DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WAY YOU’RE GOING IN LIFE?

“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand their own way?” (Proverbs 20:24 NIV)

No one understands the way they are going in life.

We may have a plan.  We might have a general idea of where we’re heading, but none of us knows.  We don’t know because we’re not God.  God is sovereign:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV)

Think about your day so far.  When you woke up this morning, you had a general idea of what you were going to do.  Have things gone 100% according to plan?  Or have some things happened you could never have predicted?  Those things are God’s sovereignty in your life.

God’s steps equal our steps.

God’s steps are those moments in our lives we didn’t predict.  On the way to work, you get stuck in traffic because of an accident; God step. You’re running late and a parking spot opens up right in front, God step.  An unexpected death of a loved one; God step.  The moment when new life forms in the womb; God step.

God steps in our lives every day.  Some times they are small steps, other times they are large steps.  Sometimes the steps are joyous, sometimes they are painful.  None of them are predictable.  All of them leave us with a choice.  We can either trust God and step with Him, or we can not.

If we choose not to step with God, we get stuck in the moment.  Instead of trusting God’s sovereignty in our lives, we struggle to find meaning in something that doesn’t make sense.  We assume the world is either plotting against us or for us, depending on whether the situation is good or bad.  We make everything about us and nothing about God.

When my nephew died, it was a huge God step in my life.  Did I trust God in my heartache or not?  My nephew sat in my car and gave his life to Jesus.  God imprinted that moment solidly in my mind.  Now years later, do I trust the prayer was real?  Do I trust God’s word that I will one day see my nephew again?  Or don’t I?

The truth is, we’re going to step forward in life.  One way or another, life doesn’t give us a choice.  But God does.  God gives us the option of stepping with Him or stepping without Him.  Every morning when we start our day, we choose again.

God’s steps equal our steps.  Each day He has new steps for us to follow.

Question of the Day:

What is a step God has taken in your life?

Further Reading: Ezra 3:1-4:23 NIV, 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4 NIV, Psalm 28 NIV,  Proverbs 20:24-25 NIV

One Example Of How God Works Things Out for the Good

“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,  God my Savior.” (Psalm 27:9 NIV)

David Kennedy is a pastor in Laurens, SC who fights life’s battles with prayer.  His remarkable story is told in the movie BurdenIn 1996, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) opened a museum in town.  Reverend Kennedy formed a peaceful protest, fueled by prayer.  His example of putting God’s word into practice is one that will impact the rest of my life.

The movie centers around the life of Mike Burden, an orphan raised in the KKK.  He was Grand Dragon, a high ranking position in the organization, when Reverend Kennedy met him.  Burden helped open the museum.  His loyalty to the KKK earned him the deed to the building.

Reverend Kennedy fought the KKK with love:

“The weapons we use to fight fear, they are not brutality.  They are not wrath. They are not hate.  They are and will always be, love.”

Prayer is an act of love.

Reverend Kennedy started his battle with prayer.  He won his battle with prayer.  In one of the most pivotal moments in the movie, he prays.  All hope has been lost.  The KKK looks like they are winning the fight.  When his wife asks the reverend what he’s going to do, his answer was simple.  “I’m going to pray.”  God’s answer was one no one expected.

Burden had met a woman named Judy.  Her influence on his life caused him to leave the KKK.  When he left the organization, people closed their doors to him. He couldn’t get a job.  They ended up homeless, living on the street, begging for food.  When he asks the reverend for change to buy a meal, the pastor took the opportunity to love.  Not only did he buy them a meal, he took them into his home.  He gave them a place to stay until they could get back on their feet.  The reverend saw Burden’s request as an answer to prayer.  God gave him the opportunity to love.

Jesus tells us we are to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44 NIV).   God doesn’t answer the way we expect.  He answers with an opportunity to act.  If you pray for patience, God will give you an opportunity to practice patience.  In the case of Reverend Kennedy, he had the opportunity to practice love. He had prayed for the people in the KKK.  Now he had the opportunity to love one of them like Jesus. His answered prayer was the opportunity to love his enemy. Taking his cue from the Good Samaritan, he went above and beyond in his act of love.

Because Reverend Kennedy didn’t miss the opportunity to love, his church now owns the KKK museum.  The Echo Project is now a rehab for hate.  The church is currently raising money to turn the facility into a community and diversity center.  

