8/25/17

5 Ways to 'Fall Forward'

As a young woman, I faced the fall season with anxiety and excitement. Anxiety because the upcoming school year and holiday schedule seemed daunting. Excitement because—well,
Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Over the years, I created a formula to help me Fall Forward with strength and wisdom. I wanted to face each September with a positive outlook and plan, so I set aside one morning to prepare my heart, home, health, hospitality and hands for a more productive fall.

Here’s how you can prepare to Fall Forward too.

1. HEART: Fall Forward with Faith

Perhaps some readers saw the title of this article and thought about moving forward after a painful fall into sin. That’s actually part of this!

There’s nothing like moving forward
 after defeat with a clean slate.

I asked the Lord to show me where I’d fallen away from following Him, to reveal unrecognized ways I’d failed Him in love, obedience and service. Then I moved forward biblically with repentance, confession and renewed faith (1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:7).

Also, because the Lord is our first priority, our faith must center in Him. Abiding in Christ, we will not work under our own steam; and walking in the Spirit, we will not act on sinful desires (John 15:4-5; Ephesians 5:16).

Ask God to powerfully accomplish His will in and through you this season, so you can live to the praise of His glory (Hebrews 13:21; Ephesians 5:15-17).

2. HOME: Fall Forward with Family

After the Lord, family is our second priority—our husband and children. And even if we are single, this could perhaps include extended family members who need our love and encouragement: a lonely aunt, a weary young mom, a rebellious-but-searching cousin, a fragile grandmother.

In my evaluation time, I considered my closest relationships, especially the people I love at my base of operations, my home. I wanted to root out any interactions that did not please the Lord, and start into the busy fall with a fresh sense of unity and teamwork (Ephesians 4:2-3). I wanted to encourage and “spur” my family on toward spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:24).

That meant I needed to ask forgiveness for offenses. I asked some family members and relatives to point out “blind spots” in my behavior—attitudes that needed improvement and positive actions to cultivate. I even took the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge to rev up my marriage!

We can also extend our definition of “family.”

One year I decided to “adopt” some family for the holidays. I asked the Lord to point me toward people I could pray for and help in positive ways without embarrassing them. He showed me two singles in our church. I poured into their lives, and as the holiday season progressed, we gathered these new family members together for dinners and special events.

3. HEALTH: Fall Forward with Freedom 

There are many kinds of “health,” and we want freedom in each area.

For spiritual health, remember your freedom in Christ and embrace grace. Don’t beat yourself up, but rather cooperate with the Holy Spirit to conquer hindering and destructive sinful habits (Romans 8:1; Galatians 5:1).

For physical health, double-down on health efforts. There are so many temptations during the holiday season; and fall is already hectic, so keep it simple! 

Steward your body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, wisely (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Create new paths to freedom with healthier food options, or take time to prayer walk, or simply stretch and work on greater flexibility.

For mental health, examine your thoughts. Ask God to show you lies you are believing, or thoughts you’re harboring that might lead to sin (2 Corinthians 10:5; Mark 7:20-22; Philippians 4:8). There is great freedom in the Lord, and the truth of scripture (John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Psalm 119:45; Colossians 1:21-23).

For emotional and social health, check your relationships. Clear the air of tension by cleaning away any relational rubbish so you can have more relational freedom. Think of ways to practice more love and service as evidences of your freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:13-14).

For financial health, look at your checkbook and your bills. Spread it all before the Lord and ask Him how He wants you to use your money and live in true financial freedom (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

4. HOSPITALITY: Fall Forward with Friendship

One of my favorite fall strategies is opening my home to make new friends—to watch for new people at church and help them feel welcome and wanted. Read about “The Heart of Hospitality” here.

Open your home to encourage believers at a Bible study, coffee chat, women’s tea, or even a fellowship “dinner club,” inviting a couple or single you know for fellowship. Set aside time for positive, challenging interactions. Be alert to encourage those who are struggling (Proverbs 17:17).

And don’t neglect friendships with those who don’t yet know Christ. Reject the “Christian bubble.” Reach out humbly and relate to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 9:22). Share your life as well as your testimony.

5. HANDS: Fall Forward with Fruitfulness   

The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (9:10). Heading into fall, be proactive to use your time wisely and think of new ways to serve the Lord (Ephesians 5:16; Romans 12:11).

God gave each of us spiritual gifts and we have all developed unique skills over the years too, so we’ll want to be creative to encourage and help others (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We can bear lasting, righteous fruit for God’s glory (John 15:16; Galatians 5:16, 22; 6:9).

Also, as the holidays approach, consider using purposeful creativity to make meaningful gifts that might meet people’s needs or draw them to the Savior.

Which of these “fall forward” ideas can you put into practice today?
Father God, help us launch into the fall season with a fresh plan to honor you and bless others for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

8/15/17

America: "Seek the Lord and Live"

The prophet Amos carried a message of judgment to God's people, Israel, but with another message of hope.


As I read the words in Chapter 5, I'm struck by how many of these pronouncements could apply to my country today. 

