Why you can relax about politics, culture, and evil in the world

After the 2008 election, we attended a church service where the pastor preached a sermon about how regardless of who wins elections, God remains on the throne. With our lips, we declare God is sovereign, but watch our actions and attitudes when our candidates lose elections. Our belief statements often misalign with our attitudes.

Fast forward to 2020, the year that traumatized souls at a deep level whether from pandemic living, political climate, or uprises in cities. Now we sit on the verge of 2023 and the anxiety has reached new heights.

I had a conversation recently with someone who was deeply upset about what we are seeing in the world. Culture is changing at a rapid pace and evil seems to have increased. Maybe it has, or maybe we simply see more through media, particularly social media, than at any other time in history. Regardless, it is creating traumatized souls.

I prayed for the person I’d had this conversation with, and later that day my radio station landed on religious talk radio. The pastor preached from Psalm 37. I went straight home and opened the Bible to see for myself. This Psalm has become a soul balm.

The verse literally begins by telling us not to worry about the wicked.

“Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.” Psalm 37:1-2

We are far too worried about the wicked. We are much too weighed down by the evil. As humans we cannot possibly handle carrying the burden evil brings to our souls. It’s time to be done once and for all. God’s Word tells us the reason we don’t need to worry about the wicked, or envy the fact they seem to escape punishment, is they will soon be gone.

Whatever we get rid of, we must replace with something better. If you’ve ever fasted, you realize how important it is to fill what once took your time and attention with something different.

Psalm 37:3-4 tells us what to replace our worry over evil with. “Trust in the Lord, and do good: dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Practically speaking, replace giving your attention to the news and decide to do good. Live your life trusting God. Be faithful with what He’s given you. Go love on your family, serve in your church, talk to your neighbors, smile at strangers, sit for extended times with God in prayer and reading His Word. Delight in Him. Delight in living your life.

Verses 7-8 are key. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”

Don’t worry. Don’t be angry. Be patient. Trust God. Why? Because our anger will only lead to more evil and because wrath is for God not us. Their time is coming. Thankfully, we can simply live our lives doing good and leave the handling of evil to the only One capable of administering justice.

2020 damaged my soul. I allowed myself to fret over evil and to sit in my anger over all the media told me to be angry about. Three years later, I still feel the effects it had and am only now seeing the waste of time and energy it was.

I don’t watch the news. I lost all trust in their reports, which are not much more than fear-mongering and propaganda. All sides of the news. All sides have an agenda. They want our reaction and attention.

Psalm 37 tells us exactly how to handle living in a world of evil: Don’t worry. Live where you are. Dwell. Do good. Keep your focus on Jesus. Trust He will take care of everything in due time.

“In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” Psalm 37:10-11

 

 

Where’s Your Focus Today?

My dear friend and spiritual mentor sends a daily Bible verse to a group of people. It’s the one email I open every single day. This morning she sent a verse that is commonplace to anyone who has spent much time in God’s Word. The temptation when we read familiar verses is to pridefully skim. We may think to ourselves, “Oh, I know this one,” and move right on by. Or maybe it’s just me?

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

I memorized this verse years ago. I’ve prayed it back to the Lord. I’ve read it to my kids. I’ve written it on index cards and taped to my mirror. This verse is like a cozy blanket in the dead of winter to me. However, today, the Lord halted my prideful skim.

I am careful not to put words to God’s mouth by claiming “God said to me,” I feel this is highly overused when we want to put authority to our thoughts, plans, or actions. Not always, but at times. But as I read this verse today, I felt God hold up the stop sign. “Are your meditations pleasing to me?”

Meditation, according to dictionary.com, is continued, extended thought, contemplation, reflection.

What am I giving extended thought to? For me it is my worries. I have so many worries for my kids as all parents do. I want the very best for them. I spend countless hours contemplating their lives, futures, current choices, paths, etc.

Your meditations may be different. Maybe you spend extended thought on regret. Maybe it is on coddling your unforgiveness or bitter thoughts. Maybe it’s to the insane political climate. Maybe it’s to your pleasure and entertainment. Maybe it’s to envying what you see around you. Maybe it’s to your future and your path. Maybe it’s to good things, maybe it’s to bad things.

What I’m pondering in my heart, will eventually make its way out of my mouth.

Are the words coming out of my mouth pleasing to the Lord?