Prayer is an act of love.  God answers with opportunities to love.  Don’t miss the opportunity.

Question of the Day:

Who can you love through prayer today?

Further Reading: Ezra 1-2 NIV1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 NIVPsalm 27:7-14 NIVProverbs 20:22-23 NIV

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE MISSING IN YOUR LIFE?

“For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—” (1 Corinthians 1:5 NIV)

God has given you everything you need.  

When I was younger, I thought I needed more.  When a friend got a new toy, I wanted a new toy.  In sixth grade, all my friends seemed to get glasses.  Wouldn’t you know it, all of a sudden I couldn’t see.  When my Mom took me to the eye doctor, I remember her words.  “She doesn’t have a sight problem, she has a jealousy problem.  Everyone in her class is getting glasses.”  She wasn’t wrong.  I didn’t need glasses, I was sent home with exercises to “cure” my sight issues.

In today’s world, a common phrase describes what I was feeling: FOMO,  Fear Of Missing Out.

We all have experienced this in one way or another.  What we fear we’re missing out on is different, but we’ve all felt this way.  Social media has helped feed this fear.  We see someone on our Facebook feed at the beach, or the mountains, having a grand time, FOMO occurs.  Happy couples enjoying each other’s company can spark FOMO.  A group photo of friends having fun without you can cause FOMO.

Know God, No FOMO

Embracing God’s life fully means enjoying the momentWhen we place our trust in God completely, He guides our paths:

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)

Where God guides, He provides.  He gives us everything we need to do what He wants us to do.  The problem isn’t God’s provision, it’s our vision.  What we focus our eyes on gets our attention.  If we’re consumed with Facebook and what others are doing, we’ll have FOMO.  But if we place our eyes on Jesus, we’ll live in the moment.  

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34 ESV)

Live for today.  Enjoy the people God has placed in your lives.  Pray for the people in your life.  No one knows them like you do.  Pray specifically for God to intervene in their lives.  Watch what He does when you give Him control.  

Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all tried to run the world.  That job is not one we were ever meant to have.  God is in control.  Let Him take the lead in your life today. He knows what He is doing.

Question of the Day:

Are you experiencing FOMO in your life?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23 NIV, 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 NIV, Psalm 27:1-6 NIV, Proverbs 20:20-21 NIV

WHO CAN’T YOU TRUST IN YOUR LIFE?

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” (Prov. 20:19 NIV)

Gossips aren’t trustworthy.

Unfortunately, we are all guilty of gossip at some time or another.  Webster defines gossip as: One who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news; an idle tattler.  In other words, as soon as a gossip learns a bit of news, good or bad, they are quick to spread it around.  A major problem with gossip, it’s usually not true.  

When I was in elementary school, I remember learning this lesson.  The teacher lined us up.  She whispered something in the ear of the first person, who then told the next, and so on. When the message reached the last person, it had changed completely.  What the teacher said and what the last person heard weren’t the same.   The reasons why this happens are many.  Someone didn’t hear correctly.  Or maybe someone didn’t listen at all and made something up.  Listening is a skill that develops over a lifetime.  We all “hear” what we want to “hear” at times, even though it’s not what is actually said.  Whatever the reason, truth and lies are entangled when we gossip.

God isn’t a gossip.

God’s word is truth.  His promises stand the test of time.  He doesn’t tell lies about people.  He doesn’t talk about them behind their back.  When you tell Him a secret, He keeps it. God isn’t waiting on His throne for a juicy morsel of news He can pass onto the angels.  As soon as He hears a prayer request, He’s not turning to archangel Michael and whispering: “Hey Mike, did you hear what Beth just prayed?”  God doesn’t betray our confidence.  God is completely trustworthy.

In the last decade, I’ve started telling God things in prayer that no one else knows.  My life has been hurt by gossip more times than I’d like to recall.  Trusting people is difficult for me.  The older I get, the less people I trust.  Everyone has their own agenda, with their own self interests.  Everyone but God, His interest is you.  He wants what is best for you in all situations.  When you pour your heart out to Him, He listens.  He understands. He knows what to do.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” (Psalm 118:8 NIV)

Gossip is hurtful.  Whether you’re gossip’s topic or the one spreading it, the ending is never good.  Someone always gets hurt.  Whatever the story, it’s a mixture of truth and lies.  Discerning what is true is difficult. A rule of thumb I follow:  if I can’t say it to their face, I shouldn’t say it behind their back.  