"...many and great are your sins... you take bribes, you refuse justice to the poor... Be good, flee evil... Then the Lord God of Hosts will truly be your Helper, as you have claimed he is. ... remodel your courts into true halls of justice ... I hate your show and pretense--your hypocrisy of honoring' me ...Away with your hymns of praise--they are mere noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. I want to see a mighty flood of justice--a torrent of doing good." (Amos 5:12-24, LB).

That's a lot to take in.

  • Many and great sins.
  • Bribery.
  • Not caring for the poor.
  • A court system that not always just.
  • Hypocrisy in God's people"show and pretense."

Sound like any country you know?

Yet repeatedly throughout this chapter we read words of hope: "seek the Lord."

  • "... Seek meand live." (v. 4)
  • "Seek the Lord and live..." (v. 6)
  • "Seek Him who created the Seven Stars and the constellation,Orion... The Lord, Jehovah, is His name." (v. 8)

I read these words in verse 15 soberly:


"Perhaps even yet the Lord of Hosts will have mercy...."

We need to pray for revival in this country.
We need to pray for revival in our churches.
We need to pray for revival in our families.
But we need to first pray for revival in our own hearts.

Watch the news.
Look at what's going on in the culture.
Don't be afraid to examine what's going on in your church.
Think about family sins and failures to teach our children the ways of the Lord.
Examine your own heart.

It's so apparent we are going down a foolish and dangerous road away from the Lord.


America, who knows if God will yet be merciful to us.

"Seek the Lord and Live."


Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lightstock

8/12/17

Less Is Best so God Can Bless

When mentioning to a friend my desire to cut back on my food intake and the things I own in order to allow the Lord to bless others through my life, she said, "Oh, you are a minimalist."


No, not really, although that's not necessarily a bad thing or un-Christian. But I am coming to the conclusionat least for my own lifethat less is best so God can bless.

Let me explain.

Minimalism is the perspective or philosophy that simplicity, even sparseness, in life is the best way to live. Minimalists rid themselves of unused and "unneeded" things. They prefer a simple, uncluttered environment. (Think: the exact opposite of hoarding!)

They tend not to stockpile things for the future, and some don't even save money. They want to rid themselves of everything they don't need immediately. Some do so in order to help others with true immediate needs.

The Christian minimalist desires to join this philosophy with biblical teachings, and to some extent, that's feasible. Some Christians do live in a way similar to minimalism, but others own things, save money and even accumulate wealth.

It's entirely a matter of conscience. We should let the Holy Spirit guide us concerning what we possess and save. And the Spirit should also direct our giving.

It's true that Jesus owned little in this world—not even a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20), but you won't see Him commanding his disciples to follow His example in this. 

The Lord had followers like His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and women including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna (John 12:1-5; Luke 8:1-3) who offered their own resources to support and care for the Lord! We also know Paul supported his own mission endeavors (1 Corinthians 9:1-27).

If Christian minimalism can help us worship the Lord in a meaningful way, this is good. If Christian minimalism can remind us to care for those who suffer or have needs, this is also good. But we can't use it as a yardstick for righteous behavior, because the scriptures only warn against greed and foolishness in regard to money and possessions—not possession of them (Luke 6:24; James 5:1-6; 1 Timothy 6:9).

The Bible encourages us to be generous, cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), no matter the amount of possessions and wealth we enjoy.

So why did I tell my friend, 
"less is best so God can bless"?

I had two things in mind.

1. I want to consume less so I can be healthy enough to minister to others for a long, long time.

I'm on a journey toward better health, and the Lord convicted me of my "disease of more." For years, I didn't just snack and eat, I inhaled great quantities of food.

That is changing. My Christian nutritionist finally got through to my heart. "How long do you want to continue ministering?" she asked.

And when I gave her a deer-in-headlights stare, she continued: "If you want to have a healthy body that will equip you to minister for a lifetime, you need to deal with your overeating."

My gluttony.

Lately, the Lord has been dealing with me severely about portion control. It's not just because there are "starving children in China," as my mom said when I didn't clean my plate as a kid—and that "clean plate" club is another concerning issue. 

I didn't even recognize anymore what a normal, healthy portion looked like. 

I'm learning to stop eating before I'm stuffed. Or even uncomfortable. 


I'm learning I can say, "That's enough." 

2. I've been accumulating much, much more than I'll ever need—and that needs to change.

I had a Costco mentality long before there was a Costco. It continually whispered, "more is better!"  
It's an easy mentality to develop in the United States where we have so much abundance.

I think I first noticed how crazy I've become about things when I looked at my collection of scissors. I had scissors for everything and in every room of the house. At one point, I counted 22 pair of scissors!

I felt the Lord prompting me, reminding me of an article I'd read about poor teachers who didn't have school supplies—paper, pens and pencils ... and scissors.

Over the weeks following that revelation, I looked in every cabinet and drawer in my house. 
  • Why did I need 33 vases
  • Why did I have drawers of jewelry
  • What possessed me to buy 42 pair of shoes
  • Why did I have 14 Bibles? 
Why was every space in my garage filled to overflowing? Was I in danger of resembling an episode of "Hoarders"?