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

What comes out is indicative of what is stored in our hearts. Be careful what comes into your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Wow, above all else. How important does God believe we should guard our hearts. It determines the course of our very lives.

Back to my original pondering today. What am I meditating on? Is it pleasing to the Lord? I may control, to a degree, what comes out of my mouth and feel that is pleasing to the Lord, but what am I tossing around in my heart. Is THAT pleasing to the Lord?

Lord, I confess my pride often when I approach your Word. You are limitless and full truth. Your Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. Thank you for your Word that convicts and guides. You are so good to us. Forgive me, Lord, for the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart that are not pleasing to You. Soften my heart and gentle my words. Create in me a new heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Help me place all my worries at your feet so I’m not tempted to meditate on my problems more than I meditate on the truth of your Word. Amen

P.S. One practical tool I’m using currently is to turn my worries into spoken prayers. I’m trying to retrain my brain to turn to God before myself. Each time I realize I’m fostering a worried thought, I whisper it back to God and pray about it. Worry won’t change my problems. God can. But even if He doesn’t change the circumstance, He will change my heart in the process.

 

Grab a free phone or watch for your kid or young teen!!

 

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The Lost Art of Fasting

Fasting isn’t a popular topic. The moment the subject is broached you almost see people become physically uncomfortable. The conversation switches rather quickly.

We live in a world where we worship pleasure and entertainment. We are forever on the quest for what feels good, what we want to do, and what is fun for us. Enjoying life isn’t wrong. God loves a joyful spirit, but when our focus rests predominately on orienting our worlds around what we want, then we know we are out of line with the will of God.

Fasting reorients our will with God’s will.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

A follower of Jesus is instructed to deny himself before bearing the cross. We can’t pick up a cross while carrying our self-pleasing, flesh-serving desires. There is a proper order of operations. Deny first, pick up second.

To deny yourself is to humble yourself. To realize you don’t sit on the throne of your own life. To choose to put yourself behind your desires for the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment.

Only then, in this state of humility, can we possibly receive the strength to pick up the cross of Christ and follow Him. The cross is a symbol of sacrifice over selfishness. It’s a sign of humility over pride. It’s a sign of service of meism.

To pick up the cross is the ultimate act of humility. When we fast, we are laying down our pride and choosing a posture of humility. It’s a choice to deny ourselves of what we want.

My first fast was a 24 hour food fast. The closeness I experienced with the Lord, the mental clarity I received, and the restful soul I embraced caused me to extend my food fast another 24 hours. The Lord gave me a dream that night. I remember realizing how much I’d missed out on all the years I chose to disregard the gift of fasting.

I tried writing a list for you of the benefits of fasting. It was too long and I deleted the entire list. I decided I want you to discover the benefits for yourself. Each fast reveals a new reason to set regular seasons of fasting.

Instead of giving you all the reasons I find fasting of great value, I will share my top four.

4 Benefits of Fasting:

  1. Self-control. Choosing to go without something forces me to exercise self-control in an area I don’t normally. But what I’ve found with fasting is that like muscles that are exercised regularly, they strengthen with repetition. When I fast, I become more disciplined in all areas.
  2. Mental clarity. When I fast, I quickly realize how much I think about myself. All day long I’m thinking about what I want to enjoy, what I need to relax, what I want to do for fun. I would never have believed I thought about myself so much until I took things out of my life that took up mental space. When that mental space was cleared and I was released of the burden of thinking of myself so much, my thoughts became clearer. I began to think deeper rather than on the surface of my desires.
  3. Soul rest. Feeding our selfish desires is tiring. It wears a soul down more than we realize. It’s a beautiful gift to our soul to break from what we think we want and need. Inside a calmness settles in.
  4. Strength. We can do hard things. When we choose what is easy, we become weak people who can’t handle the bumps of life. Fasting is hard. Hard grows us stronger.

4 common types of fasts:

  1. Most obvious is food. This is also one of the hardest. When I fast from food, I enjoy a deeper, richer prayer life. I am face to face with my weakness all day long. When my stomach aches, I turn to God and pour my heart out to Him. It’s a beautiful way to connect with His tenderness and allow Him to actually be my bread of life and my living water.
  2. Social media. I do this a couple times a year. Each time I wonder why I don’t make it permanent.
  3. Alcohol. I just did an 8 week alcohol fast I plan to share about with you in more detail. If you are a christian who drinks alcohol, I think this one is an absolute must.
  4. Sugar. Incredibly hard if you have a sweet tooth, but so rewarding.

