Live Life – Look Up

In today’s world, we can find ourselves so focused on work and projects and doing things that we don’t take the time to stop. Life calls to us from all avenues of things that must be done, drowning out the still small voice of God. Our lives become unbalanced and we tend to become wrapped up in the hectic activity. Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (KJV)

God speaks to us daily, but I think we get ourselves so involved in the busyness of living that we don’t stop and listen. Our verse today tells us that we know the things of man because we are human (the spirit of man), but the things of God are revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. But when we get so tied up in the things and activities of this life that we can’t hear the Holy Spirit speak to us, then our life is unbalanced. God gave us an example to follow. We are to rest, to stop and replenish our energy. When He created the world, the universe, and everything in it, the Bible says God rested. (Genesis 2:2) Jesus also rested often with His disciples. Mark 6:31-32 says, “Because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, `Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (NIV). In other words, Jesus said, “Fellows, you deserve a break today. Come to the desert and we’re going to rest.” (taken from Pastors.com – article by Rick Warren)

Resting can be anything from taking a walk and spending time with God, praying and singing praise to Him, to going on vacation to relax and get away from the daily grind and enjoy life around us. Look up and see the world around us, enjoy what He has created. It also can be a time of reflection. There are times we need to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are going. If life is going so fast that we can’t even breathe, then we run headlong into a life of exhaustion and chaos.

We can get so focused on work, family duties, and putting out fires all over the place, that we forget that we need to get away for a little while and get ourselves back into a place of balance. I know some people who accrue tons of vacation time, but they never use it. From where I stand, they are running headlong into a medical crisis because they won’t take the time to relax and gain strength from enjoying some downtime. Even those in ministry can be so driven that they are constantly going and don’t take some downtime. What they don’t realize is that God doesn’t require that we work ourselves to death. Yes, He has given us a talent, a ministry, a calling and we are to fulfill that calling but not to the extent that we become ineffective in our calling. We must listen to His call to take some time and rest.

When I lived in Montana there was a period where my pastor was going non-stop because within two months we had four people pass away, and he had to deal with preparing funerals and ministering to grieving families, plus preparing for Sunday sermons, and visiting the sick. He was exhausted and yet he wouldn’t take time away. It took the Church Board to make him go on vacation to rest up; it was not a request; it was a demand. He desperately needed to get away so that he could be an effective pastor to the congregation. His life was out of balance. He didn’t look up and listen to God telling him that he needed rest. Once he was rested, we could tell that he was relaxed and able to minister to us effectively.

As our verse says today, we can’t know the things of God unless we are listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us. We must slow down and listen, we must look up to Him and take in what He says. When He says it’s time to rest, then we need to stop and rest…rest in our physical lives, rest spiritually, and rest in His arms.

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Pray for Wisdom and Knowledge

Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture passage is Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (NASB) The Apostle Paul is commending the Colossians for their faith and their love of the brethren. He encourages them by telling them he is praying continually for them, and he is praying that they would gain wisdom, understanding and knowledge of God so that they can walk their spiritual lives in a manner that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord.

Gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s Word is essential in the life of a Believer. Without understanding His Word, we are not able to live a life that is in “a manner worthy of the Lord.” Given to our own devices, we will fail miserably, and it also makes us an easy target for the enemy of our souls to set traps for us without us recognizing them. Praying for wisdom and knowledge from God must be done daily. We need His guidance for daily living.

Asking for wisdom in other situations is also needed. James encourages the early Christians, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NASB) Wisdom is something God is more than happy to give to His children. When God told Solomon to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. (I Kings 3:3-14) God was pleased with Solomon because he didn’t ask for riches or long life or that his enemies would be killed. Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God chose to also give him riches and honor among the people.

Daily prayer and Bible reading, studying God’s Word and then applying it to our lives is what brings honor to God. We must read our Bibles with understanding. When we understand what God is telling us, not only can we bring honor to God in the way we apply what we read to our lives, but we become a light for others to see. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s Word, also helps us in fighting our battles against the enemy. Without a sound understanding of God’s Word, we have no defense against Satan’s attacks. We must remember, the enemy also knows God’s Word, and we must be able to fight back with Scripture and the correct application of that Scripture to defeat him. Satan will take Scripture and twist it for his own devices, and if we are not familiar with the true meaning of God’s Word, the enemy can lead us astray easily.

Jesus defeated Satan as the enemy tried to tempt Him to relinquish His authority and to refrain from doing the task God had assigned Jesus. How did He defeat the enemy? When Satan quoted Scripture attempting to trip up Jesus, the Lord came back with Scripture properly applied to fight back against the enemy’s attempts at bringing Him down. That’s how we win at defeating the enemy as well. Spiritual warfare can be very difficult because we have an adversary who is bent on crushing us and make us defeated Christians with no joy, peace, or victory in our lives. As we apply that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, we receive Spiritual fruit that will grow and make us stronger in our daily walk with the Lord. So, asking God to reveal His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through His Word, is the key to growth in living for Jesus, and being a light in a dark world.

