Keep Focused!

Waking up to another morning of low dense white clouds, I could barely see past the trees in our yard; the cloud’s thickness engulfed everything in sight. Low lying, thick clouds are common in the mountains, yet driving through them on curvy roads can be dangerous. In the car, hands clinched to the steering wheel, there is a great deal of uncertainty so I focus on the white painted lines on the pavement and the red tail lights on the cars in front of me. Never knowing when the clouds will lift, I stay focused and am always relieved when I finally come out of the thickness and can see far ahead on the road in front of me.

Often in our lives, there are times when we seem to be surrounded by dense clouds. We can’t see very far, perhaps only a few feet in front of us. We become frightened, anxious, and not sure of our surroundings. It muddles our thinking and we feel lost and unsure of where we are headed. If only we could see farther ahead and make out our path.

During those times, we must stay focused. If not, we could veer off the path and go down a dark hill or get stuck somewhere- not even knowing where we are. Just like the white painted directional lines on the road, we need to fix our eyes on a clear guide. There is only one sure guide through the darkness, One who knows the right path, step by step – Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way…” John 14:6. He is the way toward God and His love, peace, forgiveness, and wisdom for life.

Not sure of the path in front of her, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a brilliant and famous artist, searched and prayed for clear directions. Fixing her eyes on Jesus, she decided to put aside her art to take the message and love of Jesus to Algeria. Joyful and at peace in following Jesus’ clear path, Lilias wrote several books and tracts about her love for Jesus. In her tract, Focussed she wrote:

“It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? …Then dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory…Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”

Inspired by Lilias’ words, Helen Lemmel wrote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Are you in some darkness, surrounded by thick clouds from difficulties, or perhaps wrong choices or failures? Have you lost your way not seeing the path in front of you? Then look only to Jesus. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Let His words, God’s words, guide you through the clouds. Read God’s Word daily, clinging to its truths.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.” 119:133

“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8

 

Fruits of Worship

Their vast beauty is amazing, in every season of the year. Row after row of blue hues, smoky clouds and waterfalls, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina are one of the most visited locations in the U.S.  Living not too far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, my husband and I took a drive last weekend to be awed at God’s creative beauty. While speechlessly gazing into the distance, another car filled with girls stopped at the overlook. They sat in the car taking selfies, seemingly not noticing the mountains right next to them, only admiring their personal beauty instead.

Too many today are consumed with self, the god they worship. In conversations they boast about themselves, their possessions, their skills and accomplishments and their looks while paying no attention to others. Great amounts of money are spent on shining their idol, keeping its outward appearance glowing. If someone seeks to destroy their idol, they lash out, mock, and hate others. The idol is never satisfied and needs constant attention and maintenance. Eventually, in utter exhaustion these people lose hope. As the idol crumbles so do they. And the results: Those who have “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…are filled with envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:25, 29-31)

However, the great Creator God, the Almighty One “who is worthy of eternal praise.” (Romans 1:25), has the power, love and forgiveness to free others from this self-love and its results. When God said, “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3), He was protecting us. He knew the results and wanted us to instead know His love and not hatred – “I lavish unfailing love…on those who love me.” (Exodus 1:6).

God spoke, “I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and sorry for their sins. I will give new life to those who are humble in spirit. I will give new life to those who are sorry for their sins.” (Isaiah 57:15)

The fruits of worshiping God as the only true God, is life not death, hope not despair. When we smash our selfish idols and run to Him alone, through His son Jesus Christ, He produces His holiness in our lives. His Holy Spirit produces the fruits of love for others, joy in the midst of sorrows, peace in all circumstances, patience with Him and others, kindness toward those who are hateful, goodness in character, faithfulness in keeping our promises, gentleness instead of strife and self-control in our thinking and actions.

Who are you worshiping today? Are you satisfied with the results? Are you willing to throw down the selfie stick and instead raise up God as your only god, who will in turn lavish his love on you?

It’s time to praise God, the Almighty Creator whose beauty reveals himself to us – even in places like the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

 

Peacefully Abiding in God’s Shelter

castle

Recently, we just purchased and moved into our home in the mountains. It is a log home which will protect and shelter us from the harsh winter winds and snow storms that will inevitably come. Before purchasing our “shelter”, we had it inspected to make sure it was built with a strong foundation and safe living spaces.  We are now unpacking (thus the lag in blog writing) and settling in.  I can sleep at peace knowing I have a safe place to abide.

