SURPRISE!!!! Some of us like surprises & some of us, not so much. It’s also true that our response to surprises can depend on what the surprise is.
With Jesus’ birth, there were lots of associated surprises:
angels appearing to shepherds at night in the field,
Gabriel’s announcements to Zacharias & Mary about the upcoming supernatural births,
wisemen showing up to give kingly gifts to a seemingly common baby,
Joseph getting the surprise announcement that his fiancé was pregnant.
Let’s consider that surprises can be incredibly good, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loves us & is working in all things, even surprises, to work together for our Good, Romans 8:28-29.
A few years ago, there were some cute movies, Finding Nemo & Finding Dory. Each movie was about the long search to find a missing son & a beloved friend. When I think about finding Jesus, I’m encouraged that Jesus is accessible throughout every day! Check out this video:
I’m waiting, maybe with some patience, in the airport here in Bangledesh because the Pope is just landing at the airport. Consequently, the airport is shut down & everything has come to a halt. Clearly, he’s a significant dignitary so everything is on pause at the airport until he clears out. This has thrown off everyone’s schedules, interrupted plans & is making a major headache for traffic.
So this makes me think about how i facilitate Jesus’ presence in my life. While i want my life to be convenient, smooth & hassle free, Jesus as my Sovereign, gets to interrupt & change my plans. What would be even more wise on my part, would be to proactively ask Jesus to direct my steps & maybe i can avoid some frustrations with plan changes. Or i can also aim to keep a flexible attitude & be patient in the various hassles & disruptions i can face in any given day 🙂
Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror, Christmas is ready to take center stage. And with Christmas , come all the associated activities: decorating, parties, concerts, shopping, cookies, wrapping, etc. In the midst of the hub bub, let’s keep our hearts & focus attentive to Jesus. He’s a really quick video that could help you keep your focus on Jesus throughout this holiday season:
When I was growing up, our house had three doors. To ensure that the house was locked, we would check all three doors. The front door was easy because it was used the most. The back door was pretty easy because it was in the kitchen so there was lots of traffic in that area. The side door was most easily overlooked because we rarely used it & that area of the house didn’t get much traffic.
In a similar way, we need to guard our hearts & souls from the enemy who lurks & waits for opportunities to sneak into our lives through side doors or low traffic areas. The enemy looks for places to enter our lives where we least expect it or where we have the lowest guard / attention. This could be times when you’re very tired, areas where you think you’re strong / victorious, situations that are familiar or comfortable, etc. The enemy of your soul looks for places where your guard is weak, your attention is distracted or your pride is big. With these instances, the enemy will often come in on tiptoes, sneaky & quiet, to begin his insinuations, whispers & distortions.
Pay attention & keep the doors locked!! 1 Pet 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Hard circumstances, unknown terrain, impossible journeys – these are all things in which God specializes. As you read this, maybe you’re in a financial crisis & Christmas looks impossible; maybe you’ve received a medical report that’s disturbing; maybe you have some toxic relational challenges that seem to be never ending; maybe you’re discouraged or depressed; maybe you have some work or school difficulties that are bigger than your abilities, time or energy.
Be encouraged today, that God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Remind yourself of how God delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt:
providing a leader, Moses, who was educated & committed to their freedom
supernatural signs & wonders (10 Plagues) to break the slavery bondage
Passover to establish the relationship between God & the nation of Israel
plundering the Egyptians when the Israelites walked out of Egypt
split the Red Sea & drowning the enemies who were intent on dragging the Israelites back into slavery
God did lots more when He liberated the Israelites, so be encouraged that you’re not in a situation that exceeds God’s ability to transform nor redeem! Feel free to share this with your friends to encouage them as well!
Planning isn’t one of my natural strengths, so the Holy Spirit has helped me grow in this area over the course of many years. I’ve come to appreciate that if I want to accomplish big dreams, then it’s important to develop some plans and structures for these dreams to become reality. So what happens when the plans don’t seem to work? Then what?
