking, but we don’t.  God is the only one who knows people’s thoughts; we’re not God.

Stop assuming; seek understanding.

To understand someone else’s point of view, you have to listen to them.  Instead of talking, give others the floor.  Ask questions that will provide you with answers.  Not close-ended questions, those require one-word responses: yes, no, maybe.  Use open-ended questions to get a more in-depth response:

  • Why did you make that decision?
  • What was the purpose of that action?
  • How would you describe your experience in that situation?
  • Describe what you were feeling at that moment?
  • Tell me more about your history?

Open-ended questions begin with these words: why, what, how, describe, tell me.  They require the person to give thought to their answers.  And they need you to listen.

Jesus questioned.

Jesus was the Master of questioning.  He asked over 300 questions in the Gospels. Even though He already knew the answers, His questions help us grow.

Jesus’s questions help us transform.  We become more aware of the condition of our hearts when we answer His questions.  Jesus helps us understand our thought processes with the inquiries He makes.  

As we become more like Jesus, we’ll ask more questions.  Our inquiries will help reveal people’s hearts.  The more we understand, the better we can love. Good things come to those who ask the right questions.

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Lord, how much we love You.  Thank You for helping us understand our hearts better with the questions Jesus asks.  Forgive us for forcing our agenda on others.  Help us today to ask more questions and truly listen to the responses.  As we gain understanding about ourselves and others, help us love better.  Let us put aside our assumptions, remind us we don’t know what other people are thinking.  If we don’t seek to understand, we never will.  Help us gain clarity today instead of forcing our agenda.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

Who do you need to seek to understand today?

Why Following Wrong Advice Will Make You Have Regrets

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Psalms 1 GW; Joshua 12 GW; Proverbs 18 GW

Bad advice equals regret.

Just because someone gives you advice doesn’t mean you should take it.  When I was growing up, my Mom had a saying for everything.  When I wanted to follow bad advice, she’d say the same thing.  “I suppose if they told you to jump off a bridge, you’d do that too.”  Her meaning was clear; just because they’re doing it doesn’t mean you should.

One thing we have to keep in mind, we’re all wicked.   Each one of us is a sinner in need of Jesus.  People are biased.  In other words, “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.”  Parents favor their children.  Spouses show bias to their partners.  Bosses have favorite employees.  Friends lean towards their friends.   Part of the human condition has natural preferences for people, places, and things.  We just do.

But God doesn’t.

God loves all of us equally.  When we seek His advice, bias doesn’t exist.   God’s counsel is blessed.

Seek divine counsel.

God’s advice is the best.  In the pages of scripture, you will find all you need to navigate any situation.  Healthy relationships are crucial to living life to the fullest.  The Bible is the best place to look for self-help.  When you read the ten commandments, you realize they are about relationships.  The first five tell you how to love God; the last five tell you how to love people.  Our greatest command is to love God and others.  Following God’s advice will lead to a blessed life for you.

Seek God’s advice.  Ask for discernment—filter human advice through the lens of scripture.  Let God have the final say.

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Lord, thank you for giving us the scriptures, our manual for life.  Forgive us for seeking worldly advice instead of your advice.  Help us today become more discerning.  Remind us people’s motives aren’t pure, but Yours is.  When temptation to follow lousy advice rises, help us overcome.  In all things, let us follow You.  Help us today to make good decisions by following wise advice.  Let blessings reign upon us as we take steps to become more like Christ.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

What bad advice have you taken lately?

Finding Joy in the Ordinary Will Make You Light-Hearted

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 33-34 GW; Proverbs 17 GW

Defeat depression with joy.

Our constantly connected world impacts our thinking.  Numbers scrolling across the screen reporting the number of deaths in the latest incident are hard to escape.  Unemployment, mental illness, disease, relationships,  political issues, the list goes on about what sucks the life from you.  Fighting the constant barrage of bad news is exhausting for everyone.  Depression is hard to battle.

But hope exists.

You can have a joyful heart.  Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, tells us how:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 15:16-18 NIV)

Notice, Paul doesn’t say “for” all circumstances; he says “in,” big difference.  We all have crappy situations in our lives.  Not “for,” “in.” Thank God for people and things “in” those times that help you get through them.  When my nephew died, I didn’t thank God for the event; but I did thank Him for the people who helped get through it.  When you look for God “in” whatever circumstance you’re dealing with today, You will find Him.  Joy comes through gratitude.

Thank God for the ordinary.

