What Story Am I Telling?

Lately corrections have come from a friend and from the Lord about what words come out of my mouth.

One day when I was speaking of negative things going on in family members’ lives, a friend encouraged me to stop the negative talk, ie verbalizing my fears and worries. Instead she urged me to speak out words connected to God’s faithfulness and my faith in Him.

Instead of saying, “I’m afraid my loved one is being drawn further and further from the Lord,” she urged me to say “I’m believing she will embrace her destiny—that God will make sure that happens.”

Not long ago in prayer time, the Lord encouraged me to focus and talk about prayers that have been answered and express out loud thanks for those rather than speaking of prayers which have not yet been answered and getting trapped in moaning and mourning out loud about those.

Two songs I’ve heard in recent weeks seem firmly connected to letting go of these negative words that slip out of my mouth.

Both songs have to do with telling our stories.

As a writer, I often send out words that speak of God’s faithfulness and my confidence in Him. I’ve had numerous articles published on that theme. These are what I have called “my stories to bring Him glory.”

Yet when I’m in conversation, I too often get caught up in the opposite–telling “sad stories.” These are tales of the bad things that are happening and my grief over the fact that it seems God isn’t doing anything.

It took these two recent reprimands to realize that these “stories I tell” in normal conversation cast doubt on the faithfulness of God. They can lead people away from the Lord rather than toward Him. They hurt my own intimacy with the Lord. At times my tales of woe are fueled by comparing, self-pity, and doubt. I’m praying and believing that God will continue to deliver me from slipping into these destructive mindsets.

My new goal is to tell my story—the story of God’s faithfulness–not just in written form but daily in my interactions with everyday people who cross my path.

Yes, bad things have happened. Yes, traumas, trials, and tragedies have sometimes taken my breath away. But the truth is that through it all God has been faithful. He may not have intervened in ways I demanded or as quickly as I have desired, but He has intervened with His love, His peace, His hope, His strength, and His joy in the midst of sorrow.

He has answered so many prayers immeasurably more than all I have asked or imagined. (See Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

The Word of God warns me not to be naïve about the devices and schemes of the enemy. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11)

I’m realizing that getting me to focus on the negative is Satan’s plan. When he gets me to do that, he has succeeded.

The Word also says that he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (See John 10:10) He desires to steal my joy, kill my passion for the Lord, and destroy my confidence in a loving, caring God. For moments at a time in my life, he is successful at this. With others he succeeds for years or even decades.

The good news is that God is merciful. He does not hold my
negative words against me but urges me on to a better

He celebrates when I speak openly of His trustworthiness.

I’m looking forward to a new day tomorrow where I can tell the story of my life—the story of God’s faithfulness.

Lord God, please help me to tell the true and uplifting story of Your never-ending love for me and for each one of us.

Here are the links to the two songs about the stories of our lives.

“My Story” by Big Daddy Weave

“Storyteller” by Morgan Harper Nichols (with Jamie Grace)

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To Please God

I confess that too often—even after decades of being a Christian—I get trapped into acting as if my number one goal in life is to please myself.

What do I want to do? What do I need? What would bring me pleasure at this moment? are questions that seem buried deep within that I respond to.

I want to be like Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9… “it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him.” (AMP)

Other times I’ve been caught in the trap of trying to please others.

This verse comes to mind. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10.)

Both of these pursuits—pleasing myself and pleasing others–can bring a distance between me and God. I’m realizing right at this moment that it’s my creating a distance between me and God that can cause slipping into this pleasing of myself and pleasing of others. These two pursuits also hurt my relationship with the people I love the most.

A superior goal which brings great benefits is this one: to please God.

My flesh—the part of me that is convinced I don’t need God and can do things on my own– fights against this.

Not long ago a pastor from my church said the following in a sermon when He was talking about what some think true freedom is: “free to fulfill my pleasures vs free to fulfill God’s pleasure.”

Another thing he said which is connected is: “True freedom is not doing as you please.”

That’s what many in the world teach. Hugh Hefner has preached that message in regard to sexuality for decades.