With God, I let my guard down completely and tell Him everything.  I know, He won’t gossip about it.

Question of the Day: 

How has gossip affected your life?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 33-34 NIVRomans 16:10-27 NIV, Psalm 26:1-12 NIV, Proverbs 20:19 NIV

HOW DO YOU KNOW THE RIGHT DECISION TO MAKE?

“Plans are established by seeking advice;  so if you wage war, obtain guidance.” (Proverbs 20:18 NIV)

Ask for advice.  

The best decisions are made when you ask for advice.  In today’s world, the internet connects us in ways we’ve never experienced.  We can seek advice from experts without ever leaving our home.  Sometimes, the ones with the best advice are not who you think.  

Recently I purchased an action camera for my tennis classes. First I asked the highschool students in the class, “Which camera should I buy?”  They immediately had a recommendation.  Kids know more about technology than most adults.  Their advice was good.  After researching their suggestions, I sought more advice for my final decision.  Watching YouTube videos of people who actually used my final choices helped.  As a result of seeking advice, I bought a great camera at a fraction of the cost because the next generation is about to emerge.

A good decision made by seeking advice from the people who know.

Consider the source.

When asking for advice, consider the source.  Who you go to for advice is as important as the advice you receive.  When I was single, I learned quickly, my single friends didn’t necessarily give the best advice for the type of relationship I hoped to find.  My married friends gave much better advice.  My desire was marriage, single women who have never been married don’t know what marriage is like.

Don’t ask a mechanic how to do heart surgery.  Don’t ask a heart surgeon how to fix a car.  Go to the right person to receive the right answer.  God always has the right answer:

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)

God is always the best source for advice.  When we are making a decision, start with God.  Ask Him, “Which way should I go?”  He’ll tell you, either right or left.  He’ll nudge you in the right direction, towards the right person, who can help you make a good decision.

I have a personal “Board of Directors” in my life.  Friends I’ve met along this journey.  Some I’ve known a lifetime.  When I’m seeking advice, they are where I start.  The depth of our relationships results in a trust that only comes from time.  We’ve travelled the dusty road of life long enough to know, we have each other’s back.  Often, I don’t hear what I want to hear.  But I know whatever “it” is, I need to hear it.

Start with God.  Build a network of friends you can trust.  Seek advice, you’ll know the right decision to make.

Question of the Day:

What kind of advice do you need today?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 32-33 NIV, Romans 15:23-16:9 NIV, Psalm 25:16-22 NIV, Proverbs 20:16-18 NIV

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR NEIGHBOR?

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:2 NIV)

If you don’t know how to help your neighbor, ask.

People are afraid to follow God because of what He will ask them to do.  They don’t want to go to Africa and become missionaries.  God only knows where a life lived following Him will take you.  Maybe God will call you to Africa to serve, but more than likely He won’t.  

What God does want you to do if you follow Him, is love your neighbor.

Love your neighbor.

Jesus left us with two tasks in the Great Commandment:  Love God, love others. He didn’t say move to Africa.  He said love the person sitting next to you.  His command is simple.  Start right where you are.

COVID has brought neighbors together.  In a time where church services were completely shut down, people grew where they were planted.  In my neighborhood, we check on each other regularly.  When my elderly neighbor’s battery died in her car, we all helped get her back on the road. Check-in texts became a regular habit.  We stopped taking each other for granted and hunkered down together to weather the storm.  We loved the people sitting next to us.  Our friendships deepened, our neighborhood thrived in the midst of chaos.

Just like in all relationships, we need to forgive our neighbor. Forgive them when they leave their trash can out for two days.  Forgive them when their dog barks too loud, or their music is too high.  Forgive them when they don’t say “Hello,” on the way in the door.  Whatever offense they have committed, forgive them.

Neighbors are like family.  You can pick your neighbors to a certain extent.  But a lot of times, you can’t.  We have to learn to love them.  We have to accept the things that irritate us. We must find a way to live at peace with them:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV)

Living at peace with our neighbors means something different to everyone.  We promote peace when we get to know those living closest to us.  Diverse neighbors lead to diverse friendships. We learn from each other.  We look out for each other.  We live at peace with each other, respecting boundaries.  In doing so, we create a community where people want to live.  