Challenge:

  1. Choose a type of fast. Be sure it’s not an easy one. Don’t fast from chocolate unless you are eating it A LOT! Choose something that is hard. It’s worth it.
  2. Choose a period of time. 24 hours, 7 days, 1 month.
  3. Set start and end date.
  4. Tell your spouse or an accountability partner so they can pray for you during your time of fasting.
  5. Dedicate your fast to the Lord. Pray without ceasing. Be open to what God reveals to you.

The End of a Season Means the Beginning of Another

Six years ago I wrote a post titled The Tension Between the Beginning of the End and the Beginning of the Beginning. At that point we were saying goodbye to six years of private full time classical school to embark on a homeschool journey. We didn’t know if the journey would last one year or six more. Turns out, we homeschooled through graduation with our oldest. Our middle son will graduate in two short years from our homeschool.

We are again at the beginning of an end and the beginning of a beginning.

I believe it’s fairly typical to look back on an experience and realize the worry and fretting were useless. That is my experience at least. I have falsely led myself to believe that enough worry on the front end can lead me to preventing failure and regret. It’s a lie.

What worry really does is steal the joy of the journey. It clouds our vision from seeing the magnitude of an awesome God at work in the details of our days. It significantly limits my ability to trust God by turning my trust toward myself and my worry. It takes my mustard seed of faith and crushes it to nothing.

My one regret through homeschooling….allowing worry and fear to have any voice. I wish I’d rested more. I wish I’d trusted God more. But! I’m thankful for the opportunity to choose differently today.

Jacob finished his last day of high school in February. Between February and May, when we’ve celebrated his graduation officially, I’ve had quite some time to reflect. Initially, I played the what-if game. What if we’d chosen a different path? Did we choose the right path?

In the Lord’s patience with me, He allows me to wander about my thoughts, wrestling them down until I come to a clear place of understanding. I thought back to a podcast I heard on Focus on the Family years ago where a pastor talked about how we can know which path to take. He said often we pray and ask God for His will regarding which job to take, which house to buy, which school to choose, etc. But often our choices are equally in line with God’s will, so He gives us the choice and what He cares most about is who we become in Him as we walk that path. Hearing that opened up my understanding to the goodness of God and the beauty of this life. It also allowed me to feel free.

Our life path is filled with opportunity. Most importantly, we are to simply abide. As we abide, He will grow us wherever we are.

When Jacob was in sixth grade, he encountered some unexplained health issues. The doctors had no real answers, but felt reducing as much stress as possible would be crucial in his body healing. Interestingly, that is one of the very things God used to confirm our homeschool path. I sought a friend’s advice as we prayed through our next steps. I remember saying to her how life is filled with extreme stress and removing it may not be the best for our kids. Her response I’ll never forget. “Yes, but limiting it in middle school may be what God uses to prepare him for what he will carry in his future.” In other words removing school anxiety isn’t setting them up for life failure.

On this side of the path, I’m speechless at all God has done. Jacob is an incredible human being. I’m highly biased and feel incredibly blessed by all three of our children. Jacob is so highly motivated and driven. He is wise. He is discerning.

After Jacob’s graduation party, God took me back through the years and all I could do was cry. I’m so incredibly grateful we homeschooled. I’m so thankful I didn’t let fear push me down an alternate path (and it nearly did every single year).

So here we are. Jacob is working full time gaining incredible experience in the business world. He has plans in the future with real estate investing and financial trading.

I posted this on Instagram the day before his graduation party:

“Last week God gave me a verse for Jacob. Today, the eve of the day we celebrate his graduation, I’m sitting on the sofa and My Utmost for His Highest is centered around the very verse God showed me for Jacob last week.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

This is my prayer for Jacob who is already walking in his future having jumped into the full time workforce in February. He is so highly motivated, so driven, such incredible grit and work ethic.

Of all things to pursue in this life, pursue God with everything you have. Seek His Kingdom. It’s the ONLY thing that matters. The true picture of success is the one who is so firmly rooted in who God says they are that they can abide in Him, seek Him, and watch the Kingdom grow.