My Bible study leader teaches a class on how to recognize God’s voice. Not long ago she suggested that there is a way to find out if we are on the pursuit of pleasing the Father in various areas of our lives. We ask Him about it.

Instead of doing the thing that first comes to our minds, we ask questions. Lord, what do You have to say about this? We could also ask, Lord, how can I please You in this area? When people are pushing hard to get us to do what they want, let us pause and whisper to the Lord, “What do You say?”

If I’m not asking God questions or seeking Him in prayer while making decisions and charting the course of my life, I can be pretty certain I’m not seeking to please Him. I cannot say, “I want to do what pleases God,” and then neglect to spend time with Him seeking His will and way.

But I do get caught in that at times. Usually I realize it when certain areas in my life become messy, and I discover it’s not a test from God or a trial to endure. Instead I discover I got to that point because I didn’t seek God but just rushed ahead guided by people pushing me in a certain direction or being drawn by my own selfish desires.

As I look to the Word, I see that there is a distinct way to please God.

Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”

Faith pleases God. When I believe in Him and believe the promises He’s given me and seek Him wholeheartedly and do what He says, He is pleased. He is pleased even if I just seek to do what He wants and fail at it. The good news is that He will reward me for seeking and obeying Him.

Jesus is my example of someone who sought only to please the Father. John 5:30 comes to mind when I think of His perfectly attaining the goal of “to please God.”

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (NIV)

Other translations have instead of the last phrase, this statement “I do not seek My own will, but only the will of Him who sent Me.” (AMP)

Seeking to please God is to seek to do His will and not my own. More and more, I want to succeed in that. And mercifully, He will help me giving me His peace, His power, and a sure sense of His presence. The key is to spend time with Him in the Word, in prayer and in worship.

Lord, help us today to not seek to please ourselves or other people, but to please You. Help us to be like Jesus in that pursuit. Let us thank God that He equips us “with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrew 13:21 NIV)

Song: “To Be Pleasing You” by The Maranatha Singers

Suggestion: Sing along with this song.

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Lord, Remove All Hindrances

Lately I’ve been thinking about a four-word prayer a friend said recently at our weekly Bible study.

That prayer is, “Lord, remove all hindrances.”

Those words really touched me. I’ve found myself praying them in my prayer time and adding some words.

“Lord, remove all hindrances in my loved ones’ lives that keep them from drawing near to You.”

“Lord, remove all hindrances that keep them from receiving Your love.”

“Lord, remove all hindrances that keep them from receiving healing.”

“Lord, remove all hindrances that keep them from fully answering Your call on their lives.”

Another way to say that last prayer is: “Lord, remove all hindrances that keep them from being all You have called them to be.”

As I prayed for them, I realized that I could say the same prayers for myself. No, I don’t avoid God like many of my loved ones do, but I do sometimes have trouble drawing near, receiving His love and healing, and fully answering His call on my life.

I thought of looking up the word hindrance. Here’s what I read: a thing that provides resistance, delay, or obstruction to something or someone. Something…that interferes with action or progress.

Synonyms listed included, “impediment, obstacles, barrier, bar, obstruction, block, hurdle, restriction, limitation, encumbrance, interference, complication, delay, drawback, setback, difficulty, snag, stumbling block.”

Today I wondered if the word hindrance was in the Bible. Then hours later I “happened to” run across this verse in a devotional book:

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

The first part of verse 2 seems essential to add to this: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…”

The purpose of throwing off hindrances is so I can run with perseverance the race God has marked out for me. There is only one way I can do this—by fixing my eyes on Jesus.

Peter started to sink and was hindered in walking on the water when he took His eyes off of Jesus. How often that happens to me as I’m attempting to accomplish a “walking-on-water” kind of task that the Lord has assigned me.

This evening I asked God a bold question. “Lord, what is it in my life that hinders me from drawing close to You, receiving Your love and healing, and becoming all You have called me to be?

Here are three things that came to mind: fears, doubt, and ruminating about the past. I’m sure He’ll reveal more in the days ahead.

The good news is that as I call out to the Lord, He will help to remove every hindrance from my life. He delights to do that. He wants me to be close to Him and truly enjoy my relationship with Him rather than being bound.

