Beyond Today

Our world is so big. People are all over this earth, living lives, being loved, being hurt; each one a small light. There is pain and there is loss, but there is also growth and rebirth. As we look at our lives and the lives of others, we can celebrate the coming goodness, even when the pain of now feels overwhelming.

Loss is a heavy burden. Not just the loss of loved ones or things, but the loss of trust or the loss of hope. We feel surrounded by the emptiness of what we used to have. The pain of it continues to stay alive and runs over us unexpectedly. Even in that loss, though, there is hope. There is hope for a new beginning – for a rebirth. There is hope for something good to come out of tragedy.

Loss ends when there is nothing left to be taken. Rebirth begins when there is nothing left to be taken. That dark moment, the one where we feel dragged down to the point of feeling hopeless, is the same moment that we are able to finally lift our head and look for something new. We finally have let go of everything- maybe not by choice, but because our hands are empty now.

Then, small as it might seem, something new begins. Small, tiny changes that grow and build and finally create something wholly new that envelops us. We finally can breathe again, because the darkness is at bay and the light of day is pouring in. There is still memory of the pain, and signs of the loss, but the day, today, is filled with life again.

When today feels overwhelming and our troubles seem to strangle  any rays of hope, we must look beyond this day’s heaviness and pain. We must trust in the future hope of God and the plan He builds in our lives. He is good and His plans are for good, even when they don’ t feel good. Our tomorrows will be filled with new life because He is the God of life.

Do not let discouragement steal the joy of the future. Prayer (conversing with God) is a powerful way to ground us in Him. Trust Him, talk to Him, and believe in Him. Beyond today, there is hope and there is change.

Leaving a Legacy

A legacy is the part of our lives that continues to affect people even after we’ve died. It’s the part of us that will be woven into the world. Flavored by our own perspective and abilities, it will become a part of the larger, global, eternal work that God is doing.

Each person leaves a legacy, intentionally or not. Our interactions with others leaves a story behind that wraps itself around their lives and affects them long after we’ve gone.

Legacies begin when we learn to see beyond ourselves. Our reach can impact our own family or families a world away. When we try to reach out and bless everyone with the purpose that God has given us, we are reaching beyond ourselves and building our legacy.

The power of our legacy comes from  love for others. When we connect heart to heart with other people, we find that their love is grown, their world is brightened, and they find that they are able to build their own legacy of love.

What is our legacy, really? It’s the awareness of the love of God flowing through people. It’s the power of a connection that goes beyond our own human abilities to foster. God is working in His people to create a bond that is unbreakable; a bond forged by the Holy Spirit. Each generation that pours itself into supporting that bond grows a deeper legacy with a wider range of people.

Our strength comes from connections around us. Our ability to weather storms safely is increased when we have others to stand with and around us. Our children grow up more aware of the power of God when we surround ourselves with people living in His ways.

Death is the final line for us to cross, and when we do finally go home, the legacy we leave will shine as a story of God’s love. Our homecoming will be sweeter because of the lives we have impacted through our willingness to love.

Who Am I?

God made each person uniquely and for a purpose. From before birth to the day of our death, God knows what we were made to do and wants to fill us with power to do it. He is building up His kingdom on this earth and He wants us to pour  ourselves into the building.

In order to do that, we must know how and what God made us to do. We have unique abilities and interests. We have our own ideas and perspective on things. The more we can identify and hone into what God made us for, the more fully we can step into the work He has given us.

The first step in knowing our abilities is accepting that the Lord gave us some. So many people feel that they have nothing to offer, or that their offering isn’t good enough. Every bird and every rock is known by God. He” keeps His eye on the sparrow” ((Matthew 10:29) and knows when they die. Your contribution is seen by Him and He is ecstatic that you are willing to offer it. Don’t let a human view of what’s valuable and what’s not taint your view of how much God values your abilities.