Loving God and loving our neighbors will grow your faith faster than any other way.  You will begin to connect the dots of His presence in your lives.  As you build up your neighbors, you will build your faith.  You don’t have to go to Africa.  You just have to love your neighbor.

Question of the Day:

What neighbor can you love today?


Further Reading:2 Chronicles 30-31 NIV, Romans 15:1-22 NIV, Psalm 25:1-15 NIV, Proverbs 20:13-15 NIV

HOW TO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Romans 14:2 NIV) 

Focus on what you do have instead of what you don’t have.  Comparing yourself to others is focusing on what you don’t have.

When I was single, I compared my life to my married friends’ lives.  Jealousy is an ugly emotion.  Married friends, from my single perspective, had life easy.  Two incomes, someone to hold them every night, someone to tell them life is ok.  Who wouldn’t want marriage?  Getting married taught me a lesson.  Marriage has problems too. What I thought marriage was and what it is are two very different things.  I was jealous of something that didn’t exist.  No one’s life is perfect.  No one.

No one’s life is perfect.  No one.

John Travolta recently lost his wife Kelly Preston to breast cancer.  From a spectator’s perspective, my heart aches for the tragedy he has endured.  They lost their son at 19 from a seizure. Their beautiful love story tells the truth of life.  Money and success can’t stop heartbreak for anyone.  Life happens whether we want it too or not.  What we can do is embrace each day God gives us.  

The best way to embrace the day is to start by thanking God:

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV)

God made this day.  His breath is what allows you to breathe. He woke you up this morning, He’ll give you the energy you need for the day ahead. Having a roof over your head, running water and electricity, is a privilege.  60% of the people in the world today do not have clean water.  Living in America, you have freedoms no one else in the world has.  We are land of the free, home of the brave because of God.  He led our forefathers, they led our country.  

No matter what you thank God for this morning, start somewhere.  When we are thanking God for our blessings, we’re focusing on what we do have instead of what we don’t have.  As we begin to thank Him, the list grows quickly.  Our eyes become more and more focused on the goodness of God.  Let His goodness flow into you.  Let His Spirit fill you.  Bask in the rays of His amazing Son.  

One of my friends was a physical therapist.  In a Bible study we did years ago, she told us about her day.  Working with people who would never walk again made her appreciate she could.  She told us she would walk home from work, praising God for her body parts.  Her arms, her legs, her ability to move, she realized, were all blessings from above.

Focus on what you do have, instead of what you don’t have.

Question of the Day:

What are you focusing on today?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 29:1-36 NIV, Romans 14 NIV, Psalm 24 NIV, Proverbs 20:12 NIV

ONE OUTSTANDING DEBT YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8 NIV)

Love’s debt is never paid.  

Each day God gives us, we are to love.  Acts of love are what will carry people through life.  We have no idea how far one act of love travels.  When we love like Jesus, lives change.  Bonds break.  Relationships heal. 

Who are we to love?  Everyone.  How are we to love? Humbly:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil. 2:3-4 NIV)

Humble hearts serve others.

Humility is difficult to maintain on our own.  Pride is quick to rear its ugly head.  Recently, I was teaching a 10 and Under tennis class.  My strongest student asked to play a particular game.  “After all,” he said, “I usually win.”  Arguing with him wasn’t an option, he wasn’t wrong.  My only response, “Pride goes before a fall.”  He smiled at my words, admitting he was prideful, but for a reason.  As the game unfolded, he lost.  Every point he played, he lost. Shock was my response, humility was his. God keeps us humble.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians gave us specific directions on how to love:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:3-7 ESV)

Love done right is the bomb. My brother recently celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary.  His daughter wrote a beautiful tribute to her parents on her Facebook page.  Love done right.  My tennis partner poured her heart into her tennis camps.  In 90 plus heat, she loved the 5-12 year olds she taught to the best of her ability.  When I was at her house recently, she showed me the drawings the kids had done for her.  Her face beamed at the stick figures holding racquets.  Love done right.  My husband’s love and patience with me over our marriage has healed my heart from decades old scars.  Love done right.

But love done right is hard.  Love requires work.  Sick days don’t exist when it comes to love.  For me to love people, I need constant contact with God.  Prayer is our love language.  My tie with Him, helps me pay my debt of love to others.  Without God, love doesn’t exist.  Only through Him can we truly love others.

