Thank God for God

Yesterday I went out to dinner with some friends I had not seen in a long time. I decided to leave my phone in the car so that I would not have any distractions and I could just enjoy their company. I wanted to stay in the moment and to give my friends my undivided attention. I listened to them attentively. I laughed with them. I shared some delicious food with them and I truly enjoyed some quality time with quality people. I did this thing where I would thank God for those precious moments every few minutes in my head. I think they probably noticed the big smile I had on my face every time I thanked the Lord quietly. If we take the time to embrace the moment and to thank God for everything that happens during those very moments, we realize that we have so much to be grateful for. It also gives us a fresh appreciation for life and for the simple things that add up and that make our days so wonderful. God is present in every moment, in every minute. If we get distracted it’s easy for us to miss Him and to ignore His goodness. God doesn’t jump in and out of our lives. He is present all the time even when we are “absent-minded” and oblivious to His existence.

Gratitude was definitely on the menu of that great evening with friends and I made sure it was the main course during that time well-spent. I thanked God for my friends. I thanked God for the food. I thanked God for our waiter. I thanked God for the water. I thanked God for the beautiful utensils. I thanked God for the ambiance. I thanked God for the laughters and the joy. I thanked God for the moment. I thanked God for being God. How many times do we thank Him for being who He is? Not for what He does but for who He is. Who He is has a profound significance for our lives. He is the air we breathe, the oxygen to our spiritual lungs and the water for our spiritual bodies. Thank God for God. He deserves our praise and our undivided attention.

How many times do we decide to spend time with God but we let life distract us and get in the way? How often do we keep our cell phone closer to us than we keep God closed to our hearts? I left my phone in my car because my friends deserved my focus. I need to “leave my phone in the car” more often when I sit down at the table of the Lord ready to eat the spiritual fruit He has to offer. There is no better time than the present to make it a priority to give the Lord our undivided attention. There is no one more deserving of our focus than the Lord. He is at the heart of what we believe so He should be at the heart of what we pay attention to the most.

I strive to listen to the Lord more than I listen to the world. Not that the world is bad but I am able to enjoy this world because of Him and the Creator means more to me than His creation. I want to continue to enjoy the moment by enjoying His company. I want to continue to laugh at His table, taste His spiritual delicacies, hear His stories and learn from His Majesty. God is in every moment. Love is in every moment. Joy is in every moment. Peace is in every moment. We should also stay in every moment and thank the One who deserves all our thanks not just for what He does but also for who He is. Thank God for God!

Suggested reading: Psalm 9:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:18-20

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It’s never too late

“Jesus is always on time” I heard resonating in my spirit last week as I was praying. I kept hearing it over and over again so I had to write it down in my journal. I keep a journal where I jot down all sorts of little nuggets of wisdom. I paused and thought about what that nugget meant for my life and for everybody’s lives. If we have faith in Jesus, He will come through. He will show up at the right time. His timing is perfect and it often differs from our timing.

When we think it is too late, the Lord looks at the clock and says “It’s not time yet.” His thoughts are higher than ours and He knows the big picture; He knows the universal picture that we can’t even dream of seeing. We have a picture of how things will happen in our mind. He knows what the picture looks like and He is in the frame and the structure of every picture that has ever existed and that will ever exist. He is in His own frame and He doesn’t want us to waste time figuring out the right time frame. I struggled with that concept for a while. Now I am letting my mind take a backseat when it comes to understanding the Lord’s ways and I believe that He is never too late even when it looks like He should have intervened before.

A great example of Jesus being on time is when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was one of his faithful followers. One day he gets very sick and his sisters tell Jesus that Lazarus is in critical condition. Jesus doesn’t travel to Bethany for two days after hearing the bad news. He stays where He is. He is not fazed by Lazarus’ predicament. When Jesus gets to Bethany, Lazarus is dead and has been in a tomb for a few days. Jesus is moved to tears by the situation but He says a prayer and Lazarus comes out of the tomb, resurrected. The situation was bad. The situation was dead but Jesus revived it. Lazarus’ sister was upset saying it was too late but Jesus was not late. You might be in a situation today that seems completely dead. Jesus is not too late. He can resurrect your circumstances and bring life back into your predicament.