So many questions.

Even if I could argue that all of these things weren't "wrong" to possess, how could I justify having so much when so many people struggle to get even one pair of shoes... or a single Bible?
I wept that day as I sensed the Spirit say, "Stop! You have enough."
I'm still thinking these things through, and that exercise is positive in itself. I'm deciding how to turn my revelations into positive action. It's not an easy process with years of accumulation, accompanied by memories associated with my "stuff." But I know the truth is "you can't take it with you." 

The only things that matter are the souls of people and the Word of God. And anything I can do to facilitate God using my life and resources to further those two priorities is a good thing. An excellent thing. 

I truly I want the Lord to bless others through my "bounty." And in that process, I want to have the opportunity to share how the Lord is the God of abundance, the ultimate Giver. 

I want to learn how to steward my abundance well. God may lead others in a different direction, but in my case, stewardship means sifting through my stuff and "distributing to the needs of the saints" (Romans 12:13a).

Truly, less (for me) is best so God can bless (others).

How about you? Have you discovered the importance—the joy—of converting your abundance into opportunities to bless others?


- Graphic adapted, courtesy of congerdesign at Pixabay.

8/4/17

If Not Now, When?


Every week, visiting my nutritionist, I see this rock. It's a constant reminder not to put off what I know the Lord is asking me to do today. 

It's a perspective Christians often set aside, thinking it is a little too "pushy." Maybe it requires too much effort. To some, it might even seem legalistic. Or maybe we're just lazy in regard to obedience and holiness.

As I leave the nutritionist and go home until the next appointment, I have a lot of choices to make regarding my health.

  • I can decide to make wiser choices about the kinds of food I eat, and how much.
  • I can choose to stock my cabinets and refrigerator with healthy foods... or not.
  • I can cite excuses for over-indulgence, or stick to the truth and steward my body.
  • I can choose to satisfy my cravings with healthy choices, or give in to the cravings of the flesh.
  • I can decide to be a good example of wisdom and self-control to my children and grandchildren.

One choice I do not have is to put off what the Lord is clearly speaking to me about in His Word and through prayerthat I must OBEY Him in regard to my health and my personal idol, gluttony.

The rock says, "If not now, when?" 

Or in the words of the writer of Proverbs:
"Don't put it off. Do it now. Don't rest until you do."

God wants me to be diligent and prudent, not asleep and lazy regarding His will.

Solomon expanded on this theme:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest."

I need to wake up, be wise and get busyto make the kinds of choices that will please the Lord. I need to make the best use of my time in obeying the Lord. And I need to remember what I sow will reap a harvest for good or evil, health or dysfunction.

Christians tend to focus on the sins of commission, those things we do that are not right. Things that displease the Lord.

And certainly we need to check ourselves and allow God to examine our hearts so we can root out the habits, addictions and idolatries that hinder our walk with the Lord and our testimony and ministry for Him.

But the Word of God takes that one step further.

The New Testament writer James says,
"Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, 
for him it is sin." 

These are the sins of omission. Things that are right, good and holy that we fail to do, for one reason or another. And that also displeases the Lord.

The apostle Paul juxtaposes sins of commission and omission in Romans 7:14-20. He wrote that he does what he knows is wrong, and he fails to do what he knows he should do. And he is not alone in that assessment.

Both are an evidence of our conflict with the flesh as believers having a new nature in Christ. We are dead to sin and alive to God, but we still have choices to make. Will we "become obedient from the heart"? Will we "walk habitually in newness of life," abandoning our old ways? Will we live "as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness"?

This is the "If not now, when?" choice for me. Others might put off obeying the Lord in regard to their health. But that is not for me to judge. God is calling ME to be diligent, obedient, wise and holy in my choices.

It doesn't really matter if others do the same.

No matter whether the Lord is dealing with our health, our finances, our relationshipswhateverwe must be sure we are following and obeying Him. As the old hymn proclaims, "Though none go with me, still I will follow."

Years ago I read a little tract titled "Others Can, You Cannot" by G.D. Watson. It changed my life. An audio version of this tract is linked here, and I encourage you to listen.

My heart's desire is to follow hard after the Lord, and I can't be careless or lazy about that. God says, "Be holy, for I am holy." That doesn't just happen. It's all about resting in His good grace and making wise and godly choices that grow out of our gratefulness and desire to be His holy Bride. I want to hear the "Well done" from my Father God.

And the time is short. Whether Jesus returns soon or not is not the issue. Our lives are a short vapor, we're all terminal, and we will all appear before Himin Christ with our sins forgiven, but still receiving "what is due."

What's important now is, what will we do with our lives? 
What choices will we make that count for eternity? 
How will we steward our bodies, talents and gifts, resources, ministry and time? Only what is done for Christ in faith will last. 


What is the Lord clearly speaking to you about today? 
Why are you hesitating, holding back?

"If Not Now, When?"