In the Gospel of Mark, I’ve been reading about how Jesus healed people, often not according to the human contrived plans, i.e, the Syrophoenician woman whom Jesus calls a dog, the 4 guys who break through a roof to get a paralytic in front of Jesus & the blind guy whom Jesus spits on for his healing. It seems to me that Jesus almost never follows our human plans, so it begs the question: why plan?
When you have plans to seem to go awry, maybe these ideas could be helpful:
plans help us think in constructive steps to achieve goals & dreams. No planning = no progress
planning with prayer is a massively helpful combination
consider Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
Take a minute to order a copy of my newest book that can help you to stay
I have a pretty consistent morning routine that generally helps to frame each day with sturdy Bible applications & a prayerful mindset, usually. But this morning didn’t pan out that way. I didn’t get to have my normal quiet prayer & Bible time before my family stirs. So I ran out the door to start my day, not having the rich fellowship with God that often sustains me throughout the day. I don’t like it when that happens & I’m grateful that this is a rare occurrence.
And here’s the really magnificent thing today: I’m sensing the Holy Spirit very clearly throughout this day, despite not having my morning tuning & calibrating fellowship. Of course my absence of quiet & solitary fellowship with the Holy Spirit this morning won’t become a daily habit. Nevertheless, sensing the rich presence of the Holy Spirit throughout this day encourages me that the Holy Spirit enjoys my company & interaction, not withholding that intimacy when I fall short on my end.
Be very certain in your heart that you’re deeply valued, highly treasured & greatly celebrated by the Holy Spirit!
To a degree, these are all true. But the ultimate fulfillment to going father, being smarter (more wise), visibility & feel good about ourselves isn’t sustained in conventional nor fleshly thinking.
Jesus tells us that the way to being fulfilled is through being committed to kingdom opposites:
The last will be first;
the way ahead is through humility & service;
exercise & discipline are corollaries to soul health;
seeking God’s kingdom first sets everything in proper alignment to live a of fulfillment & reward!
I’m easily distracted & that can be very challenging. There are always external distractions like the phone alerts, watching people get upset about small stuff, podcasts for listening, multiple books I want to absorb, tasks undone, etc. Then there’s also the internal distractions – feelings that can be challenging, creative ideas that could be fun, stress from impending deadlines, etc.
Thankfully, I met a new friend this morning on my way to catch a plane. She was studying Philippians 4:7-8, which talks about keeping our thoughts focused on constructive & beneficial stuff. For me, this means that I stay intentional about not getting distracted. It also means that I keep my thoughts grounded in the Bible so I don’t mindlessly roam away from God. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit gives us sniper focus so that we live a life that hits the mark & overflows with divine purpose.
There’s a common saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” And in our moments of honesty, we can often recognize the error of this thinking. This mindset happens when we look at another person & wish we had their life.
“I wish I was smart like they are”
“I wish I had their coordination or athleticism”
“They have their life totally scooped – I wish I could be like them”
“I wish I could be that kind of a leadyer, wife / husband, parent, worshipper, etc”
Here’s the truth: we are each uniquely designed with the suitable talents, gifts, opportunities, etc for the divine plan for which God made us. The grass for our path is appropriately green, distributed & manicured for the journey that God has designed for us. So my take-away point is this: keep you eyes on God & decide to trust God more than what you see, experience or feel
I’ve just returned from a 10day trip to Cambodia & Bangladesh – an amazing trip with some intense ups & downs. Now that I’m home, I find myself struggling to keep up. I can’t seem to find enough energy, get enough sleep or have enough time to navigate through each day proficiently.
I suspect that maybe you’ve had a season like this & nothing seems to be enough.
Here’s some ideas that could help:
Let the Holy Spirit direct you rather than drive yourself to frantic burnout
Be mindful of those moments of rest the Holy Spirit provides & be content in this provision, even if it’s just a few minutes
God’s grace is sufficient & His strength is abundant – ask for more!
Remember that this is likely a season & not a lifestyle.
I’m not alone with feeling that I’m not enough. You & I both have our weak spots for feeling or thinking that we’re inadequate, be that smart enough, cool enough, pretty enough, social enough, rich enough, humble enough, strong enough, etc.