True joy comes from appreciating what you already have.  Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, thank God for what you do have.  One way I “pray continually” is by thanking God for the ordinary.  I recognize, living in America means I live in a First World country.  We have running water, food, homes, something many people around the world don’t have.  Therefore, I thank God when I brush my teeth, eat a meal or lay my head on my pillow.  Ordinary things to me, but for many people, not so common.

Try gratitude today.  Thank God for what you already have.  Let God make your heart joyful.

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Thank You, God, for today.  Forgive us for taking You for granted and for letting the world affect the condition of our hearts.  We’re grateful for the air we breathe.  Each intake fills us with new life.  As we exhale, let whatever is causing us angst leave us.  Remind us today to thank You for the ordinary. Help us pray continuously by thanking You.  As we look to You, fill our hearts with joy.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

What ordinary thing can you thank God for today?

How God’s Plans Will Make You Change Direction in Life

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 32 GW; Proverbs 16 GW

When God navigates, u-turns happen.

Driving down the road, you hit a pothole and get a flat tire.  Wherever you were going, you aren’t going to make it on time.  Frustration and anger boil up inside of you.  Why God?  Why now?  

Whether it’s an actual flat tire or some other type of unexpected wrench thrown into your day, nothing ever goes as planned.  Ask any bride about their wedding day.  If they’re honest, they’ll tell you all the things that went wrong; things always do.

Only God knows the answer to why things happen.  As cruise director, God knows where He’s taking you.  He also knows what He’ll need to do to get you where you’re going.

Each of us has a purpose beyond having faith in Jesus.  Our lives interconnect with those around us.  Our mission is to love God, love others.  Whoever God surrounds you with today is who He wants you to love.  Sometimes, to get us where He wants us, He uses flat tires.

Instead of dreading the flat tires in life, you’ll recognize it’s God directing your steps.

Look for God winks.

My friend’s momma has a saying for the times when God redirects our steps.  She calls them “God winks.”  Moments in life when you know God has done something.  Usually, the event is something good.  The thing about life with God is identifying the good from the bad.  Many people consider a flat tire bad.  However, if that minor delay saved you from a significant car accident, it becomes good.  Or, if the roadside stop causes you to meet a new friend or help someone else in need, it’s not so awful.

We make our plans, but God guides our steps.  Look for God winks.  Allow God to make u-turns in your life.

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Lord, how glad we are You’re in control.  Thank You for giving each of us purpose.  Forgive us for fighting against the direction You want to take us.  Today Lord, we want you to guide us.  If a u-turn is necessary, that’s fine.  We want what You want for us, God.  Direct our steps, lead us on our journey, help us become more like Christ today.  All glory is Yours.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

Have you experienced a God wink lately?

God Recording Your Days Will Make You Wonder How

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 31 GW; Proverbs 15 GW; Psalms 139 GW

God already knows the days of your life.

How is that possible?  Our human minds can’t comprehend this thought.  God’s sovereignty in our lives is more than we can grasp.  Yet, not only does God know what we will do, He’s already recorded it in your memoir.  God knows the day you were born, AND the day you will die.  He also knows everything in between.

When you fell and scraped your knee as a child, God knew.  Your first heartbreak, God knows both sides of the story.  What jobs you will have, if and who you will marry, where you will live, all things known by God before you were ever born.  How can He possibly know?

No one on earth can answer that question.  Our humanness disqualifies us from understanding God’s ways.  Faith means believing in what you can’t see and what you don’t understand.  God makes the sunrise and set.  The birds chirp because of the breath He gives them.  God is the Creator of all; He knows all.  From beginning to end, God knows the whole story.

God knows your choice.

Whether you choose to follow Jesus or not, God already knows the answer.  He gives us room to make our own choices.  God’s heart grieves when we turn from Him, but only with free will can we truly love.  Forcing someone to have deep affection for you isn’t deep affection; it’s tyranny.  God isn’t a tyrant.  He is a loving Father who wants the best for His children.

We don’t have to understand all of God’s ways to have faith in Him.  We just have to trust in His plan for our lives.  Let Him write your story.  Follow His lead.  When you do, you’ll find your purpose.

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Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for writing our story.  Thank You for knowing us before we were born.  Forgive us the times we falsely think we’re in control.  Thank You for reminding us of Your sovereignty.  Help us meditate on this verse today.  Speak to our soul as we think about the books You’ve written for each of us.  Since You know each day before we live it, guide us on the path You would have us take.  In all things, the glory is Yours.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

How does God knowing your days before they happen make you wonder?

How a Short Temper Will Make You Stupid

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 29-30 GW; Proverbs 14 GW

Short tempers breed stupidity.