The song that came to mind as I wondered what piece of music could be connected to the word hindrance is “Break Every Chain.” Someone told me about that song not long ago, and it encouraged me to be reminded that our Lord has the power to break every chain—which is another way of saying He has power to remove every hindrance.

What a wonderful God we serve.

How about You? Are you brave enough to pray, “Lord remove all hindrances?”

“Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture

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The Gift of Insight

Recently I found some notes I had taken about the word “insight.”

Here are definitions I had written down: 1. The power or act of seeing into a situation: penetration. 2. The act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively. Syn: discernment.

I also wrote: “Insight is a gift from God.”

Here’s what else I wrote in this notebook: “Sometimes I’ve asked, ‘Why can’t she see what’s going on?’” and “We see beneath the surface because God lets us see. As writers this is essential. Pray for insight.”

Here are more definitions of insight I found today: 1. (n.) Power of acute observation and deduction; discernment; perception. 2. (n.) A sight or view of the interior of anything; a deep inspection or view; introspection;

And from the Greek it’s #5428 (in Strong’s Concordance) phronesis which means understanding, practical wisdom.

While I feel blessed to have the gift of insight, often I feel discouraged because others around me don’t. This hurts them and their relationships with the Lord, their loved ones and with me. In my work with the mentally ill and as a writer and speaker, one of my goals is to encourage others to receive insight, so they can be healed and move on to become all God has called them to be. Without insight, this is impossible.

I’m still asking, “Why can’t she/he see?” The good news is that others can receive the gift of insight that God has lavished on me.

Here are some key truths and verses about the word “insight” that I found today:

–We gain insight by seeking to know God.

…And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight (Proverbs 9:10 AMP)

–If we desire insight, God will give it.

Yes, if you cry out for insight, and lift up your voice for understanding…then you will understand the [reverent] fear of the LORD…and discover the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:3 & 5).

Think over the things I am saying [grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you insight and understanding in everything (2 Timothy 2:7).

–It is not good to rely on our own insight.

Trust in and rely confidently on the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

–We can pray for others to have insight.

[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him…(Ephesians 1:17).

–Insight is connected to understanding.

…And walk in the way of insight and understanding (Proverbs 9:6).

–Even with great insight, we can fall, if we don’t apply the insight to every situation.

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 1 Kings 4:29 NIV


…king Solomon [defiantly] loved many foreign women… from the very nations of whom the LORD said to the Israelites, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for the result will be that they will turn away your hearts to follow their gods.”

Yet Solomon clung to these in love…his wives turned his heart away [from God]…and his heart was not completely devoted to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David… Solomon did evil [things] in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as his father David had done…

So the LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe (remember, obey) what the LORD had commanded (1 Kings 11:1-4, 6, 9-10 AMP)

From the above I can see that God told Solomon what not to do and why, and then he came to him and commanded him not to do what was the result of disobeying the first command, but Solomon did not listen.

When I look at the life of Solomon, I can understand why in our modern day there are pastors who seem so spiritually gifted and have great insights and yet they fall into sexual or other kinds of deep moral sin.

I have to guard my own life and learn from Solomon’s errors and realize that the same can happen to me—even though God has gifted me with the gift of insight. I confess that in certain situations I depend on my own insight, understanding, wisdom, or even my own desires and that’s when I get in trouble. At times I’ve fallen because of this. The good news is I can return quickly to the Lord and His insights, and as my Bible study teacher says, “not be wrong long.”

I need to stay open to the Lord and hear Him when He’s warning me that I’m depending on my own insight instead of His. Failing to spend daily time in His Word and in prayer are what can lead me to forsake the insight of the Lord.

Lack of insight or letting go of insight are core reasons why people experience spiritual failure. Lately God is reminding me that having insight and holding on to it through continuing to seek to know Him and follow His ways is the key to spiritual success.

Will you join me today in praying that the Lord will continue to give us the gift of insight, so we can live lives that please Him and draw us and others closer to Him? And if you feel led, do a word search of the word “insight” for yourself. You may want to use the Amplified Bible as it appears more often in that version. You will be blessed.