The second step in knowing your abilities is to accept that you may not realize what you’re truly good at, and may not even know that you do it. Some of our strongest traits are ones we simply feel like are a part of who we are. It’s just an extension of ourselves. We often assume that everyone does it and we’re surprised or even annoyed when we find that other people don’t do it the same way. These are signs that it’s an innate ability;something so fundamental to who God made us to be that we bring it into everything we do.

God has given you abilities He wants you to use for the good of all of His children. You must be willing to set aside your doubts and step into being who He created you to be. The fullness of Him, in us, is the power to work for Him.

Our own ideas of who we are can interfere with who God made us to be, if we haven’t submitted them to Him. God has a dream for each of us. One where we are walking hand in hand with Him, creating a world where others can be brought to Him. Our call is to step into ourselves – to know our work and purpose.

God is calling  you. He seeks servants who are willing to be who He made them to be. Let go of ideas and work that is outside of His will and find Him. Seek Him. Help others find Him in a way that only you can do. He created a path for you, and it is a good path. Trust Him enough to walk it.

Walking with the Shepherd

The Bible uses a shepherd as an analogy for Jesus. A shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep, watches over them, and helps them. Sheep are wayward animals that are eaten by predators if left alone. The Lord uses this example to help us know how important our relationship with Him is. We need to stay close and let Him watch over us and direct us.

The shepherd is a guiding figure, a leading figure, and a seeking figure. He finds the lost sheep, leads the tired sheep to food and water, and calls the sheep to follow Him. Each time, the shepherd is the active one, and the sheep are following along.

The Lord is actively involved in our lives. He is moving in our lives for our benefit. His work is to bring us, and each person in the world, to Him. Like the example of the shepherd, he seeks, leads, and calls.

As the sheep in this analogy, we are the ones who should be waiting, feeding, and following. Our role is to allow the Lord to do the work that He is eminently qualified to do: lead His children.

In our lives, when the Lord says, go here, we go there. When He says, do this, we do it. The heart behind our activities is our willingness to be lead and to be His sheep. The heart  the Lord wants in each of us is that of one who serves at the command of the leader: Him.

Each of us must be lead by the shepherd. We must accept His guidance and know that our job is to follow, wait, and be fed. He will provide for each and every need, spiritually and physically.

God says, “I called each of you by name. I called each of you with love. My heart is bound up in you and I want you with a desperation that you can’t begin to understand. Listen to me. Follow me. I will care for you and protect you forever.”

Clarity of Vision

Our culture often tells us to dream big and have great ideas for how life could be. It is true that a vision for our life is vital, because it shapes so much about our choices. However, the influence of those goals is so profound that we need to be sure that the dreams we are building choices around are the best ones for our future.

If we believe the world’s ideas, we should be trying to build the best possible life for ourselves based on luxury and entertainment. That kind of selfish outlook, however, will not bring satisfaction or a closer walk with God. We need to be talking with God about our dreams and goals and building a vision for our life that accomplishes His will for us..

Our ultimate goal is always to know God. The Bible says that’s what eternal life is: knowing God. (John 17:3) All other things in our life should revolve around that one. Knowing Him.

After that, the vision for our life is very individualized between us and God. Each one of us needs to go before the Lord and talk about what God is doing in our life. This may not be a daily thing; maybe it’s only once a year. However, without some time spent with the Lord, clarifying His plans and ideas for you, you are missing out on directed time with Him.

When we clarify our vision with Him, we can find a beautiful purpose that energizes us. God knows us and planned good works for us to do. If we take the time to plan with Him about our work, we will find ourselves given  work that is made for our gifts and talents. It will be work that energizes us and fills us with a sense of accomplishment.

At least on good days it will – on bad days, it might be difficult. But if we have a vision, we know that what we’re working through has a purpose. It’s a part of something bigger, even if that bigger thing is as high level as knowing God; it will have a purpose. Knowing that might not make the work easier or the drudgery less boring, but it will give you a focus and a reason to keep on when others might give up.