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

Teach Me Lord

Today our Bible Journaling verse is Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” (KJV) As we are looking at God’s promises, seeking counsel, and accepting instruction, this verse is such an encouragement to me. As I was thinking about this, the thought came to me that to be taught we must be willing to accept the teaching. There are times when God shows us something about ourselves that is hard, and we don’t want to face.

We must be willing to accept those things, be willing to listen, and be obedient to the Lord in changing those things that need changing. I know for me, sometimes, that is so hard to do. I’ve never been one of those kinds of people that was wild about change, but if it had to be done, I would try and make those changes that were needed.

One time, change was very hard for me. My first husband had just had his first stroke and was in the hospital after having brain surgery. I had been off work for two weeks, spending every day at the hospital with him. When I came back to work there were a lot of things that had changed. Our department was revamping procedures, the station was doing something new and we needed to be on board with it. At about that time things at home were falling apart because my hubby couldn’t take care of it and it was something I couldn’t do. To say I was stressed out was an understatement. The changes at work were like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So much was changing all at the same time and I just couldn’t handle it. My boss was trying to get me to change without throwing a small fit. All I could say was, “Why can’t there just be one thing that doesn’t change?” It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in a crying jag. I wasn’t willing to change what needed to change and I wasn’t happy, and my boss was frustrated with me.

We can be like that with God. We can throw a two-year old tantrum, stomping our feet and telling God, “NO!” All that accomplishes is us being miserable and God being very patient with us. He takes us around that mountain again to learn the lesson we are refusing to learn. It amazes me how patient God is with us! As humans, we would most likely give up after a while and leave the stubborn one to their own devices. Sort of “let them stew in their own juice” as it were. God isn’t like that. He patiently puts us back on that pathway heading for the thing we need to learn, and He keeps putting us in that place until we are willing to learn the lesson. Then, and only then, can we have peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV) Deuteronomy 11:13 says, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul,” (NASB) Being obedient, willing to learn, and accepting of changes that need to be made, help us to grow in our walk with God.

We must be willing to say, “Teach me Lord!” and then accept the teaching He gives. We must relinquish control of our lives, let Him lead, guide, and teach us, and then we can walk in peace.

 

Receive Instruction

As we continue to look at seeking counsel this week, our Bible Journaling comes from Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” (NASB) The Christian Standard Bible says it like this, “Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings.”

Part of seeking counsel involves something on our part. Once someone gives us the counsel we are seeking, it is up to us to decide whether or not to receive their counsel. This involves discernment on our part. Is the person giving the information to us someone we can trust? If so, then it is up to us whether we will take what they tell us and use it.

My mother was an elementary teacher for 35 years. For most of those years she taught the gifted kids, but for a while she had a mixture of children who were extremely intelligent and ones who weren’t as bright. Grades ran the gamut, the straight A kids and the ones who were barely hanging on. In some instances, she had kids who were really smart, but for whatever reason, just didn’t apply or accept what she was trying to teach them. The ones who could have done better did not use discernment in receiving what she was teaching them. They didn’t want to be in school, they didn’t want to learn, and they decided they were not going to apply themselves in learning.

We can be just like those kids. If the information is from someone we aren’t sure whether or not to trust, then discernment and wisdom is needed. However, if the advice and counsel is from someone we respect and their ideas make a lot of sense, and we don’t take their advice, then we are like that foolish king in our verse today who won’t take instruction, and like those kids in my Mom’s class who refused to learn.

We can also be like those people when it comes to God’s guidance, instruction, and teaching. When we refuse to take God’s Word to heart and learn from it, we are in rebellion. Just like those kids in my Mom’s class, they rebelled against her in refusing to do the work, we can be stubborn and say “NO” to God in defiance or just decide to do it our own way. Most times that just gets us into trouble. Do we forget that God’s ways are the best for our lives, or are we actively defying God’s instruction? How foolish we are to ignore God’s leading and instruction!

I know in my own life there have been times when I verbally said, “No God, I don’t care what you say, this is what I want!” I found myself in a long time of digging myself out of a situation in which I should never have been. I had to learn the hard way, that my defiance and outright rebellion was going to take me in a path I didn’t want to go down. But, when I heed His voice, when I listen to instruction and follow obediently, then life goes a lot smoother. I begin to learn from Him when I follow His leading! Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Good words of advice!