However, right now in many places of our world and cities there are no safe places to abide.  Daily crises of different kinds, financial troubles, immorality, and power hungry leaders are creating panic and fear. Even those who are believers in Jesus are panicking. Like nonbelievers they have forgotten the strong foundation they have in God, who is seated on his throne, above all worldly rulers and authorities. Why do believers panic? Because they have left their safe shelter, God Almighty, and have wandered far away from His protection. Many have ventured so far from Him, trusting in themselves, others, and the world to protect them from these crises.

Jesus told his followers to “abide in me”.  Abide means to remain stable in a fixed place, to continue to make my home with.  Why should we abide?  Because we need Him. There is no peace without Him. No protection. God is our shelter:

“But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” Psalm 73:28

 “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.”  Psalm 31:19-20

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

“The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10

In God’s shelter we find rest and peace from an evil, angry world. It is a good thing to be near God and on His side.

Right now, God is calling His people, those who have trusted in His Son Jesus, back to Himself. Back to His love and protection. Many want to return but have forgotten the way. They have forgotten that God is merciful and forgiving, longing to have us return to His side. And some who don’t know Jesus want to know Him and His love but don’t know how.

Seeing this need myself, I wrote a book to encourage God’s people to return to His side, to abide in His love. This book, Wake Up! Return to God, will be out on Amazon in a few weeks!

Have you left the fortress of God’s loving protection to venture out on your own? Are you so far away and in a crisis with no peace?   Do you feel far away from God and His grace? He wants you to return.  There is nothing or no one else who can provide His mighty protection and care.

 

Family Love

Facebook is full of what else? – faces. It is an online “book” of faces. Many of the faces are of family and family members. There are pictures of weddings, births, graduations, vacations and events of the past. Some pictures are funny and some serious. Every day, even every hour, people share their love for their families by posting pictures and writing comments. Then those of us who are their friends get to “like” what we see and comment ourselves. Really, to me, Facebook is a family of friends sharing our love for others and each other.

Family love is powerful. A picture of family love whether on Facebook, in a frame, or in person can have an amazing influence in other lives, especially if those lives don’t have family love. Many people in the world would love to have a family or at least a family that loves each other.

When Jesus was eating the last supper with his best friends, his disciples, he shared what was on his heart. He loved these disciples; they had become his family. He told them of his coming death but then gave them a command. One simple command, yet it wouldn’t be easy to follow.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Luke 13:34-35)

And how were they to love each other? Just like Jesus had loved them – He was their example, their picture. Talk about an amazing picture of love. Jesus had just washed their feet, humbly serving them. He fed them with loaves and fish, He taught them God’s Words and Truth, and He was about to die for them so that they could live.

When we come to trust in Jesus and know God’s forgiveness we enter a family – a family of believers all over the world. We may look different, speak a different language, and may never meet, but we are family. Jesus told us that our love for each other would be a testimony for others that we are His followers. The world would know we are Christians – Christ followers – by our love for one another. This is our witness. How are we doing? What does our picture look like? Do we tear each other down; ignore our brothers and sisters who are suffering? Or do we humbly lay down our lives for them in love as Jesus loved us?

I am going to take some extra time this week to pray for my family in my church, community and around the world. I will support them financially where there is a need. I will seek ways to serve them and “wash their feet” as Jesus did? What will you do to show your love for your family?

 

Praying for these and other family members who are persecuted for believing in Jesus.

Self-Controlled Choices

blog - World Cup

Talented and trained soccer athletes have descended on Sao Paulo, Brazil this week to participate in the 2014 World Cup. These individuals have spent time and money in training their bodies and minds for one purpose – to win. Like all athletes, they know the importance of self-control in order to become the best at what they do. Many people look up to these athletes but don’t realize the sacrifices they have made and the physical pain they suffer to train their bodies.

Being self-controlled shows itself in choices. Athletes make choices about how much time they spend in physical training, who trains them, what to eat or not eat, and mentally training their minds to know the sport and think about winning. Athletes that win are self-controlled and disciplined. They sacrifice what others would not in order to gain a reward.

As a follower of Jesus, my goal and desire is to know Him, to abide with Him, and to glorify God, the Father. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). Abiding with Jesus and bringing glory to God has eternal rewards. The writer of Hebrews said, “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Even Moses chose to follow God and His people for an eternal purpose, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

Living in this world I can be constantly sidetracked by things around me that distract from the goal, the eternal rewards of knowing Jesus. I have to be determined and focused like an athlete who wants to win the prize. I must have self-control in all my daily choices and ask Jesus to give me the strength to say “no” to things that will distract me or say “yes” to things that will lead me to an eternal reward.