God’s purpose for you is real and valid. Each of us has a purpose and we can walk in it daily, hand in hand with the Lord.

Being Guided by God

God as our guide sounds beautiful. God telling us what to do can be frustrating, yet, they are both the same idea. We know we want God to guide us, but are we willing to make the changes that He asks in our lives?

Sometimes the guidance of the Lord is subtle and we aren’t even aware until things fall into place. Sometimes, however, the Lord is asking us to do something at odds with our natural way of doing things. While the first way is easier, they are both from  the Lord.

Being guided means having the way you should go pointed out. If you take a guide with you on a trail, they show you the path. If you don’t listen to them, you might end up lost, or at the very least, not getting where you meant to go. God’s guidance is the same way. He shows us the path, and we have to choose to take it.

His prompting can come in so many ways: from conviction of sin, to an idea to help someone else, or to the inspiration to pursue an idea, just to name a few. As we learn to sense Him more and understand what He’s guiding us to do, we must then choose to change our course to include that guidance.

Our natural self fights the guidance of the Lord because we want to be the one at the helm. Our need for control runs deep and we often find ourselves at odds with the Holy Spirit over life choices.

God as our guide means He is the one who chooses the path we are on. If we hear His advice and then choose our own way, we are not being guided by Him. Saying you want the Lord to guide you means that you must also be willing to do what He says, even if it isn’t anything like  you thought it would be.

God is a good god. He wants the best for His children and knows how to give them good gifts. His advice and commands are good and bring us to a fuller life in Him. Our willingness to listen and obey Him is how we partner with Him to bring  freedom and blessings in our lives.

Listening to God

We know we’re supposed to listen to the Lord and let Him guide our steps, but in the grind and hustle of daily life, it can be difficult. The voices around us and our own thoughts seem to easily drown out any connection we feel with the Lord. Our daily walk with him must be founded on habits of opening our ears and opening our hearts.

Listening begins with stillness. Pausing our day and our mind to find a quiet place where the Lord can speak to us is imperative to finding our connection with Him. The Lord never leaves us, even we are in a whirlwind of busyness. In that busyness, however, we can quickly find ourselves caught up in it and lose touch with the pulse of the Spirit. We don’t have to be still all day to hear Him, but we do have to consciously practice times of stillness to refresh our connection with Him.

Listening to God requires trust in Him. If we dismiss what He says out of fear or confusion, we will quickly get out of sync with His will. Believing that we can be in tune with Him and hear His will in our hearts is vital to being able and willing to connect with Him.

Willingness to change or do what He says is the final piece of listening. Just hearing Him isn’t enough, if we aren’t putting action to His words. He is in the habit of growing people and isn’t interested in empty words. It doesn’t always mean that we are doing a physical action, but if the Spirit prompts us to stop and breathe, we need to be willing to do that as much as we are willing to do any other act or service.

Listening is the final piece of hearing because it takes the passive act of understanding what He’s saying and makes it a part of  daily life. Listening isn’t something you do once in awhile, or even once a month. It’s an active part of being with Him and walking with Him. It’s the part of seeking Him in every moment.

If you don’t feel that you know how to listen to the Lord in all your moments, start by listening for one moment. Find one time per day that you can be still and talk to Him. Practice hearing Him and responding to what He puts on your heart. From there, you can grow with Him and grow in Him until He pervades every moment.

Opening My Heart

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Trust is listening, accepting and doing the work of God. Before we can trust Him, we have to be willing to be open with Him.

Trust is a frightening prospect in any relationship, including with the Lord. It is a vulnerable place to be. Trust is letting someone else influence you. When you trust the Lord, you are willing to risk the opinions of the world to serve Him.

Before we can trust, we have to be willing to open our heart to the Lord. If we don’t fully open up to Him, we will always be held back in our trust. Asking the Lord to prove Himself before we are willing to walk with Him is a conditional relationship. He wants unconditional access to our hearts and our lives.