Why didn’t Jesus go to Bethany right away? I don’t know but I know that the way it all turned out allowed Him to perform a big miracle which caused people to believe. Today you might need to see a big miracle so your faith can be revived. Jesus knows when to come into your situation and change it around. Stay in faith. Keep believing. Don’t get stuck in your own time frames. Don’t give God a deadline. Don’t give up when it all seems to be dead and done. There is something coming for you. There is something good coming your way. Jesus is always on time. Get on His schedule and stay in peace while waiting. Ask Him to give you the strength to wait. With the Lord it’s never too late. Stay encouraged!

Suggested reading: Ecclesiastes 3:11; Mark 5:21-43; John 13:7

Following God’s safety plan

Yesterday we had a lockdown drill at my school. This drill is conducted in order to prepare students and staff in case of an emergency. If an intruder is in the building or if there is some imminent danger, we know where to take cover, where to hide and what to do. It takes practice. We have a few drills every year. I think it is a great idea to be prepared for the worst case scenario. I am not being pessimistic. I won’t go around warning people against the worst possible situations but I also know the Lord warns us and says that tribulations are part of life. It is imperative to have a safety plan. My safety plan is in the Lord. He is my security blanket, my hiding place and He has the instructions I need to follow in case of an emergency. His Book is full of directions as to how to handle life.

The first time we had a lockdown drill I thought nothing bad like that could happen in my town. I felt like the town was way too well-protected and that no one would disturb our peaceful low-crime bubble. Then Sandy Hook happened 20 miles away and it totally burst my bubble. The whole disaster was a terrible reminder that we can never be too cautious. An invasion can occur on many different levels. As we are learning in the school of life, there can be an intruder who comes in and destabilizes our world. Confusion, fear and doubt are major intruders who take us by surprise and throw us off. Disease and pain are other intruders that we have to contend with at times. Loss and failures belong to that same negative family. Life has a way of shocking us in an intrusive way so we have to be ready. We need a safety plan. We need a cover. We need protection and a place to go to when we are being assailed.

God is a Refuge, a safe Haven, a place of safety. He is the place I run to when I get attacked or mistreated by life’s crazy assaults. I follow a plan. I follow His plan. His plan is dictated by faith and guaranteed by His Word because He is faithful to His Word. He doesn’t go back on it. When we run to Him, He protects us. We need to have Him as our first resort. Running to Him should be a reflex. It should be part of our safety drill. The more we do it and the better we will get at it. When something bad comes up we will know exactly what to do and what we will do will be amazing. We will stay calm, find refuge in His loving arms and stay still as the attack is going on. We will know that there is nothing to worry about and that He will get us through the ordeal. My safety plan starts with praise, continues with a prayer and ends in gratitude. What is your safety plan? If you don’t have one, ask the Lord to delineate the perfect plan for you! Follow God’s safety plan and you will be protected.

Suggested reading: Psalm 46:1; Psalm 91:2; Proverbs 14:26

Some encouragement for the new week

I am excited about the start of this new week. I used to dread new weeks. I used to feel the Sunday night blues as early as Saturday night thinking about Monday morning being around the corner. The anxiety about the week ahead was through the roof at times. Then my entire perspective changed. It coincided with my renewed relationship with God. It truly was no coincidence. Connecting with God on a deeper level uproots our old negative thinking patterns. With God everything became manageable and feasible. The fear of facing life alone vanished. For me it all seemed to happen overnight but looking back I am sure it was a process. I want to encourage you today to let God change the way you are approaching this new week. You might have a lot of work coming up, tons of schoolwork, appointments you would rather not have or just angst about the unknown. After all, a lot could happen this week. You never know. However, God knows and He will see you through it all.