Flying off the handle over a situation has consequences.  Anger is a violent emotion, often compared to an erupting volcano.  The surge of emotions comes quickly from deep within the soul.   Words become molten lava, pouring from our mouths with no forethought.  In an instant, damage occurs that can take years to repair, if ever.

Take it from someone who knows; short tempers cause nothing but trouble.

At 52 years old, I’ve worked relentlessly on my anger issues.  They stem from my father’s death at 16.  Anger is how you dealt with things in my childhood home; a go-to emotion we all knew well.  Over the years, I’ve gotten myself in more trouble with my temper than any other way.

But then God.

God’s spirit within me calms the storm.  Through Him, I find patience.  If I’m facing a situation that I know will infuriate me, I pray.  Asking God for extra grace is a common prayer I utter.  Seeking God helps me lose my attitude and gain His.  Great understanding comes when we place our trust in Jesus.

More of God, less of you.

One way to avoid stupidity is to ask God for more of Him, less of you.  Acknowledge that without Him, your emotions can get the best of you.  But with God, He will give you what you need to temper your responses.  Instead of flying off of the handle, you can become a person of great understanding.

Seek God first in all things.  When faced with a situation that angers you, ask God to take control of your mouth AND your emotions.  Trust Him in the moment.  Watch as God uses the opportunity for His glory.

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Lord God, how grateful we are for you.  You are long-suffering for us.  Each day, you wait patiently for us to turn to You.  Some days we do, some days we don’t.  Forgive us for the times we turn from you, relying on our strength instead of Yours.  Today, let us seek You.  Whatever situation we’re facing, fill us with Your spirit.  Give us Your grace, Your mercy, Your strength—more of You, less of us.  With You, we can become people of great understanding and patience.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

When has a short fuse made you stupid?

How Controlling Your Mouth Will Make You Protected

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 28 GW; Proverbs 13 GW

Speak intentionally.

Control what comes out of your mouth.  Don’t say every thought that comes into your head.  Assess your situation.  Remember, we’re to do all things in love:

“Do everything with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 GW)

Talking is included in “everything.”  The words from our mouths are to encourage and uplift, not tear down.  When we speak out of turn, emotionally or without thinking, we will find ruin.  Even if what you’re talking about is true, it does no good if not said in love.

When you’re passionate about a topic, it’s hard not to become a big mouth.  Forcing your opinion on people does nothing to sway them.  If your heart isn’t right, your words aren’t either:

But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.” (Matthew 15:18 NLT)

Heart check first.

Before you speak, check your heart.  Ask yourself questions.  Are the emotions you’re expressing filled with love or hate?  Is frustration more evident than patience?  Does engaging in this conversation further God’s kingdom or tear it down?

Recently, while browsing Facebook, I came across a political post.  The facts were incorrect and not telling the entire story.  Furiously, I began to type a response.  Then I stopped myself.  I realized I was already angry.  Immediately I deleted my words before posting.  If I can’t engage in a conversation with love, I’m not going to engage in the conversation at all.  As my mother always said, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”  Doing a heart check before posting protected me from entering into a weak argument.  

You can delete words from a post, but not the ones that come from your mouth.  Once said, you can’t get them back.

Protect yourself by controlling your mouth.  Check your heart for correct motives; don’t become a big mouth. Speak everything in love.

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Lord, how grateful we are You are our ultimate protector.  Even in our worst moments, You can bring good.  Forgive us for forcing our opinions on others.  Help us to think before we speak.  Align our hearts with Yours, so we talk love, not hate.   Today, as life’s pressures surround us, don’t let us lose sight of You.  Help us honor and glorify You in everything we do.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

When have you been a big mouth?

Why Declaring the Lord as Your God Will Make You Start New

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 26-27 GW; Psalms 19 GW; Proverbs 12 GW

Choosing God renews you.

Each morning when you roll out of bed, you have a choice.  Yesterday may have been horrible, but today is a new day. You may have done something in the past 24 hours you regret, but today you can begin again.  Maybe you told a lie yesterday, today you can tell the truth.  Perhaps you spoke not with love, today you can choose differently.

God is a God of second chances, as many of them as you need.  Life is a journey, we grow as we travel through our days:

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” J.D. Salinger

Maturing happens when we choose today to declare the Lord as our God. Just as Jesus lived humbly for us, each hour that passes is an opportunity to do the same.  God’s grace forgives us of our past, gives us peace in the present, and hope for the future.

Begin again.

In our technological world, we all know what to do if our phones are acting up; restart it.  Living humbly for God requires constant restarts.  We have to let go of the past, declare our faith in God, and obey Him.  When we mess-up, reboot.  