Delay is not Denial

 

Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Isaiah 53:8-9, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.”  This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  This week we are looking at seeking counsel, and as I began my Bible Journaling, I was having a difficult time deciding just what direction I wanted to take.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so to speak, as I’ve already done a post on seeking counsel, and so I was talking to my husband about what direction I should take, whether to continue with the topic of seeking counsel or go a different direction.  He said something that has kind of become his mantra.  He said that a main tenant of counseling is, “Delay is Not Denial.”

As he was talking, the idea of God’s timing is not ours, came into my mind.  We are in an “instant” society.  Everything seems to be instant this or instant that.  Instant coffee, TV dinners in the microwave, instant communication with texting, and on and on it goes.  Patience is not an idea that seems to be popular these days.  I’m reminded of the lady who prayed, “God give me patience and give it to me right now!”  As funny as that sounds, a lot of us are just like that lady…patience is not our strong suit.

But God says that His ways are not our ways…His plans for us, His ways, are higher than ours.  Psalm 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (ESV) God sees things a whole lot differently than we do, and to us it seems as if He takes way too long.  When we are seeking His counsel on a matter and we are waiting for the answer, it may seem as if He will never answer.  But remember, “Delay is NOT Denial!”  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the answer is no, it may be that it isn’t the proper time for that answer.

So, what should we do while we are waiting?  Continue to seek God regarding the matter.  Read His Word to help discern what it is God is telling us and wait patiently for the proper timing of our request to be fulfilled.  Is there something that we need to do to prepare for the answer?  Maybe there is something about ourselves that needs to be resolved first before the answer can come.  Maybe the circumstances about the situation are not all in place yet for the answer to come.  All these things may have an effect on when the answer comes.

God’s plans are for our good, He sees the end from the beginning.  He sees the big picture, where we can only see just a small part of the plan He has for us.  Many times, we don’t understand what He is doing in our lives.  Continue to seek His counsel, continue to wait on His timing, and wait patiently.

Seek Counsel

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (KJV) The English Standard Version (ESV) says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” The Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “Without consultation and wise advice, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they are established and succeed.” When we are in the midst of carrying out plans we have made, making decisions, or even setting goals, having a sounding board, a counselor if you will, is always a good idea. Solomon says that without counsel our plans can fail.

Take for instance, building a house. When I lived in Montana, my husband and I built a house. We contacted a contractor (our counselor), we sat down and told him what we wanted, and my husband drew a rough draft of what the house should look like. Our contractor then took our ideas and drew out a blueprint from which he would be working. Without asking a lot of questions and seeking his advice on how best we should put this house together, how much it would cost, and other factors, we would never have had a successful project. We saw an example of that right in the subdivision where we built the house. A man who lived a few blocks from my parents’ house (they lived a block and a half away from us) started to build his house. He got as far as the foundation and he ran into problems. We aren’t sure exactly what the problem was, but it was evident he didn’t sit down and take into consideration all aspects of building his house. The project ended up being abandoned and he had to sell the property with a partial foundation on the lot. It was obvious that he didn’t rely on counselors to help him finish his house.

Just like building a house, we need counselors for every aspect of our lives. This is the time of year when people are making resolutions, making plans for the year, endeavoring to improve their outlook on life, their circumstances, etc. Sometimes, getting sound advice is needed. The first person to seek counsel from is God! He knows the plans He has for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) Ask Him if this is the direction He wants you to take. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of the (arrogant) fool (who rejects God’s wisdom) is right in his own eyes, But a wise and prudent man is he who listens to counsel.” (AMP) Once you hear from Him then seek out a person who may be able to help you accomplish the task God is leading you into.

In seeking advice, whether it be a mentor for something you want to improve on, or in deciding to launch out into new territory, it is best to find someone who is knowledgeable with the area you are researching. Find someone you trust. Discernment is always needed. Some people may not find it a high priority to keep things confidential, some may not want you to succeed and therefore give you wrong information. Especially in Spiritual matters, the guidance of your Pastor or a Spiritual mentor is a good beginning. In areas such as a business venture, a project you may want to begin, or self-improvement, finding someone who has experience in that area, can guide you, and warn you of pitfalls along the way, and wants you to succeed, is a good idea

A counselor can also help be an accountability partner. They can help keep you on track. They can warn you when it looks as if you are taking a wrong turn. I hold great store by accountability partners. They have your best interest in mind, and they want you to succeed in what you are trying to do. When I was trying to lose weight a few years ago, I was in a program that incorporated accountability partners. It was, in part, because of my accountability partner that I was able to succeed in losing the weight I needed to lose.

As we launch out into this new year, seeking counsel should be part of our resolution to be better or begin a new thing. Make your first Counselor, the Lord!