Paul knew that self-control was crucial to following Jesus and the eternal reward it would bring. Paul’s life choices made him qualified, like an athlete, to be an example of Jesus as he preached to others. He wrote:

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

As I abide with Jesus, He gives me the strength to have self-control in my daily choices. I will have to make daily choices to spend time with Him, listening and praying and reading His Word. I will have to make choices about what I put in my mind, what I read and look at that influence my speech and writing. I will have to make choices about how I use the resources God has entrusted to me – my finances and possessions. I have many choices in my training today.

How about you? Are you ready to make self-controlled choices in your daily training to receive the reward?  Take some time to watch this and let me know what you think.

Faithful to Follow

Today, people around the world are remembering the brave men- soldiers, airmen and sailors, from World War II who stormed the beaches and flew into occupied France on D-Day 70 years ago. These united forces were brave and devoted in their fight to save the world from an evil tyrant. They were faithful to their commanders and to their orders no matter what their roles were on that infamous day. Every man’s job was crucial as they worked together as a team, fighting alongside each other. More than 9,000 allied forces were killed or wounded on that day because of their faithfulness to their leaders.

 

My own father was there on D-Day. Leaving behind a widowed mother and a handicapped brother whom he had to financially support, he wanted to serve his country. He was a radio operator for the 439th Troop Carrier Group serving at their base headquarters in England on D-Day. My dad was sending and receiving coded messages as the pilots flew troops over to France. At age 92, he still talks about being ready at any moment on that day to fly over on one of the planes as a radio operator if ordered to do so.

 

We honor such faithfulness – maybe because we don’t see this in many people today. We live in a culture that says, “Do what you want”, “It’s all about me”, “I don’t need to follow commands”. As a follower of Jesus I choose to follow Him and His commands for my life. He is my example. Jesus was faithful to obey God, His Father’s orders for his life which meant ultimate sacrifice to save the whole world.

 
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38
“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” John 14:31

 
If I abide with Jesus and He abides in me I will bear the fruit of faithfulness to Him. Jesus showed his love for His Father, by obeying His commands. As a follower of Jesus I am to be faithful to obey His commands. My faithful obedience to my Lord and commander shows others how much I love Him. Jesus made it clear, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

 
I can trust that His commands are good for me. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 Jesus promises to be faithful to give us the strength and power through His Spirit to obey His commands. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

 

Like a soldier am I faithful to obey orders, faithful to God? Is Jesus my Lord who I would not want to disappoint but devote myself to serve? Am I brave like the D-day soldiers accepting that I may suffer or even die for my faith? Or do I desire my own will and sometimes want to desert my post where He has placed me? What do you think about D-Day and being faithful?

Yvonne and Daddy at Alabama

My father, a World War II – D Day veteran was faithful to serve!

Fake Fruit

Looking through the dusty attic boxes we had obtained from family last year, I found some beautiful fruit.  The grapes, pears and apples carved out of shiny transparent glass resembled real fruit.  They are beautiful heavy pieces for display only, but not very edible.  In my childhood home our dining table displayed a shimmering ceramic bowl filled with colorful fruit.  Fake plastic fruit was the new thing- as decoration.  Looking real from a distance, it was fake.

How can we tell when the fruit in our lives are real or fake?  All people want to show love and patience and kindness to mankind.  We try really hard to make it look real and desire to have the real thing.

John 15:6 says – “Separated, you can’t produce a thing…” (The Message)  Even my best efforts to love, be patient, be kind and have self-control cannot produce the real thing.  Only knowing Jesus personally and accepting that I cannot do a thing without Him in my life makes me dependent on Him. As I depend on the Vine, then He can produce the love and patience I need for others, the joy when I’m discouraged, the self-control when I want to be impulsive and the peace when I am worried.

These next few days  I will celebrate with other believers around the world, the saddest and yet most joyous event in history– the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He came to save us from being separated from God, just like a dead branch on a tree is separated from the life giving sap.  When we come to Jesus and trust in Him there is a new branch that grows from the vine and has new life.  That branch will bear real fruit from the new life Jesus gives it.  I’m glad that many years ago I accepted that gift of life through Jesus. This week I will take time to rejoice that Jesus produces the real fresh fruit in my life as I continue to grow with Him.  Who wants hard cold plastic fruit anyway?

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”  John 5:12  (NLT)