The world tells graduates to go do great things and change the world and chase your dreams and live your best life. God says, Seek Him. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Are you facing the end of a current season? Sometimes the end of a season sneaks up on us, but what I hope to remember is that a new season is ready to dawn. God is doing a new thing. Do you see it? Do you believe it?

When God delivered rebellious Israel, He said to them in Isaiah 43:19 “Look, I am about to do something new, even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

God is a Creator, He is in the business of doing something new. As we journey through our seasons, we can trust that God is at work, always ready to do something new. Lord, give us eyes to see you!


Do you have a graduate in your life? Send them into the world with what they really need. God’s Word.

 

 

The best inheritance

You hear stories of a loved one passing away, the will being read, disgruntled relatives fighting over inheritance expectations and rights. It destroys relationships. We are so self-focused we believe we are “owed” something in this life. We spend our earthly lives building our kingdom here.

Contrast this with God’s words to the Levitical priests in Deuteronomy 18:2 “They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.”

What a striking verse.

The greatest gift, blessing, or inheritance is the very presence of God, His absolute nearness. The Levitical priests spent their time serving in the presence of God. They experienced what others didn’t. That blessing would never compare to an earthly gift or inheritance.

Do I believe that? Deep down in my soul? You see it’s easy to say I do, but do I REALLY? I want to. And desire is the first step towards the shift.

“…As He promised.” His promise we can take to the bank. It’s guaranteed. He is also our inheritance. Because of Jesus, we have a priest in Jesus. We have direct access to the throne room of God. We can experience His nearness daily. Do we believe it? Is He enough? Am I satisfied with Him alone so that I live being owed nothing by the world?

The words portion and inheritance are often used interchangeably. This is my prayer from Lamentations 3:24 and Psalm 73:26 today: Lord you are my portion. Therefore, I will hope in you. My flesh and my heart may fail but you, God, are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. May you truly be my portion. Amen.

The Blessed Warning

We stopped at the guard shack before starting our Arizona hike. The kind couple working the gate was a wealth of knowledge. Their love for their jobs was apparent in how careful they were to inform us of all the interesting wildlife and vegetation we should expect to encounter.

As the sweet lady completed highlighting our route, she handed the map over to me. She warned, “Oh, I must warn you. There is one thing you must not touch or even get close to. It’s called a Teddy Bear Cactus. It looks like something soft and cuddly, like a teddy bear you’d want to grab and hug, but it’s not what it seems.”

The warning didn’t stop there. She told us that a teddy bear cactus could actually leap toward us if we moved too close to it. My mind was spinning trying to envision this man-eating cactus that might attempt to chase me up the path. Apparently, this type of cactus has stems that disconnect quite easily. The spines have barbs that burrow into the muscle fiber and make it painfully difficult to remove. Needless to say, we spent our hike looking more closely for a loose teddy bear cactus stem than we did watching for rattlesnakes.

I’m grateful for the warning about the cactus and even more grateful for the warnings we find in scripture: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’” (Luke 12:1-3).

The danger of hypocrisy is how it can lead people astray. It can fool and blind those who are unable to discern. The teddy bear cactus appears to be soft and cuddly, but in reality, it is harmful to us. The Pharisees Jesus warned about were guilty of hypocrisy, and in His kindness, Jesus warned His followers.

Warnings found throughout scripture are there to guide and protect us. They are filled with God’s love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and blessing. Sometimes we hear warnings and choose to ignore them. Sometimes we disbelieve there’s true danger. But when we believe we are hearing a warning from God, we can focus on His nature and character. He loves and cares for us. He desires us to follow truth and not find ourselves at the hands of deception or a prickly, barbed cactus.

In order to strengthen our discernment muscles we can do two things: pray and read the Bible regularly. God delights in answering our requests to become greater discerners in a culture filled with competing ideas to Biblical truth. The more time we spend soaking in God’s Word, the more equipped we are to spot hypocrisy when it presents itself to us. We must be on our guard as Jesus warned us.

As I reflected back to our hike among the prickly teddy bear cacti, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithful warning and protection. He kept me safe from a plant that appeared soft and cuddly but in reality would pierce my skin and cause severe pain.  His heart is to keep us on the safe path. His “word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105). On His safe path, we can trust that little by little we will see growth.

This devotion was first published on Rooted Moms Ministries. I’m on the RM Writer’s Team and have been so blessed by the ministry. Check out their website and see how it feeds your soul too!
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