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” by Michael W. Smith

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Just Be Held

“Just Be Held” is a new song by Casting Crowns. At least it’s new to me. I heard it for the first time this past week in the Publix parking lot. Instead of driving away after shopping, I sat there and listened. And I cried.

It seems that each time I hear a new song about being held by the Lord (there are several I heard over the past several years), it brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps it’s because throughout my childhood my dad was unable to hold his children when they needed to be consoled.

It’s taken me years to realize that God is eager to hold me—even when I’ve blown it and feel discouraged by my failures.

Some days I slip back into trying to make things right myself and to comfort myself. I use food or shopping to attempt to make myself feel better when I’ve blown it or others have rejected me. I can forget that God is there with open arms any time I choose to run to Him.

The word “refuge” in Scripture goes along with this sense of being held by God. I think of Psalm 46:1, a verse that encourages me. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

What does it mean to have God as our refuge? On the website Gotquestions.org I read: “Whatever picture comes to mind, it can be agreed that a refuge is a safe place. When the Bible describes God as our refuge, it is saying that God is our safe place when we need protection from something.”

How wonderful that I can find refuge and be safe in the Lord’s arms.

Years ago when it seemed that running to the Lord was not a safe thing to do because of my fears and doubt regarding God, He whispered this little saying to me. “I want you to come to Me, not to scold you, but to hold you.”

At the time people in my life tended to scold me when I needed comfort. My wrong image of God from my childhood also caused me to think that He would do the same.

Another verse that has encouraged me to go to the Lord to be held is Hebrews 4:16. I like how this verse is spelled out in the Amplified version of the Bible.

“Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].”

From both this verse and Psalm 46:1, I see that God not only wants to hold me but He then wants to help me. My part is to stop holding on to my will and my way and to embrace His. Surrender can seem difficult, but it’s essential.

This week as certain difficulties put pressure on my soul, and I feel like I’m not measuring up to God’s best in various areas of my life, I’m going to do what the group Casting Crowns says to do in their song–just be held.

Please listen carefully to the words in this song and take them deep into your heart. They are so powerful.

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

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Delusions About Suffering

This past Sunday in my connection group at church, we watched a video featuring Matt Chandler, a pastor from Texas. After he had given a teaching from Philippians that centered on suffering, he faced a traumatic trial of his own, malignant brain cancer.

He spoke on the subject of suffering on previous videos, and then he lived it.

This particular video was about facing brain cancer with a godly perspective after having a life where he tended to receive blessing after blessing. The way he said it is: “Before this, everything I did turned to gold.”

We as the viewers could see the large scar on his hairless head where he had had brain surgery.

One point he brought out is that some of us think that if we’re good and do what God says, He owes us and we’ll bypass suffering.

I realized that at times I’ve given in to that kind of thinking.

Another delusion I’ve had about suffering is this: I’ve suffered enough. After surviving my childhood, I surmised that I had faced beyond my share of suffering for a lifetime, and a gracious God would surely keep me from enduring more of it.

The day I heard of my younger sister’s suicide, the thought went through my mind, Haven’t I suffered enough? That was thirtysome years ago when I was in my twenties.

Since then more trials, traumas and tragedies have come my way including the suicide of another family member three years ago, severe mental illness in other family members, loved ones turning away from the Lord and rejecting me, and the list goes on.

I can still slip into this is not fair, why me? and God, haven’t I been through enough? thinking.

As I thought this week about the first delusion in regard to suffering pointed out by Pastor Chandler—that if I’m good and do what God says, (which is the goal of my life) He owes me–a poem I wrote years ago came to mind. The theme of the poem came down to God doesn’t owe me; He owns me.

The Word of God affirms that fact in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

…You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

I don’t get to tell God what to do because He owns me. He’s in charge of me.

The good news that this pastor brought out is that suffering isn’t random—that God has a plan within suffering. He also stated that suffering is not punishment, coming against the third delusion I have believed.

As I look back over my life, I can see the good that God has brought from suffering. He’s drawn me closer to Himself, He’s helped me to have more compassion for others who suffer, and He’s used suffering to make me more like Christ.