How many times I have to ask God for forgiveness in a typical day is impossible to count.  I feel like I’m constantly asking for grace for one reason or another.  But God is always ready to forgive and give me another chance.  He’ll do the same for you.

No matter what yesterday was, today isn’t.  Declare your faith in God anew.  Obey His commands, listen for His still, small voice.

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Lord, thank You for a new day.  We’re grateful to have a fresh start, not just today but every day.  Forgive us for not letting go of the past, for holding on to things You’ve forgiven.  Help us declare You as our God.  Give us what we need to obey your laws and commands.  Open our ears to hear Your voice.  When we need to reboot, help us do it.  Time and again, let us always return to You.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

Are you in need of a restart?

How Dealing with Hypocrisy Will Make You Nuts

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 24-25 GW; Proverbs 11 GW; Psalms 49 GW

Doublespeak is exhausting.

Trying to decipher truth takes energy when the story constantly changes.  News outlets and social media say whatever is necessary to get the ratings.  One good thing that came from 2020, a recent Gallup survey reported only 9% of adults trust mass media completely.  People are aware of the hypocrisy that has taken over our media outlets.

Flipping from a liberal news channel to a conservative one can cause a mental tailspin.  One station reports riots, while the other reports peaceful protests.  Both are hypocrites, catering to their audiences.  The same Gallup survey reported over 90% of each political party watches the news channel that supports their belief system.  Therefore, they’re only getting half of the story.  When reality doesn’t match what they hear in the media, people don’t know what to believe.

Following Jesus reveals truth.

Remain sane by focusing on the truth of Jesus.  Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.  Jesus was a man of integrity.  He told the truth; in Him, you’ll find no hypocrisy.  Jesus exemplifies how to live an honest life through Him.

To live a life of integrity means letting Jesus guide you.   In Him, you will find truth.  Jesus wasn’t a hypocrite.  He didn’t lie to get people to follow Him.  In love, Jesus was honest with all He met.  Jesus asked the right questions, allowing people to think for themselves.  By doing so, He exposed hypocrites.

We can do the same thing.  Follow Jesus’s example of asking questions.  Allow people to think about the words they are saying.  Often, people don’t realize they’re speaking out of both sides of their mouths.  

Don’t let hypocrites drive you nuts.  Focus on Jesus; let Him guide you.

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Praise God for His guiding light.  Like a lighthouse in the sea, Your beacon gives us direction.  Forgive us for getting caught up in the hypocrisy of this world.  Help us rid ourselves of doublespeak; instead, help integrity lead our lives.  Give us the courage, to tell the truth in love to all.  Clear any confusion from our minds as we move through the hypocritical world we live in today.  Guide and protect us today and always.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

What area is hypocrisy driving you nuts today?

How Your Village Will Make You Stronger

2 minute read.

Daily Reading: Deuteronomy 23 GW; Philemon GW; Proverbs 10 GW

Find your village, find your strength.

Jesus lived in a small community, Nazareth, population 400.  He understood the intimacy of sharing life closely with a group of people. Everyone needs a village.  People who surround you and walk with you through the ups and downs of life.  People who show up when no one else does.  Individuals who have different gifts yet come together as one body.

Raised in the village of Tidal, God gave me one of my greatest strengths.  He surrounded me with Christ-following people right from the start.  We didn’t all go to the same church, but we all followed the same God.  Tidal residents were and still are Christ in the flesh to me.  From caring for skinned knees as a child, helping me deal with my dad’s illness and death as a teenager, to putting flowers on my parent’s graves when I couldn’t, they’ve supported me my entire life.  When life cripples me, they help me get back on my feet.  God created us to live in close community with others.  Geographical distance doesn’t cut the ties that bind.

Life is a relay race.

To run the race of life, you need help.  God never intended us to journey through life alone.  When we can no longer carry the baton, someone else will.  Developing a network of people around you is mandatory to fulfill your purpose.  We need people in our lives to carry us when we can’t walk.  Life will knock you off your feet by times.  Everyone does.  God willing, when that happens, you will have a village to pick you up.

Begin today developing your village. Jesus intentionally chose His companions.  You can select yours too.  Join a small group Bible study.  Surround yourself with people who are following Jesus.  Enjoy the benefits of having a village.

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Lord, thank You for creating us for community.  Forgive us for taking our villages for granted.  Instead, help us develop strong relationships that last a lifetime.  Like Jesus did, help us wisely choose who we surround ourselves with each day.  Help us run our part of the relay race well, give us someone we can hand off the baton when needed.  All glory is Yours.  IJNIP. Amen

Question for reflection

Who is in your village?