This week is going to unfold with all sorts of craziness, goodness and weirdness on a global level and on a local level. There will be things that will affect you, touch you and move you. A lot of things just can’t be avoided good or bad. The truth that we need to hold on to is that none of these things are going to change God. Our mind might think so for a minute or two. Our mind might even wonder where God has gone. The reality is that He never leaves the building. He never puts on a mask and hides His face. He wants us to seek His face all the time because when bad things happen, we tend to take a step away from His face and it gets lost in the crowd. When trials come, we lose track of the Lord so to speak. He becomes a face in a sea of faces and other faces appear to be more real than His face. We look for comfort and we look for advice in all the wrong places. The whole time He has been there saying “Seek My face. Come back to Me. I never left you.”

If you ever feel like God is nowhere to be found this week, take the time to find Him again. Step away from the crowd. Isolate yourself. Get some quality time with Him. Pour your heart out to Him. Cry if you need to. Scream if you need to. Repent if you need to. Confess if you need to. Open up if you need to and accept Him because you need to. Accept that He doesn’t change. Accept that He cares. Accept that there is nothing in this world that you could do that would make Him change the way He loves you. Accept that day after day He has an army of angels around you. Accept that He is greater than anything in this world. You are going to have a good week. You are going to have a great week. Seek the Lord’s face every day and keep staring at it. He never leaves you nor forsakes you!

Suggested reading: Deuteronomy 31:8; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5

Guard your heart

Yesterday I saw a movie that left the whole room feeling sad and depressed. The ending wasn’t what we had expected. It was so bizarre. This action movie didn’t fulfill its anticipated mission of hope. My friend actually cried at the end of the movie because she was overwhelmed by too many emotions. It’s interesting how movies, books or songs can tamper with our emotions. They can leave us uplifted or sad. What we see and what we hear has an impact on our spirits. Strong emotions can come from what we see or what we hear. Those emotions shake our hearts and they can stay with us for a while. The Bible invites us to guard our hearts. I like the NLT version of that verse. It says “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life*.” This is a powerful statement. If we don’t guard our hearts carefully, the course of our lives can be less than desirable. How do you manage not letting what you see or hear affect your spirit in a negative way?

It would be ideal if we could avoid hearing and seeing things that are detrimental to our spirits. It would imply living in a bubble outside of reality. We are bound to hear and see things that can truly hurt us. We can’t escape the negative offerings of the world. However, we can use some tools that will repair the damage caused by negativity or that can prevent major issues. We have to be vigilant and alert. We have to stay ahead of the possible spiritual hindrances by being prepared. This requires using some tactics that keep our spirits strong. Prayer should be one of our priorities on that list of ammunition. Prayer on a regular basis helps balance our spirits and strengthen them. Prayer when we see or hear something harmful is also very beneficial. It’s a way of shutting down the opposition and raising up a shield against it.

When sad emotions arise after an attack of negativity, we ought to confront those feelings and emotions and deal with them. The Lord tells us to resist the enemy and He will flee. If we don’t see those onslaughts of sadness as coming from the enemy we won’t be able to resist them. We won’t feel a need to deal with them if we don’t see them as being a problem. I used to think it was ok to feel gloomy and sad for some time. I used to think it was a form of being pious and being a good Christian. God is not the author of sadness. Gloominess is not in His repertoire and feeling depressed is not one of His gifts. Mourning the loss of a loved one for a season is totally normal. Feeling sad and down because of the news or because of a movie is not a place the Lord wants us to live in.

I can’t deny that the news often makes me sad. I do know though that I should not let it dictate how I feel. A song that makes me depressed shouldn’t have that much power over me. I have learned to rebuke feelings that emanate from movies and songs. I rebuke them in the name of Jesus because His name is loaded with healing and with love that can combat all things. I am resilient with that. Next time a movie, a book or a song rocks your boat and makes you feel like you are about to drown in deep emotions, remind those feelings that your Lord can walk all over them since He does walk on water. Protect your heart. Pray, praise, and worship. Keep your spirits up. Find the joy of the Lord again. Find a positive outlet. Do something that is joyful and fun. Keep your emotions in check and your heart will lead you to a more peaceful life. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. He will answer you! Guard your heart!