Other promises in regard to suffering that have cheered me this week are:

… after you have suffered a little while, (God) will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19 HCSB).

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice (Isaiah 41:10 AMP—my life verse).

As I listened the past several days to a speaker on a CD that a friend gave me, he spoke these words which I applied to suffering: “There is no security in what God is doing. There is only security in who God is.”

How true I’ve found that to be. When I try to tell God what to do, how to do it, or what not to do, I feel frustrated and fearful. When I embrace all of who He is, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and surrounded by His grace.

Thank You, Lord, for all You have allowed me to suffer and for all the good You have brought from it. Help me to know You in a deeper way and to trust You more as I face the troubles of this life. Thank You for being there, hearing my prayers, and showing You care. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Song: “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman

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Distracted From Delighting

“Discouragement, distractions, and lies.”

A while ago in my Bible study class, the teacher said these were three main things that would keep us from doing what God called us to do.

The one that has been on my mind lately is distractions.

This past week I heard a speaker on Christian radio speaking about this verse:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV

My thought was that I want to delight in the Lord—to stay in that mindset and soulset–but it seems that too often I’m distracted from delighting.

When I looked up the word delight this is what I read: “Something that gives great pleasure or enjoyment.”

Some days I find great pleasure and enjoyment in my relationship with the Lord. Other days I’m distracted from that.

Not only does the Word say that I’m to delight in the Lord, but in looking up verses with that word, I’m also to delight in these which are connected to my great God, which show that I’m delighting in Him. The bolding is done by me.

–delight in revering your name. Nehemiah 1:11

–whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. Psalm 1:2 NIV

–My soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. Psalm 35:9

–Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2

–I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:16

Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. Psalm 119:24

–for I delight in your commands because I love them. Psalm 119:47

–When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my delight. Jeremiah 15:16

As I looked up verses with the word delight, what struck me was how many there were that said God delighted in me. He wants me to take pleasure in Him the way He takes pleasure in me.

So as I pondered this subject of delighting in the Lord, I realized that what can keep me from it on any given day is to find more delight in the things of this world than I do in the Lord.

One of those “other delights” is food. I confess that I ponder, praise, and partake of food too much, and I’m not just talking about nourishment. At times I’m delighting in it more than in the Lord, and it even keeps me from delighting in Him.

My mind is more focused on “What can I put in my mouth that’s tasty?” than “What can I eat spiritually today that the Lord will provide that will help me through this day and draw me closer to Him and allow me to know Him better?” On too many days opening the refrigerator seems more important than opening the Word.

It’s not that God doesn’t want me to enjoy food, but He doesn’t want me to get more pleasure from it than I do from Him.

In the definition of “delight” it says “great pleasure.” I believe God wants me to find pleasure in certain things on this earth, but to find my greatest pleasure in Him.

Other distractions are TV and radio shows, reading books and magazines, time with friends and family, going on the Internet and Facebook, going shopping, exercising. At times I invite Him into these pursuits, but other times they draw me away from Him.

None of these other pleasures are evil, but when they come above the Lord and what He’s calling me to accomplish in this world, they’re hurting me and my relationship with the Lord. The main thing is that I need to put them in their proper place. We’ve all heard it before: prioritize.

I am called to be a writer. My desired goal is to write every day. I don’t. I had every intention of posting this blog days ago. I have a project that I should have sent out a while ago, but the above list of things have distracted me. When I write—because I write about spiritual matters—I am delighting in the Lord. I’m seeking Him wholeheartedly. I’m asking Him what to write and how to write it, and I’m learning new and wonderful things about Him as I search His Word. And I sense He delights in me as I’m going through the process.

The Olympic runner Eric Liddel put it this way about his running, and I could say something similar about writing: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Writing is one of the main calls I have on my life, but the things of this world often keep me from it.

What is your gift? What is one of the main things God has called you to do? When you do that, you are delighting in the Lord, and He delights in you at the same time. I pray that distractions of this world will not get in your way.

Today let’s embrace and live out this verse: “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.” Isaiah 61:10

A book connected to this subject is Desiring God by John Piper

Song: “My Delight Is In You” Christy Nockels

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