Loving others is fulfilling the law.

Question of the Day:

Who do you need God’s help loving today?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 26-28 NIV, Romans 13:1-14 NIV, Psalm 23 NIV, Proverbs 20:11 NIV

WHAT NOT TO DO IN YOUR LIFE

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Don’t conform.  Don’t do what everyone else is doing, just because they’re doing it.  My mother said it this way, “Just because everyone else jumps in a lake, doesn’t mean you have too.”  

Mob mentality is real:

Mob mentality, also called herd mentality, describes how humans adopt behaviors, buy merchandise, and follow trends based on their circle of influence.  It explains how one’s point of view can be easily altered by those around them.

We’re experiencing mob mentality right now with COVID. Fear and panic grips our world.  As I write, numbers are on the rise for the second time.  People’s fright levels rise every time the number of cases rise. Not conforming to the world is not just a daily battle, but a minute-by-minute battle.  Everyone has jumped into the lake of fear, but you don’t have too.  You can let God’s peace flow into your life, no matter what the rest of the world is doing.

Know God, know peace.

Transform your mind by letting God’s word fill it.  Memorizing scripture is key to finding peace in the minute-by-minute battle of life.  Satan is always trying to steal your peace.  But Jesus came to give you life:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

If you’re going to spend time memorizing scripture, this one is a good place to start:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7 NIV)

Life is short.  Whether you live 10 years or a 100, life is short.  Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from enjoying the known.  Enjoy the people God has placed around you.  Thank Him they are alive.  Praise Him for allowing You to have their love in your life.  Hug your children and grandchildren.  Everyday is a day that will never be again.  If you let fear lead your life, you will let the days slip away.  You will miss the people God has given you because you’re focused on your fear.  

Live!  Thank God for what you do have.  Lift up your prayer requests to Him.  Let His peace descend upon you as you trust Him.  Live this day.  Enjoy where God has planted you.  Enjoy the people He has planted around you.  Allow God’s peace to help you live life to the fullest; today! 

Know God, know peace.  

Question of the Day:

What is stopping you from experiencing God’s peace?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 24-25 NIV, Romans 12:1-21NIV, Psalm 22:19-31NIV, Proverbs 20:8-10 NIV

EMBRACE THE UNKNOWN IN YOUR LIFE

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33 NIV)

We waste time trying to understand God.  We never will.  If we accept that fact, we can embrace the unknown.  Instead of fearing the future, we can look forward to it in anticipation of what God will do in our lives.  Letting God’s will unfold in our lives means letting go of what we want. 

Let go, let God!

A few weeks ago during a prayer meeting, we discussed the unexpected.  The pastor talked about how none of us know what the day ahead holds.  This statement comes from a man who was shot five times, his son murdered while finishing a bathroom for a homeless veteran.  Serving the Lord on a Friday morning and tragedy befell them. The first thing he did when he woke up in the hospital was ask for his Bible and books on heaven. He gave that morning to God. I have never known a man of greater faith than my friend Mike.  He let go and let God.  

Each day we have the same choice.  We can choose to hold on to our unanswered questions, or we can accept God’s sovereignty in our lives:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29 NIV)

Mark Batterson, a pastor I follow, introduced me to the “Deut. 29 File.”  In one of his messages, he told how he created this file for unanswered questions.  When something happens in his life he doesn’t understand, he writes it down and puts in the Deut. 29 file.  He knows, just like my friend Mike, he’ll never know the answer until he gets to heaven.  By putting the question in the file, he’s able to let it go and keep going.

Some people have jars for their unanswered questions.  They keep paper and pen handy for times when they don’t know what God is doing.  By writing it down and putting it in the jar, they are letting it go.  The physical action helps let go emotionally.  Personally, I have a journal and  a prayer board I use.  I post my prayers on the board until God answers, one way or another.  

Take time to find your own way to let go and let God.  For one friend, long walks in the woods is her time to talk to God.  For another friend, her art is her connection to God, each stroke releasing more and more to Him.  The ways to let our worries go to God vary greatly, but the connection is always the same: prayer.  Let go, let God!

Question of the Day:

What do you need to let go of today?

Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21NIV, Romans 11:13-36 NIV, Psalm 22:1-18 NIV

Proverbs 20:7 NIV