Suggested reading: *Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45; James 4:7

10 nuggets of wisdom for your Saturday (Part 15)

The Lord has carried you this far. He’s not going to drop you. Your problems and circumstances are not too heavy for Him. He can handle all the weight the enemy is adding to your life.

When there is too much on your plate, let the Lord clean up your plate. Let Him scrape off the little bits and the big crumbs. He will give you a clean slate so you can enjoy the fruit of the Spirit again!

Dependence on others can be like a shackle on your ankle. You go wherever they go. Dependence on the Lord is like a liberating bond that takes you wherever you are supposed to go!

The best plan for your life is a retirement plan. Retire your own plans and let God unfold His plan for your life. Adhere to that retirement plan early and God will take care of your finances, your health, and your legacy!

Let your smile be louder than your frown. Let your smile speak for the Lord. Let your smile touch the world around you. Let your smile be a resounding declaration of love. Let your smile be an expression of the Lord!

You are a footprint of the Lord. His mark is left when you stick to the Christian walk. With every step you take, the Lord shows the way to others that are lost. Keep walking for the Lord. Keep walking for others!

The power behind each and every prayer you say is bigger than each and every problem that comes your way.

Unite with those who are fighting the same fight. Not a fight against people but a fight of faith to help people.

Staying calm in times of adversity is like blocking your ears and telling the enemy “I can’t hear you!” Don’t listen to the lies. Listen to the peace in your heart!

When you feel like you are alone with your thoughts, remindyourmind that God is everywhere. He has access to your head so let Him in. He has access to your heart so let Him out!

Suggested reading: Galatians 5:16-17; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10

Maintaining the right conditions for faith

I often check my spiritual temperature to see if it is where it should be. I take the thermometer of faith and dip it into my spirit so to speak to see where I stand. I don’t want to get too cold. I don’t want to get too hot too fast and I don’t want to be lukewarm. I need the right balance. I need to be where I can find the right atmosphere to grow and the right temperature to blossom. My faith is like a flower that needs the right environment and the right living conditions so it can become a beautiful part of my spiritual landscape. The Word of God is a fertile soil and I won’t plant my faith anywhere else. The light of the Lord shines on my faith. The rain of the Holy Spirit comes down gently on my flower. Prayer, praise and worship are nutrients for my faith. I cultivate patience, joy, kindness and other fruit of the Spirit and love is the main ingredient for this recipe for success.

Faith without love won’t work well. Faith without love won’t grow well. I think we underestimate the role that love plays in every part of our spiritual makeup. We think that as long as we believe in God we have this faith thing down pat. When you think about it, believing in God is believing in love. It goes beyond the signs and wonders and the miracles. Those things can’t take place without love. Having faith in God is having faith is reconciling with family members we have stopped talking to. Having faith in God is helping our neighbors and helping ourselves by developing love for ourselves. Having faith in God is forgiving the unforgivable ones and recognizing that we are limited by our human conditions. Having faith in God is believing that love is a treasure that should be shared with everyone and not just with believers. Believing in God is believing that anyone can get to know God and anyone can change. It’s knowing that Saul can become Paul no matter what Saul’s background is.

I mostly gauge my spiritual temperature by how much love I am able to give. If I get too cold I look at areas where I could improve in love. The first area is where I give or show love to God. “How much love have I given to God today?” is what I ask myself. Have I spent enough time in prayer? Have I been grateful enough? Have I encouraged someone? All these questions have to raised because if I am going to be walking in faith, I have to be walking in love with the One who is the author of my faith. God should get my first fruit. God should get my one and only flower of faith. I should take care of my flower of faith out of a desire to please God and to get closer to Him. I invite you to strive to keep your spiritual conditions at a cozy temperature where love keeps you warm and faith is blooming like a flower of hope. Keep your eyes on the Lord and you will stay in balance!

Suggested reading: Joshua 23:11; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 4:16