Opening our hearts means practicing coming before Him in our daily life and being willing to trust Him. If we hold back our willingness, we are holding back our connection with Him.

When you come before Him, ask yourself and Him if there’s any part of you that is being held back. Maybe there’s fear about what He’ll ask you do, or maybe you are afraid of Him not answering a prayer. Maybe you are struggling to submit your family to Him or your work.

The Bible talks about the Lord testing your heart. Ask Him to test it and find what’s in it that you are holding back. Where are your feelings closed off? Where are you shutting a door in your mind, asking Him not to go there?

As your willingness to open your heart before Him grows, your ability to trust Him will grow. You will experience His faithfulness and His gentleness in leading you through your day.

Trust opens doors to a deeper and more life-altering relationship with the Lord. We can’t force trust or demand it. Instead, we grow into it by being willing to be vulnerable with Him in our mind and hearts.

Am I Good Ground?

In the Bible, Jesus tells a story about a farmer who scatters seeds on the ground; some seeds take root and grow while others, for various reasons, don’t. The seeds represent people and how they react when they hear the truth of God. In the story, only one place that the seeds land  allows them to take root, grow strong and produce fruit. That place is the fertile ground that represents a willing and listening heart.

Most of us assume that we are the fertile soil. We think that when we hear the truth of God, that we are ready and able to lap it up and grow. Assumptions can blind us to areas that need work, though. Not everyone is good ground, but all can be if we open our heart and mind to the Lord.

Willingness to receive anything means that you are open to be given something. Openness invites in; it doesn’t shut out. It means letting the experience of God be worth the risk of being wrong. It defies the fear of being made fun of. It allows the new thing to be explored and learned about.

With each new idea that we encounter, we have to choose if we are going to let it in and then choose whether or not we will allow it to help change us. When we hear the truth of God, whether it is the first time we hear the gospel of Jesus or a new insight from His Word, we must make the choice to let it in. We have to mull it over and think about the truth of it and the practicality of it.  If we look into new ideas and seek to find the joy of God in them, we will be changed.

Good soil listens and hopes and celebrates as new ideas about God are brought to them. Applying God’s truth to our lives is the growth part of being good ground. We try on the new idea for size. We see if it fits us and what it means for our lives. Good soil is a willingness to change if the Lord desires that change within us.

God says, ”I create good soil and I nurture it and fill it full of good nutrients. When my Work falls on the prepared ground, I am there to help it grow and find life in my truth. Listen to me and be ready for all that I have planned.”

Following Christ

Following Christ is a very personal and internal decision. It is something that only you can determine to do. By listening to the Lord, you are able to live in His power and might. Each day we walk with Him is a day filled with joy and comfort. There are days, however, when we may not feel as confident that we’re walking in step with Him.

Each day in God’s presence is a confidence-building day. Walking next to Him builds our understanding of Him and helps us to grow in the knowledge of Him. Each day outside of His presence brings confusion. Walking apart from Him causes us to lose hold of our connection with Him and who He made us to be.

No one can tell if you have committed your heart to the Lord. However, others can see the fruit in your life and how it is helping you to grow. When you are filling your heart with the teachings of God, you grow in the good fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Growing with the Lord means seeing more results like these in your life.

Following after your own ways leads to sin growing in you. Old habits can come back or new sins can creep in. The good fruit in your life is inconsistent or non-existent. Judgment toward others clouds your relationships. You demand your own way and put yourself above others.

Growing in the Lord means that you are reaching for His Spirit and His truth. Finding your way in Him isn’t a path to perfection for the sake of self-improvement; instead, it’s a journey of joy to find freedom in Him.

Talk to the Lord about your walk. Ask Him if He sees you as a growing Christian. In addition, take a look at your fruit. There should always be change toward a deeper relationship with Him, no matter how long you’ve been walking along side Him. Find a fresh truth and awareness of Him and see more of an ability in your life to be free in His name.