It’s very liberating to embrace the truth that we are NEVER enough, by ourselves. I’ve been in innumerable situations where it was more than obvious that I wasn’t adequate, not enough & in way over my head. In these occasions, it always helps me to remember that I have continuous access to more than abundant & adequate supply – the Holy Spirit, my Heavenly Help!
If you haven’t read my book, Heavenly Help, grab a copy so you can see how the Holy Spirit is more than enough in you for any situation you face!
While we often think of ADD being diagnosed in childhood or related to schoolwork, I’d suggest that all of us wrestle to varying degrees with keeping our attention & focus. We even have fidget toys to help our mind stay focused! Do you ever struggle with being able to focus? It seems like there are always interruptions, distractions & time stealers, to say nothing of the mental & emotional tendencies that can be challenging.
I’ve been really meditating and on the whole attention & distraction conundrum for a few weeks now. While it’s essential that we pay attention to what’s happening around us, our work, school, to-do lists, etc. I think we also have to consider what we think about & what our emotions focus on – internal focus & not just the outside.
If Elijah had been only focused on the external, he would have missed the still small voice. When Peter became scared (emotions), from looking at the wind, he began to sink in the water that he had just been walking on.
Be careful with your attention because it’s an essential ingredient for your destination!
What areas in your life are needy? It seems that often the quick answer is “money.” But if we pause for a second, our answer might be more along the line of more time, wisdom, discipline, strength, better relationships, genuine love, courage, patience, etc.
This morning I read how Jesus multiplied the fish & bread to meet the hunger needs of thousands of people. His disciples came to Him with the need – too many people & a paltry amount of provision. To this problem, Jesus asked them what they had. After identifying what was there, Jesus blessed the provision rather than cursed the need or lack.
Let’s be sure that we’re grateful for what we have, even if it seems like it’s not enough. Then let’s utilize what we have with thanksgiving & our eyes on Jesus to keep providing & multiplying!
Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.
I hate bad news. I don’t like bad reports from the doctor, I don’t like getting bad report cards from my kids & I don’t like hearing discouraging stuff. But it happens, no matter how much we plug our ears, distract ourselves or attempt to deny what we hear. So what to do?
Here are some helpful suggestions for when you get bad news:
Face it – denial of bad news only makes it worse. Romans 4:19 says that Abraham faced the reality of his aged body, but didn’t weaken in his faith
Get wisdom – life improves with wisdom but deteriorates with the absence of wisdom. So ask God for wisdom on how to handle the bad news – James 1:5
Faith focus – bad news can become debilitating if we don’t keep our focus on God & His ability to do the impossible – Luke 1:37
Pray more – when I get bad news, it’s easy for me to worry. Let’s encourage each other to pray more than we worry – Ps 55:22
Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who’s struggling with bad news!
I’ve been watching a trend across our nation pertaining to churches & marketing. There’s no shortage of articles or content being generated about the decline in church attendance across the generations as well as a significant concern related to the seeming increase of moral depravity. Consequently, we have loads of marketing strategies to reach a younger demographic, become more appealing in our doctrine with more trendy & hip music, along with clothing adjustments & scheduling conveniences. I think all of these things are great, with one MAJOR interjection (or interruption):
In my brief years on this planet, I’ve come to see that genuine Jesus is nothing but altogether irresistible, full stop. Indeed, the original marketing plan that God has laid out for us is in John 12:32, where Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I’ll will draw all men unto Me.”
In our efforts to attract people to Jesus, let’s never make it ever about anything more than genuine Jesus!
Do you ever struggle to focus? I definitely struggle with my focus & I’m learning that it’s easier for me to focus on some things more than others. For example, I’m not very good at listening to stuff, but I’m better at reading. Some people like video content & find it easier to pay attention. So here’s some good news for the video peeps! I started my own YouTube channel & I’m uploading a series once a week. The series I’m working on is about prayer & it’s really excellent!! For the prayer series, each episode is short & very relevant!
Feel free to subscribe & pass on the link to your friends who are interested in prayer!